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Review: Moto Z and Moto Mods

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EditorsChoiceVarious companies have tried the modular trick for their smartphones in the past. While have some have been moderately successful, others have abandoned the thought after years of research. Lenovo launched the Moto Z and the Moto Mods at a global launch event in San Francisco a few months ago, and we got the review units a couple of weeks ago for a test drive.

One look at the device and you realise the kind of research that went into creating the Moto Z and the accompanying Mods. The Moto Z is one of the thinnest premium Android phones we have seen in a while. At just 5.2mm in thickness, the Moto Z feels incredibly thin to hold. The entire phone is made from military aircraft-grade aluminum and stainless steel.

The Moto Z just oozes style from all angles. On the front of the device, you will find a 5.5-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, which is quite crisp and delicious to look at. Colours just pop out of the screen and it provides great viewing angles, even under bright sunlight. The phone uses USB Type-C to charge and sync the data and oh, it does not come with a 3.5mm audio jack. Instead, Lenovo packs in a USB Type-C to 3.55mm dongle along with the device.

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Under the hood, the Moto Z comes packed with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, with 4GB of RAM. Internal storage is offered in two variants – 32 GB or 64 GB. In addition, the phone can let you expand the internal storage by up to 2 TB, through use of a micro SD card.

In terms of imaging, the Moto Z accompanies a 13MP camera on the back with optical image stabilization and laser autofocus. There is also a 5MP front-facing camera that features a wide-angle lens, for snap up all the selfies to your heart’s content. The front camera also features a flash module of its own, to ensure you end up with superb selfies even in low light.

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The stand out feature of the Moto Z is of course the Moto Mods and the customisation on this one is not about how the phone looks like after you snap the Mods on, but what your phone can do. There are four Moto Mods available on the market and we received three of those for review along with the Moto Z.

While one Mod can give your phone a meatier battery, another can turn it into a boombox for your weekend getaway. With another you could transform your Moto Z into a video projector, while another will give you a Hasselblad True Zoom camera right on your phone.

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Once you snap the Moto Mods on, you do see a layer of bulk on the phone’s back. And these Mods are not cheap. But Motorola’s magnetic approach on the modular ecosystem is much better and simpler than those attempted by other brands to make the modular ecosystem happen.

The JBL SoundBoost Moto Mod lets you enjoy your music in style by giving the Moto Z a boost with powerful stereo sound. The Mod also comes with a built-in kickstand that lets you rest the smartphone on a flat area to enjoy videos on the smartphone. The JBL SoundBoost also offers an extra 10 hours of battery life – so you don’t have to worry about running out of battery life on the Moto Z. The JBL SoundBoost Mod was quite loud and clear when it came to audio performance.

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The Moto Insta-Share Projector Mod snaps onto the Moto Z, thus allowing you to project photos and videos onto a flat surface in big screen mode. The Mod projects up to 70-inches in display size and comes with built-in battery that provides users with up to one extra hour of screen time before using the Moto Z’s battery.

And our favourite was the Hasselblad True Zoom Mod, which attempts to completely transform mobile photography, and succeeds in a few areas, in doing so. The Mod adds advanced imaging capabilities to the Moto Z – it features 10x Optical Zoom and a Xenon flash, and allows you to shoot in RAW format. The Mod also offers you physical shutter and zoom controls. Images and videos shot using this Mod were quite good even under low light conditions.

The Moto Z also comes with water-repellant coating, which shields the phone from rain, splashes or spills that might come in its way. In terms of performance, the device’s 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor works smoothly and swiftly. The camera launches quickly whenever I flicked my wrist. I could also swipe fluidly from one home page to another and my fingerprint unlocked the phone almost immediately.

On the whole, the Moto Z is a reliable and powerful device that can stand up to most of the top-of-the-line phones. In terms of modular ecosystem, the Moto Z is the best phone we have seen on the market yet. It thus wins Review Central’s Editors’ Choice award for the modular smartphone category.

Price:
Moto Z (with JBL SoundBoost Mod and Moto Style Shell): AED 2599
Moto Insta-Share Projector Mod: AED 1,299
JBL SoundBoost Mod: AED 399
Hasselblad True Zoom Mod: AED 999

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Digital Cameras

Fujifilm Launches Instax Mini Evo Camera

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Fujifilm has unveiled the Instax Mini Evo, its new flagship instant film camera with a premium build, higher resolution than previous models and improved smartphone integration. As with other Instax cameras, you can take photos and instantly develop them to Fujifilm’s credit card-sized Instax Mini film, but it offers a number of features not available on previous models.

As a hybrid camera, you can review photos on the LCD monitor and choose the ones you want to print. However, the new model is the first Instax camera with a print lever and lens/film filter dials. That lets you take a picture then choose among 100 combinations of effects (including “Soft Focus,” “Light Leak,” “Monochrome” and “Retro”) and print the image afterward by pulling the print lever. Fujifilm said the camera also delivers better quality prints as it has twice the exposure resolution of previous models.

The Instax Mini Evo is also effectively a mini-printer for your smartphone. You can transfer images from your phone to the Evo Mini wirelessly, then print them using the “Direct Print” button. And for the first time, you can transfer snaps you take with the Mini Evo back over to your smartphone, complete with the film border. Finally, you can use your smartphone to take pictures remotely with a camera.

Fujifilm also unveiled a new Instax Mini film format called “Stone Grey” with a gray background. The new camera is priced at $200.

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Digital Cameras

Canon Launches a Very Unusually Shaped PowerShot PX Camera

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Canon has launched the PowerShot PX, a small, smart and friendly camera, which automatically captures high-quality 11.7MP images and 60p Full HD video. The PowerShot PX’s smart features such as automatic capture of still imagery and video are set to reimagine how families capture memories. With this clever camera, families can enjoy the moment and still capture it, without having to stay behind the lens.

From family photographers to gadget-lovers, this new intuitive camera incorporates smart functionality to document social events and everyday memories. With automatic capture and priority shooting, the PowerShot PX is an innovative addition to the home that complements photographers’ existing cameras, and a shining example of Canon’s technology algorithm and the forward-thinking features constantly being added to its product line-up.

When you want to capture life’s precious moments and be in the shot, the PowerShot PX is ideal – following the action and framing subjects intelligently to capture natural expressions and reactions. Once switched on, the portable PowerShot PX can be placed anywhere around the home to take candid shots of everyday moments, while voice command capabilities allow complete hands-free control to capture still images or dynamic videos.

Thanks to the simple yet portable design, USB-C charging, and built-in Wi-Fi – which links to smart devices – the compact PowerShot PX can go anywhere. With intelligent facial recognition features, PowerShot PX uses auto-subject searching to keep loved ones in the frame and capture photos that otherwise might have been missed. Its 19-57mm focal length range and flexible pan-and-tilt zoom lens offer a broad field of view of 340˚ horizontally and 110˚ vertically to follow the action.

Look back on a digital scrapbook of candid moments with PowerShot PX’s iOS and Android app and get recommendations from this clever camera on the strongest shots to keep. These cherished photos and videos are then stored on a memory card for easy upload to a computer. Manually control the camera with the app to compose the perfect shot and capture images from a distance, all without the need to run back and forth to check the device. Families can even customise automatic shooting settings, angle the lens to snap pictures in their own style and select familiar faces within the app to increase priority when shooting. The PowerShot PX can also double as a webcam with the use of the PC webcam utility app.

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Digital Cameras

Nikon Launches the new Z9

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Nikon Middle East FZE unveils the Z 9, the revolutionary full-frame (Nikon FX-format) Z series mirrorless camera designed to surpass expectations with its unrivalled performance and breakthrough features that are firsts for both in the mirrorless category and in Nikon. Enhancing user capability, the introduction of the Z 9 allows professionals to capture stills and videos with ease. Nikon’s first 4-axis vertical and horizontal tilting monitor and integrated vertical grip will have users capturing the best moments in comfort, even under the harshest conditions.

The Z 9 also features the world’s largest variety of simultaneous subject detection amongst mirrorless cameras, with its tenacious autofocus (AF) offering, and the Real-Live Viewfinder without blackout period. Users will be among the first to enjoy shooting with stunning 8K in-camera recording for up to 125 minutes for making it the most practical camera for location shoots.

A camera is an extension of a photographer, supporting them to express their visions and narratives through images and videos. The flagship Z series mirrorless camera was developed with this in mind, to empower users with ground-breaking capabilities, while ensuring smooth operations with state-of-the-art ergonomics, to deliver utmost efficiency and reliability. There’s nothing quite like the Z 9. Whether it is immortalising high-speed races, fleeting wildlife moments, or avant-garde fashion shows, both professionals and experienced hobbyists alike are unstoppable in their pursuit of capturing every best moment.” said Narendra Menon, Managing Director of Nikon Middle East FZE.

With an advanced algorithm that utilises the newly developed deep learning technology, transcend expectations with the powerful performance of the Z 9 that delivers the world’s largest variety of simultaneous subject detection of people, animals, and vehicles; tracking a total of nine subjects simultaneously in both stills and videos, without the need to toggle back and forth to switch settings. When the Auto mode is selected, the algorithm automatically selects main subjects with comprehensive consideration of information such as subject size, position, defocus, and more.

In addition, the improved detection performance and an increased 405-point auto-area AF have enhanced the AF acquisition and tracking of even smaller subjects and their movements. The subject detection works for wide-area AF (S) and (L), auto-area AF, 3D-tracking, even during video recording. Introducing 3D-tracking for still image shooting, this first-time feature in Nikon mirrorless cameras allows users to seamlessly capture the spilt-second moments, from the fastest sprinters to race cars, and effectively keep tracking them.

Additionally, with the high-speed processing from the new EXPEED 7, which also enhances subject detection performance, even documenting fleeting audience expressions can now be a breeze. With the world’s fastest 120 fps continuous shooting (High-Speed Frame Capture+, make an impact in capturing the detail and precision of what only the Z 9 can see – fleeting micro-moments that are invisible to the naked eye.

Continuous shooting of up to 120 fps is supported with NIKKOR Z lenses and 94 kinds of NIKKOR F lenses with AF. The Z 9 can also continuously shoot at 20fps to capture over 1,000 frames in JPEG or RAW formats, even when flicker reduction is turned on. This is a first for Nikon that is made possible with the high processing capability and large buffer of EXPEED 7 and the fast write speed of a CFexpress Type B card.

Surpassing conventional optical viewfinder (OVF) and electronic viewfinder (EVF) to reveal every single moment, the all-new Real-Life Viewfinder is backed by a new technology. Unlike conventional blackout-free shooting that displays the same frame to prevent interruption of the finder image, this viewfinder continues to display the actual movement of the subject within the scene, so that every single moment can be smoothly and continuously confirmed with no skipped frames or loss of view.

The Dual-Stream technology with 45.7 effective megapixels stacked CMOS sensor achieves 12 times faster still image reading, while also processing separately of the display images for EVF/monitor and still image data for recording. Meanwhile, the newly evolved high-speed, high-performance image-processing engine EXPEED 7 delivers a 10 times faster processing speed thus allowing the live view data to EVF/monitor and recorded still image data to be separately yet simultaneously processed. The EXPEED 7 is also the key enabler to the camera’s deep learning technology for subject detection algorithm and in-camera 8K video recording.

The Z 9 features the world’s brightest viewfinder, a newly equipped Quad-VGA panel that is compatible to adjust the viewfinder brightness up to 3000cd/m2 in response to various lighting conditions. The high brightness panel allows for easy capturing of subjects in bright scenarios, even under the blazing hot sun, and viewing where the displayed photo or video content appears brighter and sharper.

Nikon’s first four-axis vertical and horizontal tilting image monitor provides outstanding flexibility especially when shooting from high or low angles. When shooting in vertical orientation that is made easy with the vertical grip, the interface on-screen is automatically displayed to follow the same for easy confirmation and change of settings. The 8cm touch screen monitor and EVF also make it simpler and quicker for smooth image review and selection, with further help from the customisable monitor display information that lets users choose their preferred display depending on the shooting scene.

Another Nikon-first is the i-TTL balanced fill-flash, where face information is applied for flash control. This technology takes the human subject’s face into consideration and controls the volume of light to be fired appropriately when flash is used to avoid overexposure in your shots. Bringing a solution with higher resolution, the Z 9 offers in-camera video recording in high-quality 8K30p and 4K/30p/60p/120p – a few of the very firsts for Nikon and the highest video performance in Nikon history.

Designed to efficiently dissipate heat, users can record in 8K30p for up to approximately 125 minutes, making it the world’s longest 8K30p recording. Record time-lapse movies in 8K while still being able to obtain still images simultaneously with the adoption of interval-timer shooting (in YUV processed video only). The ability to extract high-resolution stills from 8K videos as well as the decisive moments in 120p after video shooting for enhanced shooting efficiency put forward cutting-edge quality in photos and videos.

Users can also choose to record in 4K with a wide range of frame size/frame rate from 24p to 120p available in multiple formats, even when recording in slow motion. Highlighting the attention to important details that could go unnoticed in the heat of the action, such as track competition finishes or high-speed races, the Z 9 is designed for a myriad of needs and can deliver files expeditiously as it also supports and allows for the selection of diverse codecs including H.265 (HEVC) and Apple ProRes 422 HQ.

Enhancements such as the CFexpress Type B-compatibility in both its slots, for faster write speed when it comes to 8K video recording and continuous shooting of large amounts of frames even with JPEG and RAW files, make all the difference in speeding up the workflow. To meet evolving video creation requirements, the adoption of functions such as in-camera recording of 12-bit RAW video including over 8K60p and further improved operability are planned in a future firmware update. A variety of Nikon and third-party accessories will also be made compatible with the Z 9 for the continuous extension of creative expression and operability in both still image and video shooting.

Enhancing the video recording experience on the Z 9, users can maintain focus with an expanded video AF speed range and a new AF setting. When the subject is not detected when AF is turned off, focus on the foreground and background blur is maintained even after the subject moves out of the frame. Furthermore, with the Z 9’s advanced Picture Control for video, users can fully utilise the camera’s auto capability when shooting to achieve their desired output of balance of contrast and colours for videos – perfect for those who need to immediately disseminate footage with minimal edits. Users can also expect an improvement in sound quality with in linear PCM recording from 16-bit to 24-bit, ability to turn off the plug-in power to microphone connector, and enhanced compatibility with professional high-quality microphones.

Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera that is built without a mechanical shutter, this deliberate omission of a mechanic shutter in the Z 9 allows users to shoot with the world’s most minimal rolling shutter distortion and fastest scan rate. In addition, the in-camera VR adopts a safety lock to prevent risk of damage to the image sensor. Accompanied with the addition of a dual coating to strengthen dust prevention with image sensor cleaning – a first for digital cameras – and a brand-new sensor shield, the Z 9 is formidable when it comes to protecting its image sensor from dust particles.

Great external durability and reliability is also ensured as the main body components are effectively sealed through the system, from the joints of each exterior cover to the tilting structure, to provide high dust- and drip- resistance equivalent to the robust D6. Built with resistance to cold, the Z 9 continues to operate in temperatures down to -10C°, enabling it to withstand the harsh shooting conditions and environments for professional use.

For quick operation, buttons are placed in ideal positions for intuitive use in both vertical and horizontal operations, where favoured settings such as AF area mode, send, and rating can be assigned and switched according to individual needs. A newly-added independent AF mode button allows users to switch Focus and AF area modes while looking at subjects through the viewfinder. Users can shoot confidently and comfortably, regardless of weather, terrain, and lighting conditions with enhanced visibility from the backlight illumination on the buttons to facilitate locating of functions in dark environments.

The Z 9 also supports High-Efficiency RAW, which realises image quality equivalent to the conventional uncompressed RAW but with a file size smaller than approximately 1/3 of the file size.

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