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Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen) Review

Motorola’s second generation Moto E receives significant enhancements, including a faster 64-bit SoC, front-facing camera, and bigger battery. There’s even an LTE option. Is this budget smartphone worth more than its bargain price?

Camera Hardware And Software

The Moto E (2nd gen) comes with a 5MP rear camera, the same resolution as the previous generation. This is fairly typical for phones in this price range, although we are starting to see some devices that are even cheaper come with 8MP cameras now.

The Moto E (2nd gen) uses the Samsung S5K5E2 1/5" CMOS sensor for its rear camera, which is the same sensor the HTC One (M8) used for its front-facing camera. Its 1.12μm pixels could hinder the camera’s low-light performance. This is a weak point for other phone cameras in the $100-$150 price range, which may take decent pictures in well-lit conditions, but produce unusable results in low light.

Further hampering its low-light capability is the lack of an LED flash. Most of the Moto E’s competitors come with a flash, a useful feature not just for taking pictures in the dark, but to use as a flashlight alternative too.

The rear camera for the Moto E (2nd gen) does have one significant improvement over its predecessor: autofocus. With only a fixed-focus rear camera, most of the photos taken with the original Moto E ended up being blurry, rendering the camera next to useless. It’s hard to believe an OEM would include a rear camera without autofocus, but it still happens at the low-end of the market.

Another improvement for the new model is the addition of a front-facing camera. The sensor is an Aptina MT9V113 that measures 1/11” in size and uses 2.2μm pixels, which are even larger than HTC’s “Ultra Pixels.” Resolution is only VGA (640x480), but in this price range it’s difficult to do much better.

Moto E (2nd gen) Camera Software

Starting with the Moto X, Motorola introduced a very simplistic and intuitive camera application that it has been using ever since. The app is designed to work automatically, leaving little for you to tinker with. You just point and shoot.

To take a picture you just have to tap once on the screen. If the camera is in focus, then it will take the picture very quickly. If it is not, then it it will wait anywhere from a fraction of a second to a second to focus and capture the image. Long pressing the screen activates burst mode, taking about four pictures per second and making it easier to capture a good image of a moving target.

Changing the focus and exposure is done by simply dragging the focus ring over the desired object. This is the extent of the camera controls exposed through the stock camera app and even this can be turned off.

The camera supports a 4x digital zoom, which is activated by sliding your finger up or down on the screen. It’s use should be limited, however, as the resolution is already quite low by default and digital zoom will only make it worse.

Sliding a finger from the right edge of the screen to left allows you to browse through your latest images and edit them.

Sliding a finger from the left edge of the screen to the right will open a carousel-like menu, where you can change the HDR setting, enable manual exposure and focus control, select the video mode, take a panorama, turn on a shot timer, and enable geotagging. There’s also an option for choosing where to store the files.

Finally, there’s the “Quick Capture” setting that allows you to open the Camera app with two flicks of the wrist. This functionality also appeared for the first time in the Moto X. It’s quite useful as it does save some time opening the camera app, although not as much as I would’ve liked (the camera app is still a little slow to load). With the camera app open, repeating the gesture switches between the front and rear cameras.

Video

Shooting video with the Moto E (2nd gen) is about as basic as it gets. It records video at 720p@30fps, which is actually an improvement on the first Moto E’s 480p@30fps video mode. It can also do slow motion video at 720p. In either case, the video produced is not particularly good, but better than nothing.

Rear Camera Video Modes

Video ModeResolutionFrame Rate (fps)Video Bit Rate (Mb/s)VideoCodecProfileAudioCodecAudio Bit Rate (kb/s)
HD 720p1280x7203010H.264HighAAC128 (mono)