This review is about the Kodak S1100XL, a Chinon 3001 with a different badge. If you are a point & shoot enthusiast, you will likely know that rebranding has been a common thing in analog compact cameras. This is usually the case with Rolleis which were often rebranded Samsungs or Leicas which were Minolta at their heart. And of course everyone’s beloved classic: the Chinon Auto 3001 is no exception to rebranding. If you didn’t know, the Chinon 3001 is a well-known camera for its excellent performance as well as being the first compact camera to employ multi-beam focusing.
The Chinon 3001’s distant relative: the Kodak S1100XL, born 2 years later yet still carried a hefty price at its release. At first glance, both look like 2 different cameras if you just judge them by their appearance. But if you take a closer look, you will notice that both of them carry an identical specs sheet and the same number of control options. It appears that Kodak liked to spend a bit more effort on rebranding a camera than Rollei and Leica whose cameras look like they were more obviously copies.
All told, the Kodak S1100XL is pretty much the Chinon 3001 in a different shell. Though I have to give Kodak credit for giving their rebranded cameras a signature style for brand recognition. And that cosmetic feature is the flip-up flash, which is a staple among Kodak’s lines of camera. You can often tell a Kodak camera apart from its competitors by the iconic flip up flash alone – it’s a look that you don’t see from any other camera manufacturer.
Besides making the camera stand out, the flip-up flash does come with some advantages. The flap not only protects the lens assembly, but also acts as a handy power switch that is quick to operate. One of the biggest advantages of the flap is its ability to naturally reduce red-eyes in flash photography, since the flash is far apart from the lens. This feature is especially relevant to the Kodak S1100XL since it lacks a red-eyes reduction mode, which is also not present on the Chinon 3001. There’s one disadvantage to this flip-up design, if you’re wearing a baseball cap the flash will bump into the cap’s peak… though I suppose this could be easily resolved by turning your cap around or just loosening it up a bit…
The control options on both cameras are the same, which are limited to: fill flash, flash override, self timer, center spot focus and midroll rewind. The viewfinder on the Kodak S1100XL is big and bright with guidelines for framing. It also displays statuses such as flash charging/ ready, focus locked and a close up indicator.
The Kodak S1100XL has a very nice built quality to it, the buttons are responsive and the plastic is sturdy. Its size is almost the same as the Chinon 3001. I’ll skip on technical details since there’s already a 35mmc review on the Chinon Auto 3001 on this regard. Since both of the cameras have the same specs, what is said about the Chinon 3001 can be apply to the Kodak S1100XL as well.
About the lens of the Kodak S1100XL, it’s the exact same one that’s presented on the Chinon Auto 3001. It’s moderately contrasty but still preserves shadow and highlight. The lens is sharp and performs well in dim light thanks to the big aperture of f2.8. All of the images below were shot with Kodak Ultramax 400, to give you a sense of the lenses image quality.
Overall, using the Kodak S1100XL was an delightful experience. It’s a great alternative to the Chinon Auto 3001 as it’s a tad newer, less known and cheaper without any compromises. I particularly appreciate the folding flash design, it reminds me a lot of the ever popular Polaroid 600 folding cameras. This approachable design won’t scare off people. Because of that I think everyone will be happy to be photographed by this strange looking camera.