Living Images Digital Photo Frames Buyers’ Guide

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If you own a digital camera, the chances are that you have taken some digital photographs, and maybe downloaded them to your PC, and maybe even burnt them to CD, for posterity, or emailed them to your friends and relatives. But what if you want to display your favourite photographs for the enjoyment of yourself, your family and visitors to your home, or share them with, perhaps, older relatives, who have no computing facilities, or expertise? Traditional printing, either by a professional photographic developer, or at home – with photographic paper, and a photo quality printer – is one option, but is expensive, and you are, of course, limited to just a single photographic print per photo frame. A more flexible option is available, nowadays, in the form of digital photo frame, which allows multiple photographs to be downloaded from your digital camera, and displayed singly, as a slide show, and changed as often as you want, to suit your mood, or audience. A digital photo frame – loaded with holiday snapshots, for example – can also make an ideal gift for friends, or family members, who do not own a computer.

About Living Images

“Living Images” is a trademark of Digital Frames Ltd., and all Living Images digital photo frames are manufactured in facilities that are owned, 100%, by its parent company, or manufactured elsewhere, to the same rigorous quality standards. Indeed, some other high profile manufacturers, such as BT, Kodak, and Philips share the same manufacturing facilities. The Living Images brand is renowned for the quality of its design, and construction, with an emphasis, nevertheless, on simplicity, affordability, and value for money. All Living Image digital photo frames – even the “entry level” models – feature the same, high quality LCD screen, and any price differential between models if based on specification, rather than on quality. Living image digital photo frames are available in 7 inch, 8 inch, 10 inch and 15 inch models, and all are supplied with a full, 12 month warranty.

Style & Design

Your first concern when it comes to choosing a digital photo frame is likely to be its aesthetics, or how well it fits with your existing décor, or taste, in terms of its colour, and the material from which it is made. Bear in mind that that a digital photo frame may not, necessarily, be switched on at all times, and you may want a frame that looks attractive, and tasteful, in these circumstances. Digital photo frames are available in a wide range of material and finishes, including rich natural, or stained, wood – although beware of some “faux” wood effects, which look cheap, and old-fashioned – brushed aluminium, black lacquer, vinyl, acrylic and clear, or frosted, glass, to name just some of the possibilities, so finding the right frame for your environment should be fairly straightforward. Indeed, the faceplates – also known as “fascia”, or “bezels” – of some digital photo frames are interchangeable, so that the frame can be customised to suit any number of styles. Another important aspect of design is the placement of any external controls, or ports. Many digital photo frames operate via touch sensitive controls on the screen, itself, and ports that are positioned, unobtrusively, at the back of the frame. The Living Images 8 inch digital photo frame, for example, is available in a light wood finish, while the Living Images 10.4 inch digital photo frame is available in a choice of dark wood, or silver.

Screen Size & Characteristics

A digital photo frame is, obviously, designed to be looked at, and the size, and other characteristics of its screen – such as the technology employed in its construction, its “resolution”, “viewing angle”, etc. – determine the quality of the image displayed, and from how far away, and from what positions in a room, it can effectively be seen.

Digital photo frames employ LCD, or “Liquid Crystal Display”, technology – the same technology used in flat panel television screens, and computer monitors – which basically involves a layer of so-called “liquid crystal” molecules sandwiched between two layers of glass. Voltage is applied to electrodes embedded in the glass, and the molecules twist one way, or another, to control the behaviour of each picture element, or “pixel” in the display. Most digital photo frames, nowadays, feature “active matrix”, or TFT (“Thin Film Transistor”) LCD screens, which provide bright, clear results, even when ambient light – that is, the level of light provided by sunlight, or artificial lighting – is high.

In terms of actual physical size, digital photo frames are available in sizes ranging from 1½ inches – obviously suitable for carrying on a key ring, but not for bona fide display purposes – to 15 inches, measured diagonally, although 7, or 8, inches is often considered a happy medium, for displaying photographs on a mantelpiece, or desktop. A digital photo frame with a screen of this size can normally be seen, quite adequately, across a room of average size.

As important as the physical size of the screen is its “resolution”, or the total number of individual pixels of which it is composed. The resolution of a screen is normally quoted as the number of rows, and columns, of pixels – in the form “640 x 480”, or “720 x 480”, or similar – and, generally speaking, the higher the numbers, the better the quality of the image displayed. A typical 7, or 8, inch digital photo frame should, ideally, have a resolution of 720 x 480 pixels, and no lower than 640 x 480 pixels, while a 15 inch frame may have a resolution as high as 1,600 x 1,200 pixels. The Living Images 8 inch, and 10.4 inch, digital photo frames, for example, both feature TFT LCD screens, with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.

You may also need to consider the size, and type, of image that you intend to display in a digital photo frame. The “aspect ratio” of a image is the ratio of its width to its height, and many digital photo frames are capable of displaying widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio images, as well as traditional, 4:3 aspect ratio images. If you wish to display a panoramic photograph, for example, most digital photo frames attempt to resize the image, “on the fly”, with varying degrees of success. Living Images digital photo frames typically allow you to display images up to 8,000 x 8,000 pixels, and their aspect ratio can be changed, to 16:9 from 4:3, and back again, by remote control.

Other factors to consider include the viewing angle – the angle, in the horizontal, and vertical, planes through which the screen can be seen clearly – and the contrast ratio, or the difference in light intensity of the darkest and lightest colours that can be displayed, simultaneously, on the screen. TFT technology means that viewing angles of 160 degrees or above, in both planes, and contrast ratios of 300:1, or 500:1, are a possibility.

Memory Card Support

To make the process of transferring digital photographs from your digital camera to a digital photo frame as fast, and straightforward, as possible, you need to make sure that your chosen frame is compatible with the type of a memory expansion card that you use in your digital camera. This should not really be an issue, because most digital photo frames are capable of reading most, if not all, of the popular memory expansion card types. These many include SD, or “Secure Digital” – a highly compact, but, nevertheless, high storage capacity card – and CF, or “Compact Flash” – another non-volatile, solid state, storage card, although beware of damage to its tiny pins if it is transferred between devices regularly – along with numerous other memory card brands. All Living Images digital photo frames are compatible with SD and CF cards, along with MultiMedia Card (MMC), and Memory Stick, formats.

Other Features

The vast majority of digital photo frames, these days, offer the facility to create a slide show from your digital photographs, and to alter the length of time that each photograph is displayed, and, perhaps, add professional transition effects between photographs. It may also be possible to download short films, in MPEG, or AVI, format, and to accompany your stills, or films, with music, or sound effects, recorded in MP3 format. A remote control can be a useful addition, particularly if you intend to hang digital photo frame in a location where it is hard to reach on an everyday basis. Living Images digital photo frames, of all sizes, include support for MPEG, and MP3 playback – via an integrated speaker – in addition, of course, to support fro JPEG image files, and a remote control is included, as standard.                                     

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