e-ink art frames are scam

Recently, Somebody told me about a new product that was coming, an e-ink frame for black and white artistic photography.

So intriguing !

I searched a bit on the web and quickly found the website of an unknown company who was selling this unexpected  product. They have 2 devices with a large white inner frame and a thin black metal frame. The small one has a 27 X 20cm e-ink panel and the large one is based on a 69×39cm panel.

The website ( I will definitively NOT link it here ) shows the devices in a black and white color scheme with a lot of beautiful artistic pictures... in black and white too. Beautiful pictures and videos with a perfect contrast, deep blacks and true whites with very delicate half tones.

These are e-ink panels... but quite miraculously, it's nothing like what we have ever seen from e-ink technology. Perfect blacks and perfect whites ! And perfect gradations too !

On e-ink. 

What a surprise.

Either they do have an unknown display tech... Or their pictures and videos have been edited to make these products more appealing. Of course the first option seems very unlikely.

Alas the reality of e-ink has nothing to do with these absolutely misleading images. Blacks are dark grey. whites are light grey. This is perfectly ok for many uses but not for art reproduction.

Two excellent Onyx Boox e-readers with Carta displays and one Fujifilm instax

Here I’m using e-ink devices with Carta panels, the last tech available from e-ink with the best possible contrast. But there are layers for the capacitive screen and the EMR stylus and these layers, plastic and glass, probably affects a tiny little bit the contrast. To be fair, without any of these layers, contrast should be slightly better but it cannot make a significant difference as these Carta panels have a limited contrast of 15:1 which is very low anyway.


Photography amateurs know usually quite a bit about photographic techniques and tend to develop an educated eye. I don't see how they could be happy with such a limited tone range. 

Indeed Some ancient photographies are in low contrast, or we are used to see it this way and maybe it could be reproduced in an decent way on e-ink. But this level of limitation is unfit for most pictures.

A picture of mine on a Carta e-reader with an Instax copy of it for reference. Check the contrast difference. Instax whites and blacks are much deeper ! (of course Instax is far from good quality photography but it’s fun, convenient and lovely ... and good enough to show e-ink limitations)


Contrast is not the only problem of e-ink for black and white photography. Gradation and shades of gray are extremely important for photography reproduction. Artists can spend a huge time working on it at the developing stage as well in a chemical as a digital process.

Alas, again, e-ink is unfit for this too as it can only display a very small number of gray shades. It actually works in 4 bits colors. Photography digital work is usually made in 16 bits color depth. This mean e-ink can only display 16 different grey levels. But a 16 bits grayscale image is 65 000 different gray shades. 

With only 16 gray levels you cannot display subtlety and clean gradations. You can only manage to make things a bit less ugly using dithering and this is simply not good enough. And far from it, very far. 

e-ink on the left, original file on the right, check the shadows under the arm and armpit, check the lights on the elbow, no gradation, that’s ugly


Of course, as anythig can be used as an artistic media, artists can work with e-ink and create contents specifically designed for it and its limited possibilities.

But as a reproduction support it stays one of the worst options for its completely inadequate low display quality. 


Nice looking website, edited and misleading pictures and videos with a soothing voice to let you sleep and distract you from the truth.

High prices, unclear specifications. Unclear business model, subscription based, phone app dependant, making you bound to their service. These devices may easilly become useless if (when) the company closes its doors. 

The scam is obvious.

For this quite hefty price tag you can buy actual pictures to artists and help them survive. You can buy a bunch of good quality reproductions of famous art pieces too and get it framed. It will last decades after these value-less e-ink things get trashed for being ugly and useless.