Kodak Ektra Preview - A ‘classic reborn’ for 2016?

October 20, 2016 | Gavin Stoker | Camera Phones | Comment |

The Bullitt Group, based in Reading, UK, has licensed use of the Kodak brand in production of its own smartphone: the 2016 Kodak Ektra Smartphone to be precise. This interesting and (arguably) brave development is said to take its name and inspiration from Eastman Kodak’s rich history and its original 1941 issue Kodak Ektra camera – as well as the classic advertising slogan ‘you press the button and we do the rest’. Photography Blog attended the official London launch of the Android Marshmallow powered device and was able to get hands on with an early sample.

Danielle Atkins, Vice President Brand & Creative from the London office of Eastman Kodak, which has responsibility for commercial and consumer business, has been working very closely with the Bullitt Group. She told us that the new product was “another iteration on the journey begun with the announcement of the Super 8 camera.” A quick reminder: the Kodak branded Super 8 camera was announced at CES at the start of 2016.

Tim Shepherd, Bullitt’s Head of Applications, admitted at the London launch of the Kodak Ektra Smartphone that: “the smartphone market is a difficult market in which to differentiate,” adding that the phone is being “marketed at the creative… the kind of customer who will already own an SLR or high-end compact camera.” The handset has a leatherette style finish and grip, and its makers say they have sought to distinguish it from competitors from a design standpoint.

Photographic-like features

Whilst the all black finish denotes a certain seriousness, this intent is carried though to photographic-like features such as a two-stage press of its shutter release button being required to first focus and subsequently take a shot, thereby mirroring the feel of using a dedicated camera.

Specification to entice photographers includes a 21 megapixel resolution camera with optical image stabilisation built in plus a 26.5mm lens with maximum f/2.0 aperture.  The lens also has an anti reflective coating. In addition, we get a 13-megapixel auto focus ‘selfie’ camera and 32GB of internal memory, expandable via optional SD card, along with a 5-inch Full HD display. Connectivity is via USB 3.0 type C interface, whilst at the core of the camera/phone is a 2.3 GHZ Deca-core processor with 3GB of RAM. The internal recheargeable battery is non removable. The smartphone also has ArcSoft software pre-loaded, which its makers describe as ‘intuitive’.

Likewise familiar to photographers will be its on-screen scene selection dial and settings indicators, in tandem with the physical shutter release button as described above. Also featuring for those who like to get hands on with their photography – after all, the very market the device is allegedly aimed at – there is a selectable night/low light mode, as well as a ‘bokeh’ mode to be found on the virtual scene selection dial. This is effectively a simulation of a shallow depth of field and we are told the camera takes two shots and stitches them together. A slider to one side of the screen then allows the user to adjust the level of blur. As well as the above modes, the camera features a sports mode and the ability for focus to automatically track a subject.

There are limited manual controls too. These include the ability to adjust shutter speed, ISO, focus, white balance, plus have some control over exposure. If this all gets too much for newbies and confusion ensues, we can simply reach for the ‘reset’ control provided.

Seeking to provide the full photographic package, the Kodak Ektra smartphone features on-board image editing – via the app ‘Snapseed’ –  “to improve the user experience flow” according to the guys from Bullitt. Also pre-loaded is a print application, enabling users to order prints directly from the device and have the resulting hard copies delivered to their door in a classic Kodak yellow envelope. Naturally said prints are promised to be printed on Kodak paper. There is also the option to order a photobook as well, though it wasn’t divulged at the launch who was partnering with the brand to fulfill print orders. We’re also awaiting confirmation on where the device can be bought at retail, outside of the dedicated Kodak website.

Other features naturally include video at 720P, 1080P and 4K resolution.  There is also a retro ‘Super 8’ style recording function that adds film-like glitches and muted colours to your moving footage, whilst a bunch of photo apps come pre-loaded with the phone, including ‘Gallery Doctor’.

In terms of accessories, these arrive in the shape of a genuine leather black and brown slipcase for a recommended £29.99 and a more deluxe camera case style pouch for around £65.

The Kodak Ektra smartphone will be available from December in the UK for £449. There are plans to also roll it out across Germany and the Nordic regions – with operator partners still to be announced for all territories. Photography Blog was however told that it will also be available via traditional camera retailers.


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