The recently announced Motorola Z and Z Play are phones that feature pretty much what you’d expect from phones today, but where they really stand apart from their peers is their ability to work with modular attachments. Of the handful that have been launched, the Hasselblad True-Zoom mod is a fairly exciting proposition on two counts; one it brings real optical zoom to cellphone cameras and two, it bears the Hasselblad branding.
The Hasselblad True Zoom mod will retail for Rs 19 999 when it launches on October 17. Motorola and Hasselblad have worked very closely on the development of the mod, with Hasselblad fusing their camera prowess with the strong design philosophy of Motorola. The result is a fairly sleek unit that magnetically snaps onto your phone without adding too much heft. It comes with a built-in 12 megapixel 1/2.3” inch sensor and a lens that offers 25-250mm field of view (35mm equivalent). That’s a whopping 10x optical zoom, for the first time on a cellphone camera.
Specifications: 12 Megapixel 1/2.3” sensor | 25-250mm f/3.5-6.5 lens (35mm equivalent)
Motorola has developed the mod ecosystem keeping convenience in mind. The phone detected the Hasselblad True Zoom mod as soon as it was attached to the phone. It worked with all the apps that have the ability to call up the phone’s camera such as Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook and even third party apps. The mod works beautifully with all of them, however, when initiated using the stock camera app, a few extra features show up courtesy the Hasselblad integration.
There are a number of scene modes that are a nice touch, but most importantly, the app allows you to shoot in RAW DNG format, for anyone who prefers the raw output from the sensor. The Hasselblad offers optical zoom from 25-250mm (35mm equivalent) which can be operated either the traditional pinch to zoom way, or by means of a built-in rocker on the camera module. There is even a physical shutter button and an ergonomic grip that turns the Moto Z into what feels like a proper point and shoot camera.
The grip is beautifully designed for both feel and comfort. The xenon flash on the camera module is powerful and can really help you out if you are trying to take a group shot at night. The highlight, however, remains the fact that it allows you to zoom in up to 250mm without any loss in quality.
The Hasselblad True Zoom mod does not come with a built in battery and hence, draws power from the phone’s battery. Besides the hit in battery life, the mod also tends to heat up around the grip rather quickly (around 15 shots in). The other let down was the fact that the lens has a variable 3.5-6.5 aperture, making the lens unsuitable for any kind of low light shooting. Additionally, there is no way to control aperture, something we hoped would find its way into the cellphone cameras as a means of offering more creative control.
The other downside to the Hasselblad True Zoom is in the event you do decide to shoot RAW. Unfortunately, the mode results in a noticeable lag between pressing the shutter button and the camera actually taking the photo. Lastly, the low-light performance of the camera was also somewhat of a let-down, with significant noise showing up in photos that were taken at night.
There is another issue of concern when shooting RAW. In our testing, we discovered that the lens on the Hasselblad True Zoom mod may not be designed perfectly. At its widest (25mm), the lens barrel is quiet visible in the photos. This behaviour does not reflect in JPG photos though. Interestingly, this only occurs when we open the files in Adobe Lightroom, however, when the files are opened in Hasselblad’s own RAW processing software Phocus, the edges clear out and the barrel distortion in the images disappears as well.
It would appear that at its widest, the lens retracts too much into the barrel. Hasselblad’s Phocus applies a lens correction profile automatically (which the user has no control over) which fixes the issue, however, it would appear that the lens design is not optimal for the sensor, which is causing such an issue. You can see the prevalence of the problem in the three sets of images below.
The Hasselblad True Zoom mod is not for everyone. While it misses out on a few essential features (like aperture control or better aperture to begin with), it does get the zoom bit right. The optical image stabilisation keeps things blur-free even at the full 250mm range. You should know that you cannot control the aperture on the lens, and the f/3.5-6.5 is a definitively crippling experience in low light.
The RAW output is also somewhat of a concern, given the issues with the lens design. True Zoom mod is a good purchase decision IF you don’t care about RAW output and will only be shooting JPG. For those were hoping to get the most of the Hasselblad sensor by means of RAW, you’re bound to face frustration with the lens issue and the slow shooting speed.