The push for multi-camera setups has been the staple in today's marketing in modern smartphones, and the Moto G9 Play is no exception to the rule. The handset has three cameras - one 48MP main one with f/1.7 aperture, 1/2.0" sensor size, and 0.8µm pixels, one 2MP dedicated macro shooter with f/2.4 aperture, and one 2MP for depth sensing.
This setup feels like 'one step forward, one step backwards' kind of an upgrade. The G8 Play may have had an inferior 13MP main sensor but it had an ultra-wide camera alongside it. The G9 Play is missing the ultrawide and we are kind of disappointed.
Anyway, the notch on the front houses the same 8MP sensor coupled with f/2.2 lens.
Motorola has a slightly different approach when it comes to the camera app. Swiping left and right switches between just three modes - the standard photo mode, video mode, and the last used one. There's also another icon that opens up the list with the additional camera modes, including the Pro mode that lets you tinker with settings manually.
The good old settings icon is located in the upper-right corner of the viewfinder and gives you access to the rest of the settings.
The Moto G9 Play offers daylight performance comparable to most of its competitors at this price range. But there are a few key takeaways. The detail is okay, for example, although it deteriorates fast as the light begins to drop. You can notice a visible difference in sharpness and detail in the darker parts of the photos. Noise is only an issue if you look close enough and it's only visible in areas of uniform colors. Dynamic range isn't bad, for the most part, and colors are always punchy.
As with almost all macro cameras these days, the main drawback is the lack of autofocus. The fixed focus makes shooting outdoor or slightly moving subjects a challenge. Make sure to take multiple shots at different distances to make sure that at least one of those photos has the subject is in focus.
In any case, the 2MP resolution just isn't enough for satisfactory detail and sharpness. Also, colors look a bit washed out and contrast is somehow lacking.
While the daylight images were good enough to challenge some of its rivals, the night shots are rather disappointing. Gone are the punchy colors, the dynamic range is narrow while the lack of detail and sharpness make the photos look foggy. It's almost as if they are out of focus at times. Perhaps the noise suppression algorithm is working overtime smudging some of the detail.
The so-called Night Vision, which is Motorola's dedicated Night mode, improves the image quality in some aspects, but makes it worse in other. The dynamic range is vastly improved by extracting a lot more detail out of the shadows and highlights while introducing some sharpness to the overall scene. However, the noise can be seen from afar, especially in the shadows and in the sky. In our opinion, the sky is just too grainy ruining the photo. So it's really up to you to decide whether the Night Vision is worth the trade-off.
Once you are done with the real-life photos, take the time for some pixel-peeping using our photo compare tool.
Colors are looking good, skint tone too. Detail is looking okay while the edge detection is doing a really good job even with more complex backgrounds. And perhaps since the processing of the portraits is more demanding, the HDR is virtually non-existent. The subject's face can often be too dark so that the background isn't clipped. But if the scene isn't all that challenging, you can expect nice portraits for social media purposes.
The selfies are generally soft with poor dynamic range, yet colors are looking good. Switching over to portrait mode will disable HDR and as a result, the selfies won't look as balanced, not that they were from the start. And to our surprise, the edge detection is quite convincing once more.
Video recording caps at 1080p@60fps because of the chipset's limitations. But we wouldn't recommend the 60fps mode anyway because even the 30fps video isn't impressive on its own.
The sharpness is satisfactory for an 1080p video but the dynamic range comes of a little too narrow. Notice the buildings in the distance - they are clipped. Some of the cars with darker colors come out as black. Colors are a bit off too - maybe a little bit more contrast would do wonders.
There's also stabilization at 30fps but not on 60fps. That's another reason to go for the 30fps video mode. Anyway, the EIS itself is quite competent.
To see how the Moto G9 Play fares against some of its competitors, take a look at our video compare tool.