Motorola Droid Turbo 2 preview and samples

The Droid Turbo 2 is Motorola's latest high-end model for US carrier Verizon, and in terms of specification ranks even above Motorola's current flagship Moto X Style. With the Sony 1/2.4-inch 21MP IMX230 sensor and an F2.0 aperture, the camera specification is pretty much identical but the Droid Turbo 2 offers improved performance in a few key areas. The Android 5.1.1 operating system is powered by a more robust Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset and the 5.4-inch QHD display is shatter-proof. The massive 3760 mAh battery is, according to Motorola, good for 48 hours of battery life and a microSD slot is on board for memory expansion. Like other high-end Motorola devices the Droid Turbo 2 is customizable via the MotoMaker website and can be ordered with a wooden or leather back.

We've had a chance to play and shoot with with the Droid Turbo 2 just before its official launch - read on for our sample images and first impressions. For a more technical test of the new Motorola's image quality please also have a look at the Doid Turbo 2 DxOMark Mobile report.

Image Quality

The two images below were taken in bright sunlight. In these conditions we found the Droid Turbo 2 camera output to show pleasantly natural colors, good exposure and very low noise levels. The downside of the latter is that at a 100% view some loss of fine low-contrast detail, especially in the shadows, is noticeable, even at base ISO. That said, edges are generally very sharp and, for a smartphone camera, there is very good detail in the Droid images. At 21MP they also offer a lot of flexibility in terms of cropping.

ISO 50, 1/996 sec
ISO 50, 1/1864 sec
100% crop
100% crop

The next two images were taken in overcast conditions. As we can see the images still show very good detail and a little more subdued colors. Like virtually all smartphones with small image sensors, the Droid has a tendency to clip highlights in high-contrast situations which can result in almost white skies, like in the image on the left.

ISO 50, 1/267 sec
ISO 50, 1/391 sec
100% crop
100% crop

The next two images were taken at dusk and indoors respectively. The camera raises ISO only slightly to capture these scenes and image detail and sharpness remain impressively good. Noise is very well under control but the smearing of low-contrast detail is just a touch more noticeable than in the base ISO images. 

ISO 64, 1/30 sec 
ISO 100, 1/119 sec
100% crop
100% crop

For the indoor and flash images below the camera used ISO 320 and 500 respectively. Again, exposure and color are good in both images. Edges are still very well defined but loss of fine detail is becoming more obvious in these light conditions, albeit only at a 100% view. Some vignetting is noticeable in the flash shot on the right. 

ISO 320, 1/30 sec
ISO 500, 1/20 sec
100% crop
100% crop

In very extreme situations we've seen the camera push ISO to 2000 but in normal use it appears to limit itself to ISO 1600. In combination with a 1/15 seconds slowest shutter speed, this allows for good exposure of night scenes and the capture of dark atmospheric scenes. The night image on the left is well exposed and the lens deals well with the bright point light source in the frame. In the image on the right the dark high-contrast situation is well managed and the resulting image shows good color and tonality. 

When zooming in to a 100% view it's obvious that at such high sensitivity settings a lot of fine detail is lost, but the images still show good edge definition and considering the light levels noise is well under control. Both of these images are perfectly nice to look at full-screen on a 1080p display.

ISO 1000, 1/17 sec
ISO 1600, 1/15 sec
100% crop
100% crop

Special modes

The Droid Turbo 2's camera app is pretty much unchanged from previous models and so are the special shooting modes. The only difference is that the image-stacking night mode now kicks in automatically below a certain light level and is not activated manually anymore. As before, HDR mode is capable of recovering some clipped highlights while maintaining an overall natural appearance of the image. In high-contrast situations it's a good idea to leave it on permanently. The only downside is a very slightly softer image at a 100% view. 

HDR off
HDR on 
100% crop
100% crop

Panorama mode captures images that are a lot smaller than those of rival models such as Apple's iPhones or Samsung Galaxy devices. Stitching is usually very good but moving subjects frequently result in ghosting artifacts.

Vertical panorama, 2976 x 936 pixels
Vertical panorama, 3312 x 936 pixels

In its video mode the Motorola Droid Turbo 2 is capable of recording 1080p Full HD video, 4K footage or 720p slow-motion clips. In the 1080p clip below you can see how the digital stabilization system is doing a good job at keeping things steady and that the exposure adapts swiftly and smoothly to changing light conditions.

First impressions

With a camera specification that is, at least on paper, identical to the Moto X Style's it's no surprise that the Droid Turbo 2 image output looks very similar to that of its slightly larger cousin in the Motorola device line-up. Exposure and color are consistently good across the ISO range. In its image processing Motorola is focusing on keeping noise levels down which works well, but also means that there is a noticeable loss of fine low-contrast detail as ISO values increase.

That said, edge definition is good even in very dark scenes and pictures captured at the highest ISO settings still look good at screen size. It certainly helps that noise and processing artifacts are averaged out when the Droid's very large 21MP images are downscaled to smaller sizes. Videos show decent detail and utilize an effective digital stabilization system.

Compared to the Moto X Style, the Droid Turbo offers the added bonus of a faster processor, a shatter-proof screen and a bigger battery, making it an interesting option for those mobile photographers capturing images in rougher conditions and away from the grid. We liked the device's very solid build quality and the pleasant feel of the rubberized back. We're looking forward to spending more time with the Droid Turbo 2 and working on our full review of its camera capabilities.