Kodak moments: One key advantage of digital photography over the traditional film and chemical approach is how you display your results. While you can print out your digital photos and then stick them up on your fridge or up on your mantle, just like in the old days of film, you can also do something completely different.

Digital photo frames are just that, frames that allow you to display your digital pics pretty much anywhere you want. But they go beyond the old-style framed photos in that you can also put on slide shows of your photos, play music to go with them and even display your home videos. The big advantage is that you are no longer restricted to putting just a few dozen of your memories on display, rather, you can cycle through hundreds or even thousands of moments.

Kodak is a name that remains an icon of the halcyon days of film. This is despite its effort in recent years to reinvent itself as a digital brand. Giving its digital business more credibility is a pair of digital photo frames coming out in the middle of June, the 7-inch EasyShare SV710 and 10-inch EasyShare SV1011. Both are widescreen (16:9 ratio) displays, with the SV710 having a resolution of 480 by 264 pixels and its sibling coming in at 800 by 480.

They look like traditional photo frames from the front, while the backside contains the play and control buttons, speakers and card slots. The frames accept multiple types of memory cards, including SD, Microdrive, compact flash, xD Picture Cards and various types of Memory Stick cards. The 10-inch SV1011 model features 128 megabytes of internal memory for storing photos, video or music. They are also compatible with a variety of image formats, including JPEG, BMP and PNG, as well as MP3 music files. The frames even come with a remote control and display the time.

The Kodak pair are cheaper than many rivals: the SV710 costs ¥15,800 and the SV1011 is ¥26,800. The ability for the frames to work with just about any memory card is useful, too, allowing the card to keep delivering memories long after your camera becomes obsolete. www.kodak.com/JP

Cell phone wears Prada: Profit is the mother of imitation. While Japanese consumers wait impatiently for Apple’s iconic iPhone to saunter into the local market, rival electronics giant LG is getting in first with its own touch-screen mobile phone. NTT DoCoMo is launching LG’s ultrastylish Prada Phone in June. The key selling point for the handset, already out in Europe, is its touch-screen. This radical feature, which is the main appeal of the iPhone, allows users to make a call, e-mail, take and view photos and listen to music simply by touching the appropriate icon on the 3-inch screen.

Beyond the slick user interface, the phone includes a modest 2-megapixel auto-focus camera with a German-made Schneider Kreuznach lens. The handset works with the FOMA 3G system, boasting high-speed data transmission that tops out at 7.2 megabytes per second and so enables video phone calls and Internet surfing. The phone uses microSD cards for extra data storage.

As befits the fashionable name, the LG device is a glossy bar of black with the screen dominating one side and the camera discreetly tucked away on the back. It weighs just 92 grams, in a package 10 cm in height, 1.3 cm thick and 5.4 cm wide. LG claims the battery provides 350 hours of standby time, 140 minutes of standard talking or 90 minutes of video chat.

DoCoMo has unlocked the pricing for the LG Prada, which usually hints at a premium outlay. Prices in Europe and the U.S. have been in the ¥70,000 range.

Worth it? The 3-inch screen offers a clear 240 by 400 pixel resolution, but like the phone’s 2-megapixel camera, it is not exceptional. So, if the touch screen is a must-have feature, then the Prada is a great choice for those who just can’t wait for the iPhone to make its inevitable splash. www.nttdocomo.co.jp

Compact SLR: Olympus some years ago chose a path less-traveled in the world of digital SLR cameras. While most makers use sensors in their cameras that are smaller than traditional 35-mm film, they are significantly bigger than those used in compact digital cameras. The bigger the sensor, the better the image quality.

Olympus, however, has built an entire DSLR line, the Four Thirds system, based on sensors that are smaller than those used in other DSLRs, but still bigger than those in compacts. A key benefit of using a smaller sensor is that they lend themselves to smaller camera bodies. Thus the Olympus models are noted for being lighter on the muscles than their rivals.

The latest incarnation of the line is the new E-520, due out at the end of the month, which Olympus is trumpeting as the smallest DSLR in the world to include a built-in image-stabilization system. The E-520 weighs 475 grams without batteries compared to Nikon’s bigger-bodied rival D80 at 585 grams.

The 10-megapixel E-520 is not a radical new creation but rather an evolution of its previous model, the E-510. The key changes are a slightly bigger LCD screen (up to 2.7 inches from the 510’s 2.5 inches), a better focusing system and face-detection capability. This means that it automatically senses and focuses on people’s faces in the picture, saving you the trouble and the potential embarrassment of a blurred mug.

The jury is still out on whether the Four Thirds system really does result in inferior image quality, but the verdict is likely to be a pass mark for Olympus. Four Thirds cameras do suffer from smaller viewfinders than those in other DSLRs. Moreover, the nature of their sensors favors the use of telephoto lenses, which makes it more difficult to develop wide-angle lenses for the cameras.

The E-520’s key features are not very outstanding, as there are rival choices that also offer in-camera image stabilization and large LCD screens. The bottom line for the E-520 is that, judging by its predecessors, it will produce good photos and be ideal for somebody who prefers a small and light camera body. The Olympus is also lighter on the wallet, costing ¥79,800 for body only, ¥89,800 with a 14-42 mm kit lens or ¥109,800 when it comes with the kit lens and a 40-150 mm zoom lens. www.olympus.co.jp


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