Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

Started Sep 29, 2013 | Discussions
(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,348
Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

A professional colleague and I were having a conversation yesterday.

He is off to shoot in Burma in a few weeks and I recently spent 10 weeks shooting in SE Asia.

We were discussing image storage when on the road and what a PITA carrying computers is.

We wondered why, given that a digital camera is basically a computer with a lens on it, it is still not possible to just connect a portable hard drive direct to the camera and download your images to one or more drives when working in the field, enabling you to leave your expensive and cumbersome laptop at home.

Can that be done? I don't believe so, but it seems a fairly obvious thing we ought to be able to do.

Danielvr Veteran Member • Posts: 4,273
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?
2

Well, that's what image tanks were invented for (portable HDD w/ card slot).

A cheaper alternative is to hook up the camera to a smartphone, and the smartphone to an external HDD, like in this post: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/42204710

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Roger99 Forum Pro • Posts: 10,986
It is already out there...
3

...and has been for years.  You can get "image vaults" which are essentially a HD in a case with a little bit of circuitry to allow you to go computer free as you travel.  They are a little bigger than a laptop HD and serve well.

MPA1 wrote:

A professional colleague and I were having a conversation yesterday.

He is off to shoot in Burma in a few weeks and I recently spent 10 weeks shooting in SE Asia.

We were discussing image storage when on the road and what a PITA carrying computers is.

We wondered why, given that a digital camera is basically a computer with a lens on it, it is still not possible to just connect a portable hard drive direct to the camera and download your images to one or more drives when working in the field, enabling you to leave your expensive and cumbersome laptop at home.

Can that be done? I don't believe so, but it seems a fairly obvious thing we ought to be able to do.

-- hide signature --

The one serious conviction one should hold is that nothing should be taken too seriously.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without necessarily accepting it. -Aristotle
..oh, and I see by the lack of responses that I am right yet again.

Dave Lively Senior Member • Posts: 1,805
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

The biggest problem is the user interface.  A touch screen would help a lot but even then trying specify what pictures you want transferred would be a slow process using a 3 inch LCD.  Doing so only using buttons would be painful.  Even if you had it setup to transfer everything to directories with a fixed name there would still be exceptions to be handled.  Do raw and JPEG get sorted to different directories?  Do you overwrite existing files with the same name?  If the disk gets full to you delete the oldest files or stop backing up the images?

You can backup files to a hard drive right now using a smart phone.  I have an Android but I would be surprised if you cannot do the same thing with an iPhone.  Just buy what is called an OTG USB cable and both the card from your camera and backup drive will show up on your phone's file browser and files can be easily transferred.  If you are using a hard drive instead of a flash drive you will also need a power supply for the HD.  Using the phone involves a couple of extra steps compared to having the camera do it directly but is more flexible, works with any camera now and your phone has a much better UI for this sort of thing.

On my last vacation wanted to travel light and left both my computer at home.  Not being a high volume shooter I was able to back up all my raw files to a 32 GB flash drive using my phone.  I have found SD cards reliable to the point I am not overly concerned about backups and only do so once every few days.  It was nice not having to drag the computer through airports and I did not really miss it.

Mark B. Forum Pro • Posts: 22,805
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

MPA1 wrote:

A professional colleague and I were having a conversation yesterday.

He is off to shoot in Burma in a few weeks and I recently spent 10 weeks shooting in SE Asia.

We were discussing image storage when on the road and what a PITA carrying computers is.

We wondered why, given that a digital camera is basically a computer with a lens on it, it is still not possible to just connect a portable hard drive direct to the camera and download your images to one or more drives when working in the field, enabling you to leave your expensive and cumbersome laptop at home.

Can that be done? I don't believe so, but it seems a fairly obvious thing we ought to be able to do.

Not with a normal external drive, no.  External drives still need an operating system to manage the file system which a digital camera lacks.  There are Portable Storage Devices that you can download images directly from the card, but a decent sized one will set you back about the same as a netbook with a comparable HD.

Mark

hotdog321
hotdog321 Forum Pro • Posts: 18,244
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?
1

Danielvr wrote:

Well, that's what image tanks were invented for (portable HDD w/ card slot).

A cheaper alternative is to hook up the camera to a smartphone, and the smartphone to an external HDD, like in this post: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/42204710

I saw this post some time ago and assembled the setup above using my Galaxy S3, powered hub, 2.5" 500 GB HD in enclosure, OTG cord and card reader but couldn't make it work. The phone just wouldn't "see" the HD to transfer files, darn it.

Maybe I'll take another stab at the project.

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Danielvr Veteran Member • Posts: 4,273
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?
1
Not with a normal external drive, no. External drives still need an operating system to manage the file system which a digital camera lacks.

Digital cameras know perfectly well how to read and write files on FAT formatted flash cards, so adding support for external (USB) HDD's needn't be all that complicated.

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RhysM Senior Member • Posts: 2,212
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?
4

I'd not take any chances with transferring the images through a computer or otherwise  Work out how many photos you think you'll be taking and buy enough memory cards for the job.  Store them in waterproof wallet and transfer them when you get home.

Leonard Migliore
Leonard Migliore Forum Pro • Posts: 14,918
Why do we download to HDD's?
3

OK. You go somewhere and shoot a few thousand images. Now, you could just get a few storage cards and keep the images there. What's wrong with that?

If you just use a couple of cards and transfer everything to a hard drive, you stand the chance of losing everything to a hard drive failure; this is going to be more likely if the drive is getting banged around.

If I were going somewhere remote and taking lots of pictures that would be difficult to replicate, I would take enough cards to store all the images I was expecting to take and back them up to a hard drive; I think the cards are safer storage than the drive.

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Leonard Migliore

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OP (unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,348
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

RhysM wrote:

I'd not take any chances with transferring the images through a computer or otherwise Work out how many photos you think you'll be taking and buy enough memory cards for the job. Store them in waterproof wallet and transfer them when you get home.

Best answer ever!

a) Cards fail. Who wouldn't back them up?!

b) My last 10 week trip resulted in 8,976 RAW files. The number of compact flash cards required to hold two copies of that lot would have cost more than several Macbook Airs in New Zealand! A single 32Gb card holds about 900 NEF files from a D3s (probably half that or less from a D800) and costs $500 here.

So I'd need 10 cards at $500 each which is $5000 as well as a complete second set for backups!

I could buy a new D4 and have $2500 change for that!!

OP (unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,348
Re: Why do we download to HDD's?

Leonard Migliore wrote:

OK. You go somewhere and shoot a few thousand images. Now, you could just get a few storage cards and keep the images there. What's wrong with that?

If you just use a couple of cards and transfer everything to a hard drive, you stand the chance of losing everything to a hard drive failure; this is going to be more likely if the drive is getting banged around.

If I were going somewhere remote and taking lots of pictures that would be difficult to replicate, I would take enough cards to store all the images I was expecting to take and back them up to a hard drive; I think the cards are safer storage than the drive.

-- hide signature --

Leonard Migliore

I back up to 3 hard drives (Mil Spec waterproof/shockproof ones) AND Backblaze (internet permitting) when on the road.

Each drive travels in a separate place and one is always on my person.

wasserball Veteran Member • Posts: 3,984
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

If I have to carry something, I rather carry a laptop than a hard drive because a computer is more flexible and useful than a hard drive. And, I want to look at my photos. Yes, eventually, I transfer the photos to a hard drive.

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OP (unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,348
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

wasserball wrote:

If I have to carry something, I rather carry a laptop than a hard drive because a computer is more flexible and useful than a hard drive. And, I want to look at my photos. Yes, eventually, I transfer the photos to a hard drive.

Generally yes.

However a laptop costs $2000 and is a reason to mug you or steal from your baggage. A hard drive is of little interest to most thieves.

A simple "Copy to attached drive" command to dump the card contents to a portable USB drive would be relatively simple and cheap as a solution.

Three 2Tb mil spec drives would be far cheaper and you be fairly unlikely to fill 2Tb with any camera under 20Mp in the sort of time most people travel.

RhysM Senior Member • Posts: 2,212
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

MPA1 wrote:

RhysM wrote:

I'd not take any chances with transferring the images through a computer or otherwise Work out how many photos you think you'll be taking and buy enough memory cards for the job. Store them in waterproof wallet and transfer them when you get home.

Best answer ever!

a) Cards fail. Who wouldn't back them up?!

b) My last 10 week trip resulted in 8,976 RAW files. The number of compact flash cards required to hold two copies of that lot would have cost more than several Macbook Airs in New Zealand! A single 32Gb card holds about 900 NEF files from a D3s (probably half that or less from a D800) and costs $500 here.

So I'd need 10 cards at $500 each which is $5000 as well as a complete second set for backups!

I could buy a new D4 and have $2500 change for that!!

Where the hell are you buying $500 32GB cards from? A 32GB Sandisk Extreme Pro Compact Flash can be had in the UK for about £100 and a 32GB SD of the same line for £65!

The cards are less likely to fail than a HDD and mirroring the cards would mean it would be extremely unlikely both would fail!

So let's say a more realistic price for the cards is $2000 then that seems like an acceptable expense for a 10 week trip. Assuming you're making an appropriate profit from the trip and let's not forget they'll still be there for subsequent trips so you don't have to apportion the entire costs to only one trip.

Mark B. Forum Pro • Posts: 22,805
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

Danielvr wrote:

Not with a normal external drive, no. External drives still need an operating system to manage the file system which a digital camera lacks.

Digital cameras know perfectly well how to read and write files on FAT formatted flash cards, so adding support for external (USB) HDD's needn't be all that complicated.

If it was that simple why hasn't it been done?  I don't think it's as simple as you think.

wasserball Veteran Member • Posts: 3,984
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

MPA1 wrote:

wasserball wrote:

If I have to carry something, I rather carry a laptop than a hard drive because a computer is more flexible and useful than a hard drive. And, I want to look at my photos. Yes, eventually, I transfer the photos to a hard drive.

Generally yes.

However a laptop costs $2000 and is a reason to mug you or steal from your baggage. A hard drive is of little interest to most thieves.

A simple "Copy to attached drive" command to dump the card contents to a portable USB drive would be relatively simple and cheap as a solution.

Three 2Tb mil spec drives would be far cheaper and you be fairly unlikely to fill 2Tb with any camera under 20Mp in the sort of time most people travel.

My computer with the i5 processor costs $600, not $2000. I have no need for a $2000 laptop. I cannot type or surf the internet with a $100 hard drive. If I drop my laptop, I'm out $600. If I drop my $100 hard drive, I lose more than $600 because the photos in the hard drive cannot be replaced unless I have backed up all the photos. Anything you own can be stolen, including your hard drive.  I don't use that as an excuse for not carrying a laptop with me. If you have that concern, then you would never carry a laptop with you.

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Leandros S Senior Member • Posts: 1,970
Re: It is already out there...

Roger99 wrote:

...and has been for years. You can get "image vaults" which are essentially a HD in a case with a little bit of circuitry to allow you to go computer free as you travel. They are a little bigger than a laptop HD and serve well.

Sanho (HyperDrive), Nexto Di and Digital Foci seem to be the only players now left in this segment. Devices are accordingly somewhat pricey. On the other hand, it does make a lot more sense doing it that way around than tying up your camera in a lengthy data shovelling process.

OP (unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,348
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

RhysM wrote:

MPA1 wrote:

RhysM wrote:

I'd not take any chances with transferring the images through a computer or otherwise Work out how many photos you think you'll be taking and buy enough memory cards for the job. Store them in waterproof wallet and transfer them when you get home.

Best answer ever!

a) Cards fail. Who wouldn't back them up?!

b) My last 10 week trip resulted in 8,976 RAW files. The number of compact flash cards required to hold two copies of that lot would have cost more than several Macbook Airs in New Zealand! A single 32Gb card holds about 900 NEF files from a D3s (probably half that or less from a D800) and costs $500 here.

So I'd need 10 cards at $500 each which is $5000 as well as a complete second set for backups!

I could buy a new D4 and have $2500 change for that!!

Where the hell are you buying $500 32GB cards from? A 32GB Sandisk Extreme Pro Compact Flash can be had in the UK for about £100 and a 32GB SD of the same line for £65!

The cards are less likely to fail than a HDD and mirroring the cards would mean it would be extremely unlikely both would fail!

So let's say a more realistic price for the cards is $2000 then that seems like an acceptable expense for a 10 week trip. Assuming you're making an appropriate profit from the trip and let's not forget they'll still be there for subsequent trips so you don't have to apportion the entire costs to only one trip.

NZ, where I live! Here are the current CF card prices:

Sandisk Extreme Pro CF 16.0Gb 90mb/s $230.00

Sandisk Extreme Pro CF 32.0Gb 90mb/s $420.00

Sandisk Extreme Pro CF 64.0Gb 90mb/s $665.00

Sandisk Extreme Pro CF 128.0Gb 100mb/s $1400.00

Lexar Pro 8.0Gb CF 800x 120mbs $89.00

Lexar Pro 16.0Gb CF 800x 120mbs $179.00

Lexar Pro 32.0Gb CF 800x 120mbs $315.00

Lexar Pro 64.0Gb CF 800x 120mbs $535.00

Lexar Pro 128Gb CF 800x 120mbs $849.00

Lexar Pro 16.0Gb CF 1000x 150mbs $245.00

Lexar Pro 32.0Gb CF 1000x 150mbs $445.00

Lexar Pro 64.0Gb CF 1000x 150mbs $745.00

Lexar Pro 128.0Gb CF 1000x 150mbs $1170.00

Lexar XQD 32.0GB 1100x $429.00

Lexar XQD 64.0Gb 1100x $790.00

OP (unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,348
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?

wasserball wrote:

MPA1 wrote:

wasserball wrote:

If I have to carry something, I rather carry a laptop than a hard drive because a computer is more flexible and useful than a hard drive. And, I want to look at my photos. Yes, eventually, I transfer the photos to a hard drive.

Generally yes.

However a laptop costs $2000 and is a reason to mug you or steal from your baggage. A hard drive is of little interest to most thieves.

A simple "Copy to attached drive" command to dump the card contents to a portable USB drive would be relatively simple and cheap as a solution.

Three 2Tb mil spec drives would be far cheaper and you be fairly unlikely to fill 2Tb with any camera under 20Mp in the sort of time most people travel.

My computer with the i5 processor costs $600, not $2000. I have no need for a $2000 laptop. I cannot type or surf the internet with a $100 hard drive. If I drop my laptop, I'm out $600. If I drop my $100 hard drive, I lose more than $600 because the photos in the hard drive cannot be replaced unless I have backed up all the photos. Anything you own can be stolen, including your hard drive. I don't use that as an excuse for not carrying a laptop with me. If you have that concern, then you would never carry a laptop with you.

Which is exactly why I am trying to find a way NOT to carry it!!

marvin t martian Forum Member • Posts: 58
Re: Cameras: Why Do We Still Need Computers To Download To HDD's?
Digital cameras know perfectly well how to read and write files on FAT formatted flash cards, so adding support for external (USB) HDD's needn't be all that complicated.

Many consumer external drives are formatted with NTFS or HFS+. These file systems are much more complex than the FAT or exFAT file systems used on flash memory cards.

Engineering a camera to write to NTFS would not be an insurmountable problem but it would be a non-trivial project to develop and would require non-trivial hardware to implement.

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