phone camera photography

📷 | sean dubois

Is it just too late for the Kodak Ektra?

For years, people have compromised with the quality of the camera on their smartphones. It was just fact that your phone’s camera was never going to be as good as your DSLR – we knew it and we accepted it.

It was here that Kodak believed that they identified a gap in the market that they were positioned extremely well to fill. A brand known for their cameras has developed a phone with an extra ordinary 21-megapixel camera. Kodak has teamed up with Bullitt, a manufacturer specialising in building unconventional handsets. It’s a beautiful looking smartphone, sleek black with the back looking much like a camera. But is it’s good looks enough to make sales?

Too much, a little too late?

Kodak’s attempt to disrupt the smartphone industry may have come far too late. The latest iPhone 7 has a 12-megapixel camera which takes pretty good quality photos, and a decent selfie or two, if I do say so myself! In fact, I successfully used my iPhone 6s to document my recent holiday to Japan. During a day trip to Hiroshima, I accidentally left my camera in the hotel and I was beyond disappointed; I was only going to have crappy photos to show! But what I got was beautiful, high quality images. Fancy that. See my instagram for more images @amych_w.

Many others have said the same thing: “who needs a camera when you have your phone?” This same sentiment could be said about Kodak Ektra. Who needs a new smartphone with a new camera when their existing smartphone already produces decent photos?

At face value, this attempted disruption makes sense. People wanted a better camera, but that was a few years ago. What we’ve got from Apple, Samsung, HTC and the likes is good enough, so why would we as customers change?

Know your customer

This is the perfect example of being blinded by the need to innovate. As entrepreneurs, we need to step back and understand the gap in the market that our product is addressing, and who the product is targeted at. Most importantly, the need for the product must exist.

Let’s consider who Kodak might believe their target market is, and whether the need is there for a new smartphone:

  • Aspiring photographers: The ones who might want to get into photography but don’t want to commit to the expenses of a DSLR, however the smartphone would set someone back $715AUD. Not a cheap investment.
  • Photography addicts: The ones who lug their DSLR (as bloody heavy as it might be) everywhere and find opportune moments to capture beauty in everyday life. Well, a 21-megapixel camera compared to their 120-megapixel DSLR seems a bit of a downgrade.
  • People who want a better camera: The camera on our smartphone won’t be as good as a digital camera but does it need to be? Most people get high quality photos with their existing camera, so why would they change from their norm to the Ektra?

Research by Mao (2016) has shown that people would rather something that allows them to achieve maximum gains across all attributes, as opposed to relying on a single significant attribute (i.e. a better quality camera in Kodak’s case). People are more likely to compromise for things that inadvertently meet all their needs, as opposed to a sole factor. We settle because we would rather something that kind of meets all our needs.

All innovation should be celebrated, it takes guts to do something different, but I think Kodak’s desperation to reinvent themselves has blinded them. They forgot who they were trying to target, what they were addressing, and whether people actually needed a better camera on their phone. I’d be happy to be proven wrong about the success of the Ektra but I guess we’ll just have to wait until December to see…