Field Test: The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera and Moto Z Smartphone

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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.

Field Test: The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera 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.

Field Test: The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera and Moto Z Smartphone

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

best smartphone photography camera

The good

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.

Field Test: The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera and Moto Z Smartphone

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.

Field Test: The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera and Moto Z Smartphone

Professional mode options.

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.

Field Test: The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera and Moto Z Smartphone

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.

Field Test: The Hasselblad True Zoom Camera and Moto Z Smartphone

Size

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.

Uncertain future

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.

In Conclusion

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

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Suzi Pratt

is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • I’ve played with mobile (cell) phone cameras, and while they have their own niche to fill, and can indeed produce decent photos, for maximum flexibility and image quality, DSLR or compact cameras by Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony and others simply cannot beat.

    Of course the price point is attractive – strap on the Hassleblad True Zoom to the Motorola Moto Z smart phone and you have at least a camera plus phone with more flexibility than many other smart phones on the market. And for many people this is good enough.

    For myself, I will not be selling my Nikon DSLR’s anytime soon – I value good quality imagery and flexibility to take any kind of photographs, be it noise free Milky Way galaxy night photos, to freezing F1 motor cars zooming by on race racks at 300mph.

    Thanks for the review!

    Frederic Hore,
    Montreal, QC

  • I agree completely! I’m nowhere close to selling my DSLRs either, but I do love the ability to have a nice pocket camera when I don’t want to carry a big DSLR with me 🙂

  • Timothy Chan

    I am running this FaceBook page to pay tribute to MOTO and Hasselblad True Zoom.

    https://www.facebook.com/ExploreThruMoto.HasselTrueZoom/

  • Love mine, tho’ I find it not quite as tack sharp in lower light compared to my LG G5.

    My main complaint is hte ability to stick it to some sort of mount. Tripod screw, or even a holder of some sort (as it’s too thick now for my common cell phone holder/mounts.

  • Timothy Chan

    Hello Frederic, I think the development of Hasselblad True Zoom was never meant to substitute or compete with DSLR; not even with mirrorless. It also would not replace the built-in camera of MOTO Z because no one would attach the MOD on the phone all the time so it would be slow to set up the Hasselblad True Zoom. However, it would be a nice substitute to those point-n-shoot DCs.

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  • Garry Singh

    Great review…but product not worth it….I believe smartphones are evolving everyday…they are now giving stiff competition to some serious camera makers too….LG g5 is one of such example….Sony z5, another class together….I own samsung a5 n MS 640 XL both of them are classic n have a great lens….I would rather buy a new mobile phone with a great lens then put my money into a model like this one….I do most of my photography using mobiles n slrs…point n shoots….so this product did not excite me et all….I plan to buy an action cam yi4k in near future.

  • hazitroll

    I dunno. If you have already a decent phone, and you bought yourself a decent compact camera beforehand I don’t see any reason to switch to Moto Z and this mod. If it wont fit into my pocket, I still need to bring something with me. So I just can’t see a reason why this would be my next buy. Okay, smaller than any DSLR, but more like a decent mobile (I have an LG G3) with something like a Canon S100. Which could operate without the mobile. This mod cannot operate standalone… So this looks another “interesting but not worth” for me.

  • Bill Lapham

    It is cute, but for anyone that is serious a complete bomb. I used it with a Force platform and found it quite disappointing. The smartphone has so much power that the attached camera could use but doesn’t. Very poor execution.
    For MY review go to http://www.photographyandtravelforthephysicallychallenged.com/ and choose Moto z/Hasselblad Combo from the Current Posts dropdown.

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  • Lisa Walker

    I already struggle with maintaining enough battery power for emergency phone use, alarms and calendar. When shooting on location i need an independent and DUPLICATE power source (an extra charged battery backup in the bag or an extra set of AAs) i know the above phones battery is replaceable but not all are.

  • pincherio

    Why would this be a good substitute to a P&S? If it’s too bulky attached that you’d rather bring it unattached to your phone, then wouldn’t a stand alone camera be more convenient? While they may be bulkier, the fact you can take pics right away makes them way more convenient. No more need to connect to the phone, launch an app, and fiddle with under powered abilities. For the price of this mod, I’ll just get a Canon S90 or S100, which has way better IQ, manual adjustability, and is slim enough to slip into a pocket comfortably. And when someone calls, I don’t need to stop shooting (pretty convenient when shooting video). Oh yeah, it also has a tripod mount.

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