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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

Sony Launches “World’s Smallest and Lightest” F2.8 Standard Zoom Lens

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Sony Middle East and Africa announced the 67th lens in its mirrorless E-mount lineup – the highly-anticipated, FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II (model SEL2470GM2). Sony developed the world’s lightest F2.8 standard zoom lens1 using its leading lens technology to deliver stunning resolution and beautiful bokeh known to Sony’s “G Master” series. The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is one of the most versatile lenses in the line-up and was created for photographers, videographers, and hybrid content creators.

“Six years have passed since Sony released the first 24-70 mm F2.8 G Master and in that time, our customers’ needs have changed,” said Murat Gebeceli, Head of Digital Imaging, Sony Middle East & Africa. “We are always listening to our community and have designed the new FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II around feedback from creators in the region. Knowing the 24-70 mm focal length is extremely popular, it was imperative that we continue improving to bring our most advanced technology to such a critical lens in our customers’ kit. Today, we are thrilled to introduce the world’s smallest and lightest F2.8 standard zoom lens to the Middle East & Africa region.”

The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is great for a compact yet versatile setup and allows users to capture extremely sharp, detailed imagery for both stills and video. The new lens features high resolution across the frame—even with the aperture wide open. A completely redesigned optical path features five aspherical elements, including two high-precision XA (extreme aspherical) elements. The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II also includes two ED (extra-low dispersion) plus two Super ED glass elements. Combined with a new floating focus mechanism, the lens effectively controls chromatic aberration, astigmatism, distortion, and coma so that outstanding resolution is achieved throughout the image area at all zoom and aperture settings.

Even when shooting in challenging lighting conditions, the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II achieves excellent clarity by effectively subduing flare and ghosting. This is thanks to Sony’s original Nano AR Coating II which produces a uniform anti-reflecting coating on the lens surface. The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II produces stunning bokeh throughout the zoom range with beautiful and almost perfectly circular bokeh with its advanced optical design and a newly developed 11-blade aperture unit.

In this new 24-70 mm design, this lens delivers outstanding close-up performance with a minimum focusing distance of 8.25 inches (0.21 meters) at 24 mm and 12 inches (0.30 meters) at 70 mm, and with a maximum magnification of 0.32x. The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II achieves reliable focus by using four of Sony’s original XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors, a floating focus mechanism, and advanced lens control – even when shooting a fast-moving subject. In addition, the lens supports up to 30 fps continuous shooting for stills and 4K 120p video recording with autofocus.

The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II enables full AF tracking performance even when shooting stills with the aperture stopped down, making it possible to use deeper depth of field to ensure that moving subjects remain in sharp focus when shooting continuously. The lens’ AF tracking performance while zooming is approximately two times better than the previous model.

With its constant F2.8 maximum aperture, astounding AF performance, versatile control, and solid reliability, the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is designed for all types of video applications. The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II offers extremely quiet AF operation, thanks to the XD Linear Motors and a newly developed aperture unit. Using the latest lens technology, the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II reduces focus breathing, focus shift, and axial shift when zooming for smooth video footage. This lens also supports the breathing compensation function provided in compatible Alpha series cameras.

As an added benefit for advanced video creation, the newest lens includes Linear Response MF (manual focus) that ensures high repeatability when focusing manually as the focus ring responds directly and repeatedly to subtle control. It also includes an aperture ring making manual aperture/iris control fast, direct, and easy. The dedicated iris ring enables click-less control to achieve the smooth depth of field transitions.

Designed to perfectly pair with Sony’s compact Alpha system E-mount cameras, the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is the world’s smallest and lightest1 24-70 mm F2.8 zoom in its class and offers unprecedented shooting flexibility and freedom in a wide range of situations. The FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II weighs just 24.6 ounces (695 grams), approximately 20% less (7 ounces) than the original 24-70 mm F2.8 G Master. The lens’ length has been reduced by 16 mm, and overall volume has been reduced by approximately 18%.

The new FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II was developed based on feedback from professionals to offer even better control and usability than preceding models. This model includes:

  • Zoom smoothness switch to adjust zoom ring torque to either Tight or Smooth
  • A newly added aperture ring with click ON/OFF switch and iris lock switch
  • Two customizable focus hold buttons
  • The focus ring responds directly and linearly to subtle control when focusing manually
  • New lens hood design with an opening to control circular polarizing filters (dia. 82mm)
  • The center of gravity back toward the mount for improved handling and operation

An updated dust and moisture resistant design provides extra reliability for outdoor use in challenging conditions. The buttons and switches are fitted with rubber gaskets, and a rubber ring seals the lens mount. The front lens element also features a fluorine coating that repels water, oil, and other contaminants, while making it easier to wipe off any contaminants or fingerprints that become attached to the lens surface.

The new FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II will be available in the Middle East & Africa region from the end May 2022.

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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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