My enthusiasm for digital photography has always been dampened by one simple fact: I don't like looking at photos on my computer screen or printed out on regular paper. Well, here's a third—albeit $900—option: the Sony CyberFrame, which the company calls "an electronic photo album and tabletop frame all in one."
The CyberFrame looks like a regular picture frame but stores digital JPEG still photos and mini-MPEG movies, which it then displays in the form of a slide show that changes by the minute, hour, or day. It functions on a Memory Stick, the miniature digital storage device that Sony introduced last year and that can hold from four to 64 megabytes of digital data, or 40 times the capacity of a standard 3.5-inch floppy disk.
The frame is compatible only with digital still and video cameras that use Memory Stick. (I tested it with Sony's DSC-F55 Cyber-shot digital still camera.) You shoot images with the camera (and record sound if you use one with a built-in microphone, such as the DSC-F55), then remove the Memory Stick, which is smaller than a stick of chewing gum—and insert it into a slot in the CyberFrame. Using the frame's menus and buttons, you can delete images, rotate them on the screen, adjust brightness and volume levels, and program the frame to play the images in a continuous loop, or to fade to black after 30 or 60 minutes. The frame itself can be displayed horizontally or vertically.
The Sony CyberFrame sounds cool—and it is, even though there are a few features I think could be improved upon.
Price $899. (Memory Sticks cost from $30 for a 4MB stick to $190 for a 64MB one.)
Size 8.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches.
Weight 1.76 lbs.
Display 5.5-inch active matrix, color liquid crystal display (LCD); 224,000 pixels.
Aesthetics Sleek: a clear, acrylic plate over a blue or brown-matte surround.
Design Ingenious. The menu panel sits inside the frame, out of sight. When it's closed, you can still make basic adjustments to the display using the buttons along the top. More complex adjustments require opening the panel, done by flipping it 90 degrees to the right.
Image Quality Crisp and clear with just a bit of grain, even in direct light, thanks to the active matrix display. Picture resolution can be as high as 1600 x 1200 UXGA for stills. Colors, however, are a bit too saturated; white and black tend to lose some detail.
Speaker Quality Just okay. The sound is a bit metallic and muffled, and the highest volume level isn't very loud. Best in a quiet room.
Menus Fairly easy to use, once you've read the manual. (They're the same menus as on the Sony Cyber-shot digital camera.)
What I Would Improve The "touchless sensor," which allows you to turn the frame on and off by holding your hand in front of it. In theory it's great; in reality you must hold your hand within three inches of the sensor, which is located on the face of the device, for at least three minutes. (Stopwatch not included.) To activate the sensor you press the power and play buttons simultaneously; if you then turn off the device manually (by pressing the power button) you have to reprogram the sensor. I ended up never using it.
What I Would Add A battery, to eliminate the trailing black power cord.
My Advice Shoot pictures either all horizontally or all vertically so you don't have to rotate them. (Sony claims that the frame will automatically rotate them, but when I tested it, it did not.) And clean the front plate frequently, as fingerprints show up in direct sunlight.