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Friday, June 1, 2007

Backing Up Images In The Field

You can keep your images secure without carrying two laptops on every trip

Laptop-Free Strategies

Is there any way to dodge this digital backup bullet, any way to leave the computer at home? One laptop-free option would be, of course, to buy enough CF or SD cards to last your entire trip, use them once like film, and save all the downloading for when you get home. With memory getting cheaper, this is becoming a more viable option, but at this writing, it’s still a very expensive way to go, especially if you like to shoot a lot with a large-megapixel-sized sensor. And although flash memory is far more stable than moving hard drives, this solution doesn’t provide any backups.

Photo Traveler: Backing Up Images In The FieldAnother option is to use a stand-alone CD or DVD burner from Delkin and other companies. These have slots into which you can slide your memory cards, and you can burn directly from the card to the disk. The advantage of this system is that you can make multiple disks of each card for backup. The downside is that it takes a long time to burn even one DVD, and there are no viewing screens on these burners.

The portable viewer/storage units, like those made by Epson, JOBO, Wolverine and others, are another option. With these, you can download your cards and view the pictures on a small LCD screen as well, all on a device that’s about half to a third the size of a laptop. These are terrific devices, but until recently, they begged the question of backup, since the only way to make a second copy was to literally buy a second wallet and download the cards again—not an entirely economical solution, time-or money-wise. And if you’re like me and prefer at least two backups, then we’re talking real inconvenience.

Fortunately, a couple of companies, Epson and JOBO, heard the pleas of photographers asking for digital wallets with the ability to back up to small external hard drives. Backing up to multiple small hard drives remains the fastest and easiest method in the field.

The Epson P-3000 and P-5000 (40 and 80 GB capacities) and JOBO GIGA Vu PRO Evolution (with capacities of 40, 80 and 120 GB) boast larger screens and bigger drives than earlier models, but they also provide the ability to back up to small USB hard drives. You have to look deep into the reviews and product descriptions to find this, but the ability to back up to a USB hard drive is there, and it’s wonderful! (I don’t understand why more isn’t made of this feature in reviews and promotional literature for these devices; it could be that most reviewers and marketing people don’t realize the importance of multiple backups, but we photographers do!)

Now you can have the size and convenience of a small storage unit with the backup ability of a laptop. The auxiliary hard drives you back up to are small and light (around six ounces) and are available with capacities of 80 GB and more. Yet the footprint and weight of, say, an Epson P-3000 and a couple of drives is less than that of a laptop only. It’s the ultimate kit when you need to travel light, but you don’t want to sacrifice the security of having multiple copies of your files.

Visit www.bobkrist.com.


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