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The Tripper (and other Portable Digital Storage Devices)

by Bob Atkins, 2003


One of the first things you realize once you've bought your digital camera is that you need some way to store the images. The memory card in the camera is fine, but it can only store so much data. It can be enough for a day's outing, but what about a 2 week vacation?

Today's 6MP DSLRs create JPEG files which are typically 2-3MB in size, or if you shoot RAW images which give the the best possible quality, file sizes can range from 6-8MB depending if you embed a JPEG in with the RAW file. This means that you may only get 56 images on a 512MB memory card if you are shooting RAW images with high quality embedded JPEGs. Even just shooting straight high quality JPEGs, you'll only get about 170 images on a 512MB card.

Since digital shooting is "free" most people tend to shoot more than with film, so shooting 56 images per day is very easy, and if you're a wildlife or action photographer it's very easy to burn though even 170 images a day, often more. So what do you do?

Well, you could buy more memory cards, but that gets expensive. 512MB Compact Flash cards cost around $120 each. If you fill one a day you'll need $1680 worth of memory for a 14-day trip. This isn't a practical option for most people. You could also take a laptop with you on your vacation and transfer the data to the hard disk. Since you can get a decent laptop for under $1000, this is actually a cheaper option, but you have to haul the laptop around with you. You could leave it in your hotel room if you're sure you won't fill your memory cards up during the day, or you could carry it around with you all day. Again, not very convenient.

The other option is a portable storage device. They come in two flavors. The first is a small portable hard drive which has an operating system that basically transfers data from a memory card to the hard disk. They come in sizes from 10GB to 40GB, with the 20GB units retailing in the $200-$250 region. Some play MP3s, have a video screen, sing and dance. These can cost $400 or $500. There is also at least one portable unit which will write CDs from a memory card. These units can be carried with you in the field. They're about the size and weight of a large portable audio cassette player, so they'll fit in a jacket pocket, if not a shirt pocket.

The Tripper

I'm reviewing "The Tripper" portable hard drive here because I bought one! This doesn't mean it's the only option or it's the best option, but it's the only one I've personally tested, so that's what I can talk about with some authority. While it only reads and writes to CF (Compact Flash) cards, there are a number of   SD, MMC, SM and  MS to Compactflash Adapters that will allow other storage format dives to be read. The adapters retail for around $25.

tripper2.jpg (30860 bytes)

Manufacturer's Specifications

  • Backup data from CF cards to built-in hard drive
  • Restore data from hard drive to CF cards
  • Erase data from CF cards
  • High speed USB 2.0 interface
  • CF card reader for type I and type II, including Microdrives
  • 100 x 64 graphic LCD displays function list and working status
  • Built-in Li-ION rechargeable battery
  • AC power adapter (AC 100v to 240v, auto switching)
  • Support Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP [see review]
  • Dimension: 91mm x 138mm x 33mm. 300g

So as you can see, the Tripper will read CF cards and store the data on the hard drive. It can also read data from the hard drive and store it on a CF card. I'm not quite sure why you'd want to do this, but at least you can. I suppose it could be useful if the USB interface ever failed or if you wanted to transfer data back to a CF card so you could view it in the camera. Note that you have to transfer a whole card at once to the Tripper or a whole directory at once from the Tripper. There's no way to select individual files.

The manual does not inspire confidence. It's confusing in places and nowhere is there a manufacturer's name (it's made by Aplux) or a contact phone number (they are in Taiwan) or even an email address. This isn't a good sign. The manual does tell you which buttons to push and attempts to explain how to install the software drivers (see below). It also explains how to replace the internal hard drive (it uses a standard 2.5" drive) if you want to replace it at any time with a larger capacity option. I believe the Tripper may be available without an installed hard drive from some vendors, but 20GB and 40GB units are easier to find. The manual also says a case and USB cable are optional extras, but they came in the box anyway. The box said the cable was included but the case was optional. Go figure.

Transfer Modes

There are three transfer modes from the CF to the disk, all of which are pretty much identical. They all transfer all the CF data, including the directory structure of the card, to the hard disk.

"Quick Backup" - The default is to transfer the contents of a CF card to a directory which is named for the date. Thus if you transfer a card on September 17th 2003 it will be called 091703.001. If you transfer a second card on the same day it will be called 091703.002 and do on. I'm not sure what happens if you transfer more than 999 cards on a single day, but since that's not something any normal human would probably attempt, it really doesn't matter.

"Backup to HD" - In this mode you can, if you insist, name the directories anything you want to (up to 8 characters), but to do this you have click through the entire alphabet to get to each letter you want, then select it. This really doesn't seem worth it, but you can do it if you want to.

"Move to HD" - This is identical to "backup to HD", except it's a move not a copy, so when you are finished your CF card is empty.

tripper1.jpg (50618 bytes)

When files are being saved, each file name is displayed so you can see how the transfer is progressing. However as mentioned above, although you can see each individual file transfer, there's no way to transfer individual files. You have to transfer the whole CF card each time. You can also restore a directory data to a CF card from the hard disk, and you can delete all the files from a CF card. Personally I prefer to delete the files from a card using the camera. I just feel there may be less chance of error this way. Maybe I'm too cautious, but the extra time involved is minimal. It's also possible to see how much data is stored on the disk and how much space is left. The other thing you can do is set the date and time.

Case

The Tripper comes with a protective leather case (at least it looks like leather, though it probably isn't), but which has cutouts and a clear plastic window so you can operate the controls and view the LCD screen without having to remove the case. There is a belt loop on the back.

USB Interface

The tripper has a USB 2.0 interface, theoretically capable of 480 megabits/sec data transfer, but of course it never hits that rate in practice - and neither do most USB 2.0 devices. Actual transfer speed seems to be a respectable 15MB/second (120 megabits/sec) - see below.

It claims to be compatible with Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP. I say "claims" because I spent days, if not weeks exchanging messages with the manufacturer in Taiwan trying to get the CF card reader recognized under Windows 2000. I never did. They sent me all sorts of drivers and updates and quasi-explanations in broken English as to what to do with them. Nothing seemed to work and I eventually gave up. The Tripper itself (i.e. the hard drive) installed just fine as a USB hard drive and I could transfer data back and forth to the Tripper without problems. However the built in card reader remained hidden from the OS. The manual was pretty useless for troubleshooting. In fact it was more confusing than helpful since the things it said should happen on a W2K install never did. Wrong screens, wrong drivers, general frustration. However W2K was smart enough to recognize the USB drive on its own without additional drivers.

So basically under W2K I got all the functionality I needed and all the functionality I really bought the device for (I have two CF card readers, I really didn't need another one), but it still sucks that I couldn't make it work.

HOWEVER, when I plugged it into an Windows XP system, everything was perfect. No drivers were needed and both the hard drive and card readers were installed and accessible and appear to function without any problems. Both the hard drive and card reader immediately appear in the explorer window when the Tripper is attached to the PC.

Speed

Transfer speed from a CF card to the hard drive depends on several factors, including the speed and type of the CF card and whether you're transferring 500 small files or 50 large files. However, using a Viking 512MB card (speed not specified, but probably "average") and transferring typical 2MB JPEGs, a 512MB card transfers in about 4.5 minutes, a data rate of about 1.9 MB/sec.

Transfer from the hard drive to a PC is much faster, Using a USB 2.0 connection, transferring 256MB of data took about 17 seconds, a data rate of 15 MB/sec using a Athalon 2800+ PC, though I suspect transfer times will be similar on almost any current machine.

Battery Capacity

On a test I got around 12 full downloads from a 512MB card on one charge. That's about 6GB of data or about  800 RAW files with embedded JPEGs or  2000 high quality JPEGs from a 6.3 MP DSLR like a Canon EOS 10D.  While there is no accessory external battery pack or DC charger, the unit will run (and recharge the internal battery) from an external 5v source, so it wouldn't be difficult to make an external battery pack, DC charger or solar recharge system if you need them and if you have any basic electronic knowledge. The internal battery is a 3.3v 900mAhr Li-ion cell. A 100-240v AC power supply and recharger is supplied. Manufacturer's specs give a 2hr time to fully charge a fully discharged battery pack.

Conclusion

It works. It seems to reliably transfer data from a CF card to the hard disk and you can then read the data from a PC via the USB 2.0 interface. If that's all you need to do then this unit does it. If you want it to act as a card reader, I'd suggest running Windows XP if my experience under W2K is anything to go by. It's not fancy and it doesn't have any frills. You can't verify files, you can't read and write individual files, you can't view files. Other units allow you to do all these things, but at  increased cost. So I'd say the Tripper isn't bad. It could use a better manual and it could use better support, but that can be said about many devices these days! It does what it's supposed to and so far hasn't lost or corrupted a file so overall I'm happy with it now I'm running Windows XP.

Bells and Whistles

Which unit you buy depends on how many bells and whistles you want and how many files you need to store. A 20GB unit will store around 8000 maximum quality JPEGs (equivalent of 220 36exp rolls for 35mm film) from a 6MP DSLR, 3300 RAW format images (91 36exp rolls) or   2500 RAW images with embedded high quality JPEGs (70 36exp rolls). That's quite a lot of film. Of course if you're shooting with an 11MP D1s or a 14MP Kodak, you'll won't get so many images on your 20GB drive.

If you just want somewhere to dump your files, a basic 20GB unit will cost you around $200. If you want to be able to transfer and verify individual files, view your images on an color LCD screen and display them on a TV, you'll probably end up paying twice that much, and if you want to do it with a 60GB drive, you'll probably pay three times that much.

For my needs a basic 20GB hard drive was all I needed and the Tripper seems fine.

There is one device that writes memory card data to CD (see below). This has advantages and disadvantages. It does mean you don't have all your files on one disk - which is good. However it also means you have to carry around a bunch of CDs. It may also be more convenient to transfer and edit your files from what becomes a second hard drive attached to your PC then to download all the CDs. The CD writer is a little more expensive than the basic 20GB hard drives (~$300), but also serves as a USB CD reader and writer, which could be useful in other applications.

Alternatives

There are a bunch of similar devices on the market. In general the 20GB units with simple file transfer capability run from $200 to $300, while the units with built in LCD displays run from $450 to $500+. The more features, the more you pay. Some of the "top of the line" units with 60GB hard drives sell for $600-$700, which is close to the price of a small laptop PC. The things that differentiate the various portable storage devices are storage capacity, battery size, functions (e.g. verify, copy from disk to memory), speed of operation and the types of memory card that they support. That all do the basic job of transferring data from a memory card to a hard drive and they all allow that hard drive data to be downloaded to a PC. If you want other functions, you have to pay for them!

  • Nixvue Vista NV-020SA Digital Album 20GB Hard Disk. with Color LCD viewing Screen. View stored images on LCD or external TV ~$450
  • SmartDisk FTX30 FlashTrax 30GB Portable Hard Drive & MP3 Player With 3.5" LCD Screen ~$500
  • Jobo Apacer Disc Steno CP100, Portable Image Copying Machine Burns CDs Directly from Memory Cards ~300
  • Jobo Image Tank. Portable 20 GB of Hard Disk for Digital Image Downloading and Storage ~$300
  • Adorama (Jobo?) Image Tank. Portable 20 GB of Hard Disk  ~$230
  • Nixvue DA-ST 001a Digital Album 10GB. Transfers and verifies files. Also displays images on a TV~$260
  • Nixvue Digital Album 2, 20GB Portable Hard Drive Disk Storage. View images on TV, USB2.0 ~380
  • Nixvue Digital Album Light 2, 30GB Portable Hard Drive Disk Storage. USB 2.0, verify function ~$330
  • Adorama Super Digibin 20GB Hard Drive. with LCD Screen, Internal Rechargeable battery, Built-in compact flash/micro drive slot, USB interface ~ $290
  • Delkin Devices eFilm Picture Pad 20GB - Visual Storage Bank. USB 1.1, display images on built-in color LCD or external TV ~$440
  • X'S-Drive II (yes, there's punctuation between the X and the S). USB 2.0. Basic transfer and storage ~200 (note, I had one of these and had problems installing it under Windows 2000).

©Copyright 2003 Bob Atkins All Rights Reserved

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Gary Cowan , September 27, 2003; 10:10 A.M.

These devices are a must-have for any kind of extended trip with digital photography gear. I have the Nixview Digital Album Lite with a 40GB drive. The built in battery is useless - I have yet to be able to upload a single 1GB microdrive before it cuts out. The manual states that the "high capacity" 1400mAH Lithium Ion battery should allow up to 20 transfers from a 64MB CF card (p.35). If there is a consistent relationship of battery capacity to transfer capacity this translates to 20x64MB = 1.3GB - WAAAY too low. If you only intend to use the built in battery, much better option is to buy 2x1GB CF or microdrives. Fortunately there is both an AC adapter for use in civilized circumstances, and an optional (not really optional in my opinion) external battery pack available which takes 8xAA batteries. The battery pack is very useful both in long backcountry camping trips and on overseas trips where the local voltage does not allow use of the AC adapter. Apart from the built in battery (a big flaw) I am very happy with the device. The menus are clear and relatively intuitive and the USB 2.0 transfer to PC is very fast.

Pat Collins , September 27, 2003; 05:23 P.M.

Fine review, but a question was raised: "why would one want to copy data from the hard drive to a CF card?".

I've found it useful for camera firmware updates — at least on Canon EOS digitals. Canon provides its own linking software, but I find my Tripper (attached to a Mac G5) makes it a drag-and-drop affair, which is far more convenient than using Canon's update software.

Paul Gentry , September 28, 2003; 09:07 P.M.

Here's a plug for one of these devices that I didn't see listed above--it's called the I/O Magic Digital Photo Library (I bought one about 2 months ago). It's got a 20GB hard drive but no screen of any kind (just some buttons and colored LEDs), and reads 6 different types of digital cards. For my needs it has been great--to download my 1GB CF cards (yes, I shoot alot) either at weddings or while on vacation. The battery life seems good, and I had no problems hooking it up to my Mac (OS 9) or my Dad's PC (Windows 2000, I think). I believe it was about $180 at Radio Shack. It's simple, but seems to work great. One more thing--it's only USB 1.1 (although that doesn't seem to be much of a problem in my experience).

Now why doesn't someone invent a little adapter so that you can download a CF card to an iPod? Wouldn't that be cool.

Paul

Ralf Hoenes , September 29, 2003; 08:22 A.M.

Just a few words about the X'S-Drive II. I got the version with a 40GB hard disk and used it during my recent vacation. Without charging the X'S drive I could transfer a total of 1.5GB of data to it from my 128MB Sony's memory sticks (not the pro model). The LCD battery indicator showed 1/4th of battery charge left. Each transfer took roughly 5min. At home I transferred all the files to the computer disk via my (older) 1.1 USB port. This took about 30min. Drivers under XP were not necessary. I also used an SD card with the drive and it worked well. The speed of this card appeared to be similar to the memory sticks.

Noteworthy is the simplicity of the device with its two buttons and the auto power off feature, which prevents the battery from running empty by mistake.

The data consistancy was flawless and the drive worked as advertised. It includes a nice padded ballistic nylon case in which you can store batteries and cards as well.

I paid roughly US$ 350.- for it and I think it's well worth the money.

Scott Weisgerber , September 29, 2003; 11:36 A.M.

Why are these devices using USB as a transfer method? Can you image how long it will take to copy 20 GB over USB? Would it kill them to have a FireWire version?

Bob Atkins , September 29, 2003; 09:30 P.M.

USB 2.0 is comparable to IEEE 1394 Firewire. In fact the theoretical raw speed is faster. USB 2.0 is 480Mbits/sec, Firewire is only 400Mbits/sec. However I think USB needs more software overhead, so in practice transfer speeds are very similar. I seem to recall some HD transfer tests that showed Firewire was maybe 10-15% faster on large transfers.

USB 1.1 is a slug, but 2.0 certainly is not. The Tripper uses USB 2.0. In fact I've used the Tripper to transfer very large files between systems as it is very much faster to upload the data via USB 2.0 on one system and download it via USB 2.0 on another than using my 10Mbit/s ethernet connection (or even a 100Mbit/s ethernet if you have that!).

William Nicholls , September 30, 2003; 07:18 P.M.

My Tripper's cardreader function worked fine under W2K without any configuration. When the device was recognized by the OS, the hard drive and the cardreader were recognized as mass storage devices and I could access either as a drive. Why wouldn't yours work? Dunno. Perhaps I picked up mass storage device drivers that differed from yours. My Fuji Finepix viewer auto launched when I attached the Tripper, so perhaps its drivers provided the device support.

I personally don't find it convenient to use the Tripper as a cardreader, it's much larger than my Firewire cardreader and belongs in my camera bag most of the time.

This is very rapidly changing product category. I bought my Tripper from insidecomputer.com (whom I highly recommend) and they installed my choice of a 30Gig drive. If I were buying today, I'd probably go for a Super Digibin 2.0 with its external battery and backlit LCD panel. The Tripper lacks LCD backlighting and the battery isn't quickly removable. However, for a few bucks at Radio Shack I picked up a the parts and assembled a holder that allows 4 AA cells to power the Tripper. Since AA cells are my camera's power source, I'm always equipped with a backup supply for my backup device.

So far I've yet to have a problem with the Tripper, but I haven't given it much of a workout to judge reliability.

Jose Morales , October 01, 2003; 04:08 P.M.

I cant make a comment for the Triper, but I bought me a Arcos Jukebox Multimedia 120 for about $350 on a recent trip to NY from a placed called R&J or J&R not sure now. Well the fact is that I got it for the sole purpose of my trip to Costa Rica where I took my 10D and whanted to avoid taking my laptop. It was the first thing available and it worked out quite nice. The 120 kit I bought comes with a 20GB drive, JPG “small fine” viewing support, mp3 play and record, video out for proto and AVI movies. Aside feature, the kit brought a CF and SD card reader plus it’s USB 2.0. The one thing that I must say is that all these devices are slow when transferring to from the PC for my taste, I used to 40/60MBps

Well, my trip to Costa Rica went with out a hitch, only had to recharge twice and came back with 1200 RAW images (most useless ;^)). Hope this helps !!!! I give the Archos my “$” of approval.

Bob Atkins , October 01, 2003; 07:51 P.M.

I don't know why I couldn't get my W2K system to see the card reader on the Tripper. I know it wasn't some odd system configuration problem because I tried to install it onto a second, totally different, W2K system and I got exactly the same results.

It could have been the firmware in the device I guess. Aplux sent me all kinds of drivers, but none of them worked. Maybe there's more than one firmware revison floating around?

Like you say, the card reader function isn't particualrly useful since you can get a 6-in-1 universal USB 2.0 card reader for around $30 which is much smaller and more convenient. Still, if it's there it ought to work! I guess I was just unlucky.

Chris Geary , October 02, 2003; 06:30 A.M.

I can further praise the X Drive II.. it is rapid (both from microdrive to disk and from disk to PC), works perfectly under Win XP and also doubles as an 'any data' transfer device.. kinda handy for moving those large files at work to and from home! Plus if the hard drive fails, you put another one in!

I have yet to take it out into the field, but will be going to Africa in December. One thing I would say though, is never trust any 'backup' device. Whilst I will be copying my images from microdrives to the X Drive, I will keep a copy of critical images on the original microdrive. Backup those critical files at least twice! You cant account for everything so best efforts etc..

Jim Rozum , October 08, 2003; 01:35 P.M.

Very nice review ... of the Tripper and the options from similiar items.

I bought a Tripper on eBay for $250 (including shipping). I bought the 30G model ... basically, I love it. It takes less than 5 minutes to download a 1G CF. On a recent trip to Jamaica I shot nearly 3,000 pictures. When I got home, I transferred all to my PC in less than 10 minutes. I'm shooting a 5MP Nikon, mostly on fine ... which means each picture is averaging 1.5MB.

Regarding the set up, I run XP Pro. Basically, I unpacked the Tripper, plugged it into an AC outlet (it wasn't charged), plugged a CF in, downloaded to the Tripper, then downloaded to my PC ... it was very intuitive ... I never opened the User Manual or the install CD ... total time ~15 minutes from open the box to look at the first jpg on my screen.

2 features that I would like to have that I don't. First, view the jpg on the unit's screen (I can do this on my camera, but ...). Second, play MP3s (with all of that HD space, kind of a waste not be also be able to use for music).

I now use the Tripper as a simple, portable HD. I use to transfer lots of big files from work to work on at home on the weekends or for huge files for training classes I teach (which, sometimes excede my 128MB Thumb drive).

Bottomline: VERY COOL Device ... I can't wait for added features in less pricey units.

J

Petrus Handoko , October 11, 2003; 02:18 A.M.

I bought Sima 10G digital storage. It support CF card I/II and smart media + USB 1.0. I would prefer USB 2.0 but can not beat sima's $99 price from tigerdirect.com.

So far I like it.

Comes with: Leather like cover, 1 batery pack (6 AA bateries, I used 6 recharcable AA) attached to cover. Car adapter + AC adapter, USB cable, 10G HD IBM travel star, easily changed to other HD by opening the case.

Work in my window XP.

-- Petrus

John Brand , October 12, 2003; 10:05 A.M.

I just bought the Apacer Disk Steno mentioned in the article. So far, it is very easy to use. I have copied the raw files from full 512mb flash cards directly to cd's quickly and with no fuss. It comes with a USB2 connector and with a power connector to a car lighter plug, as well as the 110v power connector. It seems so far like an ideal travel companion to my 10D.

Phil Sailer , October 15, 2003; 10:22 A.M.

I purchased the 10GB Sima drive for my trip to South Africa this past summer and it served me well! I picked it up for about $100.

Rob Bernhard , October 16, 2003; 03:13 P.M.

Philip Tan , October 28, 2003; 02:02 A.M.

Now that is the mother..... =)

firewire and fits to an ipod... what more can we ask for?

Thanks for the link.

Russell Lee , November 11, 2003; 11:49 A.M.

Actually, I am specifically interested in the comment about "why would one want to copy data from the hard drive to a CF card?"

As a complete tech weenie, I also use my PDA to view large (256mb) mpeg video files. I've been looking for a device so I could swap mpeg files back and forth from my CF card without a PC.

If I'm reading the threads correctly, the only devices that allow writing from disk -> card are the Tripper and the Digibin. It sounds like for both of these, you can only write a full directory to the card (I assume it's a flat directory system, i.e. no subdirectory trees allowed). Is this correct?

Does anyone have a recommendation of what would be best for my situation?

Frank Melchior , November 15, 2003; 12:32 A.M.

For those who have iPods http://www.ipodlounge.com/ipodnews_comments.php?id=1750_0_7_0_M Way too slow for me.

Louis Gagne , November 19, 2003; 08:37 A.M.

When I purchased my D100, I also purchased a 10Gig HD. I have been using it for over 1 year. So far no problems at all. I take care of my equipment, but I do use it a LOT! I'll shoot 2500 pics in a weekend at the races so it gets a workout. The one I got was a Mindstor 10 Gig...I believe that the company in Minds@work. They should be available in other capacities from Wolf Camera. I guess they still carry them. The only thing that I found lacking was an instruction manual. But then, it is pretty obvious how it works.

Brett Schuchert , November 21, 2003; 12:10 P.M.

Excellent article. I agree with most of the article and I think it's well written.

I had a difference experience on Windows 2000 from the one described here. I plugged my Tripper into Windows 2000 and it recognized the hard drive and the CF slot. I read files from the CF slot with no problem. I did not attempt to first install any drivers, I simply plugged it in and it worked without a hitch (I was sort of surprised).

Donald Lee , November 24, 2003; 12:33 A.M.

Regarding ... "why would one want to copy data from the hard drive to a CF card?"

I got a MindStor Digital Wallet with 5GB storage back in early 2002, and took it for with me for a 3 week trip. During the trip, I did not have access to computers to download pictures for viewing. The only way to look at pictures stored in the Digital Wallet was to download them back onto the memory card and then view them with the camera LCD screen. During nite time, when there was nothing else to do, I will do some editing ... i.e. download the pictures and delete the ones that I did not want to keep and re-upload the kept-images into the Wallet.

The only problem I have is with the memory card. I had an Olympus C700 which uses the smart media card. The continuous pulling and pushing of the card into and out of the slots caused damage to the card and eventually killed it. During the trip, I lost a whole batch of pictures from one afternoon and eventually had to scramble to buy a replacement card.

Since that trip, I have lost another batch of photos (of a friend's wedding) late last year and killed another smart media card in my last vacation (a few months ago).

I now have an anxiety. Every time I have to pull the smart media card from the camera to save the images into the Wallet, there is always a fear that the pictures will not make it.

Regarding my Digital Wallet, last time I looked for the MindStor web site for software driver (about 2 months ago), they seem to have run out of business.

I have 2 pieces of technologies at hand that need to be replaced before my next trip.

Wing Wong , November 28, 2003; 03:30 P.M.

Hi!

Been using the 10GB Digital Wallet for about 3 years now and love it. Got mine for a steal at $150 and recently picked up a 6GB version for my GF whom I've gotten the A80 for. :) We're both seriously into photography.

I have had similar experiences with smartmedia cards dying on me due to repeated "grind/sliding/gunk buildup" and have lost pictures. I currently use an Olympus C2100UZ, but will be switching to a G3/G5 soon with my eye on the 10D as a future camera. :) I like the speed of the compact flash cards and how they are more rugged.

But my view on it is to basically have 6-8 smartmedia cards and basically keep 2 spare in case the others fail, then use the 2. But since I've been using mine round robin for the past couple of years, my cards are all starting to break down as well. :|

Wing Wong

D Wang , December 22, 2003; 04:44 P.M.

Excellent aritcle and agreed most of your comments.

Got my tripper six months ago and love it. No problem with my W2K and everything functions as it should. My W2K is with SP4 so I wonder if you got latest SP installed? I don't think the small manufacturer like this bothered test their firmware on each SP on each OS...

So far I've found my tripper is pretty reliable -- hasn't lost any file. Each time I do double back up. I do "quick backup" for 1st copy, then followed by 2nd copy by using "move to HD", which copy file again and delete files from CF card at same time. This way the tripper will creat 2 folders with identical content and their names are in sequence. For example, 122203.001 is the first back up, and 122203.002 has same content as 001. If any file in 001 goes wrong, I can find a backup file in 002. Since they are in sequence so I alway know the the new content start from odd number and the following even number folder is the backup of previous folder. I figure the chance to lose same file on both folders will be really low. So far I haven't found myself in the situation need find a file in the redundant folder though.

Cheers

Peter Stavrakoglou , December 26, 2003; 11:34 P.M.

I recently purchased a Sigma SD9 DSLR and have a 256 MB CF card. The SD9 records native RAW files, a 256 MB card can hold about 32 high-res images. Rather than purchasing high-capacity CF cards or a microdrive, I opted for a digital storage unit as suggested by a fellow SD9 user.

I purchased a 40 GB Tripper from mydigitaldiscount.com. Their service was excellent - I originally wanted an X'S-Drive II but none were in stock. The sales rep offered a Tripper in lieu of the X'S-Drive - there was no pressure, just friendly service. I received the unit two days after ordering it.

I have copied approximately 2 gigs of images thus far, still on one charge. The Tripper has performed flawlessly to this point, I am very pleased with it. I can recommend the Tripper to anyone looking for high capacity storage.

Bas Scheffers , December 30, 2003; 04:21 P.M.

I just got the X'S-Drive II and went traveling for three weeks in Singapore and Australia. Bob had issues with this one, but it works fine for me, even without the drivers the manual says you need on Windows 2000; both the HD and all the card slots showed up as drives when I plugged the unit in.

The speed is acceptable, copying my CF card at about 1 MB/sec (the card is cable of more, in my USB2 card reader it clocks up 3.5MB/sec) and the USB2 connection to the PC copies at about twice that rate. This means I can empty out my 1GB card in about 15 minutes, more than fast enough. PC transfer speed is not important anyway, as you can just plug it in after a trip and let it copy while you go and do other things.

It is a very basic unit, the LCD on it only displays icons of what the drive is doing, no file lists, menus, progress indicators or anything. Just stick in the card and hit copy. The battery should last about 1.5 hours, but I haven't really tested that. It certainly was enough to copy at least 4 cards.

If you don't want to spend too much and don't need many bells and whistles, I can certainly recommend this one!

Bob Wright , January 24, 2004; 12:14 P.M.

The use of digital data storage devices is interesting from a use/efficiency perspective. I understand that carrying a small size digital storage unit can be a benefit in keeping cards from being filled and then not of use. But, I can't see the actual efficiency of the unit being more beneficial than a laptop/notebook.

In 2001, I spent 35 days in Europe with my digital camera. This was just a vacation, so I took only about 30 frames a day. With 3-Smart Media cards, I needed to download each night to be able to shoot the next day. I used a Dell notebook and a card reader to unload my cards every night. Now, here's where I see the real benefit of the laptop- I like to label my shots, so I remember where I took the picture, and what the subject is. Every evening I spent 30 minutes or so renaming each picture with a consectutive number and a description. I also stored the JPEG files in folders labeled for the place we ended the day, making retrieval easier.

This process was quick and easy with a 15" screen, and I was able to show others on the trip what the shots looked like.

For me, this ability to manipulate the photos, relabel, store and view on a larger screen makes any cons about the size of a laptop fairly insignificant.

Add to that the fact that my wife kept a journal on the laptop and we were able to watch videos at night, and I feel the laptop route is a much more versatile method of downloading and storing digital images off a card, when away from one's Pc.

Luis Lacerda , March 21, 2004; 02:33 P.M.

Hi all.
I've been using the Tripper for quite some time now without a problem. I have it with a 30Mb HD. Recently I started having this error message "The format form of CF is different"
In the past I always formatted my CFs in FAT16 but recently with the firmware upgrade of my D100 I've changed to FAT32.
The HD is formatted in FAT32 and the CF transfers alright if formatted FAT16.
My question is - Is there a firmware upgrade to the Tripper? Is there a way to get around this apparent incapacity?
Many thanks
Luis Lacerda

Luis Lacerda , March 21, 2004; 02:35 P.M.

Hi all.
I've been using the Tripper for quite some time now without a problem. I have it with a 30Mb HD. Recently I started having this error message "The format form of CF is different"
In the past I always formatted my CFs in FAT16 but recently with the firmware upgrade of my D100 I've changed to FAT32.
The HD is formatted in FAT32 and the CF transfers alright if formatted FAT16.
My question is - Is there a firmware upgrade to the Tripper? Is there a way to get around this apparent incapacity?
Many thanks
Luis Lacerda

Kent Smotherman , April 05, 2004; 04:39 P.M.

I have an Image Tank II and would like to add my experiences with it. (The tripper was my second choice, btw). I do photo/video shoots at martial arts schools. A typical session will see me shoot 6 gig or so on 512 meg CF cards, so I usually end up swapping cards to dump to the Image Tank II about 12-14 times in an afternoon. Needless to say this stresses out all the equipment, myself included! A nearly full Lexar 40x CF card takes a couple of minutes to dump to the Image Tank II, and I've never ran it out of battery during a shoot yet (I think the most swaps I've done is about 16 and the battery was at about 25% remaining). Transfers via USB 2.0 to my Mac only get about twice USB 1.1 speeds though, nowhere near USB 2.0 capacity.

I have mixed feelings on the Image Tank II - like a lot of these products, it's an import and the manual/help is pretty poor. The menus displayed on the device I also found confusing until I learned them. On a couple of ocassions I've had the unit not want to power on and I had to reset it with a paperclip, then it was fine. Otherwise the Image Tank II has been great and overall I'm about as happy with it as I've seen others are with different products. Still, I keep thinking I should try a Tripper (maybe with just an enclosure and transfer the drive from my Image Tank II to it) since it is so much faster on both ends (from CF to Tripper and from Tripper to computer)...

BTW I use a Canon PowerShot S1 IS, and am quite happy with it.

Teodor Malchiev , May 02, 2004; 10:29 A.M.

I have TRIPPER equipped with 40GB HDD. Through Windows XP Professional I formatted its HDD. When I switched it on and attempted to backup a CF card it gave me the following message "The format form of HDD is different". I realized that I've probably used wrong format (NTSF), so via PartitionMagic8.0 I deleted the partition and created a new one formatted to FAT32, but nothing changed. Everything else work fine. I still can use it as an external USB2.0 HDD, but I can not perform 'HDD Info' command neither to backup CF cards, which I bought it for. Pls help! How do I need to format the HDD? What program do I need? What are the correct settings that I have to use? I live in Bulgaria, so sending the Tripper back to the US does not work for me. Please help me to solve this problem. I urgently need your help! Thank you in advance.

Walt Z , October 08, 2004; 07:25 P.M.

I bought a Vosonic X'S Drive II with no hard drive, and a Toshiba 40GB drive from mydigitaldiscount.com for about $220. I've used it on a three week trip, and it worked great. Battery life was fine, and never ran out on me during a day of shooting. I took about 3700 pictures saved in RAW format (6-7 MB per pic), and had plenty of room for more at the end of the trip. About the only thing I missed was a display telling me how much space was left on the drive.

If you're looking for a low-cost portable drive, I can easily recommend this one.

Walt Z , October 08, 2004; 07:33 P.M.

One more thing. Vosonic has a utility on their web site (www.vosonic.com) that will let you format the drive if you're using Windows XP. I haven't tried it on other portable drives, but I bet it would work. It was obviously written by & for computer types, but I was able to find a web site using Google that explained it.

Thomas K , October 14, 2005; 01:32 A.M.

40g "wolverine" portable hardrive.

I Paid 149.00 at Fryes Electronics 1 year ago. The newer version runs about 120 bucks. Fast uploads from cf card and fast dloads to PC. USB 2.0 They come in 20, 40, 60 gigabyte and larger sizes.

I also puchased an inexpensive coleman power inverter -- it plugs into 12 volt outlet of car. The inverter has two duplex style outlets for plugging in chargers and whatnot. I will often be charging the 20D's batteries and the harddrive is usually plugged in as well. The inverter allows one to use all the 120 volt stuff their equipment comes with instead of using a bunch of 12 volt adapters.

This is inexpensive and reliable as can be.

So go spend 120 on a 40 gig wolverine, and 30 or 40 bucks for a 250-600 WATT inverter. For less than 160 or so, you can stay in the field for weeks.

I have used this thing for a year with zero problems.

When done this way, I always have fresh camera batteries, and empty cf cards.

Judson Rhodes , January 25, 2006; 10:40 P.M.

NIKON COOLWALKER MSV-01 30Gig HD

I was thrilled and impressed when I received this accessory as a gift. Reading the manual, it seemed like it would be the perfect accompaniment to my Nikon D70. Well, it is and it isn't.

IT IS... Compact and fairly easy to use (once you get used to it). The COOLWALKER resolves the issue of filling a CF card and being stuck with no more storage space. Each card transfer gets it's own directory (folder) with a name equivalent to the current date. Multiple uploads on a given day to the units' drive are numbered -01, -02, etc. Renaming the folders isn't a big deal, but the documentation really doesn't tell you how to do that. I had to figure it out myself. Images can be moved from folder to folder, but not with the same ease that we can do it on our PCs. Occasionally, I got an image in the wrong folder and couldn't find it later. I found it easier to just plug the unit into the PC, read it like another hard drive and use Explorer to move files around.

IT ISN"T... the total tool I expected, though. The unit displays JPG, TIFF and RAW (NEF) images recorded with my D70, but any pics that have been altered in any way (e.g., Photoshop) often fail to display on the 2.5-inch TFT screen. This makes it difficult to use as a display tool when discussing a shoot with a prospective client. When used as an external hard drive, though, the images come right up on my monitor. The other problem is the battery pack. It takes a really long time to charge, and it discharges quickly, especially if one is reviewing a large number of images. I would say charge time is about two hours and discharge time is around 30 minutes. The solution here is to use the unit plugged in or purchase several batteries. Anyone on a wilderness trip where electricity is unavailable would do well to shy away from this unit. You could find youself with full CF cards, lots of storage space in your pocket and no battery power to use it.

So far, I'm learning how to work around the short-comings.

James Moule , June 02, 2006; 01:55 P.M.

I took a Nikon Coolwalker on Safari in Kenya and it broke after storing one 512 memory card of photos. Fortunately, I had an iPod with me as a backup. I have used an iPod ever since. The new 60 gigabyte model holds plenty of photos and has lots of other uses.

Ken Strickland , August 25, 2009; 10:10 P.M.

It's interesting to see this old article and how storage devices have increased in capacity. I've been using the MoFoto 500GB Portable Photo Storage Device with my Canon 5D Mark II and Canon HF S10 which both devour 16GB memory cards in a few hours. I can't imagine using these or similar HD video DSLR/Camcorders without a portable digital storage device. There are quite a few devices to choose from, but I decided to go with MoFoto because a friend told me they had great customer service and I figured that was important for a device like this. It's really simple to operate, and has a lot of storage for a pretty good price. I paid $349, but they're selling for $299 as I post this. I've taken mine to Africa, Europe, China, in cities and backcountry and it's done well for me.


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