The best camera is always the one you have in your pocket, right?
Whether it’s an iPhone, an Android device like the new Google Pixel, or even the much-missed Windows Phone-based 1020 from Nokia, we’ve all become accustomed to producing compelling images from the super slim 4-5″ devices we carry everywhere we go. In addition, the photo editing apps the devices enable have become as much part of our photography habits as have the networks on which we share our photos with friends and relatives.
Whilst there’s still a market for high-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, this has left the traditional camera manufacturers well and truly out-in-the-cold.S a result, a few companies have made attempts applying their decades of experience to the smartphone format. Most recently, Hassleblad released their True Zoom add-on for the Motorola Z line of smartphones. Whilst the specs looked good, sadly reviews such as this one from MKBHD have suggested that photo quality doesn’t justify the extra expense.
But that failure doesn’t mean that others won’t attempt a similar vision. Next into the market is Kodak. I personally thought they were done and dusted as a brand a few years back, but they subsequently emerged from Chapter 11 protection and have been working on a number of commercial and consumer-led projects.
The EKTRA Smartphone announced yesterday is named and modelled after one of Kodak’s classic rangefinders. From the back it resembles a standard point-and-shoot camera, with an oversized (for phone standards) f/2.0 lens protruding from a faux black leather surface. When it comes to specifications, it has a 21 megapixel fast focus sensor, with 6-axis optical image stabilisation and 4K video capture. The device also packs an ‘industry leading’ 13-megapixel front-facing camera with Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) and /f2.2 aperture.
There’s a curved grip and dedicated dual-press shutter button, just as you would expect from a real camera, and the custom-built Kodak camera app puts a DSLR-like scene selection dial within your thumb’s reach, with haptic touch helping the user whether in auto, semi-auto or manual modes, when setting exposure, ISO, focus, white balance and shutter speed are all available. There is also a ‘Super 8’ video capture app which offers effects suggested to be reminiscent of Kodak’s films from the past.
In every other way, it is pretty much a regular but well-specified Android phone, with a 10-core Mediatek Helio X-20 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage with microSD expansion and a 3000mAh battery with USB-C for fast charging. Finally, it offers a 5-inch, 1080p display, which should be ideal for framing what Kodak hope will be photos worthy of its veteran and storied brand. Built by the UK-based Bullitt Group (who also build devices for Cat, Land Rover, Ted Baker and Ministry of Sound), the device ships with Android 6.0 (Mashmallow).
The Ektra is ‘launching soon across Europe’ and will cost £449. There will also be a range of custom-made leather cases and accessories.
As always, we’ll only know the quality of this device when we get to test it in the real world, but the specs look extremely promising. It would take a very special device indeed to make me give up my iPhone 7 Plus, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be hoping that Kodak can leap that bar.