Ektra Smartphone Builds on Kodak's Photographic History

In its first-ever smartphone, Kodak goes back to its photo roots by including a quality camera and a retro camera-like design.

Kodak Ektra cameras, Ektra smartphone, Kodak smartphone, smartphones, iPhones, Android, smartphone cameras, Bullitt Group

Kodak has unveiled its first-ever smartphone, the Kodak Ektra, which sports a retro camera-like design and a 21-megapixel fast-focus main rear camera that the company hopes will up the ante with photo enthusiasts on the go.

The new 4G LTE-enabled phone, which will be available in Europe later this year for about $550, won't initially be sold anywhere else, but "may come to the U.S. in 2017," a marketing spokesperson told eWEEK in an Oct. 21 reply to an email inquiry.

The Ektra smartphone features a Helio X20 2.3GHz deca-core (10-core) processor, 3GB of memory, 32GB of onboard storage, a microSD card slot for additional storage, a 3,000mAh rechargeable battery with USB-C fast charging and the Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system. The phone features durable Corning Gorilla Glass on its display screen and on its camera lenses, as well as WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

But the key features in Kodak's offering are its cameras, including the 21-megapixel main rear camera that features an f2.0 lens, Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF), dual LED flash, 4K video capabilities and Optical Image Stabilization, and a 13-megapixel front-facing camera with an f2.2 PDAF lens.

And setting the handset apart from similar smartphones from competitors, the Kodak Ektra includes a top-mounted physical shutter button, like those found on traditional cameras both analog and digital.

The main rear camera includes an Advanced Manual Mode, which offers users settings for exposure, ISO, focal length, white balance, shutter speed and aperture, plus preset scene mode choices for a wide variety of photo situations, such as portraits, sports, night time and more. The camera also includes options for panorama, macro and landscape images, as well as a Smart Auto mode that auto-selects the best settings for photographic conditions on the fly.

In addition, the phone includes a Super 8 app, which gives users professional effects reminiscent of Kodak's long-popular Super 8 film, plus Snapseed editing software that provides photo editing tools for users. Photos can be shared on social media networks using the phone or can be sent for professional printing using a preloaded Prints app.

The handset looks like a retro film-style camera, with a patterned black rear cover and a protruding lens like a small compact 35mm camera of the past, while integrating a modern smartphone into its touch-screen front façade. The phone styling is unique in a world filled with traditional-looking Android handsets and Apple iPhones, largely due to its camera-like appearance.

Optional flip-over leatherette cases will also be available that give the smartphone the look of an old-fashioned compact camera.

For decades as a photographic powerhouse, Kodak sold its original Ektra cameras starting in the 1940s and later moved into its then-popular line of Instamatic cameras in the 1960s and 1970s. But as digital cameras became the rage worldwide, Kodak failed to change and stay relevant, forcing the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012 and sell its imaging operations.

For the company and its partner, Bullitt Group, which is a global product licensee for Kodak, the Ektra again brings Kodak back into the world of photography, albeit in a modern-yet-retro smartphone.

"Kodak has a rich history in imaging technology and the launch of the Kodak smartphone today demonstrates our ongoing commitment to bringing the latest advances in photography to consumers," Jeff Clarke, CEO of Kodak, said in a statement. "The original Kodak Ektra camera was launched in 1941 and in its latest reincarnation, opens up a world of creative opportunities to all who care about photography."

In January, Kodak unveiled plans to revive its former Super 8 movie camera technologies with an updated product that shoots video on 8mm photographic film that can be viewed on a projector or converted to digital format, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The Super 8 movie format was first released in the mid-1960s.