Lost amidst the myriad product announcements earlier this week was a press release sent out by JK Imaging about its upcoming lineup of Kodak-branded digital cameras. Kodak is a familiar name, but who’s JK Imaging? A Los Angeles-based, privately held company, JK Imaging entered into a multi-year agreement with Kodak back in January to license its name for use on a variety of products, not just digital cameras.
The timing is interesting as Kodak is preparing to exit bankruptcy. Last week it won approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan for its exit plan which will cut $4.1 billion of debt. It will also see Kodak move away from the consumer and business sectors to concentrate on products for commercial clients, such as creating film for cinema and developing new touchscreen technology for smartphones and tablets. The company, once 47,000 strong, will be left with 8,500 employees. Even before this plan, Kodak had already ceased digital camera production and started severing it consumer arm.
Despite its transition, the Kodak name will live on in consumer products via JK Imaging, at least in the near future. The Kodak Pixpro cameras, as they’ll be known, will consist of budget megazooms (bridge cameras), compact point-and-shoots, and a waterproof camcorder; there’s rumor that a Micro Four-Thirds camera, called the S1, is in the works. The flagship Astro AZ520, for example, has a 52x optical zoom with a 24mm wide-angle lens, priced at $300 – all the cameras cost less than $350, with the AZ522 (52x zoom, CMOS sensor, and electronic viewfinder) being the most expensive.
From what we can gather, none of these cameras will incorporate any of Kodak’s digital imaging technology, nor will there be lenses from Schneider Kreuznach that used to show up on “old” Kodak digital cameras. The megazooms bear a resemblance to the GE X600 we reviewed last March, another licensed product; we wouldn’t be surprised if all these licensed cameras were made by the same manufacturer (if so, we can also guess what kind of performance these new Kodak cameras will deliver). Hit the press release for full list of products.
There’s no mention of when and where the Kodak Pixpro cameras will be available, but according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Home Shopping Network had already started selling the Astro AZ361 this past April. Besides HSN, based on price, the cameras will most likely be sold in places like Walmart.
It’s sad Kodak is no longer the company it used to be. For a company that invented the digital camera, it’s ironic that a third-party budget camera maker would be making products using its name. Here’s hoping Kodak will find its foothold and success in the future.