Hasselblad True Zoom review: Take even better pictures with your Moto Z smartphone

Android / Hardware Reviews / Mobile / Mobile Reviews / Photography / Reviews / Top Picks
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While the Hasselblad True Zoom isn’t perfect, it’s definitely a step in the right direction and can produce some fantastic results, especially with the 10x optical zoom.

Each year, new smartphones try to outdo the previous generation with better, crisper, faster cameras. For the most part, the better cameras come in a higher priced smartphone package and even then while decent enough for general use they don’t offer the accuracy or versatility of point and shoot or DSLR cameras. The Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod aims to change that with its 10x optical zoom, hoping to transform your Moto Z into an acceptable point and shoot camera.

Our Hasselblad True Zoom review takes a look at one of four current mods available for the Moto Z smartphones, allowing consumers an easy way to “upgrade” the camera on their smartphone. In case you missed them, be sure to check out our Moto Z and Moto Z Play review, as well as our Incipio offGRID Power Pack, JBL SoundBoost Speaker, and Moto Insta-Share Projector reviews.

Specifications

The Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod has the following features and specifications:

  • 10x optical zoom
  • Xenon flash
  • Hasselblad design and ergonomics
  • Shoots in RAW format
  • Easy sharing and backup
  • Sensor resolution: 12MP
  • Video resolution: 1080p Full HD at 30fps
  • Mics: 2
  • Sensor type: BSI CMOS
  • Sensor size: 1/2.3-inch
  • Pixel size: 1.55 um
  • Aperture: f3.5-6.5
  • Zoom: 10x optical/4x digital
  • Focal length: 4.5-45 mm (25-250mm 35mm equivalent)
  • Macro: 5cm @1x – 1.5m @10x
  • Flash: Xenon flash
  • Flash modes: Auto, on, off
  • Image stabilization:
    • Still: OIS
    • Video: EIS
  • ISO equivalent: Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200

  • Capture modes: Photo, panorama, video, professional, night landscape, night portrait, sports, day landscape, back light portrait

  • Manual focus: select focus ROI Focus lock

  • Pro mode: Focus, white balance, f-stop, ISO, exposure

  • White balance: Auto, incandescent, fluorescent, sunny, shade

  • Color effects: Color, black & white

  • Red-eye reduction: Auto

  • File format:

    • Still: JPG, DNG (RAW)

    • Video: MPEG4

  • Storage:

    • Internal phone: 32GB-64GB

    • microSD phone: up to 2TB

    • Cloud: Unlimited via Google Photos

  • Battery life: Phone dependent

  • Connectivity:

    • Phone connectivity: 4G/LTE, Wi-Fi

  • GPS:

    • Phone: Enhanced geolocation

  • Carrying case included
  • Dimensions: 152.3 x 72.9 x 9.0 – 15.1 mm
  • Weight: 145g

What’s in the Box

  • 1x Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod
  • 1x Carrying case
  • 1x User guide
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The Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod includes a carrying pouch.

Design

When not attached to your Moto Z or Moto Z Play smartphone, the Hasselblad True Zoom looks like a really thin point and shoot from the front. When looking at the front, the left side has the familiar hand grip that accompanies some cameras (this would be held in your right hand when in use), with a rather large lens assembly in the middle. The Xenon flash is in the upper right-hand corner with the iconic Hasselblad logo in the lower right. The front of the lens has your typical camera markings including the Hasselblad name, the 3.5-6.5/4.5-45mm, and 10x Optical Zoom markings to show off what the camera is capable of.

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Definitely looks like a camera!

The top of the camera has a power button, zoom dial, and two-stage shutter button above the hand grip. The back of the camera doesn’t have the familiar Moto Z camera cutout as is present in other Moto Mods, but instead has a foam cushioned piece which covers your Moto Z/Moto Z Play camera. The Moto Mod Connector is in the expected place, located near the bottom of the back of the Hasselblad True Zoom and just above the now familiar notch on Moto Mods which assists with removing the mod from your phone when you are done using it.

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Top of the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod.

Once attached to your smartphone, you’ve got a camera with a large viewing screen and touch controls for fine tuning settings and taking photos — and a fairly slim one at that as it’s at most 20.3mm thick with the Moto Z and 22.1mm thick with the Moto Z Play and weighing between 281 and 310g.

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The Hasselblad True Zoom on the Moto Z (top) and Moto Z Play (bottom).

Performance

When you’ve attached the Hasselblad True Zoom to your phone, simply launch the camera app or press the power button on the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod and the lens will extend and the camera will be ready to use. While the default camera on the Moto Z and Moto Z Play takes about a second to launch, the Hasselblad True Zoom takes about three seconds before you’re ready to shoot your first photo. One thing to note, if you leave the camera app on your phone to check an email or use another app, the camera lens will retract and will extend once you re-open the camera app.

It’s important to leave the camera app or turn off the Hasselblad True Zoom before removing it from your phone as the lens will not retract if it is currently extended when you do so due to the fact that this Moto Mod doesn’t have its own battery supply. If this does happen, simply place the Moto Mod back on your phone and the lens will retract.

Overall, the Hasselblad True Zoom functions exactly like you’d expect a point and shoot with a touch screen interface to function.

Software/Interface

The Hasselblad True Zoom uses the default camera app on the Moto Z/Moto Z Play. As such, you can quickly take a picture using the default settings, or utilize Professional Mode to manually adjust focal distance, white balance, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure. The settings also allow you to set your storage options (memory card or phone), set the shutter type to camera button, shutter button, or tap anywhere, set your post-capture review time, and turn digital zoom on or off.

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Moto Z/Z Play camera app Professional Mode settings.

The Hasselblad True Zoom also has its own settings which let you select a Hasselblad mode. These modes include Color (JPEG), B&W (JPEG), and every photographer’s dream — Color (RAW+JPEG). You can also select a default scene, including Auto, Sports, Night portrait, Backlight portrait, Night landscape, and Landscape. Depending on your usage, the modes and scene settings tended to work as expected, giving you better photos depending on your shooting scenario.

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Hasselblad True Zoom settings screenshot.

One downfall to the True Zoom though is that it doesn’t remember these settings, so when you exit out of the app or remove the Moto Mod from your phone, the next time you launch the camera app you’ll have to go back into the Hasselblad settings and re-select the appropriate Mode or Scene setting.

The Hasselblad True Zoom isn’t limited to use with the default camera app, and will work with most other apps that require a camera. Unfortunately, the one app that it doesn’t work with is the Manual Camera app (the Moto Z/Moto Z Play is not supported according to the app), but the manual controls in the default Motorola camera app and RAW support in the True Zoom is plenty enough to give you more control over your mobile photography.

Photo Quality

I was impressed with the photo quality on the Moto Z, and the Hasselblad takes that to an entirely different level with its 10x optical zoom. As the Moto Z had the leg up on the Moto Z Play for photo quality, the Hasselblad True Zoom definitely improves photos taken with the Moto Z Play, although the smartphone is really just acting as the interface and not actually responsible for the photo processing.

Interestingly enough, the True Zoom has a lower megapixel count and higher pixel size than both the Moto Z (13MP/1.12um) and the Moto Z Play (16 MP/1.3um). That being said, the 12MP sensor with its 1.55um pixel size coupled with the optics and other features of the camera like OIS (for photos) and EIS (for video) does allow for some great pictures — both indoors and out. However, where the Hasselblad True Zoom really shines is indicated by the “True Zoom” part of its name. I’ll just say it bluntly: the 10x optical zoom is insane. The amount of detail and zoom that you get out of the camera when using the optical zoom is fantastic, and while there are still some artifacts when zoomed into a photo at 100%, the photos produced are more than decent enough for printing at 4×6 or 5×7, and possibly even 8×10. The flash is really bright and does a fantastic job as well, able to easily light up a dark room through a door from 10′ away. One thing to keep in mind, and this is true for any type of zoom lens, is the further you zoom in, the shakier the camera gets. It definitely helped to have something to rest on, like a railing, when taking pictures with the 10x optical zoom enabled.

Of course, the best way to showcase what the Hasselblad True Zoom is capable of is to show some photos taken with it, so without further ado here’s some samples. All photos are SOOC (straight out of the camera) with the exception of resizing them down to 1200×800, some will use the Auto HDR, others the flash, and I’ve included some 100% crops as well — all info is included in the image caption. Just a note, all pictures taken in the gallery below were taken handheld, with automatic settings. I intentionally chose to shoot this way as that is, what I feel, the way the majority of average smartphone users use their phone camera. If you took the time to manually adjust your settings like ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop, as well as use a tripod of some sort, you’ll definitely get even better results.

With the Hasselblad True Zoom, you can record 480p, 720p, and 1080p video all at 30fps. I didn’t play much with it but a couple of test videos I did take indoors and outdoors looked pretty decent as well.

Battery Life

The Hasselblad True Zoom doesn’t have its own battery so it pulls off of the phone. Depending which Moto Z you are using, your results will vary but with 45 minutes of continuous use (taking pictures and camera on in idle mode in between), the battery in the Moto Z Play dropped by about 20%. Hopefully, future versions of Moto Mods will allow for stacking, or at the least, a future camera Moto Mod will have a self-contained battery as well.

Price/Value

Priced at $299.99USD ($349CAD), the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod isn’t exactly cheap. There are definitely point and shoot cameras in that price range with more megapixels, but being able to slap a camera Moto Mod on your phone definitely has its benefits, not to mention having a 10x optical zoom in your pocket is a huge benefit.

If you want even better value, the True Zoom is currently selling for $249.99USD on Amazon.

Wrap-up

While the Hasselblad True Zoom isn’t perfect, it’s definitely a step in the right direction and can produce some fantastic results, especially with the 10x optical zoom. It’s definitely earned a spot as a Top Pick of 2016 here at Techaeris.

When I first noticed that the Hasselblad True Zoom bypasses the Moto Z/Z Play camera completely, it got me to thinking and I’d be really interested in a Moto Z model that didn’t have a rear-facing camera at all. It’d definitely be interesting to see how much it could bring the cost of a Moto Z smartphone down without one if one decided they just wanted to use the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod to take pictures. I know that I kept the camera mod handy, and took the extra few seconds to slap it on when I wanted to take a photo with the Moto Z or Moto Z Play, depending which phone I was using that week and rarely shot with the onboard camera.

Hasselblad True Zoom
4.6 Out of 5
Nailed it
Offers OIS for photos, EIS for video. 10x optical zoom is fantastic, shoots RAW DNG format, plenty of manual options.
Needs Work
No way to retain settings. Colours seem a bit washed out over the default Moto Z camera. Pulls from phone battery.
Bottom Line
While the Hasselblad True Zoom isn't perfect, it's definitely a step in the right direction and can produce some fantastic results, especially with the 10x optical zoom. It's definitely earned a spot as a Top Pick of 2016 here at Techaeris.
Design4.75
Software/Interface4.50
Performance4.75
Photo Quality4.75
Battery Life4.50
Price/Value4.25
*We were sent a demo unit of the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod for the purposes of this review.
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