We all knew it was coming. Recent weeks saw the launch of the Motorola One Action – complete a wide-angle video camera – and leaks were plenty about the launch of the brand's photography-centric smartphone way before it was officially announced on Thursday at IFA 2019. So why were we so excited to get up close to this 6.4-inch handset? A quad camera system and a massive 10x hybrid zoom, that's why, and all for a low price of just $449 (from motorola.com for AT&T or T-Mobile) or in the from £379 (only from Amazon and with the Alexa voice assistant integrated).
Motorola One Zoom: design
Design-wise, the aluminum-clad Zoom One does not stand out from the crowd. In fact, its chassis looks like it came out of a catalogue, but what is eye-catching are its unusual colors; grey, bronze and purple. What, no black? These playful colors offer some proof that this phone is aimed at the mainstream after novelty, and not at those after a specialist photography phone (though we do like the rather clever anti-fingerprint satin/matte finish on the reverse).
However, it's another design flourish that should extend the appeal of this tall and slim phone. For on its rear, near the top of the phone and ranged in the centre, is a quad camera array.
Elsewhere, the Zoom One contains a big 4,000mAh battery (complete with TurboPower to give ‘hours of power’ in just minutes of charging), 4GB RAM and 128GB storage, with a micro SD card slot and a headphones jack. Yes! Sanity prevails. Aside from its color range our only complaint is that there's a very large Motorola logo next to the camera that lights-up when you get messages. Yuck. Who wants to be a walking billboard?
Motorola One Zoom: features
Photography-wise, the front of the Zoom One sports a 25MP f2 front-facing camera nestled in a notch at the top of the phone that promises some 'bokeh' background blur effects, but the most important feature by far on the Zoom One is that quad camera. Not the star of the show here, but critical nonetheless, is a 48MP primary f/1.7 lens that has a 78° field of view. It's joined by a 16MP wide-angle lens that can capture a field of view of 117°, and a 5MP depth sensor time-of-flight camera for adding bokeh blur to backgrounds in real-time or post-capture. However, top billing goes to its 8MP telephoto lens that boasts 3x optical zoom and 10x hybrid zoom, with the practicality of that aided by dual optical image stabilization.
The Zoom One also uses a popular technique called pixel binning – on its primary and selfie cameras – that essentially combines data from multiple pixels into one. It's there to improve low-light photography on Motorola's Night Vision mode, but does mean resolution is massively reduced (for example, Night Vision using the 48MP main camera pixel-bins to create a layered 12MP image).
Elsewhere, its 2340x1080 pixels Full HD+ OLED screen sports an in-screen fingerprint reader (optical, not ultrasonic) that adds to face unlock. Lastly, the Zoom One is rated as water-repellent, but not waterproof.
Motorola One Zoom: performance
Digital zoom on smartphones has, until recently, been worse than pointless, too often introducing a lot of blur and ugly pixelation. So as soon as we got hands-on with the Zoom One we went for the pinch. It does crop-in pretty close via a couple of steps, 0.5x and 1x, before it gets to 3x optical zoom. Exactly how impressive the zoom is in practice will be revealed from reviews, but it's worth saying that we think the Zoom One’s 117º ultra-wide angle lens is just as integral to this phone’s appeal because of the help it gives in composing creative shots.
Finished images from various lenses looked great on the screen, with the Zoom One’s reasonably bright OLED panel giving plenty of contrast and colour, though we didn’t get a chance to test its low-light skills.
The Zoom One has a Snapdragon 675 processor, and runs Android 9 in a no-messing kind of way. During our test apps appeared to open quickly and the camera responded rapidly and toggled through various modes speedily.
Motorola One Zoom: early verdict
Flagship photography-centric smartphones are prohibitively expensive, so we welcome Motorola's attempt to bring a quad camera – and in particular a decent zoom and a wide-angle lens – into the mid-market. Given that it's aimed at the mainstream, perhaps its 25MP selfie-shooter will be just as important.
However, who wants to buy a purple phone? We can see why smartphone-makers need to standout from the crowd, but arguably the Motorola Zoom One already does that with its quad camera, big zoom and reasonably low price. Despite that, we like its satin finish and overall we can see it appealing to anyone after something with serious photography chops that’s reasonably priced.
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