A prestigious brand is joining Lenovo's MotoMod lineup today: it's Hasselblad. Confirming some recent leaks, both companies have just announced the new Hasselblad True Zoom. The True Zoom is a camera attachment that magnetically latches onto the back of the Moto Z and expands the phone's photography prowess by adding optical zoom up to 10x. It will launch in September for $250 when purchased from Verizon, or $299 if you buy it from Motorola.com.
The True Zoom doesn't use the Moto Z's camera at all. It's a completely separate camera with its own 25-250mm (35mm equivalent) lens and 12-megapixel sensor built in. Yes, that's fewer megapixels than the 13MP Moto Z camera and fewer still than the 21MP Moto Z Force. It's also completely powered by the phone's battery, unlike some other MotoMods that have their own internal batteries. Once you attach the True Zoom to any Moto Z phone and hit its power button, the lens juts out and the phone's camera app automatically opens. There's a physical shutter button (in Hasselblad's signature orange), which always feels more satisfying than tapping glass, and right under that is the zoom lever. Hasselblad also built in a Xenon flash, though it won't do you much good for shots where you're zooming into the distance — and that's the whole point of this thing, right?
Considering that we're talking about a camera that snaps onto the back of a phone, I was pleased with how comfortable the True Zoom was to handle. I tested it with the Moto Z Play, so the experience might be different with the ultra-thin Moto Z. But the grip is perfectly fine for my big hands. The power button reliably triggers the lens mechanism and camera app every time, so the system works as designed.
I just wish that the whole thing could take better pictures. I haven't been testing it terribly long, and don't get me wrong: having 10x optical zoom is super neat at times. If you're traveling, this could be a fun gadget to carry along for outdoor photos. But the variable aperture (f/3.5 - 6.5) is pretty brutal for indoor and low light shots. And the minimum focusing distance can be another annoyance, especially when zooming. Your subject will need to be several feet away, or the True Zoom just won't lock focus; it's easier to get up close when the lens is at its default focal length. Focusing in general can feel awfully slow at times, and the True Zoom does a lot of hunting. Hopefully this can be improved through software updates.
I think my biggest disappointment is that these still very much look like pictures taken with a smartphone camera, which shouldn't be surprising since the True Zoom uses a 1/2.3-inch sensor. Perhaps the Hasselblad name set my expectations unreasonably high. On the plus side, Hasselblad has added its own set of modes to the Moto Z camera software, and among those is the option to save images both in JPEG and RAW format. Perhaps the RAW files leave a better result, but I haven't had enough time to do much post processing. Also, you can shoot video (limited to 1080p) with the True Zoom, but you lose out on the optical image stabilization that you get with stills, so I wouldn't recommend it.
So the Hasselblad True Zoom seems like another cool-but-overpriced MotoMod. Optical zoom can help you get closer than your phone (or feet) could otherwise. But when you remember that the results are something you'll be sharing on Instagram or Facebook, that $250 price is a bit hard to swallow. Stay tuned, as we'll be publishing some sample shots taken with the Moto Z and Hasselblad True Zoom soon.