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Motorola Edge 30 Ultra camera tested: Here’s what 200MP can do on a phone
It’s the age of megapixels and, for better or worse, 200MP cameras are soon to become the norm. Even the popular Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has one now. Motorola is taking the, well, edge here with its Moto Edge 30 Ultra smartphone and Samsung’s new HP1 sensor with a whopping 200 megapixels. Flanked by a 50MP ultrawide sensor and even a 60MP front-facing camera, the focus here is on better imaging by tossing more pixels than you can shake a stick at.
That said, the proof is always in the pictures. We’ve taken the Moto Edge 30 Ultra cameras out for a spin to see if Motorola has managed to end the megapixel war once and for all and beat some of the best camera smartphones on the market.
If you want to head on straight to the full-resolution camera samples, you’ll find those over at this Google Drive link.
For all of the claims of pro-level photography, the primary use case for a smartphone remains to capture moments from everyday settings. Quick autofocus, excellent white balance, and great out-of-the-box camera software optimizations are critical to enabling the best possible captures in these scenarios. Unfortunately for Motorola, the shortcomings of the Moto Edge 30 Ultra become visible even in the most simple of settings — broad daylight.
Shot at the default 12.5MP pixel-binned setting, this image should be an easy capture for almost any phone. It might not be visible at web resolutions, but pop open the full-resolution capture from the drive link above, and you’ll immediately notice the heavy-handed noise reduction and sharpening algorithms at play.
It is noticeable both around the fort and especially in the foliage, making the trees look like a bad Photoshop job. The high noise floor, particularly visible in darker regions, is also alarming and remained a fairly consistent theme across our tests.
This shot of a coffee shop courtyard was taken in the middle of the day. However, poor white balance selection and color science make it appear like late evening. In fact, the Moto Edge 30 Ultra consistently opts for a significantly cooler white balance than is representative of the real-world setting. Moreover, even in broad daylight, the image has a very noticeable amount of digital noise, lacks detail in areas like foliage, and there’s visible lens distortion in the corners too.
In this image of an ice cream cart vendor, the camera fails spectacularly at toning down the highlights. The overarching cool tones also detract from the scene. However, Motorola’s intensive use of noise reduction is particularly egregious in how it turns skin into plastic. Coupled with the oversharpening, it’s not a very good look for the phone.
The poor software optimization is also evident in how consistently the phone bungles up the white balance. Case in point, this shot taken both with the white and ultrawide cameras. The photograph from the primary camera has a cool white tone that is completely inaccurate. Ironically, the ultrawide shooter gets much closer to capturing accurate colors — the exact opposite of what we often see from smartphone cameras.
In fact, across the board, the ultrawide camera does a slightly better job at capturing detail and getting the white balance closer to the actual setting.
Low light capture
One of the key benefits of using a sensor such as the one on the Moto Edge 30 Ultra is pixel binning. By combining sixteen photo sites into one, the Edge 30 Ultra should ideally have the.. err.. edge in low light photography due to its sheer light-gathering capacity. Real-world results, however, are a mixed bag.
Poor software optimization loses whatever edge the Moto Edge 30 Ultra had in hardware.
The image of the dessert platter above is suitably bright, but zoom in just a bit, and you’ll observe the complete lack of detail. The Edge 30 Ultra amps up the noise reduction even further in low-light scenarios and outputs smoothened-out images that simply lack character. Moreover, the blue tinge still remains a concern.
The surprisingly poor handling of low-light shots continues in the photograph of an underground parking lot. The combination of oversharpening, a general lack of detail, and the very obvious digital noise make this a no-go. We’ve seen mid-range smartphones output better results.
Switching over to extremely low-lit scenarios, it’s the same story all over again. The camera also has a tough time dealing with movement. In fact, in most scenarios, you will need to stand absolutely still to get a rock-solid shot.
Let’s try a side-by-side. On the face of it, the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra has the edge with its brighter exposure, but a cursory glance at the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s shot reveals a lot more detail. Sure, the latter, too, has a lot of grain and noise, but it still does a better job of not turning darker details into a smush of digital noise and artifacts.
Is the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra any good at zoom?
One of the advantages of an enormous 200MP sensor is the ability to crop in losslessly and get good-quality results. It might not match the quality of an actual telephoto lens, which the Ultra doesn’t have, but in theory, there should be enough detail from a very high-resolution sensor to resolve a good-quality image.
The Motorola Edge 30 Ultra drops the telephoto lens, and relies on a software crop.
Be that the case, Motorola still can’t shake off the general lack of image quality here. 2x zoomed results still exhibit very evident noise. This makes sense considering the poor level of detail we saw when shooting in the standard wide mode.
In this 2x zoom shot of the coffee shop, it is easy to see all of the same problematic behavior we witnessed in the images from the earlier primary camera snaps. There’s simply no detail in the grass or on the wooden benches. The lettering around the cafe’s name is a prime example of Motorola’s heavy-handed sharpening. Meanwhile, we observed the same cool white balance when shooting at the 1x setting.
The image quality absolutely nosedives when you move to low-light settings. Even scaled down to web resolutions, the extreme amounts of digital grain and splotches make the shot borderline unusable. The gulf between the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra and alternative options becomes even more evident once you place them side by side. Motorola’s best can’t hold a candle to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra in the case of zoomed-in low-light photos.
How about actual 200MP shots?
Motorola has tucked away the full-resolution capture option two tabs deep, for good reason. There’s no apparent benefit to general image quality, nor are you getting significantly higher detail.
There is no benefit to shooting 200MP shots from the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra.
Zoom in just a bit further into the image, and all the standard traits like oversharpening become visible. The long shutter lag also makes it very hard to focus on the subject and get a rock-solid image. However, the option is there should you want the absolute maximum that the camera can output.
In addition to very high-resolution snaps, the Moto Edge 30 Ultra employs a software bokeh portrait mode to mimic high-end photography.
Motorola’s portrait mode implementation adds a very heavy crop to images taking it all the way to a 2x zoom. Since there’s no telephoto lens here, you’re trading down the resolution for a software bokeh around the subject.
The Motorola Edge 30 Ultra employs a significant crop to achieve a portrait effect.
Thankfully, the Edge 30 Ultra’s edge detection is pretty good for human subjects. The camera worked around my unruly hair and created a very convincing bokeh blur that was true to life. However, that’s about it for the positives. Images when shooting in portrait mode, more often than not, turn out to be exceptionally soft and have all the same negatives we talked about earlier. While the shots look good on the phone’s display, blowing them up on a large screen immediately exposes the lack of quality.
While bokeh detection for human subjects is pretty good, the phone does poorly with objects. In this image of a statue, the bokeh effect has been haphazardly strewn across the foliage rather than rolling off naturally from the subject. It’s simply not what you expect from a flagship-tier phone.
Low-light portraits of objects are also messy, and the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra struggles with detecting the subject. Although to be fair, some other handsets struggle with edge detection in low light as well. You’ll be best served by sticking to well-lit situations and human subjects for the best results.
How good is a 60MP selfie camera?
The Motorola Edge 30 Ultra goes all-in on the megapixels on the rear sensor, but the front-facing camera is no slouch either. The whopping 60-megapixel camera sensor bins down to 8MP or 15MP images. Motorola recommends sticking to the 15MP setting.
Generally speaking, the camera does a pretty decent job though the ever-present layer of grain is also very evident here. The camera appears to be raising the brightness of darker regions to create a sense of better dynamic range, but the result is just more noise.
Also read: The best selfie camera phones you can buy
More importantly, there is no apparent benefit to shooting at 60MP. Besides the larger file size, the 60MP camera cannot resolve much more detail, and you’ll need to stay absolutely still to get a stable image because of the shutter lag.
The default camera setting crops in a bit, but Motorola has provided a toggle to switch to a wider option. The field of view here isn’t quite as wide as dedicated ultrawide cameras but does capture more of the setting. Regardless, the Edge 30 Ultra selfies are passable at best, with visible noise and artifacts.
Is the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra worth buying for other reasons?
Looking past the camera setup, the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra is a flagship device through and through, with the specs to match (mostly). The general performance is in line with what you’d expect from a modern smartphone powered by a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, aided by an ultra-light software package that is very close to stock.
In fact, the only software additions are useful bits like an attentive display mode that keeps the screen turned on while you’re looking at it, as well as notification enhancements that let you peek at updates like the display is switched off or edge lights to notify you. All those additions work just as promised. That said, I did come across a few instances where the phone restarted itself while using the camera app. This is indicating software that could do with some more optimization.
Camera aside, there's formidable high-end hardware on offer here with the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra.
Elsewhere, the 6.7-inch 144Hz display is stunning to look at despite having a cooler white point than I personally prefer. Finally, Motorola is also upping its charging game with 125W wired charging and 50W wireless charging. I timed the charging time to just about 21 minutes to go from scratch to full.
All of that sounds right in line with what you’d expect from a late 2022 flagship. Motorola has checked off all the boxes with a good degree of success. Sadly, those underwhelming headline cameras really let it down. As well as oddly poor durability with just Gorilla Glass 5 and a lowly IP52 rating
Motorola Edge 30 Ultra: The verdict
The Motorola Edge 30 Ultra clearly has a lot going for it with its lucrative price point and loaded hardware package. It costs £749 in the UK and Rs. 59,999 in India (~$740). The clean software with meaningful additions further adds to the experience.
However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the phone’s highlight feature is severely underbaked at launch. The camera’s noticeable blue tint, aggressive noise reduction, and poor low light capabilities detract from any benefits of the new-fangled 200-megapixel sensor — yet another lesson that more megapixels doesn’t always mean much.
If you’ve been eyeing Motorola’s latest for its imaging prowess, you’d be best served by looking elsewhere.