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Portable Photo Storage Choices For Travellers
We take a look at the storage options available for snappers on the move.
(by Mike Slocombe for Digital Lifestyles, 19th October, 2007)
Although digital cameras and cheap memory cards are conspiring to make us take more and more photos, backing up those precious snaps when you're away from home can be a bit of a fiddly task, especially if you're shooting in the memory hungry RAW format.
For short trips, a couple of spare memory cards should be more than enough, but for longer jaunts, more versatile back up solutions are often needed.
We take a look at some of the storage options available.
Uploading from an Internet cafe
Perhaps the easiest method is to pop into the nearest web cafe, grab yourself a gallon jug of sangria and sit back while you back up your files online.
If you've got your own server space or are using services like the BT Digital vault, you could slap the card in the PC and FTP the files directly into a password protected directory (and hope that no one's keylogging the computer).
If you want to share the photos with faraway chums, the images could be uploaded straight to photo sharing sites like Flickr (you'll need a paid account if you're uploading tons of files), or emailed home or elsewhere. Smaller sets of images can also be uploaded to free file storage sites - see a useful listing here.
You're likely to come unstuck if your webcafe is in the back end of beyond with a 14k modem for a connection, or if you've got a bulging bag of full memory cards.
Back up to a laptop
So long as you don't mind lugging the thing around on your happy hols, a laptop makes it easy to safely transfer your images at the end of the day.
Taking a laptop on the road means you can organise, tag and trim your images as needed, making it easy to remember what was taken where, although the extra bulk, battery life and 'nickability' are all factors to consider. Taking along a compact USB portable hard drive is also a handy way to add another, fairly cheap back up option.
Portable storage devices ('digital wallets')
Many serious photographers use dedicated portable storage devices, in the shape of flash drives, larger capacity hard drive based units or dedicated DVD photo burners.
A couple of budget models
Once leg-crossingly expensive, prices have come down recently and there's loads of cheap, capable devices out - although you can expect a pretty basic performance with no frills. Be sure to check out the battery life on some of the cheaper models too.
Offering simpleton-proof, two-button operation (power on/off; copy), the Vosonic XS-Drive 2 Smart is a stylish, cheapo 40GB-160GB storage device with a fast USB 2.0 connection and a snazzy OLED panel. This displays the drive's working status, file transfer and battery power level (although you can't view the images or browse any folders).
Supporting CF, MicroDrive, MSDuo, MSPro, SD, miniSD, microSD, SDHC, MMC, MMC, xD - and a host of more obscure flash card formats - the Vosonic offers two hours of battery life, and usefully lets you delete copied files off the card before slapping it back into your digital camera.
Prices vary according to the GB storage, but the 60GB version can be found for around £80. Not bad.
Set to launch next month is the budget JoBo Giga One Ultra storage device. Coming in four hard disk capacities (40, 80, 120 and 200 GB) and boasting a claimed transfer rate of 1 GB per 3 mins, the USB 2.0 unit is wedged into a chunky aluminum case, has a 2? LCD screen for status updates (but not for viewing images, sadly) and retails for around £105, £140, £160, and £230 respectively.
In the next instalment, we'll look at some mid-price and upmarket storage solutions, explain how you might be able to use your iPod for photo back up duties and give you our belt'n'braces approach.
Mid priced viewers
Deep pocketed photographers looking for more professional features may be impressed by the EPSON P-3000 Multimedia Storage Viewer, offering movie and photo playback on a large 4?, 640×480 pixels, Photo Fine Ultra LCD, backed by 40GB internal memory, built-in CF and SD memory card slots, long battery life and a built-in audio player.
There's support for RAW file thumbnails from around 40 dSLR models and images can be handled right up to a wall-filling 30 million pixels. The cost is equally massive, with the P-3000 retailing for around £300, and the bigger 80GB version, the Epson P-5000 hitting you to the tune of £430.
The Pro's choice
A particularly impressive high end choice is the Jobo Giga Vu Pro:evolution, a portable media player developed for pros offering histogram values, dust and blown highlights detection and a crosshair readout for RGB values.
The 145×107x38mm, 420g unit comes with a 3.7-inch TFT LCD, 640×480px resolution screen plus support for MP3, MPEG-4, USB 2 and USB 2 OTG, with the CF card slots (type I/II) capable of hurtling files across at a whizzy 13mb/second.
The Giga Vu Pro can display JPEG, RAW, and TIFF photos, backed by the ability to zoom in and rotate images. There's also a built-in FTP server for connecting with Wi-Fi enabled cameras via an optional 802.11b CF card.
Naturally, something as good as this has a price tag that feels like being hit around the mush with a cold herring, with the 40Gb model priced at £369, the 80Gb £429 and the extra-tasty 120GB model delivering a £589 punch.
Personal Media Players/iPods
If you don't fancy the expense of a dedicated photo wallet, you may be able to upload the images to your portable media player, although not all support photo transfer functions.
iPod users can grab the optional iPod Camera Connector for transferring photos to the iPod photo (30 GB and 60 GB) and iPod 5G (with Video) models but the EveryMac site notes that "all iPod models starting with the iPod classic (6G) and iPod touch do not support importing photos from cameras at all."
The site also warns that, "You cannot import photos to any iPod mini, iPod classic, iPod touch, or iPod shuffle models from a digital camera. You also cannot directly import photos to any iPod nano models using the Apple iPod Camera Connector or a third-party solution..."
Users of most Archos and SanDisk personal media players should have no such problem though.
Being bereft of iPods and deficient in the portable media player department, we've found ourselves using a variety of back up methods, adopting something of a belts'n'braces methodology, mainly out of fear of losing our sacred shots.
Our current three pronged back up system involves:
1. Taking loads of SD cards on our trips and using a fresh one after each one is filled up. The 'used' SD card then is then stored safely and acts as our first back up
2. Copying all the images to our laptop, and using a card reader for image transfers to save the camera's battery life
3. Taking along a compact 100GB USB drive and backing up on to that. For some trips we burn DVDs of the files and either carrying them separately (so we'll still have the photos if our bag gets half-inched) or post them home via ye olde snailmail.
It's worth noting that whatever system you employ, don't forget to take along an ample supply of chargers, power supplies, batteries, solar chargers or hamster powered transformers if that's what you need to keep your gear going.
Pack your cameras carefully, take a cleaning kit and be sure to take out insurance for your cameras and equipment, and keep a record of the serial numbers, make, model and descriptions.
Related link: Proporta Mobile Survival Kit - emergency charger
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