Kodak Ektra smartphone hands-on review

There might be a wave of new phones with dual-cameras, but Kodak has created a smartphone tailored specially for photographers which harks back to a camera from 70 years ago. Here's our Kodak Ektra smartphone hands-on review. See also: Best camera phone 2016.

Also see: Best Black Friday Phone Deals

We've seen attempts at camera orientated phones like the Nokia Lumia 1020 and Samsung Galaxy Zoom but can Kodak be the first to truly crack it? There's also for more competition from flagship and even more affordable handsets now with plenty of fantastic hardware on offer for photography.

Kodak describes it as: "a photography-led smartphone designed for those with a passion for photography, from enthusiasts to experts."

Read: Best phones 2016.

Kodak Ektra smartphone review: Release date and price UK

The Ektra smartphone will launch first in Europe and the UK in December, Kodak told us at the launch event in central London. Other markets may follow but we'll have to wait and see during early 2017 we imagine.

Camera equipment can be seriously expensive but the Kodak Ektra price is surprisingly affordable at £449 in the UK. That's a lot cheaper than smartphones like the iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel XL which are sold with a large emphasis on the camera. They both cost £719.

You'll be able to buy the Ektra smartphone from Kodak.com but the firm promises that it has various retailers and network operators lined-up in the UK. Details will be announced during the lead up to the phone's launch in December.

Kodak Ektra release date and price

Kodak Ektra smartphone review: Design and build

Some of you will have already noted that this new smartphone shares its name with a camera Kodak made back in 1941. The device takes inspiration from that classic camera, hence the tag line 'A classic is born. Again'.

Both the packaging and the phone itself are modelled on the original Ektra, although we've only seen the latter. We like the industrial design combining brushed metal with the 'letherette' style finish you find on most cameras.

From the back, you would hardly know this is a phone and that's a really nice thing. A lot of the existing smartphone brands are struggling to make new designs which are exciting, but the Kodak Ektra has a unique style.

Kodak Ektra design

Kodak says the Ektra phone has an ergonomic design and this is very much the case when it comes to using it as a camera. There's a dedicated shutter button and a bulge at the bottom on the rear really helps you grip the device like you would a camera.

However, using it in portrait orientation as a phone isn't so pleasant. It will take a bit of getting used to because of the shape of the bottom and the large camera module sticks out the back just over 4mm and sits slightly where your index finger falls. That said, it's not as heavy as it looks and we found it far more comfortable to use than the Galaxy Zoom during our hands-on time.

Like some phones, there's a point where you can attach a wrist strap and Kodak has also made some cases to go with the Ektra. You'll be able to get a £29 slip case or a rather fetching camera case for £59, both made from real leather and available in black or brown.

Kodak Ektra smartphone review: Specs and hardware

We'll get to the camera soon (scroll down if you just can't wait) but there are some smartphone specs to deal with first. Now, like some other phones with everything riding on the camera, the other hardware isn't quite as exciting.

The Kodak Ektra has a 5in screen with a Full HD resolution which is nothing special but is hardly bad either. The firm has chosen a deca-core MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3GB of RAM to run the device and there's 32GB of internal storage.

Kodak Ektra screen

With photographers accustomed to inserting and removing memory cards, the phone offers expandable storage via a Micro-SD card slot (up to 128GB cards). It's not easy access like a regular camera though, so you'll need a tray removal tool.

Other things to mention include 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, a rear mounted speaker and a USB-C port which offers Pump Express fast charging. Inside is a non-removable 3000mAh battery which we'll test properly once we have a review sample.

Kodak Ektra camera button

So onto the main event, the Kodak Ektra's camera which is 'at the heart of the smartphone'. It's a 20Mp Sony sensor with features including an f/2.0 aperture, phase detection auto focus and 6-axis optical image stabilisation. A nice line-up but it's worth noting that it's similar to some phones out there from the likes of Samsung and Sony, which even have wider apertures.

Perhaps one of the things which differentiates it is the large 26.5 mm 6P lens which has an anti-reflective coating. There's also the dedicated shutter button which can be used to quickly launch the camera app and has a two-stage action like a real camera.

Kodak Ektra lens

Kodak is also selling the Ektra on the basis of its exclusive software. The camera app, produced by Arcsoft, provides a lot of different shooting modes and even a selection wheel with which to select the one you want. There are manual controls for settings like ISO, white balance and exposure as you would expect but most phones have this now.

"Dynamic Focus and Object Tracking give additional control over the camera focus while crisp, clear images are guaranteed through automatic Image Noise Reduction features, reducing the need for extensive post-editing," says Kodak.

The firm also pre-loads the Super 8 video recording app (the Ektra can shoot 4K video) and editing software in the form of Snapseed – an app you can get for free on any phone.

Although the target market won't be selfie fanatics, the Ektra comes with a 13Mp front-facing camera complete with f/2.2 aperture and phase detection auto focus. So when you do want to take one, it should be decent quality.

Kodak Ektra camera app

We don't want to comment on the camera quality just yet having only had a short amount of hands-on time with it inside a hotel. Once we get a review sample closer to the release date we'll put it through its paces properly.

Kodak Ektra smartphone review: Software and apps

There's not a huge amount to say when it comes to software as the Ektra comes pre-loaded with a very stock version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. An update to 7.0 Nougat is still to be confirmed.

The operating system runs smoothly based on our hands-on time and it's good that Kodak hasn't gone to town with a user interface overlay. What is has done is provide some additional software aimed at the creative consumer the phone is targeted app.

Kodak Ektra Print app

For starters, a widget on the homescreen will first provide tips on using the device but then it will offer curated suggestions on photography related apps.

As already mentioned, the Super 8 app is pre-installed and there's also Kodak's print app. This means you can select photos you've taken and get the delivered on Kodak paper inside the iconic yellow envelope.

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017

Kodak Ektra smartphone: Specs

  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 5in Full HD screen
  • MediaTek MT6797 Helio X20 deca-core processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • Micro-SD up to 128GB
  • 21Mp camera with f/2.0, PDAF and OIS
  • 13Mp front camera
  • 11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS
  • 4G LTE
  • USB-C
  • 3000mAh non-removable battery
  • 73x148x9.7mm (14mm with camera lens)
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 5in Full HD screen
  • MediaTek MT6797 Helio X20 deca-core processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • Micro-SD up to 128GB
  • 21Mp camera with f/2.0, PDAF and OIS
  • 13Mp front camera
  • 11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • GPS
  • 4G LTE
  • USB-C
  • 3000mAh non-removable battery
  • 73x148x9.7mm (14mm with camera lens)

OUR VERDICT

It's too early to give a verdict on the Kodak Ektra but it has a lot of potential, especially at a cheaper price point compared to flagship phones. We certainly like the unique design so we're looking forward to testing it out properly.

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