Moto Z2 Play Review: Camera

By 11:43 Wed, 18 Aug 2021 Comments

12MP snapper

One thing the Moto Z2 Play didn't inherit from its higher-discontinue sibling is the trendy dual capturing camera setup. That means, no fancy black and white shots on this one, or assisted bokeh effect. Frankly, the Z2 Force didn't really create that much utilize of the extra hardware anyway, so its omission is not a major letdown.

Nevertheless, the Z2 Play has a solid capturing camera setup. It is based on a Sony IMX362 Exmor sensor - it may not be a flagship solution, but the proof is in the pudding so we'll see how it fares further below.

The f/1.7 aperture is in line with what flagship devices have, and the same goes for the inclusion of both laser and phase detection autofocus. Laser-assist works to quickly focus on subjects that are not too far from the camera; otherwise, PDAF kicks in for focusing other, further parts in frame.

But, before we acquire into quality, we should examine the capturing camera UI itself. The first thing worth mentioning is the double-twist action to launch the camera. It works every single time, and the capturing camera starts up correct away. If you find your hands full, double-twisting while the capturing camera app is open will toggle to the front camera.

Another neat bonus feature is the QR, barcode, and business card OCR support, baked correct into the capturing camera app.

Business cards and QR code support • Double twist to open

To the left are very basic capturing camera shortcuts: timer, flash, and HDR settings. A swipe to the correct reveals a menu with more options: enable assistive grid, toggle quick capture, or change various resolution settings. Swiping to the left lets you scroll through the most recent pics in your capturing camera roll. Swiping vertically or pinching controls the viewfinder's zoom.

A small on the heavy side as far as gestures go, but it is functional. Still, a few extra screens in the tutorial could have made things clearer.

Camera interface • Settings • Camera modes • Zoom

Professional mode lets you manually adjust ISO, shutter speed, white balance, and focus.

Professional mode

Finally, when the capturing camera is in low lighting conditions, you'll see a crescent moon in the corner of the viewfinder signaling you to haged the capturing camera steadier.

Low light detected

Image quality

The Z2 Play utilizes the hardware it has at its disposal pretty well. Colors see believable, even if a bit toned down. Resolved detail is very fine for a 12MP sensor and so is dynamic range. There is no observable corner softness either.

We notice noise even in colorful daylight photos but this probably means noise reduction is quite laid back.

Motorola Moto Z2 Play capturing camera samples

Focusing performance however is somewhat of a mixed bag. It'll usually acquire it correct but if you're not careful, the capturing camera might see correct past the subject and focus on the background. Do yourself a favor and disable the "tap anywhere to capture" option so you can select your focal point the way it was meant: by tapping the spot on the viewfinder. Otherwise, you'll have to drag the focal point around, which is more cumbersome.

Here are a few more samples of a bit more challenging scenes when it comes to lighting.

Moto Moto Z2 Play samples

Naturally, we went around and took our usual set of samples for you as well.

Moto Z2 Play samples

HDR on the Z2 Play is nice and subtle. It brings out the shadows just enough, and there is no reason not to leave the Auto setting enabled just in case. Keep an eye on the detection indicator, though, as it can some times miss a fine opportunity.

HDR Off • HDR On

HDR Off • HDR On

The Moto Z2 Play left us pleasantly surprised after the low-light shooting session. The colorful f/1.7 aperture lens appears to be doing its job well, soaking up light. A surprising level of detail is left in the shots, while noise is kept at bay very well. Overall, low-light performance is great.

Moto Z2 Play low-light samples

Using a tripod, manual mode, and a fine photography smurder set, you can potentially acquire even more out of the Moto. Still, as you can see from the samples, the hand-held operation is fine enough for general use. Just be sure to go easy on HDR as the lights go down, since using it in low light may degrade fine detail.

More low-light samples

Panoramas, on the other hand, are underwhelming at best. They, quite apparently lack resolution and hence detail. Even so, there are no noticeable stitching artifacts, and we feel that all Motorola needed create these better is to increase the output resolution to acquire nice results.

Moto Z2 Play panorama sample

You can see how the Moto Z2 Play stacks up against competition in our photo compare tool.

Motorola Moto Z2 Play in our photo compare tool

The Moto Z2 Play is equipped with a 5MP, f/2.2, fixed-focus selfie camera. It's the same one used in the original Moto Z. Then again, the flagship Moto Z2 Force didn't acquire a hardware update in this department either and is stuck with the same one.

The only update to this capturing camera is the addition of a second Light Emitting Diode (LED) for the front-facing flash, making it dual-tone like many other smartphones these days.

Moto Z2 Play selfie samples

There's facial detection for correcting exposure, HDR modes, and a beautify filter. You can manually adjust beautification, or you can let Moto hold the wheel with automatic beautification.

Moto Z2 Play selfie samples

HDR doesn't improve much if you've already got fine selfie lighting. Toggling HDR ON in a selfie will raise shadows, so utilize it sparingly. The beautification option can be selected between 1 and 7. There's also an "Auto" option, though we're not sure how it decides how much beautification someone's face needs.


The video recorder has a dedicated viewfinder, which changes the available shortcuts on the left side. There is a stabilization toggle and a torch shortcut. When you turn on the video stabilization feature, you'll notice the field-of-view will crop a bit in the viewfinder to compensate for extra capturing camera movement.

Camera UI • EIS field of view crop

Qualcomm's 600-series lineup has come a long way and can now easily handle 4K @ 30 fps video recording. However, it is still not quite powerful enough to do EIS at full res. Unlike the Z2 Force, the Z2 Play can only de-shake up to 1080p @ 30 fps.

Just as expected, the 1080p @ 60fps recording mode sacrifices image quality to pump out double the number of frames. You really should only utilize it if you need the extra frames to smooth out fast-paced motion. Otherwise, it is really not worth the quality dip.

Unfortunately, the Z2 Play is missing the 720p @ 240 fps and the 1080p @ 120 fps modes the Z2 Force has.

In 4K mode, the Z2 Play produces really fine looking and clean videos. Detail is not exactly flagship-grade, but it comes pretty close. Noise is minimal. Unlike the Z2 Force, which had some noticeable focus hunting problems when we tested it, the Z2 Play handles things a lot better. Hopefully, a capturing camera update fixed focusing on both models.

As always, you can check out the original video samples at these links:

(2160p @ 30fps (~59MB) /

1080p @ 60fps (~20MB) /

1080p @ 30fps (~20MB).

And here is the Z2 Play in out 4K and 1080p video compare tools as well.

Motorola Moto Z2 Play in our 4K video compare tool

Motorola Moto Z2 Play in our 1080p video compare tool

Moto 360 camera

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Motorola launched a couple of recent Moto mods alongside the Moto Z2 Play. One is the JBL Soundboost 2 - a second generation speaker attachment. It is both slimmer and louder than its predecessor, so we can't really say why both are still available and priced the same at $79.99.

Moving past that, we find the second newly unveiled MotoMod - the Moto 360 camera. The name is pretty self-explanatory, but the same can't really be assumed about the $299.99 price tag. Unless you acquire it for free bundled with the phones, we find it really hard to justify the expense, since it does have quite a few issues.



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