Camera Hardware

If you were hoping for an upgrade to a larger format sensor, you’ll be disappointed. The Hasselblad True Zoom Mod still uses a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor. This is a large sensor for a smartphone but a smartphone sensor nonetheless, with specifications similar to the HTC 10’s rear camera. Moving to a larger sensor would require increases in thickness and cost, so this is not necessarily a bad choice. Based on its size and features, the True Zoom’s main competition is point-and-shoot compact cameras like Canon’s PowerShot or Sony’s Cyber-shot lineups that also use 1/2.3” sensors in cameras that cost up to $450, which is the entry price for a camera with a larger 1” or APS-C format sensor, so it’s not like the True Zoom is at a disadvantage here.

The True Zoom’s 12MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor uses 1.55µm pixels and captures images with a 4:3 aspect ratio at its native resolution. We cannot pin down the source for the sensor, however. Both Sony and OmniVision make sensors that fit this description and Motorola has sourced parts from both before.

Moto Z Rear Camera Details
  Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Z Play Droid Moto Z Droid Moto Z Force Droid
Resolution: Photo 12MP 16MP 13MP 21MP
Resolution: Video 1080p30 1080p30, 4K30 1080p60, 4K30 1080p60, 4K30
Sensor ?
(1.55µm, 1/2.3")
OmniVision OV16860
(1.3µm, 1/2.4")
Sony IMX214 Exmor RS
(1.12µm, 1/3.06")
Sony IMX338 Exmor RS
(1.12µm, 1/2.4")
Focal Length 4.50-45.00mm (25-250mm equivalent) 4.68mm (27mm equivalent) 3.68 (27mm equivalent) 4.51mm (26mm equivalent)
Zoom 10x optical
4x digital
8x digital 8x digital 8x digital
Aperture f/3.5-6.5 f/2.0 f/1.8 f/1.8
Image Stabilization OIS / EIS EIS OIS / EIS OIS / EIS
Autofocus PDAF/Contrast PDAF/Laser/Contrast Laser/Contrast PDAF/Laser/Contrast
Flash Xenon dual-color LED dual-color LED dual-color LED
Dimensions 152.3 x 72.9 x 9.00-15.10 mm
145 grams
156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm
165 grams
153.3 x 75.3 x 5.19 mm
136 grams
155.9 x 75.8 x 6.99 mm
163 grams
Launch Price (No Contract) $250 (Verizon) / $300 (Moto) $408 $624 / $674 $720 / $770

The True Zoom includes optical image stabilization (OIS) for still photos and electronic image stabilization (EIS) for videos. It also uses a combination of phase detect autofocus (PDAF) and standard contrast autofocus. Laser autofocus is not included but the focus assist LED fills a similar role, improving focus performance in low-light conditions over short distances.

The 10x optical zoom lens has a variable 35mm equivalent focal length of 25-250mm with an aperture that varies from f/3.5-6.5. This gives the True Zoom an aperture area smaller than any smartphone camera we’ve tested at 1x zoom; the HTC 10, which also has a 1/2.3” sensor and 1.55µm pixels, has an aperture area that’s nearly 4x larger. This is a byproduct of using a variable aperture zoom lens, which tend to be slower than fixed aperture prime lenses, to reduce cost and weight. We’ll see what effect this has on low-light performance in the next section.

Video Quality

The True Zoom will record video, of course, but unless you specifically need to shoot video of something at a distance, you’re better off using the phone’s camera. For starters, it will not record 1080p60 video like the Moto Z or Moto Z Force nor will it record 4K video like all three Moto Zs can. It does record 1080p video at an average bit rate and using the high profile, but only at 24fps. I do not think I’ve reviewed a phone that could not do 1080p at 30fps, assuming it could record 1080p at all. I’m not sure if this is a bandwidth limitation from the Moto Mod connector or a cost saving measure, but the camera sensor is more than capable of recording up to 4K at 30fps.

Hasselblad True Zoom Mod: Video Modes
Video Mode Video Audio
FHD 1080p 1920x1080, 17 Mb/s, H.264 High 128 Kb/s, 48 KHz AAC
HD 720p 1280x720, 10 Mb/s, H.264 High 128 Kb/s, 48 KHz AAC
VGA 480p 640x480, 6 Mb/s, H.264 Baseline 128 Kb/s, 48 KHz AAC

Between the lack of recording options and the choppy looking 24fps video, it’s best to pop off the True Zoom and use the phone’s camera if the subject of the video is reasonably close, which is not ideal. However, its optical zoom makes the inconvenience of carrying around the True Zoom and taking it on and off justifiable. It allows you to take videos of things that just are not feasible with a regular smartphone camera because they’re too far away.

Video quality is pretty good overall. White balance, exposure, and noise are similar to video taken with the Moto Zs. The less than fluid 24fps 1080p video (both the 720p and 480p modes record at 30fps) and lack of HDR are the biggest negatives. The True Zoom’s electronic image stabilization works wonderfully, though, completely eliminating hand shake. This is especially important for a zoom lens because the large distance between camera and subject can turn even the smallest movements at the camera into large shifts in the captured image. Even at 10x zoom, however, the True Zoom’s video remains steady, deftly soaking up small vibrations from your hands.

In the video sample above, motor noise while zooming is clearly audible. And by clearly audible, I mean it’s very loud. Another issue is that the zoom speed is not variable and not very precise. It’s more of an on/off button, so you will not be able to do any slow, cinematic zooms or zoom precisely to a specific point. For these reasons, it’s better to select the desired zoom level before recording or edit out the periods while zooming.

Introduction & Design Photo Quality & Final Words
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  • bigboxes - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    I got a Nikon ultrazoom for ~$260. This looks cute, but if it's not as portable and picture quality is less, costs more then it's more of a novelty.
  • PipelineBubble - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    So basically you are better off with the internal sensor and clip-on optics? Alright then.
  • Sam Snead - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    I remember when a Hasselblad 2 1/4"x2 1/4" was the Ferrari of film cameras. I guess now it's a Fiat...
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    Good idea, terrible product, good article. Any reason why this is in Pipeline and not among the real articles, length and quality wise it should be there, imo. :)
  • krazyfrog - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    Why is there no xenon flash sample? Literally everyone who has reviewed this so far has completely ignored the xenon flash for some reason.
  • Ultraman1966 - Sunday, September 11, 2016 - link

    To be fair, most people prefer not to take smartphone pics with a flash.
  • hemedans - Sunday, September 11, 2016 - link

    they dont use flash because led flash suck, xenon is another monster
  • Meteor2 - Sunday, September 11, 2016 - link

    The S7 has a cracking camera, doesn't it?

    Wish we would see the HTC 10 review.
  • mortimerr - Sunday, September 11, 2016 - link

    Why doesn't the final words section mention the fact that you also have to factor in the base price for the phone to use the module?
    If I buy a $500 point and shoot, my only other expense may be a SD card.

    But the camera doesn't cost only $300, it also costs between $400-700 to use depending on what model Moto you get. Unless you're able to take photos without the module attached to anything,
  • zeeBomb - Sunday, September 11, 2016 - link

    I don't see the point of buying this mod. You're getting slightly more lowlight photos but with bad software optimization, for $250. If this was to be no more than $150 then this will be an okay purchase. Otherwise... stay stock my friends.

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