Digital Photo Frames
The perfect gadget for sharing photos with those who do not have a computer. The Digital Photo Frame is about the size and shape of an ordinary picture frame, but contains an LCD screen, which displays multiple photos in a slideshow format. It is in effect a small computer. Many companies now produce them including big brands like Phillips, Kodak, Polaroid, Ceiva etc and there are many branded versions as well all at differing sizes, functions and prices.
The screen size and quality. The size quoted is usually the measurement of the screen diagonal, just like when you see TV sizes advertised. However some manufacturers do quote the size for the entire frame, so check if you're unsure. It would be a shame to get an 8" only to find that 4" is the actual size of the image you will see. The 7" frames have an aspect ratio of 16:9 wide which is good for watching movie clips, but if it is photographs you want to show then it is better to go for the 8" models up which have an aspect ratio of 4:3, a normal photo ratio. The quality of the display is also important and this comes down to the number of pixels being used to make up the image, the more pixels there are the more crisper the image. Typically a display will be an LCD type with a pixel ratio of 640x480 a typical size for a computer screen. Also check out it's contrast ratio, which is usually quoted like 330:1 or 500:1 the larger the first number the better the contrast quality and brightness rating, some struggle to match the brightness of a flat panel monitor. Also on the brightness front if you are looking at models in a shop be aware of the lighting conditions around you, the darker the shop the brighter the screen will look, but it won't look anything like that when you get it home.
The display options and look. The look of it is probably of less importance than how the photos display, but is a consideration ff you are looking to buy a digital photo frame you want to have it on display, so what it looks like is important as you don't want it to look at of place in its environment. Some frames offer changeable fascias or use natural materials like leather or wood. The controls should be accessible but not spoil the look and because of this many of the controls are on the back, although there are some models that have touch sensitive controls built into the front. The majority of the frames, especially those with all the extras in run of the mains electricity and have a cord and plug on them, so if you are thinking of buying a larger one to hang on the wall take this into consideration, do you have an electric socket near where you want to hang it. On the other hand the smaller models that do run off internal batteries only last a couple of hours before you need to recharge them.
How the images will display is also important. Most of the frames on the market require the images in JPEG format, which means if you have taken the images in another format you will need to create a specific set of images to display. The images are usually read straight off an SD card although some models do have built in memory storage. Try and find out what the frame will do with a picture that has been cropped or is not the same proportions as the display, for example most frames will resize a panoramic photo to fit by merely squashing and cropping to fit the view of the frame. Most frames have a slide show option, where you can vary the time the photo stays up and choose transition styles from one photo to the next.
Other Facilities. There are some frames on the market that have a lot more facilities built in such as MP3 players, built in memory for storage of photos, memory card slots which typically take SD cards, but also other formats can be supported such as MMC, XD, CompactFlash and Memory sticks. Some have internal clocks so you can set which times of day they turn on and off. Whilst there are some that support wireless technology, so that you can send photos to them remotely either via its Wi-Fi connection or via a Bluetooth USB dongle that acts as a transmitter from your laptop, PC or mobile phone to the frame. The next generation frames will add features such as the ability to play recorded sounds with each picture, ability to control it from the web and also the ability to print out images either on a special printer or remotely, one US company (Smartparts Inc) has already launched, at the beginning of this year, an 8" model with a 800 x 600 resolution screen with it's own inbuilt printer that can give you 300dpi 4x6 prints, retailing at $279 (around £140).
The Price. Prices vary enormously from manufacturer, size, quality, and facilities. Typically they start at around £37 up to £300.
There are now many companies in the UK marketplace now offering digital photo frames. In fact it seems to have taken off over the 2007 Christmas period that you can now get models from photographic retailers, high street shops, internet shops, eBay and just about any where. The smaller screen sizes below 9" are in a multitude of places, however the larger models 10"+ are about it just takes a while to track them down, especially if you want to place limits on the screen quality you want. For our purposes we have chosen models to have at least a 10" screen or above and has at least a 800 x 600 resolution, and takes images off an SD or CompactFlash card. It is not possible to list all their facilities in a guide, and apart from the parameters we have set out their other facilities have not been taken into account. At this larger end it has been more difficult to find the same model across different suppliers.
Disclaimer: Prices were extracted off the suppliers websites at the end of March 2008, prices will/may change over time and we will try to update them from time to time.
* also at www.shop.bt.com priced at £137.27
I also came across www.camerabox.co.uk who had a Mutlimedia 15" Frame at £139.99
If you are aware of any UK dealers, mail order or otherwise, that offer better prices then please let us know.
Disclaimer: Prices were extracted off the suppliers websites at the end of March 2008, prices will/may change over time and we will try to update them from time to time. By mentioning the company or website here we are not endorsing or recommending them, they are merely shown as a sample of what can be found. You are reminded that as with all internet purchases that you take care to check out who you are dealing with prior to purchase and we are not liable for any problems you may have. We have made sure they are all UK based.