Digital Foci is challenging the traditional photo album with its new digital Photo Book. Users are able to view their digital uploads on its 8.0-inch LCD complete with a host of added features, including music and video support. But do we really need digital photo books? Aren’t laptops and photo-sharing sites good enough? Let's take a look.
Digital Foci Photo Book Specifications:
BUILD AND DESIGN
At 2.2-pounds, the Photo Book is relatively heavy, but also has a sense of hardiness and build-quality to the touch. The device comes built into a cheesy plastic-leather case and is available in either black or white. The case opens like a book and is secured shut by a hidden magnet, a feature that I found convenient and reliable, and certainly preferable to Velcro.
After folding back the casing you are met by the electronic device complete with its hard plastic shell and eight-inch LCD. The display seems flimsy and bleeds easily from pressure. I suppose that's the tradeoff with non-glossy LCD displays that resist glare better than their glossy counterparts. The screen is offset leftward, while the buttons - menu, back, four-way controller, "OK" and volume/zoom - are positioned to the right along with the speaker. At a glance, the layout is very simple.
On the side of the device sit two housing portals. One of the portals is exclusively for a Compact Flash card, while the other is for all others, including an SD card. There is also a mini USB connection. Beware trying to open the protective flaps covering these portals, as they are unnecessarily difficult to pry open and will most likely force you into breaking a nail or breaking the plastic.
Finally, the power button is on the bottom of the device, and that doubles as a battery meter denoted by color, a factory reset button and an input for the AC power adapter.
The Photo Book comes equipped with an AC power adapter, USB cable, USB adapter, and the manual. Its lithium polymer battery, which can last up to 2.5 hours, can be charged via AC or USB connection.
It takes approximately 20 seconds for the Photo Book to boot. After that, it displays a screen that lays out all available photo albums, each signified by a photo book icon displaying a sample image. It's a simple layout that's easy to figure out.
However, it gets more complicated if you're looking to go further than that to tweak your settings, select albums, copy/paste photos into a new album etc. The problem is that the menu icons are denoted by confusing images, which are not very clear. Popular online photo sharing sites are known for their simplicity and clarity, and the Photo Book doesn't meet the standard they set.
There is also noticeable lag when cycling through larger photos. The Photo book supports many RAW file types, and I shudder to think how severely those sizeable image files will bog the Photo Book down.
The Photo Book allows you to upload images via memory card or USB. Both are relatively easy to do especially since the USB method has no software or installation requirements; you simply drag and drop to the desired folder displayed on your computer. I enjoyed the absence of software as it saves time that would have been spent downloading and on a learning curve, but in the end, it's really a personal preference.
Being able to upload more than just still images is a definite plus. With the Photo Book, you have the option to upload videos - which is a nice and welcome surprise - and music to accompany your photo viewing experience if you find music at all necessary. In any case, the Photo Book's versatility as a multimedia device is appreciated.
Photos on the 8.0-inch LCD (800x600) have decent color quality and are generally clear, but do show some pixilation thanks to the relatively low pixel density. By comparison, the iPhone 4 is less than half the size of the Photo Book at 3.5-inches, and it has a 960x640 pixel resolution.
The Photo Book simply has too many little quirks that I feel need to be fine-tuned in order to make this a go-to item for consumers. Once things are straightened out, then the Photo Book might be worth the near $200 price tag. Until that time, however, the traditional photo album and photo sharing sites still reign.
With that said, the Photo Book gets the job done and does not have any major issues. Plus, it's fun to use and versatile, given its ability to support video and music all in a simple memory card or USB format.