The main camera on the Z2 Play is a 12-megapixel sensor with 1.4µm pixels and dual focus pixels, paired with an f/1.7 lens, a dual-LED dual-tone flash, and laser autofocus. There’s no optical image stabilization here, but the wide open lens and the large pixels should greatly assist in low-light situations. On the front is a 5.0-megapixel sensor, again with 1.4µm pixels, paired with an f/2.2 lens and even a front-facing dual-LED dual-tone flash.
The camera here falls somewhere between “fine” and “very good” in most conditions. It doesn’t reach the same heights as the top flagships, like the HTC U11 and Galaxy S8, but it does a decent job for a mid-range handset and doesn’t embarrass itself against competitors like the OnePlus 5 and Xiaomi Mi 6.
The main strong point here is the automatic HDR mode, which does a fantastic job of improving dynamic range and contrast during difficult high-contrast situations. It’s not quite at the level of high-end cameras like the Pixel, but it’s highly successful at producing great outdoor shots. It perhaps doesn’t activate indoors as often as I’d like, though that can be fixed by manually enabling HDR.
When HDR is enabled, the Z2 Play can produce some really nice shots, with great exposure and accuracy. The times when HDR didn’t automatically enable, I tended to find photos were underexposed, though this mostly affected only outdoor shots and again can be addressed by forcing HDR on. Indoors, provided lighting is reasonable, the Z2 Play tended to do a good job at metering.
Motorola has opted for accuracy over extreme saturation and immediate ‘shareability’, which can lead to less vibrant imagery, though photos in general look quite good. The camera can struggle somewhat when indoors to hit the right level of saturation, though this is typical of many smartphone cameras. The f/1.7 lens does help to consistently create bright photos with very little grain in all but the darkest situations, and depth of field is above average.
Level of detail from the 12-megapixel sensor is average, although I was pleased to see Motorola resisting the urge to use aggressive detail-reducing post processing filters. Despite the lack of noise artefacts, fine detail is sometimes lost – particularly foliage and grass in wide landscape shots – and the lens can produce images that are a bit too soft. However you probably won’t notice these issues unless you zoom in; downsized images look great.
At night, the Z2 Play does its best to produce bright imagery, although without optical image stabilization, small amounts of blur can produce images that lack sharpness and definition. Results are slightly better than most other mid-range cameras, though, so at least that’s something.
The front camera is good, though nothing spectacular. Many flagships are opting for large resolutions and focusing elements, though the Z2 Play is a more traditional mid-range setup here. Quality is a bit better than I expected for a 5-megapixel sensor, but again, nothing hugely outstanding here.