Digital photo frames

Introduction

Digital photo frameRunning out of shelf space and fed up with buying an endless amount of cartridge ink, as you spend ages cutting out your favourite photographs from the printer? Why not take the plunge into the exciting new world of digital photo frames? Put away the scissors and save pennies on expensive colour ink, while you sit back and re-live those special memories with your family and friends.

Digital photo frames have been a tremendous hit with consumers in recent years, coinciding with an explosion in 21st century digital photography. Cameras have become smaller, lighter and more capable of taking higher resolution photographs than ever before. It is no surprise to see people taking advantage of this revolutionised household gadget while changing the way we view our snaps.

A digital photo frame allows you to transfer digital photos directly across from your digital camera via a memory expansion card slot or memory card reader. Without the need for downloading or uploading them onto a computer, you do not need to be a tech-savvy person to work one of these.

Some frames, like Sony digital photo frames, are so sophisticated that they can be managed and updated remotely. They can also display photographs in the traditional slide-show format, accompanying your pics with professional looking transitional effects, such as blurring and fading with sound effects played via speakers on the frame.

Why not replace that old, dusty family portrait on your work desk with a brand new digital photo frame - and instead, enjoy an endless slide-show of family pictures to keep your mind refreshed throughout the day.

Digital photo frames are much more versatile than traditional static picture frames. Rather than showing just one photograph, a digital photo frame can store hundreds of files often with eye-catching transitions between images. Choosing a digital photo frame is the easiest decision you could make, yet finding the correct digital photo frame for your needs is the hardest part of the process. Most products will have a user review for you to read so make sure you do your homework before making your purchase.

Size, resolution and power

When browsing the market for a digital photo frame, you need to consider what size of digital photo frame and screen size you want before splashing the cash. Advances in LCD - Liquid Crystal Display technology - now means digital photo frames can be created in sizes as small as 1.5 inches (such as a keychain) up to whopping 15-20 inch digital photo frames - these products really do come in all shapes and sizes. The most popular digital photo frame, however, is about 7 inches, fitting perfectly on a coffee table or desk.

The resolution of the digital photo frame's display (the number of individual pixels it contains) is what determines the picture quality and sharpness of your images. A typical 7 inch digital photo frame, for example, is able to hold a resolution of 720 pixels by 480 pixels, while the largest digital photo frames store a staggering 1600 pixels by 1200 pixels.

You should make your choice of resolution based on what you are likely to be using the digital photo frame for - you are obviously paying slightly more money with higher resolution. A top-of-the-range example is Sony's DPF-XR100 digital photo frame, which contains 2GB of internal memory and a display resolution of 1024 x 600 in the 10 inch model, enabling it to hold up to 4000 photographs. With more memory fuelling your digital photo frame, there is plenty of room to share a lifetime of special moments.

Other characteristics of the screen to consider include the digital photo frame's aspect ratio - the ratio of width to height. So why not choose a widescreen digital photo frame with a 16:9 aspect ratio, like a widescreen television, or a 4:3 aspect ratio like a traditional television. Photographs taken in a 16:9 mode can be correctly displayed without any distortion.

You might also want to look for a digital photo frame with a high contrast ratio, at least 300:1, in order to guarantee rich, deep, black levels rather than muddy greys. Don't overlook wider viewing angles in both the vertical and horizontal planes, so the screen can be viewed from as many different positions as possible.

Sony digital photo frames, for example, use an extra wide viewing angle to guarantee great views from anywhere in the room and an ultra-high resolution LCD to display photographs in stunning detail. With 'TruBlack' technology assuring the highest contrast is met with virtually no screen reflection, Sony is able to produce some of the best-ever image quality on the market.

In terms of power, many portable digital photo frames offer the option of running the frame from mains electricity via an AC adaptor or from rechargeable batteries, which is perhaps the most flexible option - this means you could position or carry your digital photo frame anywhere you like with a minimum amount of fuss.

Although a 7 inch frame might be capable of up to two or three hours of operation on a single charge, it all really depends on the type of battery you decide to employ. You may want to look for Lithium ion batteries, which can store up to 50% more energy than other types of lifeless batteries.

Supported formats

Digital photo keychainAnother important decision to make when purchasing a digital photo frame is its memory card facility. Many digital photo frames will come with built-in memory, allowing you to copy your photographs direct from the computer onto the frame itself.

Yet, your digital camera will probably take one of the many different memory cards available, such as XD, SD, Compact Flash, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro. To make the most of your digital photo frame, it would be a good idea to find a frame that takes on board as many memory card types as possible, allowing family and friends to share their photographs when they visit you. It also means you will not need a new digital photo frame every time you decide to change your camera.

On top of this, you need to consider what type of digital content you are going to display on your digital photo frame. Most digital photo frames support photographs in the standard JPEG format, but if you are going to use other picture formats like PNG, TIFF and BMP, then make sure your chosen digital photo frame supports them. Sony digital photo frames, for example, support all these different formats.

In order to view your snaps, you will need to save your pictures onto your memory card and then insert the card into your computer. If you have a memory card reader, you simply need to press the Windows key and E again to locate the card or device, before moving your created folder of pictures onto your card. Insert the card into your digital photo frame and enjoy the most exciting part the digital photo frame experience - the slide-show settings and video format.

The majority of digital photo frames will allow you to change the brightness of the screen, the different effects between pictures and time displayed between each new picture. Sit back and relax, as the pictures reveal themselves one by one in front of your eyes. The Sony digital photo frame, for example, with its built-in stereo speakers, is one of the many digital photo frames on the market that will re-play your favourite videos and films in HD with supported video formats, including MPEG 1, MPEG 4, AVI and Motion JPEG.

Conclusion

If you want to hold lots of photographs and enjoy better picture quality, you are going to need to spend a little bit more on your digital photo frame. Yet if you simply want a digital photo frame to make viewing pictures easier or for portability reasons, then you may want to opt for a smaller model with less resolution in order to save money. Again make sure you read that all important user review to see what other buyers think of each product.

Basic digital photo frames will certainly give you great pleasure. If you are willing to spend a few more pennies, then you will be offered a range of additional features that will take your digital photo frame the extra mile including remote control use, wall mounting, MP3 and video playback and interchangeable inserts to fit in with your décor.