FotoShow ZIP Disk Storage/TV Viewing
Iomega's FotoShow TM Digital Image Center is a fairly inexpensive hardware and software system for organizing and sharing JPEG-format (and only JPEG format!) digital photos without the use of a computer. Once your images have been transfered into the FotoShow you organize them into albums that can be viewed as slideshows. There's a multitude of transition options for the slideshow and photos can be edited, cropped and enhanced by pushing buttons on a remote and following simple onscreen menus.
It can also be used as a portable image download device for digital camera users. You can copy the contents of CompactFlash or SmartMedia cards to inexpensive (8-pack for $99.95) 250MB ZIP disks without a connection to a television or computer.
It connects to your TV (NTSC only) through either a composite video (RCA) or S-Video port and is operated by the included remote control. When connected to a USB-equipped Windows PC or Macintosh computer it functions like a conventional ZIP drive.
At the "heart" of the FotoShow is a standard Iomega USB ZIP drive that can use either 100MB or 250MB capacity ZIP disks. The "brain" is PictureIQ's PhotoBoardTM, an integrated hardware and software solution incorporating the Motorola MPC823 one-chip microprocessor, Wind River's VxWorks realtime operating system and Adobe's PhotoShop technology which provides picture editing and enhancement capabilities.
The FotoShow is equipped with both a CompactFlash Type II and SmartMedia flash card slot and reads in the contents of any solid state CompactFlash flash card or Microdrive or any size 3.3v SmartMedia flash card. (It does not work with 5v SmartMedia cards.)
The FotoShow can be used to transport data between computers. When connected to a PC the ZIP drive appears as another removeable drive. Photos and files may be transfered in or out of the Iomega FotoShow using standard file management utilities.
To transfer photos from your digital camera you just insert the flash card into the appropriate slot on the front and press the COPY button. If the unit is turned off it will quickly copy the files to the ZIP disk. The files are placed into an album (folder) using the current date, if you transfer more than one card in the same day it appends a number behind the date.
My testing showed the copy process to be very efficient, 48MB was copied in about a minute. If the power is turned on and connected to a TV it does the same copy process but it then "prepares" the image files for display on the TV. That one minute now turns into almost ten minutes as it builds display thumbnails and creates other "system" files related to the album.
Your original files are not erased, they remain on the card after the copy process and must be deleted using the camera's card format or 'erase all' function before reusing the card.
|ZIP Disk Capacity (Standard JPEG Images)|
|640 x 480||375||730||940||1825|
|1024 x 768||170||390||425||974|
|1280 x 960||110||270||280||680|
|1600 x 1200||75||185||185||460|
|2048 x 1536||45||115||115||295|
Press the Album button on the remote and then select your album from the list. Or use the menu to create a new one and move photos from another ablum into the new one.
Just like a digital camera there is a thumbnail index mode, on the FotoShow they call it the Photo Grid. Here you can quickly search through your pictures to find one to display fullscreen.
The way most people will view their images in the fullscreen mode. You can zoom-in on any portion of the picture if desired.
Another method of viewing images is two at a time like this.
The ROTATE command that lets you display portrait shots properly on the (horizontal) television. You can rotate Left or Right.
The CROP command allows you to get rid of "excess" space in your photo and effectively zoom up your main subject. Move the cropping box around on the screen and make it bigger or smaller and then hit the GO button to crop the photo.
The Redeye removal tool is shown here, just place it over the desired area and hit the GO button.
Auto Fix lets you enhance the entire image like the autolevel command in PhotoShop. The Add Effect lets you convert the image into B&W, sepia, posterize or a colored tint (orange, green, magenta, turquoise, blue or yellow).
Any changes you make can be saved over the original image, saved as a new image or can be undone altogether.
Get used to seeing "Please Wait" prompts like this, the FotoShow is handy but it isn't exactly what I would call "speedy." Cropping and saving new photos takes a minute or so on average.
System RequirementsFor use on TV (NTSC only)
- One of these Video-In connections:
- Composite (RCA) cable included
- S-Video (cable sold seperately)
- RF (coaxial) (adapter sold seperately)
- PC-formatted ZIP disks (to display images on TV)
- Pentium 100MHz or higher with built-in USB controller
- Microsoft Windows 95/98/NT4/Me/2000
- 2x CD-ROM drive or faster
- PowerMacintosh G3/G4 or iMac with built-in USB
- MacOS 8.6 or higher
- 2x CD-ROM or faster
Steve's ConclusionI can see Iomega selling quite a few of these devices. It is handy and quite easy to learn how to use. For those with a limited number of flash memory cards it could be a real Godsend on a vacation. It also gives you a way to enjoy the day's photos on the TV set at the hotel. Although it does work with Microdrives just remember that the largest ZIP disk is 250MB so a full 340MB Microdrive is not going to fit on that disk. Also remember that it only works with JPEG images, it will not display TIFF or raw type files from your camera.
Simple "blind" copying without the TV is quick and easy. Just slide the flash card in the slot and press the COPY button. The color of the COPY button indicates what it's doing (blinking green = copying, solid green = done, blinking red = not enough space on Zip disk, solid red = copy failed, blinking yellow = reading card). Transfering flash card images to ZIP disks in this fashion is fairly robust and I was seeing about 50MB a minute speed.
If however you have the unit hooked up to a TV and the powered on, it copies at the same speed but then it flashes an "Updating Albums" and please wait message for many minutes as it processes the photos and builds thumbnails and etc. If you don't want to wait for all of that be sure the unit is turned off when you press the COPY button.
The editing commands are easy to use and the onscreen menus and prompts are logical so most anyone can use the remote while sitting in their easy chair to build a nice album and slideshow. If you can't figure something out just punch the Help button for context-sensitive help. Once you have a slideshow built you can plug the FotoShow into your VCR and record it on a tape and send it to Grandma or anybody that has a VCR, no computer needed to view your slideshow.
As with all of these display devices, smaller sized images load and edit and save faster than the big three-megapixel images. When viewed on a TV screen there is little difference between a 2MB 2048 x 1536 image and a 56KB 640 x 480 image. So it pays to hook the FotoShow up to your computer and upload edited (smaller) images for slideshows or presentations. Just be sure to archive your original images -- those are your digital "negatives" and you'll need the big ones to make the best color prints.
For portable operation there is an optional 12VDC car cord but Iomega does not currently offer a battery option. You can of course make your own using a good sized 12V lead acid rechargeable battery and the proper connector.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of ZIP drives and disks out there so using the FotoShow does not mean going to some obscure storage medium. The 100MB and 250MB ZIP disks are not that expensive, they're certainly less expensive than the equal amount of flash memory. You can easily justify this gizmo to your wife when you show her that it can be hooked up to your computer and become a ZIP drive for other things. You can just hook it up to the TV and hand her the remote and let her discover how much fun it is. This is a highly useful device that does a lot more than just one thing so it won't have to be gathering dust inbetween vacations.