Motorola Moto X Style preview and samples

The Moto X Style is Motorola's brand new flagship smartphone and replaces the 2014 edition of the Moto X. We've had a chance to try the new model before launch, and we took it out to capture a range of sample shots in varying light conditions.

In the camera department, the new model has received a complete overhaul and now comes with a Sony IMX 230 1/2.3-inch 21MP BSI CMOS sensor and a fast F2.0 lens. A dual-LED flash is on board as well. There's also a new imaging software feature, the user-activated night mode, which uses increased sensitivity to better expose very dark scenes and freeze motion and reduce the risk of image blur in low light. However, image size is reduced to 5MP. Images can be viewed and composed on a 5.7-inch quad-HD screen.

Image Quality

The two images below were taken in bright sunlight and as you can see with its 21MP image sensor the Moto X Style is capable of capturing impressive fine detail. Images are sharp but not over-sharpened. Some noise is visible in the blue sky but despite the high levels of detail and therefore presumably low levels of noise reduction, it is overall very well under control. Sharpness is generally good across the frame but our test unit shows some softness toward the top right corner.

ISO 50, 1/1380 sec
ISO 50, 1/1269 sec
100% crop
100% crop

Below you can see two more bright light samples. Again, they show impressive fine detail. Colors are pleasantly natural and exposure spot on.

ISO 50, 1/1380 sec
ISO 50, 1/1924 sec
100% crop
100% crop

The next two images were taken indoors which made the camera increase ISO to 80 and 250 respectively. White balance and color are very good under the partially artificial light. The ISO 80 shot still shows excellent detail. Some noise is creeping in in the mid-tones but is very well under control. The same is true for the ISO 250 image on the right that shows very good edge definition and decent detail for the light level it was taken in.

ISO 80, 1/30 sec
ISO 250, 1/30 sec
100% crop
100% crop

For the night shot below on the left the Moto X Style camera increases ISO to 500. There is some noticeable noise in the mid-tones but noise reduction and detail retention are very well balanced and there's a lot of detail in the brighter parts of this image. The auto white balance system is dealing very well with the different light sources as well. Shadow noise is getting stronger in the shot on the right but again, there's still a good amount of detail for a low light image.

ISO 500, 1/30 sec
ISO 640, 1/33 sec
100% crop
100% crop

The left image below was taken in pretty low light at dusk. Fine detail is clearly starting to suffer in these conditions but edge definition, exposure and color are all very good. ISO 2000 is as high as the camera will go in standard mode. As you would expect the image doesn't look great when viewed at 100% but is perfectly usable at web resolution or small printing sizes. In very low light it can also make sense to opt for the night mode which we have a closer look at further down the page.

ISO 800, 1/15 sec
ISO 2000, 1/17 sec
100% crop
100% crop

Special modes

We also had a quick look at some of the special modes in the camera app. As you can see below HDR mode is capable of recovering a good amount of clipped highlights while maintaining an overall natural tonality of the image. There is a very slight drop-off in sharpness but you'd only notice at a 100% view.

HDR off
HDR on
100% crop
100% crop

Night mode increases ISO to achieve faster shutter speeds and reduce the risk of image blur. When the standard mode gets to its maximum ISO 2000 sensitivity you can also achieve a brighter exposure in night mode which can go up further to ISO 2500. On the downside, image size is reduced to 5MP. For the night shot below standard mode used ISO 640 and a shutter speed of 1/24 sec. Night mode achieved a faster 1/24 sec by upping the ISO to 1000.

ISO 640, 1/15 sec
Standard exposure
ISO 1000, 1/24 sec
Night mode
100% crop
100% crop

Panorama mode seems unchanged from previous Motorola models. It produces panoramas with very good stitching but the images are much smaller with less detail than some of the panorama functions on competing high-end models.

Vertical panorama, 3304 x 696 pixels

So far, so good

We did not have too much time with the new Motorola Moto X Style but we like what we have seen so far. Image detail in bright light is impressive, and in lower light a well-balanced approach to noise reduction means that a lot of detail is preserved while noise isn't getting too intrusive until the very highest sensitivity levels. We're looking forward to doing some more intense testing and putting the Moto X Style through our full review process soon.