Hands-on with the Kodak PixPro S-1 Micro Four Thirds camera and lenses

The Kodak PixPro S-1 is the first Micro Four Thirds camera to bear the Kodak brand but will it ever go on sale outside of Asia?

We've at last had a chance to see the long-awaited Kodak PixPro Micro Four Thirds camera, along with three similarly branded lenses. Available in white or black, the camera is called the S-1 and features a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor of unknown provenance, a 920K dot up/down tilting LCD screen, a sensor-shift image stabiliser and 5 frames per second sequential shooting. It also sports Wi-Fi connectivity with iOS and Android app support and will be available with a 12-45mm f/3.5-6.3 (24-90mm equivalent) standard zoom sporting aspheric optics. A second Micro Four Thirds lens is a 42.5-160mm f/3.9-5.9 (85-320mm equivalent). The third lens, a 400mm all-manual telephoto called the SF400 is actually the front end of a Kodak PixPro spotting scope with a bundled Micro Four Thirds adapter.

The styling of the S-1 is attractive and rather distinctive with the hot-shoe raised up from the otherwise flat top-plate. The S-1 body is metal rather than plastic. However, there is no electronic viewfinder or EVF option and the tilting screen is not touch-sensitive. A mini flip-up flash that fits the standard hot-shoe is bundled. Neither the Olympus Accessory Port nor Panasonic Lumix proprietary under-hot-shoe port are supported. Basically, the S-1 is an Olympus Pen/Lumix GF category compact Micro Four Thirds camera and is likely to be competitively priced.

The 12-45mm f/3.5-6.3 Aspheric ED standard zoom lens is fashionably long and echoes the Olympus m.Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3. Unlike that lens the 12-45 extends when zoomed although it does stow in its shortest form like the m.Zuiko 14-42mm kit zooms.

However, JK Imaging, the US-based company that has licensed the Kodak brand for cameras and some other imaging product lines, is candid about its marketing and distribution model and at this stage that business strategy makes it unlikely that we'll see the S-1 on store shelves in Europe or the US. JK Imaging only does business with retailer who will commit to quite large stock orders. It has found success in parts of Europe with its keenly priced compact and bridge camera models but none of its current retail partners are interested in compact system cameras. Meanwhile, specialist camera retailers more experienced with system cameras are unlikely to be able to order enough quantities in Europe and the US.

There is a hint of hope, however. JK Imaging is setting up its own online shop and the S-1, lenses and accessories might be made available via this later in the year. In the mean time JK Imaging is optimistic that the S-1 will prove hit in Asian markets, where mirrorless system cameras already out-sell DSLRs.

If you are wondering who makes the S-1 and lenses, it's a company you may never have heard of - Asia Optical - although there is a good chance its products live inside mobile phones and other cameras as well as DVD players you may have already used. Asia Optical is a major camera and optics industry OEM manufacturer headquartered in Taiwan and it makes lens glass, for example, from basic materials as well as grinding and polishing the optical elements.

Here's the S-1 fitted with my own m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

Here are a few more pictures of the S-1 and accompanying lenses:

Here's a black S-1 sporting the SF400 400mm spotting scope lens.

Both zooms have plastic lens mounts.

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