Photo packs have come a long way in the past decade, especially those that are targeted toward outdoor and adventure photographers. Alaska-based adventure photographer Dan Bailey takes a closer look...
[Editor's Note: This article is being presented for information only. If
you decide you want to try this, you are on your own. Neither photo.net nor the
author of the article is responsible if what you try doesn't work. It's possible
the MP3 player you obtain will not contain a removal microdrive which will work
in your camera. It's possible you won't be able to install a smaller memory in
the MP3 player. It's possible the microdrive won't work in your camera. It's
possible the microdrive will be mechanically, physically or electrically
different from those sold for use with cameras. Basically there's no guarantee of
compatibility. However, if you want to experiment, here's some information you
may find useful].
I heard almost too late about the Muvo2 and the Hitachi 4GB Microdrive inside
that could be had cheap. By the time I found the forums on dpreview.com and
fatwallet.com and the descriptions of procedure people were already talking about
having ten backordered Muvo2 units and eBay was full of OEM Microdrives and
gutted music players. I almost didn't bother... but sometimes being in Australia
pays off. A local retailer had stock, I ordered, and here is what followed.
The following talks about disassembly of a reasonably expensive electronic
device. I don't recommend you do this unless you've done this kind of thing
before, successfully. Even then I don't recommend you do it unless you are
prepared to throw everything in the trash with no regrets. The only tools you
need are a small philips head screwdriver and a small slotted screwdriver.
Warranty? We don't need no steenkeeng warranty!
The Muvo2 4G functions well as a music player, but if I wanted a music player
I'd probably choose iPod Mini. As I want a Microdrive I choose a Muvo2, because
I've not read that anybody has successfully reformatted a drive from the Apple
product and had it recognized by their camera. Opening it up was nice and simple.
Four screws hold the plastic case together. Once you have them undone and the
case open, just lift up the PCB by gently getting a fingernail or screwdriver tip
under one of the connectors that passes through the cutout in the top of the
Battery door removed, four screws removed and case separated
Do this carefully and slowly because it is not supposed to lift right out at
this point. There are two things tethering it to the case still, the ribbon cable
for the Microdrive and the flat copper shield. Just lift it up enough to see
three screws. The reason you may not see four is that the last one might be
covered by some tape - use the small slotted screwdriver to push the tape back.
Now unscrew all four screws and the whole thing will come away from the plastic.
Don't put strain on the ribbon cable, it is not designed to support any weight
nor is it designed for what you are about to do.
Main PCB lifted up to expose drive shield and control sub-PCB
The works removed from the case
Turning the electronics over you see a 4GB Microdrive lying inside a metal
shield! Along one edge is a connector. Using the slotted screwdriver, gently and
gradually push it away from the Microdrive along its whole length and you will
see pins appear. When you have as much out as is shown in the photograph you can
detach the drive. There are two things left to do now - format the drive for use
in your camera, and rebuild the microdrive with either another (probably 1GB)
Microdrive or a compact flash card.
The CF pins being removed from the Microdrive
Formatting the Microdrive is done like this if you have a PC. If you place the
drive in a compact flash card reader that supports type II media or use a PCMCIA
adapter (careful, not all of these support type II either) you can mount see it
with your PC just like a full-sized hard drive or other compact flash media. Open
(in Windows XP) Control Panel->Administrative Tools->Computer Management
and click on Disk Management in the left-side pane, you should see a disk that
appears unformatted with a size of roughly 3.8GB. Be careful - you don't want to
format any drives other than this one. Format it with FAT32 (and only FAT32!) -
when done, you're ready to try it in your camera. In part II I put the drive in a
Canon 10D and perform some tests.
Users of other operating systems - it can be done but I can't describe how.
Rebuilding the Muvo2 is not hard at all but I found that of four compact flash
cards I had available only one would work. SanDisk 128MB (1999), Lexar 12x 256MB
and some off-brand 256M would not work. Sandisk Ultra II 512MB did work - it's
expensive to leave in there, but for the purposes of seeing if the Muvo2 can work
without its expensive heart it will do fine.
Plugging the CF into the connector is easy except for one thing - which way
did it go? The connector isn't keyed so I hope you remember which way the
Microdrive came out. Just joking - front label faces away from the metal plate.
After that just screw the drive/control assembly down to the front panel and then
put the main board on top, replace the plastic and screw that down too. The
control sub-board may have come away from the metal drive shield if you removed
that screw-covering tape earlier, if so just put it in place first with the
shield on top, it only fits one way.
When replacing the main PCB try to make sure there is no dust in the viewing
window and no dust on the LCD display. Some scotch tape cut to the width of the
panels will do a good job unless you stuck your greasy fingers on them, then they
need a proper clean. Careful of both but especially the plastic, it is very soft
and easy to scratch. I have dust in mine and will need to open and clean it. Make
sure the ribbon cable leading to the storage medium is not sticking out, you
should not need to force the case together. If it is out too far tuck it in with
your finger before replacing the plastic shell.
When replacing screws in plastic do it like this - if you turn the screw
backwards you will hear a series of clicks as the tip of the screw rides the
thread up and then drops down. Just after a click and a drop, screw it in - it
should go in easily, do not overtighten. You don't want to be forcing another
thread because two threads is basically no thread. If you took the door off like
I did for the photographs just click it back in once all the screws are
Next comes the software. "Recovery Mode v1.0.0" should appear when you power
on the unit.
On booting with a new card you should see this
Since you don't know whether your CF/Microdrive is compatible you will see one
of two responses to what you are about to do - "Media Error" or other things. I
believe "Media Error" means you are out of luck with that particular media, since
the successful test (SanDisk Ultra II 512MB) never showed that message.
"Format all" is what you need to do next
This may indicate your CF card is not compatible
You need to choose option 3, erase, then option 4, reload firmware. I could
not find the firmware updater on the Creative web site. The version that I used,
which I found with Google, is "Creative_MuVo 2_4.0gb_1.10.01.exe". After erasing
and then reloading the firmware you have a Muvo2 player with reduced capacity, it
should operate as normal with the original software and display the correct media
size under the "Information" menu item.
There has been much talk about when this bonanza would stop. One hoaxed
picture on dpreview.com showed a Muvo2 with drive soldered in place - obviously
done by by hand, but it fooled a lot of people into thinking that new stock would
be somehow protected. One person said that there is a secret hidden file on the
drive and the player will never work as a player unless you move the secret file
to any new media with Norton Ghost or similar - I did not find that to be the
case. Recently I have seen people say that unless the Muvo2 has a sticker saying
"hard drive by HITACHI" it isn't a good candidate.
Packaging and appearance differs from place to place. I have read that a new
bubble-style package shows back and front of the unit and that it is possible to
check whether the sticker is in place. Some people have said that "powered by
HITACHI" means a special OEM Microdrive is used which either does not have a CF
connector or does not have full firmware but nobody has shown pictures of one of
these "protected" units. I'm skeptical. Would Hitachi really create a new SKU
just for Creative? On the other hand there are the Microdrives from the Apple
players, which reportedly do not work in a camera.
Why would Creative care about what happens to their media players? They're
selling all they can build at the asking price. I'm guessing Hitachi are not too
happy at the bottom falling out of the $499 Microdrive market, and that
Creative's supply might be threatened. Don't expect this situation to last
forever. There is some stock out there, especially outside the USA, but new
stocks when they arrive may well protected
I believe the first guy to do this was Andy Mack, and you can read his
experiences at www.andymack.com (select log, then Jan-2004 under look back).
Thanks Andy! I never saw the "Media Error" message - probably we have slightly
different revisions of firmware in our devices. That might account for the other
discrepancies mentioned too.
Where to buy
Amazon is listing a Muvo 2 4GB MP3 player. It's not 100% certain that this
device contains a removable 4GB hard drive which will function in digital
cameras, but the specs say "cutting-edge high capacity 1" hard disk drive
storage", so it seems quite possible.