LAS VEGAS - Kodak is a name synonymous with old-school photography, but the imaging company is continuing its push into modern technology. Here at CTIA, Kodak showed off the new Pixpro SL25 -- a lens-style camera that can latch onto your smartphone and, via a companion app, superpower your phone's camera. Sony's already done this with its QX line of cameras. At $300, the SL25 is cheaper than Sony's QX30 ($350), and carries slightly lower specs.
I previewed the Kodak SL25 with a demo HTC One and found it remarkably similar to the Sony QX30. The 16-megapixel Pixpro SL25 carries a tiny 1/2.3" backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, and a fixed 24mm-600mmf/3.7-6.2 lens. That's a 25x optical zoom.
In the convention center, I used the toggle on the side of the lens to zoom on an Exit sign above a door on the opposite end of the large room. At maximum zoom, the green sign filled up the frame, but it was blurry. But after a tap on the phone's screen, the camera refocused and the sign slowly became clearer in a process that looked like it was taken out of CSI.
After the photo is taken, it's either saved to the microSD card you insert, or stored temporarily in the camera's cache (which can contain a couple of images at a time, Kodak told me). To retain the picture, you'll have to download it to your phone.
The camera and smartphone connect via NFC and Bluetooth, and the QX30's rechargeable 880-mAh battery will last approximately 210 shots per charge (by CIPA standards).
Although the Sony QX30 costs $50 more, it offers a larger 30x zoom. More importantly, Sony's product is an interchangeable lens system that's compatible with Sony's 20 or so E-mount lenses. Both cameras record 1080p video, but Sony has a better 60 fps compared to the Kodak's 30 fps. The two also weigh about the same (Sony: 6.8 ounces body only; Kodak: 6.5 ounces body only).
The SL25 is compatible with iPhones, iPads and iPods running iOS 6 and up, and Android phones and tablets with version 2.3 and later (tablets need ver 3.0). You'll have to install Kodak's Pixpro app that's optimized for the SL25.
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Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.