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Kodak is arguably the most famous brand name of all in photography, at least in the Western world. But the company responsible for such iconic products as the Box Brownie and Kodachrome (and even the world's first digital camera in 1975) ultimately failed to manage the transition from film to digital, and ended up exiting the consumer imaging business altogether in 2013. The name itself has been licensed by JK Imaging Ltd, which has been quietly selling compact cameras under the Kodak brand for the past year or so, mainly long-range superzooms. But now it's got more ambitious, and has introduced its first interchangeable-lens camera: the Micro Four Thirds Pixpro S-1.

The S-1 is an entry-level model that's designed to attract budding photographers who are buying their first system camera. This places it in essentially the same bracket as cameras like the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6, which means it has some pretty strong competition. It follows a very similar design template, too, with a relatively compact, flat-body design and a tilting rear screen. There's no flash built-in, but the company supplies a small unit that slides on to the hot shoe and is charged from the camera. One notable feature is that, like the Olympus PENs, it features in-body image stabilization.

Kodak Pixpro S-1 key features:

  • 16MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor
  • ISO 200-12800 + Auto
  • 3.0" 920k dot 4:3 tilting LCD (no touchscreen)
  • Approx 5 fps continuous shooting (JPEG only)
  • 1920 x 1080 Full HD movie recording at 30 fps; built-in stereo microphones
  • In-body sensor shift image stabilization
  • DNG format Raw file recording
  • Three customizable function buttons
  • Built-in Wi-Fi for easy image sharing, and remote control by smartphone or tablet
  • Micro Four Thirds lens mount
  • 12-45mm f/3.5-6.3 and 42.5-160mm f/3.9-5.9 lenses; 400mm F6.7 'Fieldscope' lens
  • Available in black or white (each with matching lenses)
  • USB battery charging (no external charger included)

The S-1's headline spec sheet is perfectly competent, if not obviously exciting. It has a 16MP Four Thirds sensor with an ISO 200-12800 sensitivity range, and can record Full HD movies at 30fps. Like most new cameras these days it includes built-in Wi-Fi, offering both remote control from a smartphone or tablet, and easy image transfer to the connected device for sharing. Delve a little deeper, though, and the S-1 includes a few interesting-looking features that you might not necessarily expect from a camera at this level:

  • 360° 'scan panorama'
  • Intervalometer for time-lapse shooting
  • In-camera Full HD time lapse movie recording
  • High Dynamic Range shooting (JPEG only, 2 levels)
  • Kodak film emulation 'Picture Effects' (Ektachrome, Kodachrome, Kodacolor)

At the moment we don't have a definitive price, but we're led to believe that the S-1 will be very competitive with its most obvious rivals. If it manages to deliver a solid feature set at a tempting price point, then it might attract existing Micro Four Thirds looking for a backup camera, as well as new users.

Lenses and accessories

Here's the Pixpro S-1 with its little hotshoe-mounted P10 flash unit, and the SZ ED 12-45mm f/3.5-6.3 AF zoom mounted. The SZ ED 42.5-160mm f/3.9-5.9 AF telezoom is at the right, with the SL 400mm F6.7 Fieldscope lens at the back.

The 12-45mm gives a 24-90mm equivalent angle of view, which is unusually wide-ranging for a 'kit' zoom. It's relatively large though; despite having a retracting design, it's about 63mm / 2.5" long when packed. This looks like a possible disadvantage when considering the current fashion for compact kit zooms such as the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ, Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 OIS, or Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ; it certainly makes the camera/lens combination that bit less portable.

The telezoom offers an 85-320mm equivalent range, and like the 12-45mm, it uses a near-silent internal focus mechanism. Both lenses are decidedly lightweight (~170g for the 12-45mm, and ~200g for the 42.5-160mm), with extensive use of plastics in their construction, including the mounts. This does mean that the camera and twin-lens kit is easy to carry around all day without stressing your shoulder.

The 400mm F6.7 is something of an oddity. It's a simple fixed-aperture manual focus design, and focuses down to about 9m/ 30 ft. It has a rotating tripod collar, reflecting the fact that at 800mm equivalent, it's not very practical to shoot hand-held (merely aiming it accurately is a trial). Users on a very tight budget may appreciate the chance to experiment with it, but on the whole it offers more novelty value than genuine photographic usefulness.

Micro Four Thirds lens system compatibility

The S-1 uses a standard Micro Four Thirds mount, which means that it's fully compatible with a wide range of existing lenses from Olympus and Panasonic, along with third-party manufacturers such as Sigma and Samyang. In the picture above it has the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH mounted, with the Samyang 7.5mm F3.5 UMC Fisheye MFT and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 alongside. We've used all of these lenses on the S-1, along with other Olympus and Panasonic optics, and it works just fine.

This ability to work with probably the best-developed of all of the mirrorless lens systems is a serious bonus - almost any kind of optic imaginable is already available for the camera (click here for a list), including some very nice, and relatively inexpensive fast primes. Note though that the Micro Four Thirds standard doesn't extend beyond the lenses; the S-1 isn't compatible with other accessories from Olympus or Panasonic, including (perhaps surprisingly) their flash system.

Color options and pricing

JK Imaging tells us that the Pixpro S-1 will be available in white or black, either body-only or in a twin-lens kit. Pricing is still to be confirmed, but should be very competitive with similarly-specified entry-level mirrorless cameras.