Two Months in Niger with the Nexto CF

Started Mar 16, 2006 | Discussions thread
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Cetacea Junior Member • Posts: 25
Two Months in Niger with the Nexto CF

If you don't have time to read the rest here is a short summary: I used two Nexto CFs and a bunch of lithium AAs for a two-month trip during which I had no access to power. I brought home over 60GB of images. Both Nextos worked flawlessly and the batteries lasted the whole trip.

Before heading over to Niger for a two-month trip, I looked into all the photo storage options, especially simple PSDs without photo viewing capabilities. I had always lugged my laptop on my previous trips, but this time I was going to be without access to power for two months straight, therefore taking the laptop was completely out of the question. I eliminated PSDs with viewing capabilities from early on because they are bulkier, more expensive, and consume more power. I felt that the LCD on the PSD was not much more useful then the LCD on my camera, although I know many of you may disagree with me. I also eliminated the portable CD burner option because I was going to shooting raw and didn't want to lug a lot of CDs. CD burners are bulkier, consumes more power, and has a lot of moving parts that may not withstand the rough roads in Niger. To ensure redundancy I'd have to bring two burners in case one breaks down.

I narrowed my choices down to PD70X and Nexto CF and ordered both. I compared them side by side and liked the Nexto CF much better and decided in less than 5 minutes that I was going to get two Nexto CFs and sell the PD70X. My reasons are the following:
1. The PD70X is much bigger and heavier. See photo below.

2. The build quality of the Nexto CF is much better from what I could see. It's not a scientific assessment by any means, just my opinion after I have handled both.

3. The PD70X interface is a bit odd. Every time I turned it on, it scanned the whole drive for 30 seconds or so before it was ready to copy files while the Nexto CF was almost instantaneous. I also didn't like the turn wheel thingy on the PD70X because I kept turning it too many times and the unit would rescan the whole drive again when I just wanted to copy another CF card. (I could be doing something wrong here since I have not heard other PD70X users complain about the same thing.) The Nexto CF has only one button and it does what it is supposed to do.

4. A lot of people prefer the PD70X because it takes AA batteries, but the internal charger doesn't work very well which means for long trips you either have to use non-rechargeable batteries or bring a separate charger. NiMh batteries drain slowly over time so they weren't the best for my situation. I made a little gizmo to power the Nexto with AA batteries, so essentially the PD70X has no advantage over the Nexto CF on the power issue.

I sold the PD70X and bought a second Nexto CF from eBay. I fully charged both units before I left home and brought 2 sets (8 batteries per set) of lithium batteries. I was able to copy over 20GB before the internal batteries were completely drained and I used one set of lithium batteries for both units for the rest of the trip. I brought home over 60GB of images and the first set of lithium batteries were still full while the second set was unused. I was very impressed with lithium batteries because they are much lighter than alkaline batteries and last MUCH MUCH longer. I was able to copy 80 GB (two units) using 8 lithium AA batteries and they showed voltage of 1.5v after I returned from the trip. I should have stayed out in the bush for a bit longer.

I used a Toshiba 5400 100GB hard drive in one unit and a Seagate 100GB drive in the other. Both performed flawlessly. One drive was slightly fast then the other, but the difference was pretty small that I can't remember which one was faster. I would recommend both. If you are trying to decide just buy whichever is cheaper at the moment. It took 2 min 20 Sec in one and 2 min 45 min in the other to copy a full Sandisk 2GB Extreme III card.

I lived with the Wodaabe people, a nomadic minority in Niger, at the edge of Sahara for two months. The temperature during the hottest days soared past 50 C (122 F). The little key chain thermometer with a 50 C upper limit was busted after a very hot day so I can't tell you how hot it actually got. There were frequent sand storm and all my stuff got sandy no matter how carefully I covered everything up. I moved with the family every 4 or 5 days with my pack loaded on a camel or donkey. If you've ever ridden a camel you'd know how jarring it could be especially when the camel starts to trot. On certain days we had to travel for over 20 km and my body felt like jello afterwards, but all my camera equipment survived the journey. Needless to say I was VERY impressed with the durability of Nexto CF.

Someone on this forum posted instructions on how to make the external power gizmo, but I can't find the post anymore. All parts can be purchased from Radio Shack and no soldering is needed.

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