In spring of 2007 I have seen flash cards priced as low as $30 for a
2GB SD card, with prices like this the need for a hard drive based
digital storage device is greatly reduced. Most people should be
able to go on vacation for a few weeks and use less than $100 worth of
flash cards, unless they are taking video or have a camera that stores
in a RAW format. Of course with the coming age of HD video
cameras which can write to flash cards this whole issue will open up
again, as even if the video camera supports the MPEG4 compression
system you are still going to need at about 2GB per hour of video,
which means you might need quite a few flash cards.
These are typically based on hard drives or CD burners and include a
flash memory reader, you insert your full flash card, press a button or
two, and the device copies the contents of the card onto its hard drive
or burns it on a CDR/RW. There are now (Sept'04) even ones based on
DVD-R/RW drives. The idea is that it will be a few years before flash
memory cards are inexpensive enough that the amature photographer can
just buy enough flash memory to store all the photos he will take on a
one or two week trip, but one of these devices would certainly do the
job for a lot less. Consider that 1GB of storage holds about 600 photos
at 3MegaPixel resolution but only about 250 photos at 8MegaPixels.
Consider that when one goes from film to digital one is quite likely to
shoot 5-10 times as many photos. If you used to budget one roll of 24
exposures of film per day, this means you are going to need to store
about 100-200 digital photos per day. So for a 2 week trip you'll need
storage for 1400-3000 photos. At 3MegaPixels this is about 2.3 - 5 GB,
and at 8MegaPixels this is 5.6 - 12GB. Of course, if you go somewhere
special (say Rome) you may find yourself shooting 500 photos a day! And
of course if you used to shoot more than a roll of film a day you've
really got a problem... Or if you want to shoot in RAW mode at 8-12MB
per photo you'll have a real problem.
Of course if you're a professional (or a paranoid computer user who's
lost data in the past) you'll want to make multiple copies of your
photos in the field, perhaps taking two hard drive based storage
devices or using a CD burner unit and burning two copies of each CD.
At Sept 2004 prices for CompactFlash format (the least expensive format
still) the current sale prices for 1GB of flash memory (actually two
512MB cards) is CDN$200, so for a 3MPixel vacation you'd need to spend
CDN$500-$1000 on compact flash cards. If you were to extract a 4GB or
5GB microdrive from some MP3 player you would have enough storage for
about CDN$400 (or less).
The obvious alternatives to taking this approach are:
Here are some potential devices and reviews:
- shoot less, or review and delete a lot of photos in the
my opinion you will need a laptop to do the reviewing on, in check case
you'll use if for the storage)
- shoot at a lower resolution and quality (but then why did
an 8MegaPixel camera?)
- buy a microdrive or two (this will depend on if your camera
take a CompactFlash type II card), but at the 8M Pixel requirements
this is still not as cost effective (even if you extract the microdrive
from some less expensive MP3 player). And then there's always the
reliability issue - what you you drop the microdrive onto the street
one day? Note: I own one IBM 1GB microdrive which I have used as my in
camera memory for 3 years and not had any problems with it, but some
days I still get nervous.
- off load the photos to a laptop you're bringing along
- only go on really short vacations to really dull places?
- The Digital
improves on the photowallet style devices. A new
version of this (Sep-2002) has been announced.
- I am using an Image
I purchased from a local computer dealer in late 2001, I've only used
for one big trip (since I also have a 1GB microdrive in the camera)
I transferred about 2GB of photos onto it without any trouble. Its a
unit and the hard drive is user changable (in a pinch you could even do
this in the field to increase your storage, just pre-format the spare
drive at home first) and can take up to a 40GB
these days (I'm using a 10GB unit). It works well under Windows 98 with
drivers and Windows 2000 without any special drivers. The one thing I
like to see added is a "verify transfer" mode, so that after copying
the files across it would then verify them against the originals on the
CF card. I don't think any of the other systems like this have a
like this either though. It does not have the ability to output video
(but the ones that do a much more expensive). Recommended!
- DigiMagic is introducing
(Sept 2004) the DM
which will allow you to transfer photos from a flash card to CDR or
DVD-R/RW in the field. They also make some other CDR type drives.
- The Archos Gmini 400
might be a versatile device (smaller form factor but plays video too)
- A review of portable
digitial image storage devices
reports on taking three digital storage devices on the road
- If you have an iPOD, then Belkin
makes an adapter
that turns it into an image storage device.
- Tom's Hardware mentions the Fujitsu
DynaMO 640U2 Photo, a magneto-optical drive with a built in card
reader to allow on to transfer photos to MO disks in the field. This
would be a more robust solution that a hard-drive based image storage
- The Digital
Photo Copy Cruiser combines a CD writer with a card reader to allow
you to transfer the contents of your memory cards onto CDs in the field.
- Digital-Eye reviews
the Smartdisk FlashTrax auxillary storage
device, which contains
both a hard drive and a 3.5in LCD display and it can be connected to a
TV. In Aug 2004 a new version was announced
that added a histogram function.
- Stephen Voss reports
on his use of the Archos Gmini 220
Disc Steno CP-200 storage devices. Steve's Digicams has a positive review
of the CP-200 as well. The CP-200 allows you to off-load flash memory
cards in the field to CDR media, and it will span large flash cards
across multiple CDRs.
- The V-MP3H is a digital player and maybe wallet device
the the Computer
Geeks, I'm quite amazed that I cannot find a web site for the
manufacturer of this (although I suspect it might be Supertek who's web
site seems to be down 30-Jun-02) although I did find another
(Vosonic) for it. What
I would like to know is if this has a built in drive or not, and if so,
will it allow one to copy data from a compact flash card onto that
drive. Vosonic also makes the X'S
Drive, which is reviewed
here. Another possible unit has been announced
(Sept-02) from Mambo.
- The new Digital
Photo Copy Cruiser (from Alera)
can now span data a cross disks
- The PhotoBank
from Transcend looks like a nice storage unit, this is based on a 1.8
inch hard drive.
- Sima's Image
Bank, a portable storage
device (reviewed here)
for offloading your photos in the field. How to install
a new hard drive in this unit (you can buy the unit without a hard
has a press
release claiming to be doing a 4GB box for US$199. Terapin
(which does not seem to be working - 23-Jun-01 but this is probably
the same outfit) has announced (previewed here
and here) a
similar unit called the "Mine", this has some interesting features, it
can be a USB master or slave, it includes a network interface and a
slot and it has the ability to send email. At 12-Jun-02 the Terapin got
covered on Slashdot.
Not to be outdone, Imation
is planning to release DiskGO in the 4th qtr of 2001. The new Nixvue
Vista (July 02) has a built in LCD display, can provide video
to a TV and has a lithium battery and remote control for about US$500.
The new jukebox unit from Archos
has a module for interfacing to compact flash and other media. The RoadStor
from MicroSolutions, combines a photo viewer, CD burner, DVD and MP3
playes into one unit.
- Steve's Digicams reviews
the RoadStor from Microsolutions
which is available from FutureShop
in Canada for about CDN$350 (Mar'04), and LondonDrugs too. Insight.ca
carries the Roadstor
PRO DVD+/-RW writer MSL401020 for CDN$475.99 and the older DVD/CDRW
Flash photo viewer MSL401010 for CDN$363.
- Aug'04, Vosonic announces
a new image storage device, the VP3610, based on a 1.8" hard drive,
this allows for a more compact format (and probably reduces power
- Sony's portable
hard disk based photo storage solution, the HDPS-M1
- Delkin is making a USB
to USB transfer device, this will allow you to copy files from a
memory card reader to some other storage device like a USB hard drive.
They call this a USB Bridge.
LondonDrugs is carrying the SyncBox from
only problem is it does not seem to have a verify mode. This might be
the same as this
unit from Infinite Data Storage, who also make a portable 8cm
CDR drive/player, which is available from ComputerGeeks.
Belkin makes a USB bridge,
but its only USB1.1. In Nov'05 Engadget
mentioned this bridge type device from Aleratec, called the USB Copy Cruiser
Plus, which actually has an LCD display. It is reviewed
here by Cameras and Photography. In Dec'05 FutureShop started
advertising the On
The Go Storage Bridge that appears under the ValGear label, here a Samtack press
release that mentions it. Here is another that is available from usbgear.com.
In May'06 these were still rather hard to find, Memorex
announced their TravelLink
bridge (USB OTG) devices, these both have LCD displays to show you
what's happening and one of them even has a built in card reader. Sima's
Hitch looks like another USB bridge device, it
will connect at USB2.0 speeds and features a large display. It is
by iLounge. Apparently this unit is running a Linux kernel, so the
door's open to hacking.
- The MFR (multifunction recorder) from Addonics, announced
here, allows you to burn flash media to CDRW and even DVD+RW
media. It also acts as a media player with S-Video output. Is now available
- Vosonic X's Drive Pro VP 300,
a hard drive based photo storage device
- sometime in the future, USB
to Go will allow us to hook up a digicam directly to a hard drive
CD burner. This is the official
- The Kanguru
FC-RW is a CD-R/RW burner type solution, it will play audio CDs
too, but will not allow display of photos.
- Delkin announces
a CD-R/RW burner type device
- The MediaGear portable storage device
- The Apacer
Share Steno CD211 based on a 2.5inch hard drive
- Oct'04, Vosonic's
VP6210 and VP6300 have built in colour LCD displays for image
- Here's a web
page that tracks a lot of these
SnaZio Pocket Cinema
used as a photo storage device as well as media player.
- Sony's HDPS-M10
gives you a 40GB drive plus an LCD display
makes an SD
9120 PMP portable media player includes a 7-in-1 card reader and
also can display photos in 33 different RAW formats.
a new unit from Epson, the Photo fine P-4500
Mar'06 had this MediaGear
20GB unit (MGHG120) for US$119.95 (sale price) from $139.95 regular.
- Viliv announced
their P2, a personal media player with an 800x480 display. This is also
supposed to be able to act as a USB2.0 host, so it might be able to
read the contents of flash cards or even cameras that act as external
USB attached drives.
- The Vosonic
VP8360 was announced in May'06
hard disk from SmartDIsk
includes and "always-on" LCD display that shows a summary of the drive
- The Jobo
GIGA Vu Pro Evolution includes a colour display screen for viewing
on the go, and also is currently unique in also including DVI output,
so one could use this to drive a large monitor or a projector (perhaps
eliminating the need for a laptop).
- The Delkin
BurnAway gets updated to write to DVD media
Canon entered the portable storage and display market with their Media
Storage M80 and M30 devices, these are hard drive based with 3.7in
colour LCD displays.
Ultra 120 is a very small device without the extra weight and power
requirements of an LCD display.
- Epson's P5000
Multimedia Storage Viewer
- The XS
Drive Centre VP6250
CF Ultra ND-2525, based on a 2.5in hard drive (available without
drive so you can customize your own) with a CF slot and adapter for
other formats and with backup speeds up to 1GB/min and a verify
function. It has USB2.0 and IEEE1394 connections for your computer.
Appeared in Dec'06 on
- In March
Digital Foci announced
a new Photo Safe that is priced from US$139 (here
- Nexto's CF
OTG Xpress unit also has USB hosting, so it should be able to read
data right off USB "drive" type devices
Xs-Drive 2 Smart 2300 (announced
Apr'07) has high speed transfer and a OLED display, more info
- The Sony
HDMS-S1D Digital Photo Album (here on )
is a larger photo tank, this is designed to replace a home PC in
storing and showing photos, it has an 80GB hard drive, a multi-card
reader, CD/DVD drive and built in video output to composite, S-Video,
component video and HDMI for display at up to 1080i. It also has
an ethernet LAN interface, so presumably this can act as a NAS device
on your network.
- The Xs-Drive
Vision 2500 (main site) is a
portable photo storage device that includes video output