Review: Meural Canvas (The Photo Frame Every Photographer Needs)

The Meural Canvas is changing the way your photos are viewed in galleries.

I first encountered Meural at a gallery event hosted by Lomography, so when the Meural Canvas came about I was incredibly excited to try it out. When one thinks about photo frames and they’ve been in the industry for years, they think about what’s essentially the precursor to the standard tablet device. But you see, the Meural Canvas is more than that. It’s a picture frame that connects to an outlet, has WiFi, and uses gestures from the user to interact with it. Oh yeah, and there’s a mobile app and a membership plan that comes with it. Unlike reformatted Apple iPads though, the Meural Canvas has a matte screen and so it prevents reflections a great deal and enhances the images by providing its own backlighting. It also not only shows off photos, but can do videos and things like cinemagraphs. Then consider the fact that there is real wood and a ton of metal inside and you’ve got yourself one hell of a device you’ll want your photos to be on–but only if you either have the money for it or have a justification for actually using one for commercial reasons as a photographer.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fantastic display
  • App works pretty well despite delays
  • Gestures are nice
  • Looks fantastic on a wall

Cons

  • WiFi setup the first time around can be a bit wonky
  • You really, really need strong walls to hold this thing
  • Getting the gestures to work takes a lot of time and patience

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the Meural Canvas taken from the Meural Canvas listing page

Dimensions: 29.5” x 19.2” x 1.6”

Includes 8’ white cloth cord

Includes international power adapters

Made of American poplar, Leonora blends a modern aesthetic with artful design and sleek angles. It’s named after the trailblazing surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington.

Ergonomics

The Meural Canvas is a pretty massive smart picture frame. It’s about 30 inches by 20 inches. Think for a moment – when is the last time you actually made a print that big? I certainly haven’t – 17×22 is the biggest I’ve done. Indeed, the Meural Canvas is essentially like a giant print, but digital. And if you’re a photographer who thinks that prints are useless and that you don’t need a print, I genuinely implore you to think again or consider giving up on photography.

What you’re looking at here is a massive interface. It isn’t a touchscreen, but the sides (the white parts, two of them to be specific) are gesture responsive. You essentially have to have your hand be an inch away from it for it to respond to your actions. But the big part here is the screen; which is a matte display. It’s tough to get dirty and doesn’t necessarily need to be lit perfectly in the same way that a gallery demands. With that said, this means some gallery rep won’t show off your images in the worst light possible. Because of the matte display and the backlit screen, your images are going to look fantastic no matter what.

Also note that there is a solid wood frame around the edges.

The back of the Meural Canvas has a plug to power it up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t run on batteries. There are connectors to hook it up to a wall. Mind you, the Meural Canvas is pretty heavy. When you connect it, you’ll want to ensure the cable stays out of someone’s way.

Here are some of the pieces of connection hardware. I absolutely must stress the need to put these into actual wall studs; the frame is way too heavy and will fall out otherwise. In my living room is a five foot by four foot Banksy canvas, and the Meural Canvas is heavier than that.

Build Quality

The Meural Canvas is solid, heavy, and feels great. It feels like an evolution of the print due to the connectivity, screen, etc. With that said though, I’d still be careful to ensure that the Meural Canvas doesn’t fall off of a wall or something. Again, please remember it’s heavy and hanging one is honestly a two person job.

Also be sure to keep in mind the sensors for interacting with it. Arguably, this is one of my biggest problems with the Meural Canvas. Your hand needs to be around an inch away from the interface areas. If you’re too close, things don’t always work so great. If you’re too far, well, they won’t work either. The working distance is around an inch, but I’d prefer for it to be around eight inches. I highly doubt anyone is going to get that close up on the Meural Canvas, and if they do then you should have some sort of barrier to prevent them from doing so at the gallery.

Ease of Use

The Meural Canvas generates its own WiFi signal. Your phone should connect to the signal to interact with the Meural Canvas. You’ll also need to sign up for an account on their website. Using the app or your gestures with the screen, you can interact with the Meural Canvas. I’ve already talked about how finicky this can be at times; so if you’re using gestures then go slowly. Playlists should not be thought of like your average Spotify or Apple Music playlists; but instead you should think of them more as albums or projects on Behance. If you’re showing off a specific photo project of yours, you should make said project into a playlist.

These playlists are also synced to your Meural account. Before you set up the Meural Canvas, you should really set up your Meural account and sync playlists to there. Then, you can boot up the Canvas and show off images.

Setting up the playlists at times means working with Meural from the phone. The Meural Canvas comes preloaded with some demo playlists, but you should have your own as well.

When the Meural Canvas is displaying images, you can control how long they’re displayed from your phone. You can also control when it goes to the next image.

Conclusions

I really do like the Meural Canvas. There isn’t a whole lot like it out there. Is it worth the money? Yes. However, I really want Meural to improve their interface display and their communication between the app and the device. It can be a bit difficult to work with but when you’ve got it all set up for a show, there is absolutely no doubt everyone viewing your work will be in love with it. At the same time though, I wonder how infatuated with your work someone will be vs just how cool the Meural Canvas is. For sure, it makes your work look better and even finds ways to upscale it. Just be sure that it’s mounted properly to the wall.

The Meural Canvas earns four out of five stars. Want one? Hit up Amazon for a Meural Canvas.