Review: Kodak Ektra SmartPhone (Android)

I’ve had the Kodak Ektra for a pretty long while now and have purposely taken my time with this review. The reason: I hated the Google Chrome Pixel to the point where it’s sitting in a spot in my office and I never reviewed it, and so I wanted to give the Kodak Ektra a proper go. For years and years, I was an Android phone user and there was something I always felt I was missing until I went over to the iPhone. I switched to the iPhone mostly because around 80% of readers of this website read it daily from an iPhone. So why shouldn’t I, as the business owner, have the same experience? Despite Apple making some extremely questionable moves in the past few years that have angered a whole lot of professional users like me, the phones are still more reliable and do everything I want in an arguably more efficient manner than Android devices do.

Despite a fair amount of issues, the Kodak Ektra is perhaps the first phone that would make me consider going back to Android.

You see, for many years Android has been about hacking and DIY stuff. But in fact, lots of folks use Android simply because they like the options it offers. But lots of folks who also use Android devices also want to go back to their iPhone eventually. Tech journalists and people who are only into tech are the only ones who really, genuinely care about their phones that much; and many tech journalists simply just swear by many phones because their companies get them for free for review and never need to return them. But if they had to actually buy them, they probably wouldn’t upgrade all that often or be anywhere near as tech-broishly annoying about it. Trust me on this statement, I used to work for tech publications and my best friend is an editor for one. And no more was I reminded of this than when I heard an editor for a publication that I used to respect speak about young people as disposable high energy.

This even applies to cameras; they believe that an image taken with an older iPhone absolutely cannot match the quality that the newer one can or that a Micro Four Thirds camera can’t do them justice for their work when Apple (with a smaller sensor) makes billboard sized prints in Soho with their images from the iPhone.

To explain this a bit better, I’d like to reference a conversation that I had with a rep from a lighting manufacturer a while back. It went something like:

“There are folks who absolutely love our stuff. And then there are those guys who come up to us at shows and say, ‘oh, well I can go make this myself.’ And I say, ‘Alright, well fine. Go make it yourself. Our products aren’t aimed at the hackers and the DIY community, they’re for artists who would rather spend time looking for work and shooting than doing this themselves. And you’re not going to get the color accuracy or the consistency of our lights unless you buy in bulk. Plus the build quality and everything else.'”

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I’ve been weaning myself off of Android devices and options for many years now. I got the really big push from my girlfriend at the time who told me that I’ve got an iPad, a Macbook, and an Apple TV–so I might as well just go for the phone. To this date, the major Google products that I use are Google Inbox for work (which Phoblographer’s email servers go through), which includes Google Drive and Inbox. Not Gmail, Inbox. The latter is the absolute most brilliant product Google ever created aside from their search engine and their ownership of YouTube in my opinion.

All this comes from the simplicity that the Kodak Ektra allows a creative business owner, not a hacker in most cases, to do. But at the same time, Android devices tend to age harder than Apple devices; which is part of what’s keeping me back personally from getting one and making a switch.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fantastic camera
  • Folks who say that the camera on other phones are better haven’t used the Super 8 app and don’t understand it
  • Not terrible battery life once you turn off notifications. But this is the same thing with Apple devices.
  • Snapseed built in as a standard photo editor
  • Ergonomic shutter button is a nice touch
  • Bound to inspire creativity due to the set of apps unique to this phone
  • Bright screen
  • Nice for reading
  • None of those sloped screens that go off to the side like some of the new Samsung phones
  • A pretty damn fantastic price point for what you’re getting
  • Vanilla android

Cons

  • Super 8 doesn’t let you keep multiple edits of the same image
  • The camera on the back is mostly an aesthetics thing
  • A bit bigger than I’d like it to be
  • One handed operation still sucks on Android
  • My iPhone 6s is still slightly faster
  • I wish that Kodak would have given this camera aperture control sort of like how Panasonic did with their option

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Kodak Ektra page

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 smartphone that is pretty much like a block of glass, plastic designed to look like metal, and internal parts. So on the front of the Kodak Ektra you’ll spot a giant LCD screen that doesn’t have any sort of tactile buttons. Plus there’s a selfie camera for you to get your fingerprints all over.

Speaking of which, there is no fingerprint scanner which surely is a bummer. But again, this is a phone mostly centered around photography.

Move to the side of the Kodak Ektra and what you’ll find are the power button, the shutter button and the volume buttons. The shutter button can be double tapped to bring up the camera app.

Move to the back of the Kodak Ektra and you’ll spot this giant camera. Kodak admits that it’s mostly an aesthetics thing and that the camera isn’t actually that big.

Move to the top of the Kodak Ektra and you’ll spot the headphone jack.

The bottom of the Kodak Ektra has the USB port/charging port. Here you’ll spot the leatherette cover and a bit of a extra grip to conform to your hands. The experience is better than most other smartphones.

Build Quality

The Kodak Ektra doesn’t have the best build quality. The exterior looks and feels like metal, but it’s plastic. It also isn’t weather sealed or waterproof. But the Kodak Ektra should be able to survive a spill or two. It’s also a bit large personally speaking. Android phones have a one handed operation option, but that doesn’t really help at all when you’re waking up to check the news, email, etc from your bed and only want to use one hand.

Ease of Use

The Kodak Ektra uses vanilla Android, which is one of its saving graces. There is no bloatware on the version that I got; but yours may vary. So for the most part, the experience will be the same for a lot of people. Where the Kodak Ektra takes a new stance though is with its exclusive suite of apps. There is the Kodak gallery app, Super 8, Kodak and Prints. The latter, I genuinely hope people will use but considering that I never even cared about making the prints, then that probably won’t happen.

Here’s the Super 8 app though. Once you take a photo with the Kodak Ektra Super 8 camera app, you can bring the images into their virtual darkroom. Here you can choose film stocks and different parameters for the images. Then you can edit them and apply those developments. Kodak bundled in a whole lot of options like Tri-X, Ektachrome, Kodachrome, etc. It’s the closest thing that you’re going to get to real film.

Here’s Kodak’s actual camera app in manual mode. You can control various exposure parameters with the exception of aperture and a finely tuned Kelvin property. And there are other modes you can shoot in like auto, panorama, etc. The panorama’s are pretty fantastic.

Now here’s the Kodak Ektra Super 8 app. Honestly, it sort of looks like Hipstamatic. You get one shot and then the camera will reload another piece of film. Sort of cool, sort of gimmicky. But it all delivers an experience that no one else gives you. What sucks about this app is there is no manual control and you can’t edit the images with the regular camera in Super 8.

But let’s also talk about the Kodak Ektra as an actual phone. The microphone is clear, the audio is crisp, and it’s capable of doing all the things that other folks do like watch YouTube, browse Facebook, read through Flipboard, troll Instagram, etc. Multi tasking isn’t a problem for the Kodak Ektra as some days I went running all my daily tasks such as email, Facebook management, Hootsuite, Flipboard flipping, and more from this phone. It does it every bit as well as many other phones and there isn’t a whole lot that it couldn’t do. It got better battery life than my iPhone and that’s saying quite a lot. To be fair, other journalists get even better battery life but they don’t quite do the massive multi-tasks that I do and their Instagram account isn’t being pinged over and over again by being tagged in images. I’m aware that there are reviews that state otherwise, but there’s nothing really saying how the phone was used. I tend to keep most notifications off because otherwise pretty much any phone I use dies within a few hours.

If you’re ever in a press room or even just sitting down with me having a meal or tea, you’ll know that I get antsy about my phone because of notifications. The Kodak Ektra’s battery life keeps them perfectly in check though and I can go for more than a day and a half without needing to charge the phone that badly if notifications are on. If they’re off, then it can make it to almost two days.

While I’ll sit there and say that some things are easier with the iPhone, I’ll stand by that statement. But there isn’t anything that the iPhone can do with the exception of AirDrop that the Kodak Ektra can’t do in some way or another. Everything including sharing to Flipboard takes just as many steps.

Autofocus

In most situations, the autofocus works pretty well. But there are times when it indeed won’t. The Kodak app has a manual focus option but other times it doesn’t. In a situation like the photo above, I embraced the out of focus look because it reminded me of what an actual camera might do from that era. People actually had problems like this and when blended with the Ektachrome aesthetic, it makes for a pleasing image still.

That said, I’ll still fully admit that if you want the best autofocus, then don’t use the Kodak Super 8 app because the screen for it is very tiny and you can’t see the fine focus details. Nor do you get any sort of parameter control.

Image Quality

The Kodak Ektra has a great standard camera app and camera. But where it really steps apart from everything else out there is with its suite of apps. Snapseed comes standard with the phone and is built into the gallery on the Kodak Ektra. Does it take better images than my iPhone? Honestly, yes–yes it does. Will most people be able to tell the difference? No; not even if they’re pixel peeping and if you’re using apps like RNI films or something like that you’re getting a host of other apps available to you with different looks.

Super 8

The Kodak Ektra has the Super 8 app. And this app more or less is like shooting with a fully automatic camera and then taking Kodak’s film simulations and applying them later. In fact, that’s exactly what it is. It’s fun; we’ve posted images to our Instagram account and lots of folks liked them.

RAW File Versatility

What’s really amazing about the Kodak Ektra is its RAW file versatility. It isn’t like a DSLR or mirrorless camera or even like a point and shoot, but it’s still pretty darn decent especially with Snapseed. An overexposed image can easily and quickly become an HDR or something and providing you didn’t completely screw up the metering to begin with, you’ll be absolutely fine.

High ISO Output

The Kodak Ektra’s high ISO output isn’t that fantastic. You’ll lose details for sure and for the best results I strongly suggest just using the Kodak Super 8 app.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

So do I like the Kodak Ektra? I really do, but mostly for the camera. When it comes to the rest of the phone, my mannerisms aren’t going to change. I’m still going to use it mostly for business, texting, updating Instagram, browsing Facebook, reading Flipboard etc. But with the Kodak Ektra I tend to take more images. I really wish that Super 8 has a manual control mode but it doesn’t. I like the suite of Kodak Ektra apps, but I can get effects that still satisfy me using the iPhone and RNI films.

But this lack of bloatware, the performance, and the camera would have me considering the Kodak Ektra if Google and Android just solved their issues involving updating to the latest version of the software. In truth though, mobile phones are so good these days that you can find a way to make something work for you.

The Kodak Ektra gets fours out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for more.