Digital photo frames have taken off in New Zealand this year. I joined the trend, buying one for Liz this Xmas. She’s always been intrigued by slide shows I’ve set up as screen savers on her laptop, but as she only uses her computer about once a week, she doesn’t get to see the photos very often. Now she can see them any old time.
I had an interesting time choosing a frame, combining shop visits with lots of Internet research. Initially I was determined that the screen proportions should be 4:3, which happens to be the proportion for pictures taken by nearly all digital cameras, including mine. I didn’t want less than 800×600 pixels. More pixels would have been better, but too expensive. Prices will drop later on.
I had pretty much decided on an 800×600 Philips unit, but two days before Xmas it had sold out in the shops I went to. Best bang for buck seemed to be a Dick Smith Electronics house brand unit that came from an OEM factory in China.
It did a lot: photo slide shows, MP3 music, video, clock/calendar and even displays of text files on the screen. The picture quality was nothing brilliant, but watchable. The highlights had a tendency to blow out. But it gave us a lot of fun and it was interesting to pass the photo frame any time day or night and see our past lives being revealed among the 4000 plus pix I had cut down to 800 pixels wide and loaded onto an SD card.
I did the cut-downs reasonably quickly using batch mode on that great free graphics utility, IrfanView.
There were problems though: the little remote controller often didn’t work. There was no picture shuffle mode. I particularly wanted this, because as well as putting photos into subject folders, I had created an ‘everything’ folder that contained 40 years of our time together plus older photos from both our families. That turned out to be hopeless without a shuffle mode because it always reverted to the first folder and played everything in the same order. And as mentioned, the picture quality was only so-so.
But it was a lot better than no digital picture frame, and we would have kept it. Then our son Guy and his wife Alex turned up a couple of days later with their Xmas presents. Including a…digital photo frame! Fortunately it also came from Dick Smith Electronics, and this morning I had the bright idea of going back to that shop to see if I could trade in both units in for something better. We’re very happy with the result.
We now have a JCMatthew 10 inch model that’s 1024×600 pixels. Longer than the Dick Smith unit, but the same depth. While it means that most photos are displayed with a black strip on both sides, there were no better options left in the store. Most of the digital photo frame stock had ended up under other people’s Xmas trees. I did find the Philips model I wanted originally in a Dick Smith branch in Lower Hutt, but when I checked it out I found it had no remote controller, which we considered essential. You don’t want to scrabble around behind the frame and navigate with buttons.
The JCMatthew unit is housed in an imitation old-fashioned picture frame and the photo display quality is exceptionally good – far better than its predecessor. And it has a shuffle mode – hooray! It also does music, videos and time/date. One considerable deficiency is that while you can navigate to an individual folder and manually scroll through the contents, it won’t do a slide show from just that folder. It always reverts to the first folder on the SD card and moves forward from there. So now we have it shuffling through all the photos on the card. Later I may set up separate media, each containing a broad subject area. We could have separate plug-in SD cards, but four separate media sources are on the unit already: it has 256Mb of onboard memory and can take SD and CF cards plus USB flash drives.
There are plenty more photos to be added to the display – we’ll probably end up with at least 5000, with more to come.
All in all, a useful and pleasurable addition to our home technology.