I am always looking for new photo equipment and other things that can make life easier for those of us with physical challenges. I recently saw the Moto Z Droid Force smartphone with a Hasselblad True Zoom camera adapted to it.
Upon request, Motorola/Lenovo sent me an evaluation unit.
The basic unit is a Moto Z Droid smartphone with a larger than normal battery. The attachment is a Hasselblad designed camera with a 10x optical zoom, that attaches to the Droid magnetically; allowing for quick exchange with stereo speakers, a projector or style backs. As I have said before, a good optical zoom is superior to a digital zoom (found in smartphones). The fact that it is a camera designed by Hasselblad, one of the most prestigious camera makers in the world, and the one that went to the moon, is a fact that can not be overlooked.
So, the question is why would you spend $299 for a small camera? The simple answer may be that you get a smartphone and a camera in one small package. However …
If you have read any of my comments on smartphones, you know that they offer some advantages to those of us with physical challenges while they don’t deliver the photographic power that a standalone DSLR or small “point and shoot” digital cameras do. This product has a good chance of really impacting the market.
As you know, digital zoom functions are rather a poor substitute for an optical zoom; the optical zoom being much sharper. The Hasselblad zoom lens, which is like having a good quality 45-250mm zoom on a DSLR, adds a real improvement to a typical smartphone camera. The other thing that is offered is a much more powerful Xenon flash.
Having said that, when you get down to it, there isn’t $299 in added value to this setup. That isn’t to say that in the future there won’t be, but it isn’t there now. A similar stand alone camera, from a major manufacturer, with an 8x optical zoom, 20 megapixel (vs 12) sensor, all of the same shooting modes, plus many more “artistic” modes, and Wi-Fi compatible, is available on the Internet for $119. It also comes with a memory card as well as a removable wrist strap (which I think is essential for a camera that adds up to a nearly $1000 package).
The functionality of the camera is provided in the “Hasselblad” provided app. The app has “standard” automatic settings for Sports, Landscape, Low light, Color, Black & White, JPEG + Raw. I tried other camera apps, from the app stores, that could work with this setup, and gave up at 10. Nothing seemed to want to do anything but turn the camera on and take a pictures (sometimes). The exception is an app named LAPSE, which is a time lapse or intervalometer application that worked quite well.
The Moto Z Droid has HUGE computing power that is going to waste. With the interface the Droid and the camera have, any good app writer should be able to implement the following functions:
1 – interval timer
2 – external microphone
3 – bluetooth interface for voice control
4 – more screen control
5 – bidirectional tethering (USB-C, Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth) to another device such as a computer or tablet
6 – motion and sound detection
7 – video streaming
8 – hyper-zoom (optical + digital)
9 – 3 or 5 step exposure bracketing with selectable EV separation
10 – long exposure control
11 – facial recognition (smile detection)
12 – picture size options
13 – burst mode
14 – selectable metering modes
15 – special effects
16 – selectable red-eye compensation
17 – grid lines
18 – custom white balance
19 – external flash control
and much more.
And no manual modes? No Aperture or Shutter priority? For $1000 this camera should bake cookies.
1 – Using voice and screen controls, the Off/On button and the zoom switch can be eliminated.
2 – USB-C connection is used for attaching to external devices and adapters are required.
This is a cute little camera/smartphone combination, but it needs a lot more development to be worth the price.
As is, the camera is OK. The picture quality at all zoom settings is quite acceptable; partly due to the image stabilization that is integrated into the camera. The macro as well as long distance images were sharp and the color rendition is good.
The mode for taking back-lit pictures, where the lighting is behind the subject, appears to be what is what is known as HDR or High Dynamic Range imaging. In this mode, 3 shots are usually taken; over, under and normally exposed. These three shots are then processed to produce a combination of the three shots for the best image. In this camera the three shots are not preserved so if one of them has characteristics that are pleasing (like a halo around the subjects head), that image is lost. HDR can make the contrasts between objects rather pronounced and render a cartoon-ish or garish quality. That is why I prefer a bracketing mode. With bracketed shots you can choose which images are combined into an HDR image, if any at all. As I have written before, I use 3-5 frame bracketing when I need to get the shot. This way I can choose the one, of up to 5, that is the best as is, or the range of images to process with HDR. This method uses a lot more memory, especially when shooting RAW+JPG, but what the heck, you are shooting with at least 32Gb memory cards aren’t you? (if you fill that up with Stills and Videos, be sure that you have a pin to open the memory/SIM slot on the Droid … why not a push/push latch?).
A group of us went to our once a month lunch and I thought this was the perfect place to take some quick pics to show you what I mean about the differences in zooms.
At the far end of the table is a bottle of ketchup. I used the 10x optical zoom fully zoomed on the right and the 10x digital zoom fully zoomed on the left. The difference is painfully obvious. The image taken with the optical zoom could use some post modification adjustment to make it pop, but the digital zoom image can’t be helped.
Just for reference, I did a 2 second post production correction to the good optical zoom picture above right.
I think the ”bottom line” is that the Moto Z Droid with the Hasselblad camera Mod is a great idea, but needs a major price reduction as well as a drastic camera app improvement.
Let me know what you think.