Friday, May 22, 2009

Digital frames

I'm always surprised by the number of people who have digital cameras and take tons of digital photos, and have no way of displaying them. The pictures sit buried on their computer hard drives and are only glanced at periodically. Just like all of us who used to shoot 35mm slides and have boxes of them in our closets that rarely see the light of day because it's just inconvenient to take them out, set up the screen and projector, etc.

Part of the fun of digital photography is the concept of freeing yourself from the physical mediums of prints, slides, photo albums, etc, and enjoying your photos easily every day whether they're on your computer screen, emailed to people, displayed on the web, or......displayed in your house in digital photo frames!

I've kept an eye on the digital frame market for about six years, but back then they were much too expensive to justify purchasing. Somewhere around $450 for a good one. Around 2006 they took a big drop in price and the quality jumped way up. In 2008, that happened again. In 2009, you can now buy a great quality large (e.g., 10" or 15") digital frame for under $200, and some have even come down to under $150.

Don't buy a cheap/bargain frame for $50. You most likely won't be happy with the quality of the display and there will be few color controls on it.

The best quality frames from Sony, Kodak, Pandigital and others all have some amount of built-in memory and also have built-in multi-card readers so that you can put many thousands of pictures on a memory card and put the card in the frame to randomly display the photos. The number of photos is typically only limited by the size of the memory card that you put in the frame.

Most good frames have fairly extensive color and tone controls so you can get the look you want on the screen, and they usually come with touch screens and/or remote controls as well.

I'm not sure why, but many frame manufacturers have started making their frames in the 16:9 format that's used for wide screen televisions. They're probably doing it to catch the "wide screen marketing craze" that's sweeping the TV retail business. The reality is that digital cameras typically don't pictures in 16:9 wide screen format, so when you display them on a 16:9 digital frame they will be cropped on the top and bottom. In my opinion, this is very silly....but I guess people are buying them anyway.

Instead, what you want to get is a 4:3 aspect ratio frame. This will display your photos in their native size without cropping, which is what you want.

My favorite frame manufacturer is Pandigital. From my experience, their products are well made, reliable, full of useful features, and most importantly the screen quality is great. Pandigital makes both 16:9 and 4:3 ratio frames, and as I mentioned above, I would get the 4:3 format. One of their most popular frames is this 10.4" 4:3 format frame.

The next biggest thing to hit digital frames in a big way will be wireless capability. Kodak currently makes some frames with wireless, but it's not implemented very well. When a company like Sony or Pandigital does wireless effectively in their frames it will eliminate the need to use memory cards with the frames. You'll be able to stream photos easily and reliably right from your computer to the frame. Fantastic! It should be here within a few months...

Once you get yourself a nice frame, load it up with a ton of your pictures, set the auto-play feature to automatically rotate through your photos, and watch your terrific memories rolling by throughout the day. You'll really enjoy it!

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