I don't own a digcam, so cannot provide photos.
1. The availability of digital closed captioning features, including enhanced ones such as changing the alignment of the captions, and the number of colors available.
There's a plethora of features; regrettably, however, caption alignment is not one of them. It is sorely needed as the alignment on this box is awful. The captions are not spread out along the width of the bottom of the screen. They emanate instead from the lower left quadrant of the screen and are skewered in short, uneven lines; i.e., one line may be 2 words, the next 6 words, then 1 word, then back to 4 words, etc. There are never more than 6 words to a line. Also, the CC often migrates to the upper left quadrant. In either location, the CC reaches the middle of the screen which, of course, obscures the TV picture.
The CC features are:
1. typeface - 8 options
2. font size - 4 options
3. font style - 3 options
4. font color - 9 colors
5. font effects - 5 options
1. Edge color - 9 options
2. Edge type - 6 options
3. Background color - 9 colors
4. Background effects - 5 options
2. The availability of a CC button on the remote control
The remote is one of the best features of this unit. See #10 below for further details. There is a CC button clearly marked. However, I spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out how to turn the CC on since it's not explained in the manual. I was totally frustrated and felt like an idiot when I finally did figure it out. When you press the button, the message "CC is off" appears. I thought, that by pressing the button once, it would turn the CC on, but it didn't. Then I thought maybe it got turned on from the main menu/CC section, but that didn't do it, either. After fiddling around forever, I finally stumbled upon how it works: you have to press the CC button more than once. The first button press is "CC off", the next button press is "CC Service 1 English", which turns on the CC. There are 6 Services in all, but I don't know what they are for since they are not explained in the manual and nothing happens when I select the services and wait for a more than reasonable amount of time for something to happen.
Nonetheless, I prefer the RCA box CC to my Sony Trinitron WEGA CC because with the RCA I can get CC with only one button press, albeit I still have to cycle through 6 presses to turn it off. With my TV, I also have 6 cycle-throughs, but I have to press several buttons/direction keys to turn the CC on.
3. The usability of the menu activated by the CC button and what the choices are
The CC menu is not activated by the CC button; it is located in the main menu. The choices are listed in #1 above.
4. If analog captions can be decoded by the converter box, the ease of reading the font provided for those analog captions (if present)
The box does not pick up CC on the multicasts. It picks up all main stations, but not the multicasts. My analog TV's CC *does* pick up the multicasts' CC - all channels.
5. The ease of reading the eight different fonts available for digital captions, particularly the default font
All of the fonts are flawed. The typeface is not clean; the edges are very jagged. The serif or cursive fonts have to be avoided all together because of this jaggedness. While the text *is* thinner than my TV's analog CC, it's not too thin for me to read from 12 feet away. However, because the digital typeface is not clean, the letters appear to be even thinner than they actually are. Having said that, I became accustomed to the typeface within an hour or so and still prefer it to my TV's because of the fast and easy accessibility. I would not want to watch the digital CC for any extended period of time, however.
6. The availability of a "caption preview" of some kind when changes are made in the settings for the digital captions, and how well this predicts the largest font style.
There is no preview, which is very annoying. One has to cycle through 5 levels to make caption adjustments, then cycle back out those 5 levels to review the adjustments.
7. How large the digital captions are actually capable of becoming (useful for low-vision viewers or for being able to watch the TV from a significant distance): do the longest lines of the largest captions fill the entire width of the screen, and if not, please describe how much of the screen is filled by the largest captions.
Large is not very large; there is a negligible difference in size among either small, default or large. That is to say, the large font is not small, but the ratio of difference between the fonts is negligible. I sit about 12 feet away from my TV and I have no trouble reading the CC without my glasses but, of course, that would be relative to an individual's eyesight.
The size of the font does not affect how much screen space is used. Probably because it's not very large.
8. How usable the optional translucent background is in providing sufficient contrast to the characters used in the captioning (if it is too transparent, it will be difficult to read the captions)
The translucent background is unusable, no matter what color font or background is selected. It is as you said: too transparent, rendering the CC illegible.
9. Whether there are any bugs associated with captioning, such as a failure to detect analog captions automatically if there are no digital captions, jerky movements of captions, cut-off captions, unexpected changes in the background, etc.
The box does not pick up CC on the multicasts. It picks up all main stations, including PBS, but not the multicasts of any channel. My analog TV's CC *does* pick up the multicasts' CC - all channels.
In addition, occasionally the CC text looks "chewed up". I can't think of another way to describe it other than it looks like portions of the text are chewed up to such an extent that some letters are barely legible, and sometimes, not. There is no pattern to the bug, though. It is not station-specific; it occurs on any station; it is intermittent; it doesn't necessarily occur after the CC has been on a while, it occurs immediately upon the CC being turned on. I don't know if it's signal-related or font-related as I haven't tested either, or whether it's the fault of the box.
10. Whether the remote control has an SAP or audio button to switch to a second audio channel (for descriptive video services), a raised dot on the 5 button, raised dots on the Power button or other buttons (useful for low vision or blind users), or other accessibility issues.
The remote is terrific, even for those who don't need aids. The buttons and other controls are very large. The CC button is clearly marked. There are raised dots on #5 and the power button for the box (the power button to the TV is directly opposite the raised dot power box button). The directional arrows and the volume and channel changers have thick ingrained (embossed?) arrows indicating direction. The buttons controlling the TV are on the left side of the remote and are colored grey; those buttons controlling the box are on the right and colored white.
SAP is handled through the main menu; there is no button on the remote.
11. How well the user manual explains the different digital closed caption settings; please indicate whether it advises choosing Service 1 or explains how to choose it. If you have found the user manual online, please provide the URL if it is not already provided in the first posting.
The manual does not explain anything about settings or services. As mentioned above, I have no idea what the 5 remaining CC services are.
12. Whether the CECB has crashed or otherwise malfunctioned, and what the circumstances were; this question is best answered after extensive use of digital closed captioning with different channels. Please indicate how many hours or days you've been testing the CECB with digital closed captioning turned on.
I've been using the box for 8 days, 16hrs/day, with CC on c. 33% of the time. So far I've had no problems at all, except for the "chewed text" as described above. Despite the substantially inferior quality of the box's CC as compared to my analog TV's CC, I nonetheless prefer to use the box's CC because of the one-touch easy access; even the 6-level/one button CC turn off is preferrable to the TV's 6-level, multi-button CC access.
Having said the foregoing, I am still very much pleased with the box, particularly after reading some avf reviews on other boxes. This was my first time setting up and using a converter and I found the manual's directions to be excellent and set-up was a breeze. The remote is terrific, the picture is excellent. I've had no problems so far. The CC has major drawbacks, but none that deter me from using it as first choice CC, mainly, as I mentioned, because of the quick and easy access. I also don't keep the CC on consistently; I turn it on and off, which is a factor in my tolerance of same.
Hope this helps.
Addendum: 24 hours after I posted this and 9 days after the RCA installation, my TV crashed. CC wasn't on when it crashed and was used only 33% of those 9 days. I was walking in another room which sometimes causes interference to the signal, I heard the signal breaking up and when I returned to the living room, the picture was gone. The sound was still working, the remote was still working, although I couldn't get the menu up because there was no picture. Both the DVD and VCR work, so it's not my TV. Turning the TV on and off did not help.
p.s. - Actually, a reboot of *both* the TV and the box did bring the picture back. It seems that if there's a lot of signal interference (and there was probably a lot of pixelating going on while I was away from the screen), the reception crashes.
I also forgot to mention in my initial post that the sound volume is very low. I began to investigate if there was a correlation with signal strength, but didn't finish. CBS comes in at a good volume, but all the rest of the channels are much lower. I'm constantly adjusting volume. The volume is so low, in fact, that when I play DVDs at the same TV volume, I have to lower the sound!! And you know how much lower DVD sound is.