Saturday, May 10, 2008

Digital Picture Frames, Frugality and Photography

Sign up for a free subscription to The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY NEWSLETTER if you want in-depth reviews of photography products, special deals and occasional insights into the art of photography. Here are some excerpts from the May 9, 2008 (Volume 10, Number 10) review of a digital photo frame:
Whenever we have a Pandigital frame here for review, they're an instant hit with visitors...

For the last few weeks we've had a $170 8-inch PanTouch frame here, which is available now at Sears and Wal-Mart. It features a backlit LED screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio (common to digicams and preferred for portraits), 512-MB of internal memory to hold about 3,200 800x600-pixel images (if resized to the frame's dimensions)...

USEFUL FEATURES

The PanTouch series of frames features one big advance over previous Pandigital frames: a patent-pending touch sensor...

The touch controls are designed to substitute for most of the remote control functions, which are disabled when the touch controls are active. After about three seconds of inactivity, the touch control icons fade away. You can activate the touch controls any time just by touching the top right corner of the mat, which is the Home button...

We particularly applauded the inclusion of programmable on/off times (and hence a clock). The frame also includes calendar and alarm clock functions. Calendar mode not only displays the month but runs a slide show, too.
The frame can play mp3-encoded but not iTunes-compatible music (with or without images) through its built-in stereo speakers or its audio-out port to your speaker system. And it can play video you take with your camera, too. As long as it takes AVI or MPEG movies...

The frame can resize and compress images as they are copied to it so you can store more photos in the frame's 512-MB available memory...

If you've got a WiFi adapter, you can also connect the frame to your wireless home network to tap into Picasa, specifically...

DIRTY SECRETS

Like any other digital frame, the PanTouch series suffers from a few issues common to the species.

For one thing, these things just don't show 24-bit (full) color for some reason. They're all 16-bit. Thousands, not millions, of colors...

Then there's the problem of framed art in general. You have a print you love, you frame it and hang it. And it sits unaltered on the wall ready to engage your interest whenever you look its way. It's passive but constant...

A digital frame, however, has an On/Off switch. But why would you leave it on? And that switch, of course, leads to a power supply, which is actually a power brick plugged into a wall socket. So you have this ugly cord to conceal. And why are they all black when so many walls are white?

A digital frame also has a number of viewing modes. It can certainly display a single image just like your framed print. But will that burn that image into the LCD?

And it can run a slide show of whatever images it finds either in its internal memory, an inserted memory card or even some online gallery. But how do you know what you've missed? Do you have to watch it like a television?

In fact, it's easier to think of a digital frame as a television than a frame. You'd never frame a portrait in a horizontal frame with big black bars inside the mat on the left and right sides. But you'd put up with that on a television.

And that is pretty much what Ron Glaz, IDC director of Digital Imagine Solutions and Services, described as the preferred way to view images...

Citing the big challenge as stimulating users "to release photos from the PC," he acknowledged that digital frames are a popular and inexpensive way to view your growing image collection...Card slots and battery power (to hide that cord) were the top deal makers...

If you don't refresh content on the frame, it gets old quickly. That's where the home network and HDTV displays come in. With the network connection cooking, updating content isn't a big deal. Ask anyone with an Apple TV...

But while you're waiting for that home network to be built, these little frames sure are a crowd pleaser...
Near the end of the newsletter are some reflections on the Lee Friedlander retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the art of Jackson Pollock.
Painting is always a reduction of the complexity we find in nature. Using a lot of color masks that reduction, hinting at the complexity of nature as the eye tries to find a pattern to makes sense of the image.

The problem in photography, which begins with the complexity found in the scene, is a different one. It's the generous art. Its practitioner profits from practicing frugality.
Frugal Ben says:

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