Framed. Everybody and everything that gets clicked by a digital camera wants to get framed. You could get a computer printout of your picture and display it in a fancy photo frame. But you’ll inevitably have two problems staring back at you. Colour printouts never look as crisp and colourful as the photos on your computer monitor. And with one photo framed, you’ve still got thousands more pouring out of your camera and computer.
Digital photography offers quite a few, and equally awkward, alternatives. You could run a slide show on that tiny LCD back screen of your digital camera until the battery runs out. Or, you could lug your laptop around to present your photo gallery. For a grander impression, you could hook it up to a TV at home. But presentations last for just a few minutes. Emailing and web-publishing your photos only help you reach out to your net-savvy colleagues. Frustrated for a more elegant solution, you may even wish you could rip apart your laptop so you could nail the LCD monitor to the wall.
Well, you’re in luck. A digital photo frame is an LCD monitor inside a wooden or other faceplate, so it may easily blend in with your interiors. A digital photo frame (DPF) usually has a contrast ratio much higher than that of a laptop screen.
DPFs bring you instant gratification. Thankfully, you may never need computers to use one. Just pull the memory card out from your digital camera, stick it into one of the ports of a DPF, and the frame will automatically run a slide show of all your photos. Yes, that’s correct. The digital photo frame can display a sequence of photos, and not just one static image. You could have it automatically change the photo every morning, or every few minutes, complete with transition effects such as fade or dissolve. You could display a mosaic of several photos as it automatically resizes the images to fit. You can embed your pictures into the built-in megabytes of storage.
Will it work?
You may, however, find a few things in your new digital lifestyle require a rethink. If you keep the frame switched on all the time, you may have a bedroom or an office cubicle glowing eerily in the dark. Switch it off, and you wake up to a wall or a desk with a black, empty frame. It does take a few seconds to boot and run your slide show, especially if you load it to the brim. If you constantly display the same image, you may “burn-in” the LCD screen. Hence, it is safer to run a slide show.
Then, there’s the power cable problem. How do you hide the power cable and the small brick-sized power adaptor, all in black, when most walls are whitish or light in colour? All DPFs with an embedded battery need the power adaptor for recharging.
A thousand clicks
Nevertheless, the DPF is a novel device and more than 0.22 million units have sold from January to April of 2007, according to the NPD Group’s point-of-sale data. This market research firm tracked 12 brands last year, and 27 this year. According to it, the top five brands are Westinghouse, Philips, Pandigital, Mustek and Kodak. DPFs come in a range of sizes from 5” to 15” of diagonal viewing area.
A DPF may also have its special uses in an office reception or a showroom, or for a company’s trade shows. Almost all DPFs come with MP3 playback. So, you can run a commentary or background music to your favourite collection of photos. Inevitably, on a few models, you can even play short video clips stored in AVI, MPEG1 or MPEG4 formats.
Some high-end models come with wireless connectivity. Using your computer, you can wirelessly transmit images to a DPF, or update sets of images to a network of DPFs, over a 802.11 network. The possibilities are endless. Now, if only they’d figure out how to hammer a nail in the wall digitally, life would be so simple.
The built-in memory can store up to 150 images. Photos appear crisp with professional-quality colour reproduction and sharpness. You can apply sepia tints and black-and-white effects to photos. An automatic sensor monitors for landscape or portrait mode and adjusts the displayed photos accordingly. A timer function allows you to set up auto on/off and event reminders with a snooze option. It offers a USB port and has two inbuilt card-reader ports to handle a large variety of memory cards.
Price: $249.99 (about Rs10,000)
Online:www.store.philips.com. Scroll down to “Home & Health” and click on “Photo Frames”.
Kodak EasyShare EX1011
Kodak Color Science brings vibrant colours and enhanced sharpness on a 10” diagonal screen. A handy remote allows you to control all its operations, a 128MB internal storage tanks up on your images, and it comes with USB as well as wireless connectivity to your PC. It can directly connect and print an image to a PictBridge-enabled printer, thereby bypassing any need for a computer.
Price: $279.95 (about Rs11,000)
Online:www.kodak.com. Browse to “Consumer Products” “Digital Cameras”, and then click on “Digital Picture Frames”.
DigitalSpectrum MemoryFrame MF8104
This ships with full support for Windows Vista. Stream photos from popular websites such as Flickr or others, using wireless connectivity features. It has a 10.4” active-matrix display with 256MB internal space and connects to a slew of memory cards, plus the usual USB port. Comes with a remote control and built-in stereo speakers. Check out the website http://www.dsicentral.com/ for a range of frames.
Price: $349.99 (about Rs14,000)
An entry-level model, this unit comes with 128MB internal memory. Apart from the usual slide shows, Westinghouse also offers its MosaicView technology, so users can display multiple images simultaneously. For example, one frame can highlight several images from a recent vacation or a product launch. The company also offers a larger DPF at 14.1”. Browse for other models at http://www.westinghousedigital.com/
Price: $249 (about Rs10,000)
Online:http://www.westinghousedigital.com/ The website’s shopping engine appears broken, so order from cnet.com, jr.com, shopping.yahoo.com and several more.
A stunning contrast ratio of 500:1, with a large viewing angle of 178 degrees, ensures your images look crisp and sharp from anywhere in the room. The slim unit packs in a 6-in-1 card reader, offers 256MB internal space and comes with a remote control so you can cue through your photos, music and video. The remote securely fits into the back of the panel for safe keeping. The unit retails from several online stores, such as Amazon and shopper.cnet.com.
Price: $249.99 (about Rs10,000)
Online: www.pandigital.net. Browse several dozen other shopper sites, too.
For the highly budget-conscious, the Coby offers a fairly basic, entry-level 10” diagonal DPF. According to various reviews, it seems it has no usable internal storage space and relies on you to provide your memory card. It comes with two frame finishes, a remote control and, when in idle mode, runs its own screensaver. It plays back MP3, but it’s internal speakers offer tinny sound.
Price: $179.99 (about Rs7,000)
Online:www.cobyusa.com. The site offers no shopping-cart, so find deals at Cnet, Amazon, eBay and via web search engines.
For more digital frames, check out http://www.photographyreview.com/cat/digital-gear/digital-accessories/digital-picture-frame/PLS_5807crx.aspx, or use your favourite web-search engine to discover more.
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