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This question seems similar to this one, but my needs are different :

  • I shoot in RAW exclusively
  • I'm looking for a 100% offline solution: while traveling, Internet won't be accessible
  • the "laptop" solution is too heavy for me: I'm looking for a lightweight solution
  • the simplest, the better: one device to rule them all

EDIT: I'm using good old Compact Flash cards (yes, the bigger ones), so I need a device that can read it. If it can read from other cards, this question might be interesting for more people than myself - that's the whole purpose of the website.


Also asked by Rafal Ziolkowski:

Portable Storage Device while traveling

I need storage device which is able to read CF cards and make a backup of my photos while traveling. I do not want to carry laptop (it's bulky) and tablet (too little storage) but looking into some other solutions.

So far I found:

  • Epson PXXXX - price is blocker for me
  • Jobo Giga Vu - same as above
  • Nexto DI - bit better, but still a lot
  • Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA - this looks the best for price/options
  • Wolwerine PicPac - cheap, bad opinions
  • DigitalFoci PhotoSafe - same as above
  • Ex-Pro® Picture 2 Drive - didn't find much about it

So ladys & gents what do you use?

share|improve this question
    
Netbooks also too heavy? –  moonshadow Jul 20 '10 at 15:21
    
@moonshadow : I don't know :-) I'm looking for the simpliest device. With a netbook, I might also need an external card reader, no ? –  Jean-Philippe Caruana Jul 20 '10 at 15:39
    
@Jean: my Asus Eee has an SD card reader built in, it's very useful to back up and preview photos and was relatively cheap. But it all depends on exactly what you want. –  moonshadow Jul 20 '10 at 15:57
    
@moonshadow ok thanks –  Jean-Philippe Caruana Jul 20 '10 at 16:00
    
Could this be a duplicate of an existing post? (photo.stackexchange.com/questions/533/…) –  Rezlaj Jul 22 '10 at 19:33

22 Answers 22

up vote 11 down vote accepted

If I'm feeling paranoid about backing up, I use a Nexto DI, which can backup a card directly to its own internal drive.

It reads CF/SD/SDHC, doubles as a USB2/external SATA drive, and is much faster than most of the other similar products I could find. (There are a bunch of similar products available, but this one had the best reviews at the time, about 6 months ago.)

share|improve this answer
    
this one is really expensive, but it's a beast. It has a little brother (see nextodi.co.uk/uk/ND2700.html) : does anyone know it ? –  Jean-Philippe Caruana Jul 20 '10 at 15:50
    
That's the one I use... I bought it without the drive, and added a SATA drive of my own. Works fine for me. –  Matt Bishop Jul 20 '10 at 18:58
2  
I wouldn't trust important pictures to only one drive if you don't have enough capacity in your CF cards so you won't have to delete pictures from them. I was recently travelling in Japan and almost lost my pictures and videos due to a hard drive crash. Thus I would recommend that you find a solution where you can backup all the important data on to (at least) two different drives. –  Thardas Jul 22 '10 at 19:50
1  
No, absolutely. I'm backing up the cards, but I don't delete them until I get home. Memory cards are cheap and light; buy lots of them! –  Matt Bishop Jul 22 '10 at 20:21

Purposely I avoid to use all of these types of devices while traveling. There are two reasons:

  1. They are all based on an internal hard-disk drive which is fragile. One drop and a traditional hard-disk is dead. Having moving parts is what makes it more fragile. In several of models you can get around this by replacing the disk with an SSD which solves this problem for a hefty price but not the next point.
  2. These devices are valuable. Because they cost money, the will be a target for thieves just like a laptop or your camera.

Instead I use an Addonics MFR which is a flash-card (Compact Flash, SD, SM, MS, xD) to DVD burner. The device is both AC and DC powered (10 DVDs burned on a single charge) and cost me $330 USD. It has plenty of advantages:

  • Storage is cheap because blank DVDs are cheap. You can burn as many as you want.
  • Replication is simple. Just burn everything twice or more.
  • Distribution is easy. I keep one copy of my photos with me and mail myself a second.
  • Disks have no value to anyone else since are already used and were cheap to start with.

The only two downsides I can think of is that your incremental storage is limited to 4.5 GB which is sufficient for me but high-volume shooters may find it limiting. SDXC cards are not supported. You can burn larger CF cards and the MFR will prompt for the insertion of multiple disks (Disk Spanning).

Addendum [EDIT]:

  • Portable hard drive with small form-factors have one more issue which is that they stop working above 10,000' (3000m) from sea level. I once traveled with a group of photographers and every single iPod in the group failed once we crossed 3200m of altitude.
  • Optical disks are not only virtually indestructible they also have yet to be lost in the mail. I suppose because they have no value. I send myself regularly 4-8 DVDs per trip across continents and they all made it home for a moderate price.
share|improve this answer
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At burns at up to 16X. That's about 6 mins per disk. You can also check the backups because it has a built-in browser too, just connect it to a TV via analog cable. –  Itai Jul 27 '12 at 15:30
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That's not too shabby. very interesting. many thanks. –  AJ Finch Jul 28 '12 at 18:33
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The MFR just prompts for more disks. This is called disk spanning. I have only tried it with cards needing two disks but it should scale. –  Itai Aug 2 '12 at 12:29
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@RafalZiolkowski - If ~$300 is expensive for your budget, I think you're likely SOL. Any equipment for backing up memory cards has a small potential customer base, and as such will likely only sell small volumes. As such, the engineering cost per device is a lot more. For what it is, $330 is pretty reasonable. –  Fake Name Aug 16 '12 at 22:27
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The device is indeed valuable but IT contains no images. If someone would steal it, no images would be lost. –  Itai Sep 27 '12 at 12:35

I've had a couple of purpose-built copy-and-store devices that I bought for the same reasons you describe. One had a hard disk built in and the other burned CDs. They worked, but the better models were (and still are) costly. On the one with the built-in disk, I didn't like the idea that I couldn't pull the drive from the unit, plug it into a PC and recover the contents if the outer parts failed. (This has probably changed, but the unit I owned was all proprietary on the inside, including the storage layout.)

For the last three years, I've been using a netbook and find it's the best combination of bulk, capacity, price, utility and resiliency. In particular:

  • Bang for the buck is excellent.

  • About the same size as a 10" tablet, just thicker and heavier.

  • Plugs into LCD TVs which are increasingly found in hotel rooms and friends' living rooms for editing or slide shows. Mine pleasantly surprised me with a second screen at a full 1920x1080 when I was expecting a duplicate of the same 1024x600 I saw on the display.

  • Internal storage (about 100 GB free on mine) is plentiful enough that I can hold about 3,000 raw images and dump them to external storage later. Significant upgrades are cheap. A hundred-dollar upgrade to a 1 TB disk would push that figure to well north of 25,000.

  • External storage is effectively infinite, physically compact, cheap and available inexpensively at any discount store in the form of anything from thumb drives to high-capacity disks. You can dump a copy of your work onto one and ship it someplace where it will survive in the event your gear doesn't.

  • There are numerous options for media readers ranging from very light and compact USB readers for specific formats to larger ones that can read anything you throw at them. New card formats won't obsolete the whole system as it will with a purpose-built device. You can also just carry a cable and read the images directly from your camera.

  • It can be used for other things like writing about your adventures, mapping, etc.

Tablets are becoming the new netbooks, but they have two big flaws when it comes to this application. The first is a lack of internal storage. Flash isn't cheap, and if you're going to back up to flash, you might as well just buy lots of small cards for your camera. The second is their inability to use external storage. Some current models have USB host ports (and usually only one, so no direct card-to-external-disk copying), but they don't power the external devices. This means you have to make other power arrangements and your bulk ends up being about the same as a netbook. "The cloud" isn't an option in some places if you don't have network access or you do and it's prohibitively expensive or very slow.

share|improve this answer

The simplest option is the External HDD that reads memory cards, like the HyperDrive. Fast, you can use your own HDDs, etc. seems good...

I dont like the idea of all my eggs in one basket, so i would (if I where not backing up to my laptop and keeping files on my CF cards also and sometimes even to another external HDD) backup to the external drive (like the HyperDrive) and sync that to a second 2.5" laptop drive... if you have a travel companion, get them to carry the second drive. Redundancy and all that.

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Unless weight and size are an over-over-overwhelming consideration then you would be very hard put to find something that beats a small netbook computer. It makes no sense to reject a computer solution absolutely - it should simply be put in the list along with the rest and compete on its own merits.


Netbook:

Downsides:

  • Weight

  • Size

  • Battery life needs to be carefully maximised.

  • Cost is an issue only if you allow it to be.

My wife has an ACER em350 'emachine" that is a superb travel tool.
WiFi. 160 GB drive. 1050 grams.
5 hour battery life with care on a stupidly small 3 cell battery.
Cost us about $US230 new. That was exceptional, but bargains happen.

Upside:

  • Does just about everything conceivable.

would like the solution to be powergrid independent (battery powerable)

Yes.

raw => picturereviewing only valuable if rw2 format capable

Can do.

would like to have some visual confirmation of backup/copying success, since I might reuse my memory cards for further shooting (=> backup becomes only copy)

Yes.
Backup MUST NEVER be only copy.

need SDHC card slot

Card Reader. Maybe in slot.

weight is an issue

Under to well under 1 kg possible.
Probably over 500 gram.

Do you own such a device and can you recommend it or not?

I would unreservedly recommend a netbook as a backup device.
The penalties of size and weight - even when travelling light internationally, are minor when its advantages are considered.
I own an HP 5101 Netbook. 1250 grams with big aftermarket battery.
Similar and smaller can be under 1kg.
WiFi. Secondary backup to say 1 GB portable drive.
Internal 250 GB.
Utterly superior to alternatives once you accept carrying it - which is not that hard.

Do you know more about the features of such a device (Can you create folders,does it support rw2/Link to a datasheet)?

A netbook can do anything :-)

share|improve this answer

How about a basic NetBook combined with Windows Live Sync? The NetBook would give you some basic editing capabilities (or even extensive ones if you threw Lgihtroom on it), the ability to hook up either USB drives or the camera itself, without the heavy weight of a full laptop. With Live Sync (read more about it at my other answer to a similar question here), you can back up your field work to your home computer over the internet.

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The original questioner asked for a 100% offline solution, so Live Sync is probably out. –  Scott A. Lawrence Jul 21 '10 at 18:17
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@Scott: Sure, however a NetBook with a few hundred gigs of drive space would suffice for a roaming backup device, plus it could offer some basic organization and preview capabilities. If you encounter a network connection, live sync could give you even more redundancy. –  jrista Jul 21 '10 at 19:05
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This sounds like the best solution to me: I've looked at lots of devices that are essentially self-contained hard drives, but they are all really over-priced when you can get a netbook with 250GB+ of disk space for under 200 quid. –  AJ Finch Jul 22 '10 at 15:03

An idea for anyone who doesn't mind a bit of experimenting...

1) get a Raspberry Pi - ~$35

2) Get a powered Usb Hub ~$10

3) Get a Wifi adaptor ~$10

4) Get a portable USB powered HDD (500GB ~$50)

5) Get a CF/SD card reader ~$10

6) Get VNC running on the RasPI and your iPhone/Android.

7) Mash it all together (you'll need to have configured the wifi to automatically connect to your phone to tether prior to using it)

8) Your phone is now the KVM for your RasPi and you can copy, view and even (if your desperate) edit the photos on your device!

Total cost? About $115 AUD. That's not bad for 500 GB of off-line storage. If you wanted truly portable storage, you could also get a battery pack which would set you back about $60 more.

Since the Nextodi products seem to cost (at a minimum, about $500 bucks) i'd say DIY it!

This might already be possible, I don't know, but the total size of the components requried to do this is pretty small. If you wanted to 'upgrade' this. You could build it into a tiny package all together (potentially with a battery pack) and make it into a small cube. If you wanted to do a serious job, you could even try integrate a screen (think the car reversing LCD monitors you can pick up off ebay) into a RasPi case or something!

Cheers,

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There are some great portable hard drive/card reader solutions out there.

One example is the Digital Foci Photo Safe II, 250GB

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Yeah but can you recommend it? Is it reliable? etc. –  Jared Updike Jul 20 '10 at 23:07

There are many dedicated devices for backing up memory cards (Jobo and the like) - we had one of these circulating at our wedding, so that all the guests didn't have to worry about memory card space, and fit in your pocket/hotel safe relatively easily. They tend to back up the card, without caring what is on it, so RAW files shouldn't be a problem.

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Depends on your budget obviously, but some cameras have dual card slots and can write identical files to both.

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My camera only has one slot. A simple piece of hardware that can copy the contents of a memory card to another memory card would be a great solution. –  Rene Sep 27 '12 at 9:18

How about using an Apple iPad with the Camera Connection Kit accessory. It allows you to offload your photos from your camera (via USB) or direct from an SD card onto the iPad where you can view the images and later offload onto a PC or Mac.

Maybe not the cheapest option, but we're photographers, its not cheap.

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expensive ! wille I have enough storage ? –  Jean-Philippe Caruana Aug 2 '11 at 15:16
    
Assuming you get a 16GB iPad (currently the smallest model @ $499USD -- they go up to 64GB) and assuming an average RAW image size of 22MB (big enough for a Canon 5D Mk II), and assuming you only have 10GB left over after you put all 136 hours of iTunes and a bazillion apps on your iPad, you can still store over 3,600 of these RAW images. –  Steve Ross Aug 12 '11 at 23:24
    
@SteveRoss Aren't you out by a 0? I am getting 10000 (Mb) / 3600 (images) = 2.7 (Mb) by image. I think the real math is more like ~300 RAW images into one iPad. And I can fill 16Gb memory card on my T3i in a couple of good days. –  Alexandre Rafalovitch Aug 3 '12 at 20:33
    
You're right. I got my numbers using 10GB / 22MB in Wolfram|Alpha figuring they would do the math more quickly, correctly and efficiently than I would. I guess I didn't sanity check their results (oops!). No worries, though. They now report a more correct 454.5, and what you do with that last half image is up to you :) Thanks for pointing this out. –  Steve Ross Aug 4 '12 at 5:56

I do not want to carry laptop (it's bulky) and tablet (too little storage)

IF tablet can write to USB hard drive or USB Flash memory or to SD cards (as many can) then that's a viable option.

Small netbooks are not much different in size to a large tablet - say iPad.

A Raspberry Pi or similar small Linux computer can talk to CF via a USB reader and to USB interface hard drives or other flash memories.

See below for $ options.
My personal solution is as below. My aim is to NEVER have less than 2 copies and to have 3 if possible.

  • Copy to netbook with original left on CF or SD card. Transferred files have attribute bit set.

  • Copy files from netbook to 2.5" USB powered hard drive. (500 GB)

  • Once files exist on netbook and portable drive CF or SD cards can be reformatted.

I use an HP 12" netbook and find it a bearable weight and volume penalty when travelling - even when living out of a backpack in tourist mode (not hiking).


When travelling I carry the portable hard drive in a zipped trouser pocket. (If I can run burning from the aeroplane the photos will survive. If I can't I will be beyond caring.)
I have never had data loss on a succession of portable drives BUT know that this can happen at any moment. On one trip I "lost" (probably to enemy action- never worked out how it happened) 2 x portable hard drives + most of my flash memory (about 50 GB lost). All photos were also in the netbook which was not lost.


Memory cost:

Flash memory as USB memory sticks has just reached $NZ1/GB retail here. I imagine that if buying a significant quantity that should translate to say 2GB/$US1 or $50/100 GB or $500/TB. Just checked PriceSpy - 64GB / $NZ0.70 per GB = $US0.56/GB. ]

2.5" USB powered portable hard drives are about $NZ100/500 GB or less, so about 40% of the cost of a Flash based solution.

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This is pretty much the solution I'm using now, but I still feel there ought to be a better (smaller, lighter) solution. Also, +1 for "2 copies ... 3 if possible"! ;) –  AJ Finch Jul 27 '12 at 15:23
    
@AJFinch - You can get USB peer to peer bridges which allow eg a card reader to talk to a second Flash card or to a hard drive. I do not know how well they handle backing up eg N x CF cards to a portable hard drive. If this worked you'd need only this bridge plus target storage devices.| My suggested Raspberry Pi solution should be about as small as you can get. –  Russell McMahon Jul 27 '12 at 16:05
    
yes, I like the raspberry pi idea. I've got a (Very inexpensive) device which promises to duplicate flash cards, but it doesn't allow me to see that everything has copied over OK. Perhaps I'm asking for the earth. To be honest, I think the pi may be the way to go. –  AJ Finch Jul 28 '12 at 18:35
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@AJFinch - what you want is what many people would want. Confirmation of transfer is essential. Incremental transfer would be nice. With a Raspberry Pi you have 1080p video available - you could usually not use this but make it able to act as a media viewer when a screen was available. –  Russell McMahon Jul 28 '12 at 18:41
    
I have Galaxy Tab 10.1 - sadly it cannot run USB powered drives... –  Rafal Ziolkowski Aug 2 '12 at 7:01

How much storage do you need?

My solution was to spend the money I would going to put into storage into more memory cards. They're remarkably resilient, and you don't have to worry about verifying a transfer was successful before overwriting your valuable images.

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I need 80GB for 2 weeks - which in Norway will cost me 2 x Hyperdrive with 160GB drive –  Rafal Ziolkowski Jul 30 '12 at 9:14

High altitude considerations

Obviously, it depends on where you travel, but keep in mind that hard drives may fail at altitudes above 3000 m (10000 ft).

You should avoid using HDDs (netbooks/laptops/storage devices with a HDD) at such altitutes. Choose devices with a solid state drive (SSD) (there are also specially designed sealed and pressurized HDDs, but I've never seen one myself), or postpone backup until you return under the normal pressure. Most netbooks today are using HDDs again, as well as card backup devices (COLORSPACE and the like).

DIY approach

I second @D3C4FF that Raspberry Pi may be a low-cost DIY solution. To build a pressure-insensitive card copier, which will copy one card to another card: Raspberry Pi Model B (two USB ports, $39) + an OS image card ($5) + a case ($8) + a 4xAA battery holder ($4) + 4 rechargable batteries ($10) + two card readers ($10, you may prefer slim models or with cable extenders) + a script to rsync two cards when they are inserted. The script may use OK LED to indicate when the backup is finished and you may remove the cards. If you find a dual-slot card reader, or use a multi-format card reader with a different type of card for backup, you may get away with just one USB slot and Model A, which is cheaper.

P.S. I don't make backup copies while travelling. I just bring more cards with me, and make a backup when safe at home, but I'm not a pro, and no one will cry if I lose or damage a card.

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There are plenty of different portable hard drives that can read directly from the memory card. Here are some examples.

I bought a 60 GB Tripper a few years ago, but that is bulky and feature-lacking by todays standards...

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I own Epson P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewer - it has 80 GB Hard Drive. It has been working great for me.

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I use 6 Sandisk 8GB SD cards. For practical numbers, each card holds about 700 RAW images, and i keep them carefully stored in a Targus storage cases (about the size of a business card case), until i return home. then i load the images onto the computer. yes, i have some exposure when i'm not backed up, but no one touches the cards when they're not in the camera and the cards have proven to be pretty reliable.

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I've bought an Epson P2000 but I've never used it for travelling (and honestly i'm thinking to give away the device). Instead I've bought a bunch of memories so i travel with almost 40gb (= no backups). Sometimes i travel with a netbook.

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For traveling small I use my Hyperdrive Space to backup my pictures.

Otherwise I'll pack my "netbook" (Lenovo Thinkpad X200s).

For important sessions I'll take both, having a copy of all images on both the notebook and the imagetank.

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HyperDrive's and portable drives by Western Digital (I use the passports < 500GB) are my weapon of choice for this.

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I don't know if they are still available, but I use a Sitecom Mobile Data Copier (bought in 2009 in Maplins). It's less than 5" by 3", works off 3 AAA batteries and has two USB ports (USB 1 and USB 2) and card slots (including SD). I use it to backup my photos and video. If they are still available, I suggest that you get rechargeable batteries.

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I have been using a Hyperdrive 80GB but it proved much too small on a recent trip to Peru and Ecuador. Conversation with the company suggests I cannot upgrade but have to buy a new machine. Given that I have wondered if a 500GB would even be enough. If shooting 5 frame HDR with a D800 that would chew up space very fast. While a little pricy, I think it is the best option and will have to suck it up and buy the 1TB.

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protected by jrista Mar 11 '13 at 15:57

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