iPod Photo Update

What an image really looks like.

I looked at a 40 GB iPod Photo at the Apple Store in Towson today. The color screen looks great and the new font is much nicer to read. The photo performance is surprisingly fast. Scrolling through a library of over 1,000 photos takes only seconds in thumbnail view using the click wheel. What's even cooler is that you can also zip through the library or albums while viewing the photos full screen. They fly past with no delay as you move your thumb around the wheel. This was very impressive.

The only thing that disappointed me was how the images were resized. When iPhoto 4 resizes an image, it does a very nice job of smoothing the edges. In the images that I saw, the edges were as jagged as your favorite childhood video game. Unfortunately, the iPod Photo was not connected to a computer, so I couldn't determine the source of the problem. Maybe iPhoto/iTunes does a quick resize without smoothing when optimizing for iPod viewing. Maybe the sample images on the iPod were resized with a different program. Maybe it's the iPod's screen itself, with the low resolution and limited colors causing the jaggies.

Now that I think about it, the photos are probably resized to 640x480 for television viewing, so the iPod has to do some resizing of its own for the built-in display. Perhaps this is where the problem is introduced. I really need to see the iPod setting in iTunes so I know if there is any resizing at all before transferring, since according to Apple, you can use the iPod to store the full resolution originals.

Hopefully they'll get one connected to a demo computer soon. I'll also bring my video camera and connect it to the S-Video port on the dock, and see how the images look that way. I have to go back anyway to try out Motion, which wasn't installed on any of the store computers.

To illustrate what I saw, I resized in image in Photoshop, resampling with the "nearest neighbor" method. Again, I set the monitor to "thousands" of colors to achieve the dithering.

I had my digital camera with me and would have taken a picture of the actual display, but it wasn't loaded with my pictures and I didn't want to worry about copyright. The image I created below is a pretty accurate representation of how I remember the iPod's display.

This small issue hasn't stopped me from wanting an iPod Photo, and after some further investigation I may find a way to get around it, such as creating an iPod-optimized version of my library and syncing that. I know many people feel that photo-viewing capabilities are unnecessary and won't go for the color model until a video feature is introduced, but I'm a photo nut who can look at pictures for hours. If I get an iPod Photo, I'll be able to do this anywhere.

Posted: Saturday - October 30, 2004 at 12:21 AM