The Moto Z Play and the Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod Are a Picture Perfect Combination

We were optimistic that Lenovo’s take on modular smartphone accessories with the Moto Z series could take off where other attempts have failed — so far, so good. While the announcement of the Moto Z Play, a mid-range version of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force, falls in line with what they did with the Moto X last year, the new Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod shows us that Lenovo is going to make good on the promise of multiple new mods to make those Moto Z phones even more useful.

The Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod isn’t the sort of incredibly expensive camera tech Hasselblad usually makes, but it’s a big step up from usual smartphone photography in a couple ways. It’s built like a point-and-shoot, with the back half sliced off. Like the other Moto Mods, the True Zoom snaps onto the back of a Moto Z device, and then starts working immediately. It relies on the phone for processing and use, but has its own sensor, lens, and physical controls that make smartphone photography look and feel a little more professional.

As the name implies, zoom is the biggest benefit. The mod has 10x optical zoom — while smartphone camera sensors have gotten much more sophisticated over the years, zoom has been something that has seen far less improvement. There’s a physical dial to control zoom on the mod itself, along with a physical shutter button. When combined with the phone, it feels like holding a well-made point-and-shoot, and the side camera grip is terrific.

On top of the optical zoom, the mod has a 1/2.3-inch 12 MP sensor with 1.55-micron pixels. The larger pixels can take in more light without suffering as much from signal noise, but this sensor won’t necessarily wow — we’ll need to do more tests, but while we’re expecting at least some improvement in low-light shots, we’re thinking the 10x zoom is going to be the real killer feature here. The True Zoom mod also has its own xenon flash and can take photos in both JPEG and RAW formats.

The new phone is technically less impressive than the fantastic Moto Z and Moto Z Force, but the Moto Z Play does have one big advantage — battery life. It has a 3,510 mAh battery, which is just a bit larger than the 3,500 mAh battery on the Moto Z Force. That’s a huge battery (and makes the phone nearly as thick as the Moto Z Force), but it’ll also be taxed a lot less than the Moto Z Force’s. The Moto Z Play takes a step back in processing power and display, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC and a 1080p display (no protective ShatterShield display), with just 3 GB of RAM. So, it won’t be as good once it starts running a lot of apps at once, but it’s still likely to have excellent mid-range performance. Interestingly, the Moto Z Play has a different camera than both the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force. It has a 16 MP sensor with laser autofocus, but no optical image stabilization.

It’s a 5.5″ phone, like the other Moto Z devices — necessary, since that’s the size the Moto Mods are made for. It also retains the awkwardly-placed by necessity fingerprint scanner on the bottom of the phone (once again, it looks like a home button, but it’s not). Fortunately, there’s one positive difference between the Moto Z Play and the other Moto Z devices — the Play still has the 3.5 mm headphone port. That’s much more convenient for those of you who still have wired headphones. So, almost everyone.

The Moto Z Play will be available at Verizon stores on September 8 for $17 monthly for 24 months or $408 up-front, and will come in black or white/gold. Lenovo says that an unlocked GSM version of the phone will come in October for $450, along with an unlocked version of the Moto Z priced at $700 (no mention was made about an unlocked Moto Z Force). The Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod will be available for preorder on September 8 and will ship out September 15. It’ll cost $250 through Verizon and $300 through Motorola/Lenovo. Look for a full review of both devices in the coming weeks!