We tried out the retro-styled Kodak phone you totally missed at CES 2017


Kodak has a phone. You heard that right — everyone’s favorite old camera company is finally in the mobile market with the Kodak ‘Ektra.’ It is an Android phone with a giant 21-megapixel cam on the rear, and it’s built to mimic a point-and-shoot camera.

The company announced the phone back in 2014, but we should point out that the device simply licenses the Kodak brand name. It’s actually made by a tech company called Bullitt Group.

We made some time at CES 2017 to play around with the device — our first impressions aren’t too positive, but let’s take a closer look.

Everything about the Kodak Ektra is meant to revive nostalgia of Kodak’s “Ektra” camera from the 1940s — notably the leather finish on the back of the smartphone. On the back of the device sits a large 21-megapixel camera, reminiscent of the Nokia Lumia 1020.

More: Watch: Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke shows off company’s new Ektra smartphone

Sadly, there’s no optical zoom — meaning the camera’s size is only for aesthetic purposes. Keep in mind that we have seen phones with 21-megapixels before, such as the Moto X Style from 2015 which had a normal smartphone camera on the back.

Still, the design of the Ektra is unique and something different — even if it is a little thick.

The bottom of the device curves out, acting as a grip when holding the device in landscape mode. It felt comfortable and compact, only packing a 5-inch display. What’s handy is the dedicated camera button on the right side — there is a power button above it, and volume controls at the top right edge. You can double tap the button to launch the camera.

There are no on-screen buttons — instead, you use the capacitive multi-touch navigational buttons on the bottom of the screen.

The Kodak Ektra features surprisingly solid specifications — notably, it comes with a USB Type-C charging port, 3GB of RAM, a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution (Full HD), and a large 3,000mAh battery.

It does have a headphone jack and a MicroSD card slot that can add up to 128GB of additional storage. The latter feature is necessary if you want to take a lot of photos and videos because the phone only comes with 32GB of storage (a lot of phones do). From what we can tell, there’s sadly no NFC sensor on the device.

Unfortunately, the camera-phone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is the 2015 version of the operating system. Bullitt Group will handle software updates for the device, and when we asked, a representative did not make it seem as though updating the device to Android 7.0 Nougat was a high priority.

More: Want more gigs? Kodak’s new online, on-demand photography platform could help

Still, you get a stock Android experience with almost zero modifications by Bullitt. There are quite a number of pre-installed apps, but some of these are all part of the experience of getting the Kodak phone. One app, for example, takes photos that mimics classic Super 8 film stocks. Nevertheless, some are bloatware apps.

The Kodak Ektra is powered by MediaTek’s Helio X20 deca-core processor. In our brief test, the device seemed to fly without any hiccups. Apps opened quickly, and swiping through a webpage in the browser as well as through the home screen was smooth. We’ll stress test the device further when we get our review unit later this year.

If the main highlight of the Ektra is the camera, you would think it would be the best experience of the device. Unfortunately, it was the primary weak point.

The rear camera has 21-megapixels, optical image stabilization, and an aperture of f/2.0. The front camera has a 13-megapixel with an aperture of f/2.2. All of that sounds good on paper, but when we tried to take photos with the camera there was noticeable shutter lag.

Shots were blurry, and the picture quality was merely ‘okay.’ The user interface is meant to feel like a traditional camera — there is even a mode dial that lets you swap between different modes, such as automatic and manual. The manual mode is a great option as well as the mode dial, but simply rotating the wheel was a sluggish experience.

We’ll chalk some of this up to the fact that the phone was on for a long-period of time at a booth at CES 2017, with many people checking it out. Hopefully it will perform better when we do a full review.

The Kodak Ektra will be available for pre-order in April, but at a startling price of $550. For a device that’s running a year+ old version of Android (with lackluster interest from Bullitt on updates), a seemingly slow camera, and no NFC — that’s a lot of money.

More: Our First Take: Retro-Bit Super Retro Boy

Still, we’re willing to give a chance to see how the Ektra stacks up as it has some promising specifications and it looks attractive, even if it is a little chunky.

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