Computers are an integral part of digital photography, but carrying one and booting it up in the field can be problematic. Laptops aren’t ideally suited for working in the field because of the difficulty of viewing the screen outdoors, its additional weight and the extra time taken away from shooting. Once you’ve filled up your memory cards, however, they become a necessity.
Not so long ago, manufacturers attempted to address this issue by introducing portable hard drives onto which you could download your memory cards. But because they lacked a screen and only assigned a numbered folder, it required a bit of faith that images actually had been recorded. Unlike digital cameras, there was no LCD to confirm the existence of the images on the drive.
Visual Confirmation. The latest generation of portable drives has changed in a variety of ways, the most obvious difference being the existence of color screens. They not only provide a view of the drive’s contents, but also serve as the menu screen for the device’s various functions.
Depending on the model, the size and resolution of these screens vary. For example, the Epson P-2000 features a 3.8-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, and the Transcend Digital Album includes a 2.5-inch TFT LCD with a resolution of 294 x 228 pixels.
One of the best benefits of such a device is that it offers a viable alternative to the camera’s LCD for sharing images with others. In addition to conserving the batteries of your camera, it’s a convenient and safer way of sharing your images rather than toting around your camera and handing it off to whoever is interested, giving peace of mind to photographers. A bright, colorful picture, instead of a numbered folder, helps reduce any anxiety over whether images have been successfully copied.
These devices provide fun playback options, too, including the creation of slideshows, which can be viewed on the drive’s color LCD screen or via an adapter on a television or projector. Adjustments for image rotation are available as well, but may only be available for JPEG files.
Increased Capacities. Storage space has greatly increased with these devices. In capacities ranging from 20 to 40 GB, each drive offers a wealth of space for storing high-quality JPEG and RAW files. As digital SLRs have increased in resolution, the larger file sizes demand more drive space. The increased capacity provides enough space to safeguard multiple days of shooting until the photographs are safely transferred via a speedy USB 2.0 interface to your laptop or desktop computer.
Unlike memory cards that are solid-state media, hard drives consist of moving parts, so handle them carefully. While these drives often are housed within a rugged polycarbonate shell, it’s a good idea to store them in a well-padded pouch or case to protect them from shock or impact.
RAW & JPEG. If you’re a photographer who uses RAW, it’s critical to determine whether your camera’s RAW file format is fully supported by the device. The Epson P-2000 provides support for most Canon and Nikon digital cameras, along with its own digital cameras. Keep in mind that RAW files, though downloadable, don’t appear on screen.
These units work well with files produced by cameras with resolutions of up to 8 megapixels, but that may not be the case with the latest 12- and 16-megapixel models. If you own or intend to invest in high-resolution cameras, check to see if the manufacturer confirms compatibility or can expand support through a firmware upgrade.
|1 The Epson P-2000 offers the largest and highest-resolution screen available today, with its 3.8-inch LCD. Weighing 14.4 ounces, the drive measures 5.8×3.3×1.2-inches and includes a 40 GB hard drive. List Price: $499. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com.
2 One of the smallest devices available, the Transcend Digital Album weighs 8.1 ounces and measures 4.3×3.2×0.9-inches. It features