It’s a similar ploy to what Apple did with the Mac mini, offering a reduced spec in order to reach a more attractive initial price while making more money from add ons. Pretty sneaky really.
The integration between iTunes and iPod is one of the things that makes Apple’s player so unique. However, it’s also one of the areas of frustration. iPods will only import music from one PC, and unfortunately it’s no different for photos. It’s understandable for music because of copyright reasons but I can’t see the logic for images. If you plug your iPod into another PC, you can transfer images over onto the disk but not via iTunes, which means that they won’t be viewable on the screen.
On its first launch the fact that iTunes was the only method of getting viewable imaages onto the iPod was a point of frustration for many users. Many people assumed that that you’d be able to transfer over pictures you’d taken on your digital camera and transfer them over when out and about. You could use the Belkin Media Reader accessory to transfer over pictures but you can’t then view the photos. You’d have to go back to your base PC and then re-import via iTunes. However, Apple has recently announced the iPod Camera Connector, which will finally deliver this functionality. Just plug your camera in and you’ll be able to transfer and view your photos – hallelujah.
One thing that iTunes doesn’t do is provide a database of your images, as it does for music. iTunes is great for organising and renaming your music, but it doesn’t let you do that with images, leaving you to do that in Windows or indeed, Mac OS. Instead you need to go into Preferences, where you can select which folders containing images. This option only appears though once you’ve plugged your iPod into your PC. This defaults to the My Pictures folder but you can point it anywhere you want. There’s also an option to copy from photos prepared in Adobe’s Photoshop Album application.
What iTunes actually does is to take the full resolution pictures and optimise them for the 220 x 176 resolution screen. This involves resizing and recompressing them and it does a pretty great job at this, with dithering and compression artefacts noticeable only with close examination. However, I got the best results by doing this manually in Photoshop CS by cropping to that exact resolution. With the images from my own Canon Ixus 500, iTunes put thin black bars at the top and bottom to fit the whole image on the screen, whereas my manual crop fit the screen perfectly, though inevitably that entailed losing part of the image. Generally speaking though you’re not going to want to do this manually as it's fiddly and time consuming.