It’s impossible to ignore the fact that camera phones are becoming increasingly better. With impressive image quality and the ability to add on and shoot with mobile phone lenses, the case for replacing your dedicated camera with your cell phone is becoming more compelling by the day. However, one aspect of camera phones really hasn’t seen much improvement: ergonomics. Shooting with a camera phone is for some still pretty awkward and difficult to get used to. Here’s where the Hasselblad True Zoom comes into play.
Below are some notes and observations from a week-long experiment of shooting with the Hasselblad True Zoom and Moto Z smartphone.
What is the Hasselblad True Zoom?
The Hasselblad True Zoom makes your smartphone feel and function like a point-and-shoot camera. It is one of many Moto Mods available to add extra features to Motorola Moto Z smartphones, so all mods are limited to use on the Moto Z phones only. All Moto Mods attach to the phone via extra strong magnets, and can easily be detached.
To be perfectly honest, the Moto Z smartphones have superb native cameras. The Moto Z Force Droid, in particular, is very impressive and it even outperforms the Apple iPhone 7. This is to say that image quality is great with or without the Hasselblad True Zoom mod, but it is certainly nice to have some of the mod’s extra features.
Hasselblad True Zoom Specs
- Compatible phones: Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Force Droid, Moto Z Play Droid
- Dimensions / Weight: 152.3 x 72.9 x 9.0 – 15.1 mm / 145g
- Sensor resolution: 12MP
- Video resolution: 1080p Full HD at 30fps
- Sensor size / Pixel size: 1/2.3-inch / 1.55 um
- Aperture: f/3.5-5.6
- Zoom: 10x optical/4x digital
- Flash: Xenon flash
- Capture modes: Photo, panorama, video, professional, night landscape, night portrait, sports, day landscape, back light portrait
- Storage Internal phone: 32GB-64GB microSD
- Price: $250
- Carrying case included
By far the best part of about the Hasselblad True Zoom is the fact that it allows you to use a phone (somewhat) like a real camera!
Physical camera controls
For those of us who despise having to pinch to zoom on a mobile phone, the Hasselblad True Zoom is a welcome relief. The mod is complete with a physical shutter release button and a physical zoom switch to operate the mod’s 25-250mm-equivalent range. There’s also an on/off button to turn the camera off and on without having to first unlock the phone.
Ability to control the camera via a touchscreen
After the mod is attached, the phone’s stock camera app switches over to “Professional mode.” This mode allows for manual camera control via the phone’s touchscreen. While you don’t have true manual control over every aspect of the camera (more on that below), you can adjust certain features such as ISO, capture mode (e.g. Action, Portrait mode, etc.), and choose to shoot in RAW or JPG format.
Comes with a carrying case
While you can operate your phone as usual even with the mod attached, you’ll probably want to remove it occasionally. Luckily, a solid carrying case with a wrist strap is included so you can keep your mod safe when you aren’t using it.
What could be improved
For every positive feature listed above, there’s an aspect that could be improved.
Limited manual control
Manual camera control on the Hasselblad True Zoom mod is still pretty limited. While it’s nice to be able to adjust the ISO, it’s not possible to adjust aperture or shutter speed. It’s a real shame, considering the native f/3.5-5.6 aperture available.
Extra physical features missing
The addition of a physical shutter button and zoom toggle is very welcomed and makes it easier to operate your phone like a true camera. However, two key features are missing.
First is a wrist strap that attaches to either the phone or camera. Considering how expensive the devices are and how bulky they can get, a strap would add a sense of security.
Second is a tripod thread. Since you don’t have full manual control over the camera, many low lighting shots revert to settings with incredibly slow shutter speeds, resulting in blurry images when shot handheld. Also, trying to take advantage of the mod’s 10x zoom feature while also holding the camera steady is incredibly tricky. There are some sample images below that demonstrate these focusing problems. The ability to shoot with a tripod would greatly enhance the resulting images.
It’s impossible to ignore the allure of being able to shoot and carry a Hasselblad camera that fits into your pocket. The only problem is this camera won’t quite fit in your pocket unless you’ve got exceptionally large ones. While the bare Moto Z phone is slim enough to be tucked into most pockets, the camera mod adds just enough bulk to make the device difficult to carry. The carrying case is nice for protecting the mod, but it’s an awkward size that won’t fit into most pockets or purses.
Moto Mods are a brand new concept for Motorola, a company recently taken over by Lenovo. Thus, the future of the Moto Z phone line and Moto Mods as a whole is pretty uncertain. No one knows if the next generation of Moto Z phones will be compatible with the Hasselblad True Zoom, or if the Moto Z line will continue at all. As a result, this can be a risky investment.
The Hasselblad True Zoom is a step in the right direction for mobile photography. Having physical controls to better control smartphone cameras are welcome additions, but there is certainly room for improvement in future iterations.
What do you think about the idea of the Hasselblad True Zoom? Would you pick one up to try for yourself?
Hasselblad True Zoom Sample Images