Kodak PixPro SL25 Smart Lens Review
Cameras on smartphones today have increasingly become more and more advanced. In 2015, one could say they’ve almost completely taken over the small point and shoot camera market; not to mention the likes of devices such as the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy line compare or surpass a point and shoots quality. Add the level of social connection to the mix via apps, it’s easy to see why this has been done in such a swift and almost unprecedented fashion. Kodak is one of the many standalone camera companies that have felt the impact of the smartphone engulfing the market, and is taking some interesting, but undoubtedly necessary steps with new lines of innovative products to not only surpass the quality of the modern day “point and shoot”, but also coincide with the future of the where everyday camera use is headed.
I’ve always been a software meshing with hardware kind of user, so the Kodak PixPro SL25 peaked my interest from the very moment of the un-boxing. Kodak has decided to use the powerful hardware of most smartphones and merge it with their own hardware/software. It’s a brilliant decision and vision for Kodak to see this as an opportunity to grow with the ever decreasing market for sub $500 standalone cameras. On the software end, the PixPro application acts as a viewfinder/controller for the the hardware add-on of the Kodak Lens. Mobile devices have a least 4 inch + screens so this is more than adequate. However, although the concept is pretty clever and useful, my experiences with the app integration was sub-par to average. It has all the necessary bells and whistles an ordinary viewfinder/controller with a lense attached to it, but the fluidity and consistency of the app did not work as seamless as I would have hoped. There are consistent times of lag and pressing of virtual buttons that don’t activate the function you’re intending to accomplish. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is nothing a software update can’t fix.
And therein lies the beauty of a product like the Kodak PixPro. It will fundamentally get better throughout the length of ownership from a functionality standpoint. The same way Apple changed software with firmware updates is the same way Kodak can accomplish achieving a successful niche market in the standalone camera accessory market. There an abundance of potential for the PixPro app.
Ironically, the Kodak team are not the first to adopt this camera lens attachment concept for smart phones. Sony has a very similar camera set with Sony’s own camera technology packed inside them. To some, the PixPro is a copycat product that borrows the concept without remorse. Quite honestly, if you look at the history of Kodak as a company, they redefine products for the everyday person without sacrificing quality. Sony’s camera lens set is by far a more expensive alternative with only a few more features additions like a larger cross-section of abilities (NFC, a 20.1-MP sensor). As previously mentioned, Kodak is trying to expand a niche market with this product, and with that, Kodak knows price point (bang for your buck) matters more than the already very functional cameras on smartphones.
When you get down to the internals of the PixPro lens, it’s a quite capable camera. Specs that include 16-megapixel BSI CMOS Sensor, 24mm Optical Zoom, 24mm Wide Angle lens, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), Full HD 1080p video, 6-frames per second burst shooting, and Wi-fi connectivity (for connection to smartphone). These are IMPRESSIVE specs for a device that is supposed to coincide with your impressively spec’d modern day smartphone. Kodak gets much kudos for wetting the appetite of photographer enthusiasts who knows the meaning of essentials internals, versus gimmicky marketing ones. While you can use a smartphone as a viewfinder and controller for this device, you don’t need to.
On the left side of the camera you’ll find a single, large, 2-step button. This button allows you to press to focus and push to snap a photo. Around the right side of the device is a pull-away cover which reveals a spot for a micro-SD card for media storage, a battery, and a micro-USB port. The micro-USB port here allows you to charge the SL25 as well as connect with your computer to transfer media. You can also transfer media through the Android or IOS app for the camera. I don’t know about you folks, but companies like HTC should really think about reaching out to the folks at Kodak to remedy their camera woes. The HTC One M9 is a smartphone that would benefit immensely from a powerful accessory like the PixPro Lens.
On top of the machine you’ll find a power button, and on the rear you’ll find two clamps that assist in attaching your lens to any sized smartphone. Small and thoughtful additions such as a tripod screw hole makes having this device around as my backup “pro” camera is more practical. Kodak is treating this like a true camera, not a gimmick.
All the talks these days in the smartphone camera wars is low-light quality. Unfortunately, the PixPro does not excel in this category, but it does an admirable job. When there is natural light available, shots come out beautifully and crisp. There’s no issues with over saturation of colors or graininess when expanding the megapixel size of the picture. The optical zoom was something that made my mouth water when I saw the spec sheet; and it did not disappoint. Both pictures and videos came out with sufficient quality when maximizing the zoom to it’s full potential. The zoom is definitely a highlight of the lense and should be utilized heavily by most users capable of handling it properly. Kodak is using their years of camera expertise here, and it shows in most shooting scenarios.
I see the vision and potential of this product; Kodak does too. I’m not yet sold on it completely as it still has some fine tuning to do. Mostly on the software end, which can be remedied by a proactive team of developers on Kodak’s (2-3 month update cycle hopefully). The hardware is SOLID. The marketing potential is obvious here and it will only take a calculated effort by Kodak to really let this product grow in the coming years. Personally, I see this product boding well for the women/mother segment. The lens is just the right size to put in a purse or handbag, and male segment is pretty much engulfed by the DSLR $500 and above price tag. I highly recommend to anyone interested in the Kodak PixPro SL25 to be a trailblazer and experience the product. You grab it from various online retailers for about $225-$300.