The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Kodak EasyShare EX1011 Wireless Picture Frame

Posted by Deliverator on January 24th, 2008

I’ve been doing a lot of digital photography over the last few years and have also spent a good deal of time scanning in old slides and negatives using a high end Nikon LS-5000 scanner, yet for the most part these pictures have languished idle on my hard drive. Sort of the digital equivalent of all those slides that I worked so hard to scan! Like every other shopper this past Christmas shopping season, I found myself bombarded by cheap, import digital picture frames everywhere I looked. Hell, the grocery store was even carrying these things. I’d set up a number of digital picture frames for clients and spent an inordinate amount of time fiddling with display models, enough to realize that nobody has come up with a refined, completely well thought out design. I knew I wanted a model with wireless built in, but unfortunately nobody seems to have quite got that right either. I strongly considered a wireless enabled model from estarling as the ability to subscribe to rss feeds and to email photos directly to the device had a lot of appeal, but balked after seeing the number of extremely poor reviews on Amazon. In the end, I purchased a wireless enabled 10″ model from Kodak. Here are my thoughts:

  • Screen has nice color representation, but like many cheap LCDs has poor off-axis viewing.
  • immediate surround of the frame is gloss black plastic which within a few days attracted enough dust to knit a sweater.
  • Comes with a small, easy to use remote control. Buttons for some of the functions are available on top of the screen, but not all functions are available this way, making the remote a must. There is a plastic clip which you can insert into some holes on the back of the device, which can be used to hold the remote, but you can’t use the clip if you hang the device.
  • Hanging mechanism is designed for a single nail and the screen isn’t well balanced to begin with. Extremely hard to keep level, especially given that the cord hangs off to one side.
  • The Kodak models with wireless built in do not have a dedicated USB host port, but rather a Mini-USB port which can be configured to act as either a host port or to connect the frame as a mass storage device to transfer pictures from a connected PC. The box includes a Mini-Full size A adapter for plugging in a USB Flash Drive, but it extends well outside the frame boundary, so don’t even think about leaving it attached, which means yet another small doohickey to keep on hand.
  • Power adapter is of the type that blocks an adjacent outlet on a power strip and cord length is shorter than desirable. Poor choice of jack location pretty much ensures that your frame will lean if you hang it.
  • Supports SD/SDHC and Compact Flash (including microdrives), which is basically all I care about. Other formats supported, but some only with adapters.
  • Supports resizing transfered images to the frames 800*480 resolution. If you are going to store your pictures on the device’s limited 128MB of built in flash, then this is pretty much a must. Unfortunately, their resize algorithm yields extremely blocky, pixelated images and leaves much to be desired in other ways. For example, if you insert a memory card with a 50 high resolution images (say 3 MB each) the frame’s software will attempt to transfer all the selected pictures to the frame’s internal memory before attempting to resize the images, rather than transferring a few, resizing, deleting the copied original and then going back for more. The result is that the frame just pukes and aborts the whole operation. You are better off avoiding Kodak’s crappy copy and resize implementation altogether and just batch resize your images on a PC before transfer. This does kinda negate the point of being able to just insert a camera card and transfer without having to use a PC.
  • The support for modern wireless security standards seems rather limited/flaky. It is supposed to work with WPA PSK once updated to the latest firmware, but I was not able to get it to work with my WRT54GL and ended up having to associate it to less secure WEP (paper bag) encrypted access point which I keep firewalled away from my critical systems. Once associated, the frame found my ORB server and I was able to wireless stream photos to it that way. There doesn’t appear to be any easy way to simply use the wifi to simply transfer pictures to the frame’s internal memory. One can use the wifi feature to browse Kodak’s own online gallery service, but the frame doesn’t work with any other popular photo services like flickr.

Sadly, even given all my gripes with the EX1011, it is almost certainly one of the best wireless picture frames on the market today. Digital picture frames have been on the market for a few years now and one would expect a higher degree of refinement by this point. I guess this just leaves open yet another high profit margin consumer market into which Apple will swoop and release an iFrame.