Stardust Gallery LED Lightbox Review and Metallic Print Review
| 0 Comments... |Stardust Gallery manufactured LED lighted Lightbox Review by Eric Todd
The owner of Stardust Gallery, Craig, was looking for volunteers to review an LED backlit lightbox containing either a Hubble image or an image of user choice. Since I had what I felt were fairly decent Milky Way images acquired from a session at a dark sky site late last Fall, I thought one of the somewhat processed images might be a good candidate to display inside one of the Stardust Gallery backlit lightboxes, and eagerly forwarded the image to the website.
Within a few days, I was informed of shipment and received the lightbox a short time later. The first thing I noticed was the packaging- a heavy, frame like cardboard box that is just slightly larger than the lightbox. Inside, the lightbox itself was carefully bubble wrapped to provide both protection and add rigidity to the assembly. In addition, I unwrapped a small wall transformer with a plug that matched a similar plug to a cord emanating from the bottom of the lightbox.
Once the frame and transformer were removed from their wrapping, I took some measurements of the lightbox: the outer diameter was 12x16" and the inner, viewable area of the image, 9.5x13.5". The lightbox frame itself appears to be all metal black and seems to be quite rigid and more than adequate for the task of supporting the inside image. On back of the lightbox are d-ring hooks on opposite sides of the frame for allowing hanging of the image on the wall. A wire protrudes from the bottom, wall side of the lightbox frame and terminates in a plug. This plug matches a similar plug on the wall transformer power supply. Once the plugs are coupled together, the total length of the power supply cord, from the lightbox to the wall transformer, appears to be approximately 5.5 feet.
After measurements were taken, the next step was to plug in the transformer just for a quick test before mounting the lightbox on the wall. I did this and I was immediately impressed by the luminosity of the image. The color and contrast of the Milky Way looked quite good, pretty much matching the original image on my calibrated desktop screen. Now let me just stop to say that this image might be a particularly more difficult image to display properly as a print, due to the much greater contrast of the Milky Way and background sky, as well as any objects in the image. However, considering the fact that I quickly chose the image for printing and the fact that it wasn't totally processed (a bit of a clipped histogram at the ends and little noise reduction in the shadows), I think it shows up very well in the frame. The shadow noise was a bit apparent when viewing the lit frame at reading distance, but on a wall several feet away, it will be well hidden. The big plus here, however, was the ability to send Stardust Gallery an original TIFF. That simple advantage, along with the fact that the image was printed on film, completely masked the fact that there were over and undersaturated sections within the original image. I was not able to see the poorer processed sections at all, a welcome refresher from the standard snail mail or one hour jpeg services I am used to! The website offers a section where any high quality image can be uploaded. The owner, Craig, does have Photoshop and can manipulate images as needed-- a great convenience especially when we often have much differentiation among screen appearance and print.
The lightbox was next to be mounted onto the wall. Due to the fact that I lack the space for any new picture frames presently, I decided to remove an existing traditional picture from the wall and temporarily replace it with the lightbox for the purposes of this review. Since the wall then offered a hook once the picture was removed, I needed to find some galvanized wire to hook between the two d rings on back of the frame. Unfortunately, wire could not be found but, in a pinch, I had some fishing line handy to make the rear connections first. Once done and tested, I hung the picture on the wall and plugged it in. Once again, I noticed the great contrast of the image, along with brilliant luminosity, but color did seem a bit more bluish. It did not take long to find out the cause: the existing room lighting. I have basically switched to either LED lamps or "cool white" CFL's. In the case of the room where the picture was hung, a CFL as primary light. Once the CFL room light was turned off, the picture again became correctly color balanced. Just something to keep in mind, that existing room lighting may affect color balance of the backlit LED picture frame image. Easy solution is to replace room light with something more correctly color balanced. Keep in mind that the color balance issue likely wouldn't show in the case of a family or nature portrait as those types of images are much more forgiving to room lighting imbalances.
So, after mounting the Stardust Gallery LED backlit lightbox on the wall, what's the verdict? In this reviewer's judgement, very good and recommended. For convenience, here are some pros and cons below:
Ability to upload a high quality image directly via the Stardust Gallery website.
Ability to utilize not only astronomy images, but any other types of images as well. Stardust Gallery uses a waterfall sample image, which would look great. I can think of rainbow or flower images as well. Don't forget about family portraits either! Keep in mind that Stardust Gallery offers options other than LED backlit lightboxes... you can simply receive a high quality metallic or glossy print, for example.
LED lightbox uses a high quality, all metal frame.
LED equates to long life, much longer than traditional incandescent or other bulbs.
Illumination of film really helps bring out image color and contrast. Combined with excellent LED backlighting, makes for an excellent image to show off on the wall!
Keep in mind that any small errors may show in result, the noise in shadows for example, but this is easily offset by careful processing beforehand and/or unlikely noticed at viewer distances once picture is mounted on the wall.
It would be nice for Stardust Gallery to offer other materialistic options for lightboxes (wooden as an alternative frame, for example).
A thinner power cord and/or alternate location emanation from the lightbox.
An ability to dim the LED brightness might be welcome.
Stardust Gallery Metallic Print Review
Craig also sent me a bonus "metallic" 12x16" print for my review. The initial packaging showed attention to detail with the print being supported by a cardboard backing with careful wrapping in place with craft paper. Upon removal of the packing, I was pleasantly surprised by the contrast-- much better than a similar "metallic" NGC7000 print I had printed through Wal-mart mail print service two years ago. Also, with this Milky Way image, a certain amount of enlargement was required since the native resolution was at 8x10". Color was nearly identical to the same image as viewed on my calibrated monitor and, being a print, it is far more forgiving to the light types and temperatures in the room (my CFL lighting doesn't affect color balance very much at all). Enlargement also seemed to do well with little, if any, added bluriness. I can recommend the Stardust Gallery print service.
High quality, high contrast print. Color balance seems nearly identical to that of image viewed on calibrated monitor screen.
Printing paper seems high quality and not too thin as seen with some other firms.
Does not seem to hide shadow clipping as well as the film used for the Lightbox. Seems to substitute a slight amount of digital blocking for shadow clipping and noise. Note that this is only visible in very bright lighting and viewing the picture six inches away from the eyes. You'll not notice this six feet away on the wall!Most astro folks will have their images well corrected before printing (I didn't with mine) so these minor artifacts won't even be a factor.
Craig asked me if I could also say a few words about the website......
Stardust Gallery is located at stardustgallery.com. The website is well laid out and is easy to navigate. They are offering free shipping at this time. The FAQ spells out clear shipping, privacy, and return policies. There is no nonsense regarding contacting them either with address, email, and phone clearly written out on the "contact" page. In addition to offering LED backlit picture lightboxes and standard metallic or glossy prints, they will soon be offering 3D Laser Etched Art and Jewelry options as well. On the "About Us" page is an informative video that effectively places Earth into a universal perspective. The "Blogtoons" section, designed for both kids and adults alike, can really drive home astronomy concepts in a friendly and effective way! The ordering process is a breeze with smooth transitions between webpages as the order is processed and accepting Paypal payment as a great convenience. Whether or not a product is purchased from Stardust Gallery, it is well worth the website visit for the astronomy, entertainment, and humor content alone!
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