In the days when film was the dominant medium in photography, everyone had tangible prints made from nearly every roll of film they shot, in order to choose which to keep and which to toss. Nowadays, we will sometimes make this decision within seconds of taking a photo and previewing it on a 2- or 3-inch screen. Then we either shoot it again or move on. We’ve all been guilty, at least once, of using our camera’s memory card like a time capsule: capturing more and more photos of different places and events, but never storing, backing up or transferring them. This goes on until eventually you have several gigabytes of photos, spanning months or seasons, stuck on a single memory card while everybody asks you, “Where are those pictures you took of us?”
Since digital files have a tendency to collect in hard drives and never see the light of day, rather than standing proudly on side tables and mantels the way analog photos once did, we’ve got to get into the new habit of displaying our digital files—and there are many options. Enter the often-overlooked technology of digital photo frames.
These have come a long way from the plain, silent little screens that they were originally. Digital photo frames are used in many different ways, and come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They vary from tiny keychain-sized units that display your photos on the go, to large, high-quality OLED displays—some of which have been known to be used for gallery exhibitions. So, if they’re good enough for professional artists, they’re definitely good enough to display your best work in the living room!
The standard digital frame comes with a variety of features that make it versatile, even for other applications than simply displaying family photos. Something like the Sony 7" Digital Photo Frame supports several types of memory sticks or SD cards and can be propped up on its included stand. It is wall mountable and tabletop ready in either a vertical or horizontal orientation, and includes a remote control so you can have total mastery from across the room. With a sleek and simple modern look, it will easily fit in with most décor, and provides a great way to put your photos out where everyone can see and enjoy them—without having to flip album pages.
For added features and versatility, Sony’s 7" Digital Photo Frame with Wi-Fi comes with much more than just a wireless connection. With nearly ten times the storage capacity of the non-Wi-Fi model, you can fit hundreds of photos in this frame’s 1.0GB internal memory. It is expandable to 32GB with an SDHC card. If you’d like to transfer new photos to the frame—from your child’s latest little league game or the birthday party last weekend—you can use the frame’s built-in Wi-fi transfer without having to remove the memory card or without having to plug it into your computer to copy the files over. Just send images through the air wirelessly and watch as they appear on the screen.
You can also stream a collection of photos, videos or music wirelessly that you have stored in a home-networked PC without saving anything to the frame at all. Or go even a step further and download photos from Facebook or other websites that you don’t have stored locally on a memory card or hard drive. Internet radio and weather stations are available via the vTuner Internet Radio service, so you can even get the latest weather updates without waiting through the local news or booting up your computer to check.
At the higher end of Sony’s digital frames—for those who want even larger screen size, storage capacity and added features, the 10.2" Digital Photo Frame with TruBlack Technology is available, and really shows off both your photos and the frame itself. With this frame you can enjoy up to 4,000 digital photos in style on a sleek, black frame with a high resolution 10.2-inch display. View your favorite AVC/H.264 and MP4 movies, along with your photos and MP3 audio files. Stereo speakers and beautiful images may render the alarm clock feature not quite as obnoxious as your old wind-up alarm, as you awaken to the pleasing sounds and images of your favorite songs and photographs.
For rich blacks and high-contrast colors, not to mention reduced glare and reflections, the TruBlack technology increases the visibility of colors in darker portions of photographs, making them seem all the more vibrant and colorful. Hook this high-quality display up to an enormous HDTV via the HDMI port and you can really put on a show of your images with a slideshow in HD at the next family function or friendly get-together—no computer required.
If this many features is too complex, or too expensive, for your needs—never fear. There are far more affordable options available, and you will still get to enjoy your beautiful photos, with plenty of bonus features to boot.
Adding a splash of color to your frame can really make it stand out, and draw more attention to your photos. Coby offers the DP356 3.5" Digital Photo Album with Alarm Clock in several colors, including Blue, Red, White and Black. Though it isn’t nearly as large as the Sony 10.2-inch digital frame, it works well for smaller tabletops and surfaces that can’t accommodate a larger frame, like your nightstand, end table or a shallow bookshelf. Play slideshows of your family photos and outings, complete with MP3 or WMA accompaniment. You can even use it as an alarm clock, calendar or temperature display for added utility, in addition to the smiling faces and beautiful vistas onscreen.
When you’re out and about running errands, picking the kids up from soccer practice, or any time you feel the need to share your images, you may wish at times to have your favorite photos with you. For a pocket-sized digital frame, Digital Foci offers the Pocket Album Deluxe OLED 2.8 in Black, Red and Sky Blue. These pack a 2.8-inch Active Matrix OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) screen into your pocket for a fast and lightweight frame you can bring with you wherever you go. Because OLED displays work without the backlight found in LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens, it can display deep black levels in a thinner and lighter form than an LCD frame. In low-light conditions such as a dim living room or shaded patio, an OLED screen can achieve a higher contrast ratio than an LCD, so nobody has to squint or hold it up close to see your beautiful images.
For the ultimate in portability, both Coby and Digital Foci offer even smaller keychain displays that won’t take up space in your pocket when you attach them to a key ring or bag strap. The Coby DP180 Digital Photo Keychain comes in four different colors (Black, White, Blue and Red), while Digital Foci’s Pocket Album Deluxe OLED 1.5" has three (Carbon Fiber, Ruby Red and Warm Gray). They are not only lightweight and portable, but also inexpensive.
Coby’s DP180 is a little wider than Digital Foci’s Pocket Album—at 1.8" and 5:4 aspect ratio, to 1.5" and the square 1:1 ratio, respectively. However, both models get the job done and work like the digital equivalent of a brag book or wallet-size photos in clear accordion pockets, and carry dozens more photos than either of the analog methods. Don’t be fooled by the low price tag here because, despite the small size and economy, the Coby DP180 can easily transfer photos and recharge its battery via the included USB cable, while Digital Foci’s Pocket Album boasts yet another OLED screen, and a lithium-polymer battery with 5 hours of battery life—longer than certain laptops or smart phones.
Moving back up to larger display sizes, and for those seeking a more traditional look to their digital frame, we have several models to choose from that have a classic, wooden-frame design, complete with a simulated white mat around the digital display. Viewsonic offers up its large 15-inch LCD (12 x 9.0") VRM1536-11 Digital Picture Frame with a 1024 x 768 resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio. Add your JPEG photos; M-JPEG, MPEG-1 and MJPEG-4 videos; as well as your favorite MP3 audio files to create an ample slideshow complete with the perfect customized soundtrack. While it isn’t made of real wood, it resembles older frames you may already have at home, and bridges the gap between modern digital technology and the classically simple frame with which we’re all familiar.
For truly wooden digital frames, Coby and HP offer two models that will show off your pictures in a timeless, natural way. Coby’s DP1052 10" Digital Photo Frame with Multimedia Playback brings along all of the features we’ve come to expect in digital frames, with that classic dark wood aesthetic for photographers uninterested in artificially colored plastic or metal frames. With a substantial 10-inch display size and 800 x 600 resolution, you can show off your latest digital images without compromising on small, low-quality files or synthetic materials.
HP’s 7" Digital Picture Frame is a bit smaller, but provides a double mat with both a white and brown layer around the 7.0-inch display. Designed to match any style of décor, the refined dark wood-and-glass frame will present your photographs in the best possible light. Set the on / off timer to run when you want it to, and use the monthly calendar and digital clock to keep you on track while at work or in a home office.
If you aren’t satisfied with the single-digit frames discussed above, then the large Aluratek ADMPF119 19" Digital Photo Frame may be the one you’ve been holding out for. Coming in at an outstanding 1440 x 900 resolution, this display might be larger than your previous computer monitor! Not only does the frame provide plenty of real estate, it does not skimp on the storage space either: it packs 2GB of internal memory and support for plenty more with removable memory cards. With such a large display, you could enjoy watching your favorite movies, home videos and slideshows, complete with background music, without having to sit too close to see everything. The high quality black wooden frame, with built-in speakers, fits into almost any room décor, so you can display the frame on a table top with the included stand, or mount it on your wall without worry.
Whether you’d rather have an inexpensive, ultra-portable keychain frame, or a large, high quality wooden frame with mat, these models offer plenty of fantastic features that no traditional frame could ever duplicate. From wirelessly transferring photos, videos and music, to waking up with the pleasant sights and sounds of your photos set to a custom alarm, digital photo frames are much more than just an electronic version of the traditional picture frame. So don’t let your files sit in your computer or camera any longer. Get them out and on display, shining bright for all to see and enjoy over and over again.
If you have any questions about digital picture frames, please feel free to ask them in the Comments section below.