Mobile Technology

Motorola One Zoom review: one of the best cameras on a mid-range phone

Motorola One Zoom review: one ...
The One Zoom is Motorola's latest mid-range phone to pack a punch
The One Zoom is Motorola's latest mid-range phone to pack a punch
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The One Zoom is Motorola's latest mid-range phone to pack a punch
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The One Zoom is Motorola's latest mid-range phone to pack a punch
Four lenses make up the camera on the back of the One Zoom
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Four lenses make up the camera on the back of the One Zoom
The Motorola One Zoom camera offers 3x optical zoom and 0.5x ultra-wide angle
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The Motorola One Zoom camera offers 3x optical zoom and 0.5x ultra-wide angle
The Motorola One Zoom retails in the US for $449.99
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The Motorola One Zoom retails in the US for $449.99
The quad-lens camera on the Motorola One Zoom gets some great results
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The quad-lens camera on the Motorola One Zoom gets some great results
Up to 3x optical zoom is possible with no loss of quality
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Up to 3x optical zoom is possible with no loss of quality
The ultra-wide angle 0.5x lens on the One Zoom does well at fitting more in the frame
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The ultra-wide angle 0.5x lens on the One Zoom does well at fitting more in the frame
The vast majority of shots taken by the One Zoom come out clean and crisp
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The vast majority of shots taken by the One Zoom come out clean and crisp
The 3x optical zoom on the Motorola One Zoom in action
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The 3x optical zoom on the Motorola One Zoom in action
The One Zoom camera is quick to focus and snap pictures
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The One Zoom camera is quick to focus and snap pictures
The Motorola One Zoom camera produces vibrant, sharp colors in its photos
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The Motorola One Zoom camera produces vibrant, sharp colors in its photos
Light and dark extremes can cause problems, but the One Zoom handles most shots very well
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Light and dark extremes can cause problems, but the One Zoom handles most shots very well
As you would expect, low light is more tricky for the Motorola One Zoom, with more noise appearing
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As you would expect, low light is more tricky for the Motorola One Zoom, with more noise appearing
The night mode on the Motorola One Zoom can help, if you're able to hold the phone still for a second
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The night mode on the Motorola One Zoom can help, if you're able to hold the phone still for a second
Even in tricky lighting, you get respectable results from the One Zoom (night mode is off here)
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Even in tricky lighting, you get respectable results from the One Zoom (night mode is off here)
In most low light shots, night mode gets a better photo from the One Zoom – as here
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In most low light shots, night mode gets a better photo from the One Zoom – as here
This was in a very dark setting, and the One Zoom still coped okay
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This was in a very dark setting, and the One Zoom still coped okay
It's in the background and the details that night mode makes a difference on the Motorola One Zoom
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It's in the background and the details that night mode makes a difference on the Motorola One Zoom

The Motorola One Zoom wants to reset your expectations about the sort of photo quality you can get from a mid-range phone, packing in a quad-lens camera on the back that offers 3x optical zoom and an ultra-wide-angle lens. We've been testing out the phone for the last week, to see if it's as good to use as it appears to be on paper.

As far as that camera goes, the Motorola One Zoom really does impress. The quad-lens setup comprises a 48 MP wide, 16 MP ultra-wide, 8 MP telephoto and 5 MP depth sensor, giving the phone plenty of visual data to work with.

It also gives you, the photographer, plenty of flexibility to go from 0.5x ultra-wide to 3x optical zoom for your shots (and even more with digital zoom). Most of the time we were really impressed with the results the phone got, and quickly too – colors were crisp and sharp, noise was minimal, and quality was retained up to 3x zoom.

We did find the quad-lens camera struggled with certain scenarios where the lighting was less than perfect – sometimes in low light, sometimes on high-contrast shots – but it was difficult to pin down a pattern. It was almost as though the occasional shot would just be noisy or badly balanced at random.

The Motorola One Zoom camera offers 3x optical zoom and 0.5x ultra-wide angle
The Motorola One Zoom camera offers 3x optical zoom and 0.5x ultra-wide angle

Still, for the vast majority of the time, we were really pleased with what the Motorola One Zoom was able to come up with. There's an automatic night mode that offers its services in the dark, and while it means you have to keep the camera still for a second or two while you take the picture, it can get usable shots in all but the darkest scenes.

It's not quite up to the standard of the Night Sight you get with the Pixel phones, but it's getting there – and don't forget this phone is down in the mid-range price bracket. As far as the quad-lens camera goes, Motorola's focus on photo-taking has paid off here: while it's some way short of what the very best phones of 2019 can do in terms of snapping pictures, it's also half the price of a lot of them. To see some sample images, click on the upper right of our main photo to check out the gallery.

Elsewhere there's not much to make this stand out from the pack (a pack that includes plenty of similar Motorola phones too). The Snapdragon 675 chipset, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage put this firmly in mid-ranger territory (you can expand that storage with a microSD card, if you want), and there's no waterproofing or wireless charging on the Motorola One Zoom either.

Those internal components sit behind a 6.39-inch Super AMOLED, 1,080 x 2,340 pixel screen that we had no complaints about: it's not the sharpest out there, but sharp enough. The panel is bright and clear, and shows off photos, websites, movies and more really well. Motorola's mostly bloat-free version of Android 9 Pie is on board, while security is handled with an in-screen fingerprint sensor that we had no problems with.

The Motorola One Zoom retails in the US for $449.99
The Motorola One Zoom retails in the US for $449.99

When it comes to the design, Motorola won't be winning any awards for the look of the One Zoom, but it pulls together its various elements in a pleasing way – the quad-lens camera array at the back sticks out, but we like the aesthetic choice of having it in the center of the back panel (take note, Apple and Google). You've got gray, purple and bronze colors to choose from, all of which look really nice.

Battery life was a little better than average, and we found ourselves with around a quarter of a charge left at the end of each day – unless you're really pushing it, you won't need a recharge before bedtime. An hour of Netflix with the brightness really ramped up knocked a bit more than 10 percent off a full charge, which is a respectable result.

As with every phone, all of this has to be weighed up against the price: US$449.99. Does that represent good value? We think so, especially if you're going to be making full use of that camera, which is one of the best around at this price. The rest of what Motorola is offering here is less compelling, but if you're after a capable and cheap-ish Android smartphone, it's worth putting on your list.

It's a tough market though: the Pixel 3a retails at $399 and takes better pictures overall, even if its single lens can't do the optical zoom and ultra-wide shots that the Motorola One Zoom can. Meanwhile, Nokia continues to put out phones that find an appealing balance between price and features. Be sure to weigh up the competition before taking the plunge on the Motorola One Zoom.

Product page: Motorola

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