When you hear the name Kodak you think of cameras and images.
It is a name synonymous with such and rightly so, they have a rich heritage.
Reports estimate the amount of pictures taken on smart devices every year now vastly outweigh those from dedicated cameras.
The Kodak Ektra is a smartphone that builds on the brand’s history, offering convergent technology for the 21st century. This includes some simple integrations, for instance providing traditional prints within easy reach of users.
Kodak are not known for their phones. Unsurprisingly the Kodak Ektra is manufactured under license. The company responsible for the collaboration is Bullit, the name behind the impressive CAT phones.
As a result the Kodak Ektra actually has a spec list seasoned mobile technology enthusiasts may be surprised (for the better) by:
- 21 Megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture
- Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF)
- Optical Image Stabalisation (OIS)
- Dual-tone flash
- 2 stage shutter button
- Android 6 Marshmallow
- 5.0” Full HD touchscreen
- 3 GB RAM
- 32 GB internal storage
- MicroSD card slot
- Bluetooth / GPS / 4G LTE
- USB Type-C connector
- Quick charge compatible
Strap a smartphone to your traditional compact camera, then squish them with a rolling pin and the Ektra is the result.
It is far from the thinnest phone, nor is it the lightest. Yet the overall profile would have you believe it be heavier than it is. The main body is 9.69mm thick, although this extends to 14.02 at the lens.
The lens skews the weight distribution slightly. Overall it’s a bit top-heavy held in portrait, and left-side heavy in landscape. Thankfully the protruding grip on the right edge provides help to hold and balance this out.
Looking at the device face on there is a 5” touchscreen display. By today’s standards the bezel on all four edges is rather large. To me the whole device looks a bit bigger than it needs to be. Despite this however, the overall size of the handset is not much bigger than Samsung’s Galaxy S7.
Above the screen are sensors, a notification LED, earpiece and front facing camera. Below the display are the capacitive Android navigation buttons.
On the bottom is the very current USB Type-C port and microphone.
The left edge is basically empty brushed metal, aside from the SIM card and SD card tray.
On the top is a microphone and 3.5mm audio jack.
The right edge is a little busier. Here you find volume, power key and a 2-stage camera shutter, along with a lanyard connector.
Personally I would like the power button to have a place higher up the right side. I often pressed the volume key by mistake; it feels like you have to stretch rather than being a more natural fit. Maybe less of an issue if tap to wake was present, but sadly it is not.
Flip the phone over to the back to reveal the camera element. It has the look of a slightly stretched compact camera.
The lens sits within a large raised frame with silver accents. A dual LED flash is set to the side along with a very grippy leatherette material adorning the whole back panel.
The bottom edge of the phone is formed into a bulbous cylinder. This acts like a traditional camera grip when held in landscape orientation. For me this grip is sadly too small to be very functional and too large to not be noticeable.
I found myself looking to the optional lanyard strap to ensure a firm hold of the camera rather than this grip.
A nice touch is that when the Kodak Ektra is laid lens-down on a surface, both the grip and lens cover are the same thickness. This means no annoying wobble!
This grip neatly houses the speaker. A series of holes are discreetly hidden against the black back panel.
A camera-standard tripod mount would have been an excellent addition. I think though this would have been too tight a fit unless the phone was thicker. Perhaps a portable tripod in the box next time?
At 5” this display is a convenient size for a large number of users. It is not too big or too small, offering up a pleasant amount of detail.
It is Full HD – 1080 x 1920 – with a pixel per inch count of 441 which is very good.
Corning Gorilla Glass is present. This will protect the display from scratches and marks that come from daily use.
The display has undergone further optimisation for photo and film. How apparent this is… well it is difficult to say.
My daily phone is Samsung Galaxy S7. Colours on the Kodak seemed a little more muted and not as rich in comparison. Samsung does have a tendency to over-saturate images and colours though which may not be to everyone’s liking. Having said that the comparison is not entirely fair, given that the S7 has a higher resolution.
I am certainly not disappointed by the screen. Like any display, it does pick up fingerprints and is a little reflective.
What is it like under bright sunshine? Sadly at the time of review we are in the depths of winter! Bright sunlight is something we wish for.
Software & Performance
Easy access to all your favourite Google Services including Maps, Music and more is all there.
Sign in with a Google account and within minutes all of your favourite apps can be installed.
The installation is virtually stock Android. So there are not lots of useless or unnecessary add-ons taking up the phone’s memory. As expected there are a few Kodak additions, some of which can be removed.
Out of the box you have 23GB of the 32GB available to you; that’s pretty good.
The performance during my couple of weeks with the handset has been good also. I am not a gamer and most of my use is web-based: streaming, videos etc., plus a few calls.
I didn’t notice any significant lag or weakness in performance to cause concerns. You’ll find 3GB of RAM which keeps things ticking along fairly well.
The processor is MediaTek Helio X-20. This is a 10-core option and not a chipset we have seen in many phones before, but that didn’t appear to have any detrimental effects. The phone did not get hot to the touch, common in some handsets, any warmth I did feel was nothing to be concerned about.
- Kodak Camera. The app to capture most images. More detail is available in the camera section of this review
- Gallery. Review, share and edit images that you take
- Super 8. Capture images and videos. Adds a nostalgic look to the content to mimic the classic Super 8 handheld video recorder. Choose 1 of 8 effects. Changes the vignette, grain and scratches etc. Essentially have some fun applying different effects.
- Prints. A great app for having images printed and delivered or made available for local collection.
- Google’s Snapseed editor. A feature-rich image editing suite. Turn even a basic picture into something special.
- MobiSystems’ OfficeSuite. Create and edit documents on the Kodak Ektra. Work or personal it can handle both.
- File Commander. A file manager for accessing content on the phone. Cut, copy, paste and manage all the files and folders you may have.
- AVG AntiVirus. Protect yourself against possible threats. Scan and enhance the device performance and protection.
Kodak Prints App
Some of these don’t need explanation, but for me the Prints app is super.
Start by choosing images from your device or social networks. Then select the size and quantity required. Within seconds you can pay for delivery or collect in person from a local store such as Boots.
The app works fantastically. It’s an excellent and simple blend of digital and physical.
Personally I am guilty of just leaving many photos to go into my digital archives. Whereas my mum for example loves a printed picture. Yet as a less tech-savvy individual, she finds the process a little cumbersome. This app makes it effortless.
For those who want a print, and their camera and phone rolled into one, you can’t ask for much better.
You can also download Kodak Prints on other Android devices here https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.meamobile.kodakphotoprints.
I feel it is worth mentioning also just how practical the phone becomes when you change the home screen settings to allow it to orient in landscape mode.
Previously unavailable in earlier Android versions, you used to need a third party launcher for landscape home screen. Not a difficult procedure, but something many would be unaware of. Now it’s possible from the moment you turn on. Sadly you need to go and turn it on, rather than it being a default option.
The profile of the Kodak Ektra makes more logical, to me at least, to use in this orientation most of the time.
I have to give the Kodak points here.
To start with USB Type-C connectivity is a bonus plus there is support for fast charging with a 2A power supply.
4G/LTE connectivity is available on all common UK and European bands. The nano sim card sits in a tray that also accommodates microSD memory cards.
To access this, you do need to use the provided ejector pin.
Given the nature of this phone, I would like to have seen a quicker SD card access option. It would feel more like a camera for me. I appreciate this goes against the connected smartphone norm a little though.
Many standard high-end features are all available. Bluetooth, GPS, GLONASS, Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac are all great. NFC is present too so you can use this device with Android Pay, although there is no fingerprint scanner.
The thickness of the Kodak body means no excuses for omitting the audio jack, so this is on the top of the device.
Nicely positioned, it does not get in the way of other features and controls.
The speaker is built into the grip on the phone and sound is projected away from you. The holes drilled in the grip are very difficult to cover so muffled sound is not a problem.
Sadly in an age where stereo front facing speakers are common, this single firing speaker lacks clarity and definition. Audible? Yes. Loud enough? Just about. Good quality? Not really.
To enjoy music or movies I’d recommend you go and stick the headphones in.
So this has to be the biggest draw to the Kodak Ektra. The 21 megapixel rear facing camera has Phase Detection AutoFocus (PDAF) and Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS).
These technologies help create a better image. Movement in the subject or the camera often requires advanced scene detection and blur reduction.
The whole design of the Kodak Ektra makes it look as if it’s rocking a massive DSLR-like sensor inside. Sadly the oversized frame around the tiny lens is all a facade. It looks the part however the Sony sensor inside is the same as other top-tier smartphones.
The Kodak elements do come in here though and there are an array of controls and tweaking that has gone on to deliver the final result.
There are quite a few different controls and shooting modes within the camera. The different modes are accessed via a digital dial like you might see on a DSLR camera.
Shooting modes include:
The screen then displays different available options depending on the chosen mode.
In Auto mode options control image size, flash, object tracking and more, plus quick access to the gallery and further settings.
For camera aficionados, the manual mode is where it’s at, delivering control over ISO, focus, white balance, shutter speed and exposure.
I like that you can see a counter telling you how many images you can take based on the phone’s memory.
To capture the image or video you have the on-screen shutter/record button, or the physical shutter on the edge of the phone.
The volume keys can be set as shutter buttons or zoom control, whichever you prefer.
The flash control is not just on or off, it also supports red eye removal.
4K recording is possible from the camera and you can zoom in via the touchscreen or volume keys (if set) whilst recording. You can also capture still images as you record footage.
A double-tap of the camera shutter button allows for a quick-launch into the camera so you can capture impromptu moments.
On the whole the video was comparable to the still images, but on close up video work auto-focus appeared to struggle, having to re-focus quite often with obvious frames in the resulting footage as the camera refocused.
There is too a front facing camera rated at 13 megapixels which offers a selfie or video recording mode. You do get a nice addition of smile detection here, which saves reaching for the shutter button. Disappointingly however, there is a limit on front-facing video resolution of 480p.
The resulting images are pretty good in fact. Here are some sample shots.
Overall the images have a much flatter colour profile than I would personally like. They do not jump out at me, but actually the resulting colours and balance is more natural.
Due to the relatively overcast days we have been having, a lot of the outdoor images appear a little darker than reality. I think the camera could have enhanced these a little to bring the image to life a little more.
What does work well is the colour contrast from darker to lighter areas of the scene. Often the white/light sky can be overexposed and lack clarity, but the Kodak does a good job of picking up cloud shape and texture.
In low-light situations (not well-lit but not completely dark), there was evidence of quite a bit of noise and grain to the image. This was not apparent in better-lit shots.
Overall, it’s a positive thumbs up from me.
Of course Kodak offer lots of editing opportunities, either via their own gallery app or through the SnapSeed editor. This is pre-installed and thanks to software enhancement is available in-gallery with the press of a button. Snapseed is a firm favourite for editing images and very popular tool.
I have already spoken above about the ease with which you can get photos printed.
A thicker profile often allows for a bigger battery so it is good to see a 3,000 mAh cell included with support for quick charging.
Everyone’s usage is different, but with my light to medium usage, I was getting around 5 hours of screen-on time.
The standby of the device seemed to be pretty good. At one point I was not using the device at all and over 3 days, I think it lost just 1 or 2% (with no installed SIM).
Kodak Ektra Conclusion
The Kodak Ektra is not going to be for everyone. There will certainly be appeal for camera enthusiasts, yet the resulting images may not live up a perfectionist’s expectations. You are given all the opportunity to tweak settings, however may still be left wanting more.
Camera functionality aside, as a smartphone it performs well. It hasn’t quite got the legs to compete with the best, but is certainly perfectly capable of competing with a decent number of upper-mid range handsets available today.
In a world of homogeneous black slab smartphones, the Kodak is just a bit different, offering something interesting and unique that appeals across all user groups.
It is the added value apps and services that make this camera-centred device something special.
Kodak fans may snap this up to continue their love affair, whilst those familiar with Kodak from times past will feel a level of comfort and familiarity in the phone.
In an age where so much is digital, the Ektra manages to blend digital and physical imagery in a way that brings comfort to users; an ability to really enjoy the images captured rather than just being logged into some digital archive somewhere.