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Author Topic: Solid State vs Hard Drive storage  (Read 22823 times)
John Swearingen
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« on: January 06, 2007, 04:13:29 PM »
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I'm going to Tibet for a month this summer, in areas where electricity, much less computers, will be hard to find. I will have to rely on what I take with me for storage and back-up of images.  I will need to travel light--heavy gear gets REALLY heavy when you are gasping for air!

I'm a little wary of bringing a hard-drive device, such as the Epson P-4000.  The roads are rough, and a broken hard-drive would be a disaster.  Also, I've heard that hard-drives may have trouble at high altitudes, since they run on a cushion of air.

I've begun looking at solid state devices that would work in the field.  The iPod, with a card reader, seems an easy choice: 80 gigs, tough and reliable.  Though it's not great for handling images, my primary interest is in downloading my flash cards; the trip will be very busy, and managing of the images will come after my return.   One disadvantage may be speed...the iPod and card reader would be relatively slow.

Another disadvantage is that there would be no way to make a second or third back-up.  If the iPod were lost, stolen or malfunctioned, everything would be gone.

Does anyone have suggestions?

Thanks,
John
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John.Murray
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2007, 04:36:26 PM »
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If you are considering an 80GB solution - why not just carry 20 4GB or 10 8GB cards?  I know this doesn't address your backup concern, but a failure of one card would obviously not affect the others.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2007, 04:39:23 PM by Joh.Murray » Logged

John Swearingen
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2007, 04:50:48 PM »
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If you are considering an 80GB solution - why not just carry 20 4GB or 10 8GB cards?  I know this doesn't address your backup concern, but a failure of one card would obviously not affect the others.
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This does give a level of security and comfort that I find appealing.  

They would be an extra expense (I was looking forward to a new iPod to keep after the trip), but if I decide that I don't need to keep all the cards cards, they have a good resale value and would be easy to unload.

John
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Box Brownie
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2007, 04:57:20 PM »
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Is the iPod really solid state @ 80GB, I have not researched it but I was under the impression they had one of the small HDD in them.  If so then altitude would IMHO be a 'no-no'.

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John Swearingen
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« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2007, 04:58:32 PM »
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I'm going to answer my own question, somewhat.  Researching on Amazon the iPod/Belkin card reader combination for image storage, I found several reviews that commented that  the download time is about three times slower than a usb/laptop, acceptable for the average shooter's smaller images, but perhaps painful when shooting images of 13 megs each.  

More important for my trip, the downloading appears to drain batteries very quickly, for both the card reader and the iPod--about 1 gig will exhaust the iPod.  During my last visit it was sometimes 4-5 days between times when I could plug in a charger, so this is a big consideration.  It would be safer to have a unit that runs on regular batteries, which can be carried.

But what's that unit?
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John Swearingen
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« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2007, 05:03:41 PM »
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Is the iPod really solid state @ 80GB, I have not researched it but I was under the impression they had one of the small HDD in them.  If so then altitude would IMHO be a 'no-no'.


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AH!! you're right.  The nano's use a flash drive, but have only 8 gigs of storage. The iPod is a hard drive.

Well...what to do?  
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Box Brownie
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2007, 05:15:07 PM »
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Sounds like your only option is to shell out big time for more CF cards.

Just out of interest how do you charge the camera batteries, I have read of solar power supplies but those that are any good seem to cost a heck of lot.

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Gary Brown
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2007, 05:37:51 PM »
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Perhaps one of those portable CD burner gadgets that can copy from memory cards, would work at those altitudes.
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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2007, 06:56:52 PM »
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Quick googling claims that HDDs without specially designed pressurized enclosures work up to 3000m. If you're gonna stay higher than that (!) for extended periods, I guess the only sure-fire way is to invest in a stack of CF cards and a CF copier (is there such a beast?). But if not, portable HDDs are the way to go. You shouldn't worry about dropping them as HDDs withstand hundreds of Gs (non-operational), so the first thing to break would be the housing and compression damage (stepping on it). If it does just fall and break, your HDD is most probably still readable.

I just got a HyperDrive SPACE for backing up HDDs and it has a solid metal housing. Haven't dropped it yet nor do I know of any serious ruggedness testing for portable HDDs, though.
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Iwill
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2007, 09:49:28 PM »
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There is one technology that is really suited for just what you're going to do --
it's called FILM!
 
No need for hard drives, chargers, laptops, cd or dvd burners, flash cards, ipods (except for playing tunes, of course!), or tricky sensor cleaning, either.  Granted, you have to carry a lot of rolls with you, but that's all.  And you could buy all of the film and processing for a whole lot less than the cost of 20 4GB flash cards, too.  Seriously, for an expedition like you are planning, going into one of the most remote locations in the world, film is really a viable option.  It would solve a lot of your problems.

d:^)

Irv Williams
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mtselman
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« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2007, 10:11:38 PM »
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John,

I do not think you need to worry too much about altitude unless you are going to extremes (like 7000-8000m). Hard drives work just fine at altitudes of 4000m, which is what most of Tibetan plateau is.
I do a lot of mountain climbing and have traveled extensively at high altitudes. There are some cities: Leh in Ladakh (India), La Paz in Bolivia, which are at around 4000m. There are hundreds of internet cafes and other computer equipment there with old and new hard drives which just work.
As you noticed yourself, iPod uses a hard-drive as well, (and has been used by climbers up to 7-8000meters). I would not go for iPod as download times are slow. Get a dedicated device. I'm using Xs-Drive, but there are more modern ones on the market now. Just pad it well for travel and take extra batteries. Another option, if you are traveling at high altitude in mostly good weather is to take a small portable solar batery with you. You can use it to charge many devices. Do a research. I saw people carying them on tops of their packs in Nepal and other places.
Multiple cards do have an advantage of spreading the risk, but also increase the probability that at least one of them may fail, or may get lost/mishandled.

Tibet is on my list of places to visit. Maybe this summer as well...

  --Misha
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mtselman
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2007, 08:04:33 AM »
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There is one technology that is really suited for just what you're going to do --
it's called FILM!
 
No need for hard drives, chargers, laptops, cd or dvd burners, flash cards, ipods (except for playing tunes, of course!), or tricky sensor cleaning, either.  Granted, you have to carry a lot of rolls with you, but that's all.  And you could buy all of the film and processing for a whole lot less than the cost of 20 4GB flash cards, too.  Seriously, for an expedition like you are planning, going into one of the most remote locations in the world, film is really a viable option.  It would solve a lot of your problems.

d:^)

Irv Williams
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Interesting point, which made me curious how much film you'd need to carry. Let's see  - he is planning on filling up 80GB with 13MB images. That gives us somewhere around 6000 exposures. Taken in 36 frame rolls that equates to almost 170 rolls of film. Even divided by half, (assuming he does not really need 80GB) we are left with 85 rolls.
I believe, the weight, the bulk and the cost of buying/processing/scanning 85 rolls will all exceed the weight, the bulk and the cost of the electronic gadgets he'd need to carry for digital.
One can argue that you are more careful with taking film shots than with digital, so not so many rolls are needed, but that would be a slippery discussion ground as there are plenty of arguments from both sides.

Just a thought....  

  --Misha

PS. Another advantage of digital in the regions like Tibet: Often locals are afraid/shy of the camera and you have to respect their privacy. What I found to work in these cases is taking a photo of some third subject, or a mountain or even of myself and showing them the image on the LCD. Then they get interested, they want to pose and even to snap their own picture with your camera. Great conversation starter.
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Iwill
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« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2007, 11:51:33 PM »
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Interesting point, which made me curious how much film you'd need to carry. Let's see  - he is planning on filling up 80GB with 13MB images. That gives us somewhere around 6000 exposures. Taken in 36 frame rolls that equates to almost 170 rolls of film. Even divided by half, (assuming he does not really need 80GB) we are left with 85 rolls.
I believe, the weight, the bulk and the cost of buying/processing/scanning 85 rolls will all exceed the weight, the bulk and the cost of the electronic gadgets he'd need to
carry for digital.
One can argue that you are more careful with taking film shots than with digital, so not so many rolls are needed, but that would be a slippery discussion ground as there are plenty of arguments from both sides.
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Misha - I agree that going for 85 rolls of film or 40 GB is a good compromise on this planning exercise, so let's see how that might work out in terms of cost, bulk and weight for film compared to the electronics he'd have to carry, along with the safety factors of splitting up the storage.

I've taken all prices from the current web pages at B&H Photo:

THE FILM SOLUTION:

Film:  Fujifilm 135 36 exp. Velvia 100 @$5.29 ea. x 85 rolls = $449.65
Processing:  Fujifilm slide processing mailer @$4.49 ea. x 85 mailers = $381.65
Total cost of film and processing for 85 rolls of 36 exp. = $831.30

Weight of 36 exp. film roll = 1 oz. x 85 rolls = 85 oz. = 5.3 lbs.

Size of 35mm film roll = 1.25" x 1.25" x 2" = 3.125 cu. in / roll
3.125 cu. in. x 85 rolls = 265.6 cu. in. = 0.15 cu. ft. = approx. 4" x 6" x11"


ELECTRONIC SOLUTION 1:

Sandisk 4 GB Extreme III Compact Flash card = $122.95 x 10 cards = $1,229.50

Weight of 10 compact flash cards = negligible.

Size of 10 compact flash cards = negligible.

So the compact flash card solution costs about $400 more than film, but has the least weight and least storage size, and requires nothing more to carry.


ELECTRONIC SOLUTION 2:

Epson P-5000 portable storage viewer = $679.95
Extra battery for above = 59.95
Total for P-5000 plus extra battery = $739.90

Weight of viewer plus charger plus extra battery = approx. 1.75 lbs.

Size of viewer plus charger plus extra battery = approx 96 cu. in.
= approx. 0.05 cu. ft. = approx. 4" x4" x 6"  

So the P-5000 solution costs about $50 less than the film, weighs about 1/3 as much and takes up about 1/3 the space of film, but weighs more and takes up more space than the flash cards.

Another point for the electronic solutions is that you can continue to reuse both of them for future shooting, while the film cannot be reused.

On the other hand, since safety factors are a concern for these once-in-a-lifetime shots, let's look at redundancy.  If one of our storage units is lost or damaged, we would lose one roll out of the 85 rolls of film, and a little over 1% of our shots would be lost.  If one of the 4 GB compact flash cards were lost or damaged, then we would lose 10% of our shots.  If the Epson P-5000 viewer were to suffer a catastrophe, then we would lose all (or almost all) of our shots.  So in this case, the film would be the safest, the compact flash cards the next safest and the the Epson P-5000 viewer the riskiest.

Since John's expressed concerns were safety for his images and light weight and small size for him to carry, I would have to say that carrying 10 each 4 GB compact flash cards seems to be the best of the three solutions considered here.  The cards would add virtually no weight or bulk for the photographer, would not risk the loss of too many shots if one card were lost (although 10% would hurt!), and could easily be sold afterward to recoup most of their initial cost.

The choice would be more difficult between film and the Epson P-5000 storage viewer.  The Epson is a bit cheaper, and is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the film.  However, if it fails up there, everything on it is lost, and no further transfers can be done from the camera card, so most of the shots of the trip would be lost.  Considering the cost and time and effort of this trip, that risk seems to be higher than I would like to take without secondary backup, which would add more cost, weight, bulk, etc.  If I had to choose between the two, I'd take the film.

Now we haven't looked at how many camera batteries he'd have to take in order to shoot for a week between recharging, but I believe that that would be doable.  A film camera does have the advantage of shooting way more than 85 rolls on one battery, and if the expedition were going to go for a month without possibility of recharging, then digital might not be practical.  In this case, with only a week between charging, a few extra batteries would probably do the trick.

I've learned that my initial reaction (film is the answer here) doesn't actually turn out to be true for this situation.  The electronic solution with compact flash cards for the storage medium seem to have a definite advantage over film.

I also agree that digital has a clear advantage as an icebreaker; film simply can't do that (unless you take a Polaroid along!), and that can have great advantages for getting the kind of pictures you want.

Irv
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John Swearingen
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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2007, 08:14:31 AM »
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There is one technology that is really suited for just what you're going to do --
it's called FILM!
 
d:^)

Irv Williams
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I will bring my film body and quite a few rolls, as a back up, and because I like film.  My last visit I shot film.  However, in the unusual conditions I will be shooting in, I very much liike the instant feedback of digital, so that I can make corrections in the field.  I also like the ability to take lots of pictures at little cost.  Last visit, I had to budget my shots more than I would like--I'll be away for a month.

John
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John Swearingen
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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2007, 08:22:29 AM »
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I've learned that my initial reaction (film is the answer here) doesn't actually turn out to be true for this situation.  The electronic solution with compact flash cards for the storage medium seem to have a definite advantage over film.

I also agree that digital has a clear advantage as an icebreaker; film simply can't do that (unless you take a Polaroid along!), and that can have great advantages for getting the kind of pictures you want.
Irv
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I by and large am agreeing with your conclusions.  A viewer like the Giga Vu, would be very popular.  Last visit, I had a pocket digital camera, and it was a big hit!

John
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John Swearingen
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« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2007, 08:35:09 AM »
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John,

I do not think you need to worry too much about altitude unless you are going to extremes (like 7000-8000m). Hard drives work just fine at altitudes of 4000m, which is what most of Tibetan plateau is. Another option, if you are traveling at high altitude in mostly good weather is to take a small portable solar batery with you. You can use it to charge many devices.
  --Misha
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Thanks for the reassurance.  I think that I needn't worry too much about a HD device, I'll mostly be around 4-5000m.

The solar might be a good option, and I'll research that.  Also making friends with our drivers, to use their car chargers.  This might work, but it's not reliable, as they won't be with us all the time.

John
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« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2007, 03:14:36 PM »
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Thanks for the cost analysis of film/digital storage. Do remember that, unlike film, digital is reusable. If the photographer goes on two trips, the cost of digital is slashed in half compared to film. Just something to keep in mind.

Phillip
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Hank
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« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2007, 03:36:04 PM »
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I tried the iPod/Belkin route.  Gotta say it gave me wicked pleasure to lay the Belkin unit on the ground and stomp it, then dump in the trash.  My ears love the iPod, and my soul is happy with the death of the Belkin.

Haven't looked into it, but if you need to get around hard drives my impulse would be to carefully evaluate the portable CD burner option.  It's pure speculation on my part, but with the growing acceptability and performance of SD cards, I'd hate to have 80 gb additional of CF cards two or three years from now.
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« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2007, 03:54:36 PM »
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Haven't looked into it, but if you need to get around hard drives my impulse would be to carefully evaluate the portable CD burner option.  It's pure speculation on my part, but with the growing acceptability and performance of SD cards, I'd hate to have 80 gb additional of CF cards two or three years from now.
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You need a laptop with a portable CD/DVD buner which brings the price and especially weight up considerably compared to portable HDDs.
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« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2007, 04:01:17 PM »
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You need a laptop with a portable CD/DVD buner which brings the price and especially weight up considerably compared to portable HDDs.
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Not quite right!

There are or were standalone portable CD burners with DVD burners due sometime during 2006.

I have not looked into this recently but it was the issue of verification if it was a function maing the process very slow an also like the portable HDD storage devices the question of battery life.

HTH
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