The first generation Moto X was released in 2013 as Motorola’s flagship device and it came with a 10MP rear camera sensor that included slightly larger than typical pixels designed to improve low light performance. Motorola also included the double wrist-flip to activate the camera, meaning it is easy to activate. Despite these features, the original generation Motorola Moto X’s camera is perhaps best described as “adequate” or “mediocre” rather than stellar. As different variants of the Moto X have been released, these have all brought with them the promise of an improved camera experience but sadly, the photography experience has been similarly acceptable rather than stunning. For 2016, Motorola’s new flagship is the Moto Z, which comes with an improved camera compared with the Moto Z: the Moto Z Force comes with a 21MP rear camera sensor complete with optical image stabilization, a f/1.8 aperture, PDAF, 1.12um pixel size with Deep Trench Isolation, plus a laser autofocus. On paper, this specification sounds encouraging and there are signs that the days of a mediocre Moto flagship camera are behind them: Motorola’s new Moto Z Force has been tested by photography website, DxOMark and it has scored very well with an overall of 87 points.
DxOMark’s scores for the Moto Z Force are a Photo sub-score of 87 and a Video sub-score of 86, meaning it is one of the highest scoring devices tested. DxOMark put the Moto Z Force as third in the league table, behind only the HTC 10 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones and equaling the score of the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and Sony Xperia Z5. In particular, the DxOMark website liked the Moto Z Force’s high resolution 21MP sensor’s ability to capture detail, rating it as one of the best smartphone cameras for detail that the team have ever tested. DxOMark also praised the “generally very good” exposure across a variety of light levels. Moto’s Auto HDR mode works well on the camera and the sensor has solid dynamic range and has a neutral white balance. Outdoors and in good, strong light conditions the Moto Z Force is said to produce great pictures. Under more difficult lighting conditions or when overcast, the handset’s camera still performs strongly. One observation that the DxOMark testers made of the Moto Z Force’s camera is that it takes very consistent photographs and only occasionally does the software and hardware make an exposure error. This solid performance continues into low light photography conditions, where the f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization help the camera take good pictures. The Moto Z Force can reduce the shutter speed to 1/10 second in order to capture more light for dusk and night time photography. However, the team scored the Moto Z Force’s flash relatively low (at 79) citing that flash photography is much less consistent than non-flash shots as the white balance can change between shots.
For the video camera, the Moto Z Force abilities are rated as almost as good as still photography. The team notes that the video’s autofocus is slightly slower and color rendition is slightly inferior, especially under low light conditions. The optical image stabilization also helps here too as it is able to correct walking motions and juddering under all light conditions. Overall, though, the Moto Z Force’s video camera is almost as capable as the still photographic aspect of the camera as one would expect from the score being very similar. The score recorded by the Moto Z Force should be very encouraging for would-be purchasers looking at eyeing up the new Motorola flagship’s functions. It also highlights how for 2016, many of the device manufacturers have raised their game. None of the 2016 flagship devices have a poor camera but there are varying shades of greatness.