In this product review, I’ll give you closer look at a device I introduced in a previous post several weeks ago.
The Digital Foci Photo Safe II is a battery powered storage device designed to copy your digital photos off a storage card, onto an internal hard drive.
Using the Photo Safe II is extremely simple, you turn the device on, insert your memory card and press the copy button, the display on the Photo Safe II then indicates the progress of file transfer.
When you are done, you can remove the card and store it away, or format it to be used for more photos The advantage of “offloading” your photos is twofold; it makes a backup copy of anything stored on your memory cards and it can free up your memory cards if you run out of space for new photos (I don’t recommend that, and will explain later why).
The device has just 2 buttons, one for turning the unit on, and one for initiating the copy process. The LCD display shows how much free space is left on the hard drive, the battery life of the unit and the kind of memory card you have inserted. There are also 2 lights on the top of the device to show when it is powered on, as well as when the hard drive is active. Once a copy process reaches 100%, the display shows how many files and folders were copied.
The Photo Safe II is available in 2 versions; 80GB and 160GB. With a higher resolution camera, comes larger files. An 8 megapixel digital camera (the industry average at the moment) makes photos a little under 4MB, with the 80GB Photo Safe II, you’ll be able to store around 2000 digital photos.
Copying files is quite fast, but it depends on the speed of the memory card you insert. For my review, I used a 2GB SD memory card, and was able to copy the entire card (filled about 90%) in a little under 5 minutes. If you plan to make copies when you are “out and about”, it’s as simple as sliding your memory card into the device, pressing copy, and putting the unit in your jacket pocket. Once the copy is complete, the device turns off to preserve battery life.
%Gallery-29884%The Photo Safe II has an internal Lithium-Ion battery pack with a manufacturer rated capacity of 80 minutes. The battery is user replaceable, a spare battery can be ordered from Digital Foci for $20. 80 minutes should be enough for about 16 copies of a 1GB memory card. You can charge the Photo Safe using the included AC adapter or USB cable.
The Photo Safe II has slots for the following memory card formats:
- SD (Secure Digital)
- SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity)
- Compact Flash
- Memory Stick (Pro, Duo, Pro Duo)
- xD Picture Card
Each memory card slot is covered with a rubber cover which is designed to keep dust and debris out of the unit. The covers are easy to open, but quite hard to close and it will take a little practice to find the best way of closing them.
When the Photo Safe II starts a copying process, it will copy everything it finds on the memory card onto the hard drive; this includes video files, images in any format (including RAW) and anything else you copied onto the card. The copy also preserves the directory structure of the photos as well as any information (EXIF data) stored within the images.
One slightly more advanced feature of the Photo Safe II is the ability to split the internal drive into multiple partitions. You can then select the active partition using the buttons on the device. This feature allows you to physically split where you save your photos, and could come in handy if more than one person is using the drive, or if you plan to store photos as well as other files.
Once you arrive back home, you simply plug the Photo Safe II into an open USB port on your computer, and the device shows up as an external hard drive. You can then either drag-and-drop the images, or use your photo import application of choice to copy them to your computer. There is one other advantage to this; the device can also be used as a regular external hard drive to store any files you want. The Photo Safe II supports PC, Max and Linux.
As I explained earlier, I do not recommend using the Photo Safe II as your only source of photo backups. This is not because the device is not reliable (it is), or because I don’t trust it (I do), it is because it is just another physical device; lose it, and all your photos are gone. There is nothing wrong with being paranoid when it comes to your digital photos. I’ve often traveled with 3 copies of my photos; on the original memory card, on my laptop AND on a DVD disk.
In recent years, memory card prices have plummeted faster than any other product I can recall. The first 1GB SD memory card was introduced by Sandisk back in 2004, for $499.99. In just 4 years, the price has dropped 99.6% and you can regularly find a 1GB SD card for around $2 online.
It is this low price that has me advising you to stock up on memory cards; even though you have the ability to empty the card onto the Photo Safe II, I suggest making a backup copy of your photos as well as keeping the photos on the card and switching to another card in your camera. If disaster strikes, and you lose the Photo Safe II, or your SD cards, you’ll always have a backup, just don’t keep the Photo Safe II and your SD cards in the same bag!
The Photo Safe II costs $139 for the 80GB version and $189 for the 160GB version (Amazon prices are slightly lower; $119 for the 80GB and $173 for the 160GB). Included in the box is the Photo Safe II, an AC charger rated for 100-240V, a USB cable and a carrying pouch. The pouch is not padded, so don’t depend on it to protect the Photo Safe II too much.
Final thoughts – I like the Photo Safe II. It is about as simple as can be, it is light, and battery life is sufficient for copying thousands of files. At this price, there really isn’t much I can complain about, other than the poor quality pouch and the cumbersome rubber memory port covers. If you value your photos, then I suggest looking into the Photo Safe II (or any other external photo storage product).