Question: With truly affordable 16 GB and 32 GB memory cards available, do you really need a portable, field-deployable, multimedia storage device?
Answer: Yes! Now, more than ever.
Today’s sophisticated multimedia storage viewers (MSVs) offer large, bright LCD screens to browse images, making it possible to zoom in to check sharpness or delete the bad shots as necessary. Pro photographers use them to organize as well as store image files while on the road, and to create albums and slideshows to share with clients on the spot. Art directors never rest until the image they envisioned is in the can—so you can use an MSV to confirm a successful shoot.
Standard features include image browsing, rotating, copying and file deletion. All units mentioned on these pages provide a color LCD display that’s large enough to critically examine image files, and all have built-in slots that accommodate every type of memory card currently in use. All can be tethered to a computer for file exchange, and all are powered by rechargeable batteries. Most manufacturers—and every brand listed here—offer lower-priced models that offer less storage capacity, smaller monitors or other compromises. So if these top-of-the-line models exceed your needs, check the manufacturers’ websites for more options.
Many MSV units extend their versatility by performing a variety of multimedia functions, including the ability to record directly from any video source. And, of course, they provide a handy way to enjoy movies and music when you’re on the road (some even have built-in speakers), so you can while away the hours when stranded at an airport. One even has a built-in FM radio receiver with recorder.
The preference for MSVs is a result of the fact that they’re small and easy to use—and much more convenient to carry than a notebook computer. Some are literally pocket-sized, and all can be stowed safely in even the smallest gadget bag. They’re built specifically to store, display and manage image files. Their pervasive popularity is a testimony to their reliability.
Picture Porter 35 from Digital Foci tips the scales at a svelte 14 ounces (with hard drive and battery), but packs up to a whopping 500 GB of storage space. It features a sharp, 3.5-inch LCD where you can browse, rotate, zoom, pan and view EXIF information or histograms. The Picture Porter 35 will display slideshows, including RAW images, and play audio files. PhotoMemo allows photographers to record comments with images and hear the comments during playback—a handy feature, particularly if your photo trek is of extended duration. Smaller capacities are available, but for long trips and large RAW files, this is the machine to pack. Estimated Street Price: $399 (250 GB).
Epson storage viewers have been popular with pro photographers since their inception, and it’s easy to understand why. They offer several models to meet different budgets, and all are rock-solid and jam-packed with features. The top-rung P-7000 features a giant four-inch LCD that can display over 16.7 million colors. Epson’s proprietary Photo Fine Premia LCD technology is built into the display for Adobe RGB color space support. The P-7000 provides all standard features, including browsing, zooming and deleting, for JPEG and RAW image files. You also can review videos and listen to audio files. The P-7000 is field-ready right out of the box and comes with a travel pack that includes a case, dual battery charger, car adapter, cleaning cloth and viewing stand. Estimated Street Price: $725 (160 GB).
|Apple iPod Camera Connector
You can connect your digital camera to your iPod photo, iPod with color display or Fifth Generation iPod (it won’t work with other iPod models) using the USB cable that came with your camera and an Apple iPod Camera Connector. You can preview images on your iPod and then later transfer them to your PC. Check www.apple.com to confirm that your equipment is compatible.
With a max capacity of 32 GB, an Apple iPhone isn’t a photographer’s best candidate for an image vault. But if you download Avatron Software’s Air Sharing application ($5), you can wirelessly connect your iPhone or iPod touch to a PC, Mac or Linux computer. With app installed, your iPhone becomes a portable portfolio that fits in your pocket. Visit www.apple.com/iphone/apps-for-iphone.
With a brand name that has been associated with pro photographers for decades, the JOBO GIGA Vu SONIC is available in four capacities, from 80 to 250 GB. It features a high-resolution, 3.2-inch LCD display and extremely fast data transfer—about 30 seconds for a full gigabyte, including data validation. It performs RAW image decoding and—to the delight of data worrywarts everywhere—will synchronize with your memory card to allow for incremental backups. Other functions include browsing thumbnail views of images, slideshows, image rotation, multilevel zooming and image copying and/or deletion. It also displays histograms (great feature) and allows users to customize interface skins. Estimated Street Price: $377 (160 GB).
The MemoryKick MediaCenter has a smaller LCD display than other products mentioned here, but more than makes up for it by squeezing all of the high-level sophistication into the tiniest package: It measures a wee 2.5×4.3×0.6 inches and weighs just 5.6 ounces. It’s small enough to slip into any gadget bag or inside a jacket pocket, but doesn’t skimp on features. Sporting a 120 GB hard drive, the MediaCenter allows you to copy images from or to any of its multiple memory-card slots. Built-in software allows you to browse images, organize them and play them back on any NTSC or PAL monitor or TV. Estimated Street Price: $299 (120 GB).
The HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA from Sanho rides the leading edge of multimedia storage solutions. Start with a 500 GB-capacity SATA hard drive that supports UDMA for blazing-fast throughput (2 GB per minute with full CRC data verification). Add a high-resolution, 3.2-inch color LCD that displays JPEG and any RAW file type. Throw in a long-lasting rechargeable battery, incremental backup support, health-status monitoring of hard drives and data-recovery tools for memory cards. But it doesn’t st
op there. The HyperDrive Colorspace also supports customization with user-programmable scripts and can be configured to synchronize data with a second drive via an optional cable. Package includes battery and charger, car charger, USB cable and case. Estimated Street Price: $379 (250 GB).
The Wolverine ESP includes a 250 GB hard drive and a large, bright, 3.6-inch LCD monitor. Functions include image browsing, all standard manipulations (delete, copy, etc.) and more. Plus, video recording can be enabled via an optional cradle. The ESP includes an A/V cable that allows connection to TVs and projectors. It has a built-in speaker and a high-capacity, long-life battery that allows you to transfer up to 20 GB of data, play 13 hours of music or upload four hours of video on a single charge. With a built-in FM radio tuner and recorder, you can scan, listen and record FM broadcasts and preset up to 18 stations—very cool! Estimated Street Price: $320 (250 GB).
|Is Your Data Safe?
Some units, like the HyperDrive Colorspace, use CRC (cyclic redundancy check) data validation to confirm that your images have been safely transferred to the mobile storage device. This process provides a high level of reliability and is sufficient for short-term storage while on the go. Don’t put your data at risk by failing to transfer it to permanent storage as soon as possible. In the opinion of some (including this writer), your images are never safe until they’ve been downloaded to your primary computer and backed up on a minimum of three independent storage media.