Have you ever been on a photographic shoot and run out of memory cards? Have you thought “I know – I’ll bring my laptop and download from the camera to that every so often…”? Have you tried that only to find that it takes a very long time to do and your camera is effectively out of action whilst you do it?
Enter the memory card reader with a built in hard drive!
There are several available on the market, including the excellent Epson P3000 or P5000 and these have a high quality built in screen for viewing your images. I imagine that you could use such a gadget to show ‘proofs’ to your client, but in my experience that is seldom necessary as they are too involved to pay much attention to your images there and then (especially true of weddings… the bride and groom seldom want to stop to look for very long on the day). Consequently, I opted for a Jobo Gigaone device. No viewing screen, just a screen to tell me the vital stuff such as battery life, capacity, operation and so on.
The version I got is a 40Gb drive in a snazzy silver case. It looks fairly good, IMO, and has slots for CF, SD, SM, MMC and MS cards. The CF slot also takes MD, too.
One thing that concerns me is the speed at which you can empty your memory card and get it back into action. I say ’empty’ – in fact you only copy the content over to the internal drive and then return the card to the camera. You can then run a quick format to empty it. I have a couple of different sized compact flash cards which I use with my Nikon D200 and as a test I filled a 4Gb card to capacity and ran it through the Gigaone. It took about 25 minutes to copy the lot, which I guess is pretty acceptable – the files were all 15Mb RAW files. I reckon that’s a transfer rate of approximately 2.7Mb per second or thereabouts… I didn’t time it accurately or calculate the precise file size of all the images on the card. What I wanted was to find out if the time taken to empty the card allowed me to continue to shoot with a second card and not fill it up whilst waiting for the first card to be copied. It didn’t. I was using a 2Gb card as the second card and managed to fill it with RAW files faster than the Gigaone copied my 4Gb card. However, with two similarly sized cards I reckon you’d be about right. So that then leaves the battery life.
In the accompanying manual, the battery life is quoted as enough to copy 3.5Gb of data before you need a re-charge. This is complete nonsense, of course, and I can only assume it is a misprint. I copied the 4Gb card and the battery indicator still read as full. I copied it again, and then again. By the end of the third copy it was running low and I would have to re-charge it. Having said that, I did this test in the warmth and comfort of my own home, and in colder conditions (say winter time outdoors) you can expect the life to shorten. That said, a long time ago I invested in a power inverter (a device that allows me to run 13a devices from my car cigarette lighter socket) and if I was out on a location I’d take that with me.
The Gigaone has a USB connector on it which means I can easily attach it to my laptop and then read the images off it. Transfers are at USB2 speeds, which is nice. The device comes pre-formatted as FAT32 and popped up right away on my Mac. I assume the same would be true for a PC.
I’m using the device on a shoot in Yorkshire this week, so will no doubt have more opinions of it after that. So far I have been very pleased and wouldn’t dream of going out without it now! It has a space in the gear bag, and that’s that!