Saturday, 5 July 2008

Storage on location

Storage prices have changed a lot over the last few years and I have changed the way that I manage my storage on location. Previously I had used a two card strategy where I would shoot with one compact flash card while the other was being copied to a mass storage device. But with plummeting flash memory prices is that still a reasonable policy?

Several years ago I bought myself a Vosonic V-MP3H portable hard drive it was about the size of a late eighties mobile phone (Think house brick) It had a small colour screen and a compact flash slot. The idea was that I could have a single device onto which I could copy my CF cards and use as an mp3 player. At the time it cost about £250 and it worked out a great deal cheaper than buying enough compact flash cards to last me a family holiday. It had its problems, notably loading images in over 5 seconds, but the neat thing about it was that I was able to leave it copying a card and then on the screen, check that it had actually copied the images, usually by looking at the first and last image.

It worked great for a year or so and then it started getting a little grouchy and unreliable, I lost some images and decided that I had to get another device. The next purchase was an Archos Gmini 400, which was a really lovely machine. Review times were a lot faster, and I actually managed to get videos on it and it was small and neat looking. It had all the benefits of the vosonic but with go faster stripes. But tragedy struck, the drive fell on a marble floor on holiday and all the images became unreadable. I did manage to recover the images by dropping the drive on the floor again, but I couldn't trust it after that and started looking for another device.

The cost of this sort of device just seemed to keep going up instead of down and I was getting fed up of buying a new one every couple of years, so I opted for a JOBO Giga One, which was purely a device for copying images to disk. I was very nervous because there was no proof that the images had copied other than the disk space indicator reducing and the thing would go into power save mode after copying the card, which mean that quite often I wouldn't see that re-assuring 100% done message. Eventually disaster struck. I was at a friends wedding and I had left a card copying. The device ran out of juice part way through the copy and shut off, but I didn't realise because it usually powered down before I got a chance to see the 100% message. Consequently I lost some images which I would much rather I hadn't.

Fast forward to today. I can now get a 4GB card for as little as £13 or a Sandisk Extreme III for £18, so I have bought 4 4GB cards. Combined with the two 2GB cards I already had, thats as much storage as I have on my Giga One for a fraction of the price. The cards will be my digital negative. I'll still use the Giga One for backup, in case something happens to the cards, but from now on the cards will not be erased until the images are safely home.

I'll be really happy when someone starts selling a small battery powered device that will allow me to duplicate my CF cards, or better still a camera with two slots and CF mirroring.

How do you manage your storage on location?


  1. I was in the same boat! I bought a small GEMINI device...battery became weak, and the company was horrible to talk to. it's in the corner collecting dust! I also have now purchased 5 GB of cards, enough for me for now...will get more if i go on vacation or book a few gigs....thanks for the post!

  2. I had a slow old hard drive with tiny LCD which I used for a while - a Nixvue Vista. But it wasn't very good. It's in the cupboard gathering dust.

    I now have a Canon M80 storage device - huge LCD screen and backs up cards much faster. The screen is good enough to do a reasonable cull on images before you get back to a proper computer.

    One reason I chose the Canon above other options was that it takes the same batteries as my EOS 30D. Therefore, I don't need to drag yet another charger around with me when I'm away.

    But you're right, the price of CF cards is ridiculous now, and most of the time I don't need the M80 on a day-to-day shooting basis.

  3. Crikey! The M80 is more expensive than my laptop.

  4. I picked up a Hyperdrive Space portable drive for travel and storage on location, which can back up all the different storage card types. I shoot with CF and SD cards and the Hyperspace I have has a 120 Gig drive in it. The battery is supposed to last for 100 Gigs of file transfer and I've taken it on various trips with only high praise.

    The Hyperdrive I have only has a basic screen, won't let you review images, but the newer model the Color Space will. You can buy the case and put in your own 2.5in drive or buy a complete drive+case setup. It backs up whatever is on the memory cards, so it can be used with video and audio collection devices as well.

    I wrote up a review on my blog:

    Infinite Memory Card - Hyperdrive Space Review