Three years ago I was extolling the virtues of the onboard camera on a relatively new Huawei smart phone I had just acquired. It was a very good phone and camera and I likely would have kept using it for several more years since I’m the kind of guy who hangs on to competent technology long after most people. I still use the largest and smallest Mac laptops from 2014 on a daily basis.
But, the world changes faster than tech does. As I write, China has prosecuted one of two Canadians held in prison for over 800 days (in solitary confinement) for spying. After a perfunctory two hour trial barred from the public and even Canadian diplomatic officials (contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) there was no verdict rendered. However, in China the verdict is always guilty. Always. China is applying additional pressure on the United States to drop its charges of bank fraud against the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in order to allow Canada to release her from extradition detainment. Since Canada and the US are countries governed by the rule of law.
I can’t do much to stop China from engaging in repugnant hostage diplomacy. I can however stop owning a Huawei phone.
So I began to look for a new phone. Preferably not made in China and with a monochrome camera. The current Nokia 9 comes to mind but the software controlling the camera is very clunky and slow to use. I then came across the Moto Z2 Force from 2016. Impressively thin and with dual color and monochrome cameras, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Z series family also offered magnetic snap on accessories that attached to the back of their phones. Like a real Hasselblad branded camera!
Although both can still be purchased new, I was able to purchase lightly used copies of the phone for $100 USD and the camera for only $60 USD, far below MSRP. The combination is so thin and lightweight that it can easily be pocketed in a breast pocket or inside suit jacket pocket with ease and comfort. Better than even the Lumix CM-1 (https://jimchungblog.com/2018/03/31/looking-for-the-perfect-smartphone-camera/). And certainly better than the smallest m43 camera body, the Lumix GM1.
BUT, is the Hasselblad any good? Can it replace the GM1 or the Pen F as a travel camera?
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The lack of a shutter speed readout is really crippling and for that reason I would advise shooting only in automatic mode to get the best images. I discovered when shooting birds that often the subjects would come out blurred because I was lowering the ISO to combat noise but not realizing the shutter speed was also dropping to the point that live subjects could not be captured without their motion (I supposed you could shoot in Sport Mode to prevent this). The body design has good ergonomics with a built in hand grip and hard controls for power and lens zoom. The lens is stabilized allowing for the ability to take slow shutter speed images on static subjects.
The Hasselblad does allow images to be saved in RAW (.dng) + JPG files so one would presume that greater dynamic range could be pulled from the images if desired. However, there is significant pin cushion distortion by the lens at the low focal length end which is corrected by in body JPGs and uncorrected in the RAW files.
In conclusion, I have to say that under sufficient outdoor light the Hasselblad True Zoom can produce acceptable images, but none that surpass those produced by a m43 body with even a pedestrian lens. It’s real advantage is that it is easily carried and easily deployed with Motorola’s novel two wrist twist gesture, and that it has a stabilized optical zoom which gives unheard of reach to a cell phone camera. I would actually conclude that the True Zoom is more versatile than the CM1 because I can actually shoot wildlife with it and despite being as thick if not thicker than the CM1, the weight is more balanced and it feels less clunky to carry. And of course I can always detach it from the phone if needed.
Unfortunately, it also looks like the end of the line for the Z series phones in 2021 and the end of Moto Mods development. It is still possible to purchase a Moto Mods Development Kit to make your own Moto Mods prototype and many interesting applications debuted at electronics shows throughout the years but it appears that market demand simply wasn’t there.
And this breaking news!