The Moto G Plus is a brand new model in Motorola's Moto G mid-range series, but its camera specification looks pretty much top-notch. A 1/2.4-inch Omnivsion OV16860 16MP sensor with a large pixel size of 1.34um is paired with a fast F2.0 aperture. Its contrast detect autofocus is supported by on-sensor phase detection and a laser to measure subject distance. A dual-LED flash is on board for shooting in very dark conditions, and in the camera app a new Professional mode allows for manual control over the most important shooting parameters like shutter speed and ISO.

The new Professional mode allows for manual control over shutter speed and other shooting parameters via a range of virtual dials. It's also possible to display just one dial at a time.

We have had the chance to use the Moto G Plus for a couple of days before launch and shot a good number of samples in a variety of situations. Read on for our first impressions of the new smartphone and its camera. 

Image Quality

In bright light the Moto G Plus 16MP camera module does a very good job at resolving detail. Thanks to very well balanced sharpening and noise reduction, fine textures and low contrast detail, such as the trees in the distance in the left sample below, are rendered very nicely. The lens in our test unit is sharp,  with only some minor softness toward the edges. Skin tones look natural and color is overall pleasantly neutral, without any white balance issues in natural light. 

 ISO 64, 1/1236 sec  ISO 64, 1/137 sec
 100% crop  100% crop

Some luminance noise is visible in blue skies but it is finely grained and not too intrusive. In the shadow areas some smearing of detail is noticeable, but again this is well within acceptable limits. Shadow noise is very well controlled as well.

 ISO 64, 1/2836 sec  ISO 64, 1/450 sec
 100% crop  100% crop

The well-balanced approach toward noise reduction is maintained throughout the ISO range and while noise and the effects of noise reduction inevitably become more evident in lower light the Moto G Plus performs very well in dimmer conditions. 

 ISO 160, 1/33 sec  ISO 400, 1/30 sec
 100% crop  100% crop

In lower light shutter speeds are reduced down to 1/15 sec which, without optical image stabilization, can result in the occasional shaky image. However, as long as you keep your hands steady the Moto captures very good detail, color and exposures in lower light. Both images below were shot in fairly dim conditions. In the one on the right the camera deals particularly well with the mix of artificial and very low natural light.

 ISO 640, 1/20 sec  ISO 800, 1/15 sec
 100% crop  100% crop

Like on the higher-end Moto models, the Moto G Plus offers a multi-frame Night Mode that kicks in when things get too dark. This allows for decent exposures of even very dark scenes, such as the image on the left below which was captured in a museum in very low light. We also liked the Moto G Plus flash performance which delivered well-exposed images with good color and detail during our brief test. 

 ISO 1250 1/15 sec  ISO 2000, 1/15 sec, flash on
 100% crop  100% crop

Special modes

The Moto G Plus comes with the same panorama mode as previous Moto devices and image output is very similar. Stitching is generally very good but panorama mode does not deal well with moving subjects in the scene. At under 3000 pixels the output size is very small. 

 Vertical panorama, 2472 x 704 pixels

HDR mode works in the conventional way and combines several exposures into one. On the Moto G Plus the effect is much more pronounced in shadow areas, which are noticeably lifted while highlights are only recovered minimally. 

ISO 64, 1/1196 sec,  HDR off  ISO 64, 1/1158 sec, HDR on

In video mode the Moto G Plus can capture 1080p footage at 30 frames per second that is digitally stabilized. Detail is good, the autofocus tends to be stable and the stabilization works efficiently, making for smooth panning and stable hand-held recording.

First impressions

During our testing we were impressed with the image output produced by the Moto G Plus. The large pixels in combination with very well-balanced image processing result in image quality that we would typically expect from devices in a higher price category. Images show good detail and well-controlled noise levels across the ISO range. Colors are pleasantly natural, even in difficult light situations, and thanks to its night mode the Moto is capable of capturing decent exposures even at very low light levels. On the downside, in dim conditions camera shake can lead to some image blur, though it is typically only noticeable at a 100% view.

The new Professional mode is good news for those mobile photographers who want maximum control over the capture process, and the large 1080p display is nice for viewing and composing images. The fingerprint sensor performs very swiftly and increases the security of your image and video files that are stored on the device. The plastic back is in line with a mid-ranger but overall the Moto G Plus looks like a great option for consumers who want excellent camera performance without spending money on a flagship device.