- Optical zoom provides plenty of reach
- Great build quality and ergonomics
- Decent image quality in good lighting
- Small aperture results in mediocre low-light performance
- Mushy shutter button and overly-sensitive zoom
- No HDR
- No 4K video
- 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor
- 10x optical zoom
- 12-megapixel still images
- 1080p, 30fps video
- F/3.5-6.5 aperture
- Physical zoom and shutter controls
- Magnetic docking method
- RAW support
- Manufacturer: Motorola
- Review Price: £199.00/$298.50
WHAT IS THE HASSELBLAD TRUE ZOOM?
One of the great appeals of Motorola’s (or perhaps that should be Lenovo’s) Moto Z range is the modularity offered by its Moto Mods. These smartphone attachments cleverly attach to the back of the Moto Z range through magnets, making connecting and swapping mods a breeze.
One such Moto Mod is the Hasselblad True Zoom, which, as the name implies, adds some true optical zoom capabilities and draws on the famous Hasselblad name. The Swedish camera manufacturer is known for its super-expensive medium and large format cameras. This is an aspirational Mod, then. Sadly, it doesn’t live up to the brand.
With the equivalent of 10x optical zoom made for those who want to get closer to the action without resorting to dreadful digital zoom, the Hasselblad True Zoom proves to be a useful addition. But its camera capabilities as a whole won’t rival dedicated compact cameras at a similar price and some aspects, such as video, can be inferior to the Moto Z’s standard camera.
HASSELBAD TRUE ZOOM – DESIGN AND HANDLING
For anyone with a photographic background, the one thing that can feel a little alien when shooting with a smartphone is awkwardly holding the phone itself. With the rush to make phones thinner and lighter, it means there’s not a whole lot to grab hold of.
There’s something satisfying about holding a proper camera that gets lost along the way, and part of that is having something to grip hold of. To counter this, Hasselblad has adopted some tried-and-tested camera standards and the True Zoom looks very much like a traditional camera.
For starters, the True Zoom adds some extra girth with a dedicated camera grip towards the right-hand side, which your palms naturally contour around, providing easy access to the dedicated two-stage shutter button. The grip has a leather-like texture to it as well, another nod to traditional cameras.
It obviously adds some size to your Moto Z, but the whole thing still fit comfortably into a pair of jeans, although it’s not something I kept attached all the time. A handy case is included to stow the True Zoom away, and it’s also big enough to hold it when attached to the Moto Z as well.
The magnetic locking of Moto Mods is impressive – there’s never any worry about it becoming separated
Like a dedicated camera, the shutter button can be half-pressed to lock the autofocus and fully engaged to release the shutter, which will be instantly familiar. My only complaint is how mushy the shutter button feels, and that there’s not enough distinction between a half-press and a full-press.
Akin to the travel of a keyboard’s key action, there’s something to be said about a satisfying shutter button. There’s some visual flourish to the shutter button, adopting an orange shade to commemorate the long-standing camera company’s 75th anniversary.
Integrated alongside the shutter button are the zoom controls, which will again feel instantly familiar to anyone that’s picked up a compact camera. Frustratingly, the zoom rocker is incredibly sensitive, so it’s very easy to overshoot the zoom length you intended.
There’s a small power button to turn the camera on and off manually, but opening and closing any camera app will do this automatically as well.
Previous smartphones have dabbled with optical zoom in the past, the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom and the Panasonic CM1 to name but two, but being able to add on and take off the True Zoom means not having to deal with the added size of the camera components all the time, which is a real bonus for part-time shooters.
The only real omission compared to a dedicated camera I felt was the lack of a tripod thread, but you can probably find a smartphone holder with one that would do the trick. Otherwise, the Hasselblad True Zoom does a surprisingly effective job of turning your Moto Z into something that looks and feels like a compact camera.
The True Zoom uses your connected Moto Z’s battery, so expect that to deplete quicker. Annoyingly, the Moto Z wouldn’t let me connect a USB-C cable to charge at the same time as using the True Zoom, throwing up an on-screen message. It’s not made clear why you can’t shoot and charge at the same time, either.
HASSELBLAD TRUE ZOOM – CAMERA AND PERFORMANCE
The headline feature, literally, of the True Zoom is its optical zoom. This lets you get closer to the action with optical zoom being a far superior option compared to digital zoom. The latter merely crops into an image and enlarges it to emulate the effect of zooming.
The True Zoom has an equivalent focal length of 25-250mm due to its small 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor. While 25mm on the wide end won’t necessarily be able to capture massive vistas for your landscape shots, the 250mm on the telephoto zoom end will be able to get you close to your subject.
The zoom lens fully extended
As a reference, the Panasonic CM1 managed to cram in a full 1-inch sensor, which did wonders for its light gathering capabilities.
The minimum focus distance on the True Zoom is 5cm at the wide end, increasing to 1.5m when zoomed in to 250mm. One disappointing aspect is the lens’ maximum aperture, both on the wide and telephoto end. At the 25mm wide end it’s F/3.5, decreasing to just F/6.5 when zoomed to 250mm.
The aperture controls the lens’ diaphragm and thereby the amount of light that can reach the sensor. A nice big aperture like F/1.8 lets lots of light reach the sensor increasing low-light performance and allowing faster shutter speeds for less shaky shots.
The aperture also impacts the background blur (or bokeh) effect of your photographs, and it’s difficult to get pleasing subject separation even at F/3.5. Ideally, you want to take portraits zoomed in for more flattering perspectives and less distortion of facial features, so F/6.5 performs even worse for isolating your subject.
Subject isolation is tricky with the apertures allowed
As the zoom also magnifies any camera movement, it means faster shutter speeds are necessary for steady shots, which makes the small aperture even more difficult to deal with. There is optical image stabilisation but this can still only do so much. It meant taking sharp photos zoomed in under low-light conditions was very tricky. There’s a Xenon flash you can use, but as with most flashes it has a tendency to give a visually displeasing, whited-out image.
Wide-angle performance is better, but it’s worth noting that the Hasselblad True Zoom doesn’t support HDR, where the standard camera on the Moto Z does. It’s a strange omission, and I found HDR photos I took using the Moto Z’s camera looked more punchy than those taken on the True Zoom.
Shot on the 25mm end
Shot at 250mm from the same position – that’s some serious zoom for a smartphone but the image sharpness is noticeably softer
The same wide shot using the Moto Z’s standard camera but with HDR – colours are far punchier than what the True Zoom served up
Autofocus speed also leaves a lot to be desired. Any subjects that don’t have a lot of contrast results in hunting for a focus point and there aren’t any fancy multi-point focus options like you find on even basic compact cameras. There’s just the one AF point and there’s also no burst shooting options.
The True Zoom is able to capture images in RAW format, which means what the sensor sees is what you get. It also means you’ll capture far more light data. This appeals to photographers who prefer to make their own adjustments afterwards.
Unfortunately, there’s vignetting (darkening of the corners) when shooting on the wide end in RAW format, which is something that gets cropped out when shooting in standard JPEG by the camera. You can of course just crop this yourself when it comes time to post-process your shots.
Disappointingly, the True Zoom can only record video at 1080p/30fps, whereas the Moto Z’s sensor can manage 4K video. Again, if you want to shoot video with an optical zoom, it might be a worthwhile compromise.
A few more example shots under different light conditions are below. There are plenty more in this review’s gallery.
SHOULD I BUY THE HASSELBLAD TRUE ZOOM?
If you’re aware of the slightly limited shooting scenarios supported by the True Zoom, it’s a useful accessory to have in your shooting arsenal. The 10x zoom has some serious reach and provided the sensor is served up with a healthy amount of light it performs well enough. Attaching a True Zoom to your Moto Z also provides you with a far larger display for composing your shot than you’ll ever find on a compact camera.
However, the True Zoom is slightly less functional on the wide end, losing out on HDR and introducing the vignetting seen when shooting RAW. Video resolution also takes a hit and low-light performance could be improved with a wider aperture. I wouldn’t even mind if some of the zoom range was sacrificed for less of an aperture difference between the wide and telephoto ends. I also found autofocus speed underwhelming.
While the Hasselblad True Zoom as a concept is great, the execution isn’t quite there. As you likely won’t keep the Hasselblad True Zoom permanently attached to your Moto Z, it’s not going to be vastly more inconvenient to carry a superior-performing compact camera around with you and you won’t also be sacrificing battery life of your phone.
The Hasselblad True Zoom delivers on its promise of serious zoom but its not quite a replacement for a dedicated camera.