First Impressions: Kodak Ektra Smartphone

Earlier this year, the Kodak Ektra smartphone was announced and photographers looked on with curiosity. The Kodak Ektra is manufactured by Kodak–you know, the same company that makes fantastic film. And so the inspiration for the Ektra was to be revolutionary in the same way that the Ektra camera was years ago. The Kodak Ektra was the first film camera with a manual film advance on it according to Kodak, and so they were trying to bring back a sense of that spirit with the new phone. On that idea, the phone isn’t designed for the uber-hipster techie that doesn’t believe themselves to be a hipster, but instead it’s designed for the creative hipster–you know, the stereotypical one that you’d say is one but is actually just on a different creative level than lots of people are. Take for example Thomas Leuthard, who has been using the phone to great success.

To really put that on the forefront, the Kodak Ektra smartphone is designed to be both a phone and a camera. The ergonomics are a nod to film cartridges and cameras while it runs plain old Vanilla Android–my favorite flavor. For years I was an Android user owning an Android phone since the original G1. I went to iOS two years ago when I reasoned that since most of you are reading this blog on iPhones and iPads, I should genuinely try to have the same experience that you do. Though at the same time, I’ve had a Google Pixel in my office for almost half a year now and everytime I pick it up I want to throw it across the room. However, I’ve spent less than 24 hours with the Kodak Ektra as of my writing this post and I’m starting to fall for it in many ways.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from Kodak’s website.

BAND GSM/GPRS/EDGE Quad-Band 850/900/1800/1900,
WCDMA 850/1700/1900
LTE 2/4/5/7/12/17 (Cat 4)
PLATFORM MediaTek MT6797 Helio X20 Deca-core
2x Cortex-A72 @ 2.3GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 2.0GHz
4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.4GHz
OS Android™ 6.0
DIMENSION 147.8 x 73.35 x 9.69mm (14.02mmat camera lens)
DISPLAY 5”FullHD(1920×1080), Capacitive Multi-Touch
CONNECTIVITY BT4.1, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz and 5GHz), GPS/Glonass
MEMORY 32GB ROM, 3GB RAM
I/O 3.5mm audio, USB 3.0 Type C, microSD™ (Up to 128 GB)
Single SIM (Nano(4FF))
SENSORS Ambient Light, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, E-Compass, Proximity sensor
AUDIO Speaker, Receiver, Dual MIC
KEY Camera key, Power key, Volume up/down
BATTERY 3000mAh, with 5V 2A charging, and Pump Express ready
APPS Kodak Camera, Gallery, Super 8, Selects curation portal, printing apps; Google’s Snapseed™ editor;
MobiSystems’OfficeSuite and File Commander; AVG AntiVirus

Ergonomics

The Kodak Ektra is a whole lot like many other phones out there. You look at it on the front and you’ll notice pretty much nothing but the screen. In fact, the entire front is touch capable as the recent trend with Android phones has been.

Turn to the top of the Kodak Ektra and what you’ll spot is more of the hardware. This looks like metal, but it’s actually plastic. These are volume buttons, an on/off switch and a camera button. If you double press the button, the camera app opens up. Lower down there is a slot for a wrist strap if you’re that kind of a person. Over here you’ll also spot a little bit of a grip. It’s a design cue taken from film canisters and actually makes the phone very easy and nice to hold.

The business side of the phone has this big giant lens. Kodak admins that the lens on the Kodak Ektra is mostly just an aesthetics thing. However, there is serious Gorilla glass here with coatings that help the sensor to get all the juice it possibly can. In a phone call with the Phoblographer, Kodak explained to us that the sensor is a standard smartphone sensor and therefore manufactured by Sony. The lens is an f2 aperture optic and has real glass instead of plastic. Kodak chose to not go with a 1 inch sensor because the phone would otherwise be too big. Even they admit that the phone is pretty large as it is; but I personally don’t mind it except that I can’t do much one handed with it vs my iPhone 6s.

Up top, you’ll find the headphone jack for the Kodak Ektra. On the other side what you’ll spot is the SD card port–which is standard and much like it is on other phones.

Turn to the bottom and you’ll spot the charging area on the leatherette grip. Of course, it’s a pretty well put together phone.

Build Quality

In the hand, the Kodak Ektra feels pretty nice. I can tell that it isn’t metal even though it looks like it. The very rectangular shape of it is very pleasing and if it were smaller then it would be a bit easier to operate one handed. The Kodak Ektra isn’t weather sealed like many of the newer options, but at the price point of under $500 it isn’t really designed to be either. Instead, it’s designed to be a good camera experience.

Ease of Use

So speaking about that camera, the Kodak Ektra has four dedicated Kodak apps: Prints, Super 8, Kodak Camera, and Gallery. Here’s the Kodak camera app which is pretty nice. It has a manual mode that lets you control focusing, ISO, shutter speed and white balance. The shutter speed gives you a preview of what the scene is going to look like and unfortunately for the more experienced folks like me, there isn’t a way to remove that. What that results in is sometimes the phone being a bit slower.

However, there are five white balance settings which seem pretty accurate to many more traditional standards though nothing allowing you to manually set the Kelvin levels.

If you want control, then the Kodak Ektra’s Kodak Camera app is where you go.

But if you want Kodak film authenticity (arguably) you go to the Super 8 app. This all on the Kodak Ektra lets you shoot stills and video. There are no manual controls here and after one shot, the camera app “reloads” the film.

When you’re all done shooting, you can go develop the film. On the right side you choose the photo you shot and on the left side you choose the look. You can customize the looks and BY DEFAULT KODAK THINKS THAT YOU WANT THAT MUCH VIGNETTING ALL THE TIME BUT GOOD LORD WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT KODAK?

Sorry…feelings, you know?

The Super 8 app is supposed to let you import images to edit too, but on my version of the phone we can’t figure out the problem just yet. The Kodak Gallery app is pretty cool in that you can edit images with the standard Kodak editor or Snapseed, which is preloaded.

Image Quality

So first off, let me tackle the standard camera app. It’s good. In fact, out of camera JPEGs are incredibly useful thanks in part to the high megapixel rendering–and providing that you’ve got great light.

Here are some extra samples.

Where things get kind of crazy is with the Super 8 app.

The Kodak Ektra by default thinks that you want a lot of vignetting. But in truth, I really don’t and I didn’t realize this until later on. What I also realized is that Kodak is trying to emulate the look of their slides, so there are borders on each frame, but nothing marking down which film is which. You have the option of using Kodak films like Ektachrome, Ektachrome 64T, Kodachrome, Plus-x, Tri-X, etc. Of course, you’re only using films that are dead with the exception of Tri-X. But you won’t get Ektar or Portra here.

Here’s what the photo looks like with the vignetting filter and scratches all the way up–which Kodak makes default.

No here’s the same image with just the grain. It’s better but I’m still not totally smitten with it. I of course need to spend more time with it still.

First Impressions

The Kodak Ektra is a pretty nice phone thus far, but I need to spend a lot more time with it before I make any full conclusions. There are times when the phone slows down and times when it delivers some spectacular photos.

Stay tuned for our full review.