Think about those sorts of inventions that just seem so obvious once they've been made: the hills hoist, the wireless, Vegemite ... anyway, putting a printer inside a digital photo frame seems like a pretty obvious thing now we've got one sitting in front of us, and we can only wonder why someone hasn't combined the two before.
Design and features
So you'd think that due to this photo frame having a printer built-in, it's not going to be the nicest looking thing to stick on your mantelpiece. That's where you're wrong — the Olin is no ugly duckling, in fact, surrounding the 8-inch screen with a resolution of 800x600 pixels is a pleasant wood frame that fits nicely with most decors. It sits on its own volition without any additional support required thanks to the printer providing an adequate protrusion at the back. This is both good and bad: there's a printer in the back, but the frame cannot be angled or tilted to better suit your viewing position and can only be viewed in a horizontal orientation.
Speaking of viewing position, most digital photo frames aren't renowned for their expansive viewing angle, but the Olin does pretty well, with only a small level of brightness and colour drop-outs occurring as you move from side to side. When viewing the frame straight-on, colours are rich and vibrant without being oversaturated.
To give you an idea of the size, here's the Olin sitting next to a Canon Selphy ES3 (left). (Credit: CBSi)
Music listeners are catered for too, as the Olin has a built-in stereo speaker which is actually not too bad — you won't want to be starting a party with this thing but it's ideal for playing music to accompany your image slideshows. Video can also be played (MPEG or DivX) which is a nice surprise and adds to the increasing list of positives about this little frame. There's only 128MB of internal memory though which means that if you want to give someone this frame as a gift with photos already loaded onto it, you're a bit limited unless you also include a memory card filled with images.
At the back, the frame has memory card slots for SD, Memory Stick, xD and MMC, as well as a USB port. There's also an array of navigational buttons, a power switch and an instant print button that flashes blue while the frame is turned on. The box includes an instruction manual, the frame, a printer cartridge, USB and AV cables, remote control, and power adapter.
The Olin can display JPEG images only up to 12-megapixel resolution which isn't too much of an issue considering most consumer compact cameras aren't reaching beyond this megapixel count anyway. In use, the frame is nice and responsive, flicking between images in the slideshow without any perceivable lag. The menu interface is also more intuitive than many versions on photo frames, with a simple "Exit" button on the remote providing the method for navigating back through screens to the main menu.
Show me the printer
The printer itself uses a dye-sublimation process in the vein of the Canon Selphy range. The cartridge, which loads in the base of the unit, contains the ink and paper for 36 10x15cm photo prints. In terms of print quality, they're not on par with something from a dedicated photo printer like the recently-tested Epson Stylus Photo T50, but viewed on their own, prints are perfectly acceptable and have good colour to them, with a little over-saturation in the magentas and reds. There is a slight amount of pressure applied to the paper as it's fed back and forth through the rollers as the printer applies different layers of colour in the dye-sublimation process, which results in feint lines (actually indentations) across the paper.
Cartridges have to be bought through the company direct, at a cost of AU$20 each plus AU$7 postage.
The Olin frame makes an ideal gift for someone who wants the convenience of being able to print images from their memory cards without the hassle of connecting a computer, and without needing a dedicated printer unit. It's quick, responsive and easy to use, which makes us recommend it without too many qualms — just stock up on cartridges from the vendor.