Review: 3 Digital Picture Frames from Digital Foci

This review might be cheating the CrunchGear 300 a little bit, since it’s covering three products in one post, but they’re all from the same manufacturer and all do pretty much the same thing, so it makes sense to review them together.  Read on for information about an LCD and two OLED digital picture frames from Digital Foci.

The Digital Foci Pocket Album OLED 1.5 is something you’re expected to take with you, whether on trips or always attached to your backpack, purse, or European manbag.  In the box you get the picture frame, USB cable, USB-to-AC adapter, software CD and manual.  The storage capacity of this model is only 32 megabytes, so rather than waste space with their software it is included on CD.  The frame itself has only a mini USB port and a navigation rocker switch, with no extra buttons.  The rocker switch is like a jogdial, but only moves one position to the left or right, instead of continuously around.  It works, but I worry that it’ll be an easy piece to break.

The menu is extremely simplified.  Setting an option takes you out of the menu and back to the photo display, so if you want to tweak several settings expect to spend some time doing it.  You must use the Digital Foci software to transfer images to the frame, as it’s not detected as a removable drive when you connect it to your PC.  The software, which has Mac and Windows flavors, is easy to use, though the chrome is a little garrish.  You select photos from your PC and place them in a staging area within the software, and then you transfer all the staged photos to the frame.  You can also perform some basic editing of your photos before transferring them: crop, twiddle the contrast, etc.  You will probably want to either resize your photos manually before loading them into the software, or use the software to crop them before transferring to the frame: the default operation for photos too large to display is to show only the center portion, cropping out all the rest.

Battery life is about 5 hours, but it takes just as long to charge.  The instruction sheet recommends turning the unit off during charge, in order to speed up the process.  The included USB-to-AC adapter is a real convenience.

One unexpectedly nice feature of the 1.8″ frame is that you can delete images from the menu, so if you don’t like the crop that gets automatically applied you can remove that photo from the internal memory.

The Digital Foci Pocket Album Deluxe OLED 2.8 can be used as a desktop picture display, or carried around on a wrist strap.  In the box you get the picture frame, USB cable, wrist strap, storage pouch, USB-to-AC adatper, manual and an acrylic stand.  The software necessary to load photos onto the frame is stored in the memory on the frame (and it’s different than the software on the CD bundled with the 1.8″ frame, for what that’s worth).  The frame itself has a mini USB socket, 4 buttons and a navigation rocker switch.  The controls on the frame are fairly easy to figure out: just keep pressing buttons until you get what you want.

The 2.8″ frame has 128MB of internal storage, and is seen as a removable drive to your PC.  You still need to use the included software to shrink the photos and transfer them to the frame.  The software is easy to use, and it doesn’t take too long to shrink the photos and transfer them across.  As with the 1.5″ frame, you may want to resize and/or crop your photos ahead of time, as oversized photos will be cropped to display only the center portion of the image.

The on-screen menu is easy to use, but setting the time sucks: it uses a 12 hour clock with no way to set AM or PM other than to cycle through the hours.  Additionally, there’s no fast-forward on minute selection, which means you may need to click the navigation rocker switch several dozen times to set the minutes.

There are 5 transition effects from which to select, along with some limited photo organization in the way of folders.  You can select to display only photos from a particular folder, or cycle through all photos in all folders.  You can display multiple images on screen in 3×3 or 2×2 mode, as well as a calendar overlay mode.

The calendar display is neat, and apparently tries to select text color that is appropriate against the image being shown.  It doesn’t always work so well, as I’ve only seen white and yellow text, but at least it tries.  The calendar display is really a convenience when this thing is sitting on your cubical desk, and not a primary feature for which you’d buy the device.

Battery life is also about 5 hours, and also takes as long to charge.  As with the 1.8″ frame, you can delete images from the frame by selecting “Delete” from the menu.

The Digital Foci Image Moments 8 is the showcase LCD digital picture frame from from Digital Foci, featuring interchangeable bezels, an 8″ screen with LED backlighting, a remote control, and multiple media inputs.  In addition to 450 megs of internal storage, it has slots for Compact Flash, HC/SD and MMC, and Memory Stick (Pro, Duo and Pro Duo).  As soon as you turn the frame on it begins a slideshow of the photos sotred in its interal media.

Although the Image Moments 8 has a joystick control and a few buttons on frame itself, you’ll be much happier if you use the supplied remote control.  I found it hard to press the joystick down to select a menu option, and instead usually ended up pushing the joystick into one of the cardinal directions.

In addition to photos (JPEG, BMP, TIFF, GIF, and RAW!), you can play back a limited set of videos: MJPEG, MPEG-1 and MPEG-4SP.  This makes it great for playing back quick videos taken with point-and-shoot cameras: just put the memory card from the camera into the frame, and select the video to play.  The memory cards are hot-swappable, so you don’t need to turn off the frame.

The location of some of the media slots is pretty close to the product casing, though.  If you have fat fingers like me, you might find it a little awkward to remove a CF card.

The menu system is pretty simplified, and relatively easy to navigate.  One thing I discovered is that it’s overly easy to select multiple videos for playback, when you only want one.

You can create and edit playlists right on the frame itself, which is handy.  You can playback photos only, videos only, or both.  The frame has a built-in orientation sensor, so rotating the frame from landscape to portrait will automatically rotate the currently displayed photo — I thought that was a nice touch.  Likewise, the frame reads EXIF data from the photos to display correctly given the current orientation of the frame.

Included on the frame is a small collection of digital music files you can play during your slideshow.  You can upload your own MP3, AAC and WMA files if you want a better selection of background music.

All three Digital Foci picture frames had absolutely gorgeous screens: the OLED technology on the smaller two makes a crisp, vibrant display, and the large LCD on the Image Moments 8 is extremely easy on the eyes.  Of the three frames, I think the Image Moments 8 is the real keeper, with the 2.8″ model coming in second.  I don’t really see the 1.5″ frame being very popular, but I may be wrong.