Take your Smartphone Photography to the next level with the Kit from Kodak.
Even though it was only five months ago, it seems like a lifetime ago that my friends Nicholas Calderone, Robyn Oglesby, and I traveled to Nashville for the Imaging USA conference. I miss the mingling, the people, the going out, and the freedom/lack of fear. Even though the conference was set up for DSLR and similar cameras, it helped to remind me of the moment, of right now, and the need to capture memories. As a parent of four small children, life events seem to happen in the blink of an eye. There is often not time to run to get my Canon Camera and if traveling, I likely already have enough to carry that an extra bag/accessory/item seems overkill. Thus, I tend to turn to my iPhone 11 Pro Max, which is regularly resting at my right hip, nestled within a Nite-Ize Hip Holster. It is quite convenient to pull out the phone, and for the phone to immediately unlock with face identification so that I can quickly access to the photo app. Sometimes though, I would like more light and other times, I would like the ability to set the phone down to capture an image. Kits like the Kodak Smartphone photography kit allow you to gain some of the functionality of the expensive kits, without spending thousands of dollars on a stand-alone camera.
The Kodak Smartphone Photography Kit arrived in a 7 inches wide by 8 1/8 inches tall by 2 5/8 inches thick retail box. The top two inches of the box was wrapped with an orange-yellow color band, while the lower half of the box was wrapped in black. Even though the red Kodak logo was clearly visible along the top left, the clear centerpiece was the 4 inches wide by 4 inches tall image of the KODAK Smartphone Photography Kit (Ultra Wide + Macro + Tripod + Portrait light + Travel Case). Like many kits, the image showed a phone, sans case, with various attachments (light ring, tripod, phone clip, and camera add-ons). I loved the image and the use of the black/yellow contrasting colors but felt that the legs of the tripod were a bit washed out against the black background. Perhaps, a color gradient would have better suited the darker components of this kit. Both of the side panels provided the red KODAK icon along the top and the same KODAK Smartphone Photography Kit title as the cover. The yellow top panel provided a yellow hanging tab, while the bottom black panel was left unadorned. The reverse solid yellow panel proved to be a bit busy. The same title was listed across the top, followed by a description of the product/package content list in six different languages. Beneath this section, I found 12 icons representing the features of the device: Multiple Camera Compatible, front and rear camera, 100-degree angle ultra-wide, macro, 20.5cm/8” Tripod, 25.5cm/10” handle, compatible with smartphones, double-sided AR coating, daylight color temperature 5600k, 3 levels of brightness, 90-degree tilt ball head, remote shutter. To round out that reverse panel, I found some trademark/licensing statements, product manufacturing labels, and two SKU barcodes.
Lifting the magnetic flap, I found the black left panel and the yellow right panel to be much more user friendly than the back panel. The left panel provided seven crisp images of a father and son enjoying some of the wonders of nature/flowers. The Ultra Wide-macro lens promised to help with landscape and extreme closeups and the artistry of the packaging showed how the same image could be captured with the two lens options. Additionally, it detailed the benefits of the tripod and portrait light. The right panel showed the Kodak title/logo, the carrying case, and images of a phone using the macro lens, ultra-wide lens, portrait light, and Tripod. Enticed by the packaging details, I removed the tape from the top of the box and removed the 18.69-ounce, 8 1/2 inches long by 7 1/4 inches wide by 2 3/8 inches thick carrying case. Along the lower left of the soft/ black nylon surface, you will find an indented Kodak logo. Besides that embellishment, the remainder of the surface of the case was smooth. Accenting the black surface, the company provided a yellow 22 1/2 inch long zipper, with a small nylon hook along the top. Gripping the single zipper pull, I opened the case. The upper half of the case had a 7 1/2 inches wide by 4 1/4 inches tall mesh netting with instruction manuals for the smartphone portrait light, smartphone 2-in-1 lens/3-in-1 lens, and the smartphone tripod. Additionally, you will find a 2 3/4 inches wide by 4 inches tall nylon drawstring bag with included 12 inches long USB-A to USB-micro charging cable, and a small caribiner. I loved the mesh section but found the inclusion of the drawstring bag for the charging cable to be rather unnecessary. It was not until I evaluated the smartphone 2-in-1 lens set instructional manual that I discovered that they intended the bag for the lens kit while on-the-go. I suppose at times you may clip the little bag to your belt/bag instead of taking the larger case with you.
I opened the multilingual Tripod manual and found each language was allotted three and a half panels. The first panel displayed a useful image of the tripod and each subsequent panel detailed the package contents, safety information, pairing remote Bluetooth Shutter, Taking Photos, Tripod Specifications (170gram weight, 250x50x50mm dimensions, 1kg weight capacity), remote specifications (Li-Mn02 button cell CR2032 battery, 220mAh capacity, 3V output, 12G weight) and an A-I legend for the first diagram. The portrait light manual was laid out in a similar manner, starting with the A-E labeled diagram and then detailed the aspects of the device over three panels. The manual recommended avoiding wet locations, charging the light with the included charging cable, and provided operation directions for the light. The 2-in-1 lens kit provided an A-D labeled diagram and four images of how to use the leness. Before installing the lens, the manual recommended cleaning the lens and your smartphone camera with the microfiber bag or microfiber cloth (not included). Next, remove the lens cap, align the lens over your camera, check the phone display. This step was important to properly align the lenses with a multi-camera phone. After perusing the manuals, I turned my attention to the lower foam/product filled portion of the Kodac case. I found formed foam with cutouts for the 1.34 ounce 2-in 1 lens, the 3 3/16 inches diameter/1.86-ounce Kodak photo ring, the 1.51-ounce phone clamp with removable Bluetooth shutter, and the 4.90 ounce/6 3/4 inches tall tripod. I removed each of the components and turned first to the tripod. With the legs fully retracted, you can grip the tripod legs as a monopod grip. When you expand the tripod legs, the base creates a 7 3/4 inches equilateral triangle and the device will stand 5 1/2 inches tall. Following the same color scheme as the outer shell, the black Kodak tripod had a yellow upper 360-degree swivel ball with a black stage and silver universal screw mount. To the side of the mount, you will find a yellow set screw and along the front, you will find a yellow rubber sticker with a red Kodak logo. Gripping the phone mount, align the male/female screw sections and twist clockwise to mount the phone holder. The swivel ball/locking screw can be postiioned according to your needs and then locked into place.
Once fully deployed, I moved onto testing the device/lenses and lighting options. One of the tradeoffs of enjoying a max/plus-sized iPhone in a Catalyst Waterproof case is the loss of the ability to use clamps/grips/mounts. Since the mount expands to a maximum of 3 1/4 inches, the 3 1/2 inches wide phone/case was simply too wide to fit into the included mount. If I removed my case, the 3 3/32 inches wide phone would just barely fit within the mount. Since I was unwilling to remove my protective case due to the increased risk of damage to my phone, I turned to my wife’s iPhone 7 to test the device further. Even with her phone inside of an Otterbox Defender Case, the rubberized grip of the mount securely held the phone in place. It is important to note that this kit will work with an iPod touch (with or without a case) but will not accommodate a tablet. We loved the ability to set the tripod and felt that the iPhone 7 and the iPod Touch 7th generation were securely held. My son used the tripod to capture a few scooter tricks but we noted that it did not seem to work as well as the bendable, multipositional tripod that he has used historically. For an on-the-go lifestyle, the kit likely would have benefited from a design similar to the GorillaPod, which can also be used as a monopod if desired. This setup would likely allow for improved shot angles and improved functionality without adding to the weight of the kit.
The 2-in-1 lens had a yellow clip that could expand to 13/16 inches wide. The Catalyst Case had a raised lip around the camera, which limited the ability of the lens to rest flush against the camera. The Otterbox Defender case also had a raised lip and a recessed camera, which limited the functionality of this kit. To test the features, we used the iPod Touch 7th generation and the lens clip. If you unscrew the ultra-wide lens, you will find the Macro lens hidden beneath it. Taking a picture with the Ultra-Wide lens added to the background, when compared to the base photo. Removing the outer lens, we were able to zoom in on smaller details. This feature may prove useful if you are trying to take some product photos of smaller objects. To enhance all of these photos, I added the included light ring. The photo ring had a 1/2 inches wide by 3 1/8 inches diameter semicircular cutout. I found that this was able to fit over the upper corner of my iPhone 11 Pro Max plus case and added a nice lighting element. With three light modes (light, medium, bright), the accessory did add a nice touch to my smartphone, to the iPhone 7, and to the iPod Touch Gen 7. I took four of the same photos of the tripod with my iPhone Pro 11 Max base camera and with each light setting.
To enhance the above photo experience, I paired the included Bluetooth Shutter with my phone. This process could not have been easier to setup. First, slide the little toggle upward and a green light will flash along the top edge of the shutter button. Navigate to Settings, to Bluetooth, and then select “Kodak Shutter” from the list. From within the native iOS photo App, you can use the little shutter to snap photos from a distance. I loved the tripod design, the coloration, and the ball/set screw design, but the mount and the lens setup would not work for my preferred phone setup. I wish that the mount was a tad more robust and that it could expand to the size of a plus-size phone plus case. I regularly take pictures of products with my smartphone and really enjoyed the light ring and the remote shutter. The tripod was passable and would get an 8.5/10 with the hope that they would consider upgrading their kit to a moldable/bendable tripod. Additionally, I would hope that they would upgrade the mount to one like the PlatyPod. Regardless, if you are a standard-sized phone user, the tripod/mount and light setup will likely work well for you. I have tested several similar kits in the past and feel that Kodak did a great job of providing the basics. With a universal phone design, some of us will miss out on the generalist design. If you are content with a phone in its au naturel state, you may gain more from this kit than someone who prefers a case. The lenses may still pose an issue, however, if your chosen phone or case has any lip/raised bezel. Lastly, at ~$70, you will need to consider what you will be getting with this setup. You can buy a tripod/mount for closer to $20-30, and an amazing Manfroto tripod with smartphone mount for about the same price. The price of this kit should be closer to $30-40 and it feels like we are paying a slight premium for the included contents. When you consider the light ring/lens kit, case, tripod/mount, it seems that each item can be purchased individually for the ~$15-20 price range. Do not misunderstand my statements. This kit is not bad, it may just be a tad overpriced for the level of gear that you will receive. I enjoyed several features of this kit. If you are looking to take your smartphone photography to the next level, consider the kit from Kodak.