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Motorola Moto X4 Camera Review: Wide-angled wonder?

Motorola has revived the X series of smartphones in the form of the Moto X4. Released here in the UK just in time for Christmas, the Moto X4 is a stepping stone between the affordable G series handsets and the top-end Moto Z flagships, offering some solid specs for a mid range price tag.

One of the most intriguing aspects is the dual-lens camera, Moto’s second after the recent Moto G5s Plus rocked two snappers on the back. The Moto X4 offers a very similar setup, although this time you get a 12-megapixel standard lens (with f/2.0 aperture) backed by an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens (with f/2.2 aperture).

You can switch between these two camera as merrily as you like, to capture either a close-up subject or a sweeping scene. You can also shoot up to 4K resolution video, or up to Full HD resolution footage at 60 frames-per-second using that wide-angle secondary lens. Motorola has also thrown in plenty of bonus camera modes, which can do everything from highlight specific colours to morph you into a unicorn.

Here’s our full Moto X4 camera review, complete with samples for you to check out for yourself.

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Motorola Moto X4 camera review: App and features

At any time the Moto X4’s camera app can be booted up with a quick double-twist of your wrist. This is a surprisingly accurate shortcut, functioning even when the phone is hibernating, and it means you’re ready to shoot in just a second or two.

If you’ve used any stock Android mobile or Motorola handset of recent times, the camera app will immediately be familiar. The interface is pretty straightforward, with a virtual shutter button to take snaps as well as shortcuts to switch to the video mode and swap between the front and rear cameras. You also have quick toggles for the timer, LED flash and HDR feature (which helps out with tricky contrast).

The two rear lenses can be switched between at any point, with a tap of another on-screen button in the lower left corner. Handy if you want a bit more viewing space, for those all-encompassing vistas.

You also get a few bonus camera modes to play with. For instance, the Spot Colour mode allows you to drain a photo of all hues except for the one you select on-screen (for occasionally effective arty results). There’s a Portrait mode for capturing a subject with lots of luscious bokeh in the background, plus a silly stickers feature that can turn you into a cat or a super-camp unicorn. Awesome.

If you’re quite a confident photographer, you can also take advantage of the full manual controls. These allow you to twiddle and tweak the ISO levels, white balance and so on, to get a very precise result.

Motorola Moto X4 camera review: Photo quality

The Moto X4’s standard lens locks onto a subject quickly and cleanly, as long as lighting conditions are adequate. Photo capture is reasonably fast, again as long as the scene isn’t too dark, although the burst mode (activated by holding your finger on the shutter button) is much slower than we’re used to. And when the lights grow dim, you’ll notice a clear pause after tapping the shutter button as the lens adjusts.

Action shots can be tough to capture, especially with up-close subjects. Trying to get a decent snap of our resident cat was near impossible, for instance, as she constantly came out blurred.

Detail levels are strong, while colours are accurately captured. That main lens is also impressively good at reproducing high-contrast scenes; the Auto HDR mode handles glare and tricky lighting without breaking a sweat.

Switch to that wide-angle lens and you’ll certainly capture a lot more action, with a result similar to the LG V30. However, that lower aperture also means that low light situations and high contrast scenes don’t come out as cleanly. Of course you can always simply take a shot with both lenses, one after the other, and keep whichever result you prefer.

When the lights get really low, you’ll want to keep that flash activated. Without it, your shots will be a murky mess, either filled with grain or too dark to make out.

As for those bonus camera modes, they’re mostly fun but also slightly flawed. The Spot Colour feature for instance works fine on flat, uniform colours, but tends to struggle once shades and other complexities are involved. And depth mode on the whole is effective with human subjects, yet pets and inanimate objects are usually blurred around their edges.

Check out some more of our test snaps in the gallery below.

Motorola Moto X4 camera review: Video quality

When it comes to capturing home movies, the Moto X4 is quite accomplished - although also suffers from a couple of main flaws.

You have a choice of three main settings: Full HD at 30 frames-per-second, Full HD at 60 frames-per-second and 4K Ultra HD resolution. You can choose which lens to use before you begin recording, depending on whether you want a pulled-out view to capture a vista, although the wide-angle snapper won’t shoot at Ultra HD. You’re limited to the main shooter for 4K footage.

On the whole, detail levels are strong even at Full HD, so your video looks decent when viewed back on a big-screen TV. Colours are accurately reproduced, while the likes of contrast are well handled. However, image stabilisation at all levels is less than stellar, so you’ll want to stand relatively still to keep your home movies from being too jerky.

Besides that lack of stability, we aren’t too convinced by the 60FPS mode. For instance, we noticed a strange focus flaw when capturing this super-smooth footage with the Moto X4’s standard lens. This lens worked perfectly at 30FPS, yet bumping up the frame rate meant the lens suddenly struggled to lock onto our subject, even when we were stood still. The result was lots of ‘popping’ and some momentary blurriness, throughout our footage.

That seriously needs to be corrected in a software update, although we had no such issues at 60FPS with the wide-angle lens (which has a more uniform focus). However, in 60FPS mode the wide-angle lens significantly crops the viewing area, presumably an EIS measure to keep things smooth. So there’s actually no wide angle benefit at this frame rate.

Check out our Moto X4 camera video samples below.

Motorola Moto X4 camera review: Selfie camera

The Moto X4 is one of few smartphones with an LED flash for its front-facing camera. That’s great news if you wanna shoot some sexy selfies up in the club, or whatever it is that young people do these days.

Besides that, the 16-megapixel f/2.0 aperture lens is perfectly good for capturing everyday shots when you’re out and about. Detail levels are solid, colours are cleanly reproduced and the viewing angle is wide enough so you can fit a few heads together when needed.

Of course you get the obligatory beauty mode, which makes your skin nice and smooth and gets rid of some of the gunk. You also get a variety of AR stickers to play around with, which pop up automatically when your face is detected. If you ever wanted to be a unicorn, get ready to make a mess in your pants.

Check out some of our Moto X4 selfie samples in the below gallery. Fair warning: these can never be unseen.

 

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