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Kodak Ektra review: Kodak shouldn't have made this phone

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The Good Er... you can expand its storage with microSD cards?

The Bad Disappointing camera. Made from cheap-feeling materials. Poor battery life and sluggish performance. Plus it's way too expensive.

The Bottom Line The Ektra tries to be a great camera and a high-end phone at once, but it's not great at being either.

5.2 Overall
  • Design 4
  • Features 5
  • Performance 5
  • Camera 6
  • Battery 6

Editors' note: Since our initial review, Kodak has made significant software updates and dropped the price to $400 in the US and £370 in the UK (the US price converts to AU$540). We have edited our original review to reflect the price and slight improvements to the camera and have replaced our test images with new ones taken with the latest software. The original review posted January 20, 2017, and was updated July 5, 2017.

The Kodak Ektra is my first disappointment of 2017. As an experienced photographer, I was genuinely excited to review this phone. Wow, did it let me down.

The Ektra's combination of a shoddy plastic design, clunky camera interface and poor battery life (even after the software update) were frustrating enough. But the worst part is that this photography-focused phone, despite software updates to improve it, still doesn't even take great photos.

Kodak says it wanted to make the Ektra for people with "artistic-oriented hobbies, interests, passions." The way that some people are into Lomography or Holga cameras, Kodak wants to tap a demographic that enjoys the aesthetic look and experience of using a modern version of a throwback camera as much (if not more) than they do creating images. I get that, and I even like the concept, but that nostalgia of holding one of Kodak's classic, metal film cameras will be quickly lost when you pick up this plastic thing. 

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The problem is, you can achieve the same photos or better on better-made devices that also have more impressive specs. Unless you're really, really dedicated to Kodak's vision, you'll be happier with the new OnePlus 5 ($360 at Amazon) or Samsung Galaxy S7 ($480 at Walmart). You can get the S7 for around £455 ($503, AU$949) on Amazon, while the stellar OnePlus 5, with its awesome dual-camera setup is £449 ($479, AU$750).

Kodak isn't the only company to blame here. Its partner Bullitt actually manufactured the phone. The price has been lowered since its first launch, but at £370, it's still not affordable. It went on sale in the US for $400 earlier this year, although there's no word on availability in Australia. The US price converts to about AU$527. 

The Ektra's camera still struggles with colours

The Ektra's string of software updates have made some welcome improvements from when I first tested the phone last December. 

My biggest problems with the camera performance were the often inaccurate white balance and autofocus that frequently failed to lock on to the scene. The updates have done a lot to resolve both those issues, but neither have been completely fixed. I've taken scores of new test photos with the phone, as have my CNET colleagues Patrick Holland and Mariana Marcaletti -- all three of us came to the same conclusions.

The white balance is unnaturally warm on this outdoor scene.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This outdoor landscape overlooking London has a yellowish tint that looks unnatural and shows that the white balance is still not perfect. 

Colours are all but gone in this test shot.

Mariana Marcaletti/CNET

Whether a white balance, exposure or just a general image processing issue, this shot of a basketball stuck in a tree has been all but stripped of its colour. 

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The white balance is better in this scene.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It's fared a bit better in this park scene, although it's possible to see colour variations in the sky, with the right and left edges looking more of a purplish-blue, while the central portion is more of a greenish-blue. The software updates have improved it since I tested it for the original review -- it's now arguably 'hit and miss' rather than consistently inaccurate. 

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