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Old Jul 21, 2005, 6:14 PM   #1
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If you want an inexpensive, no frill, no LCD (to view the pictures, I mean), no hassle push button type portable image storage device, there are many to choose from - search the web with keywords like "portable digital (photo) (image) storage".

All photo and video equipment stores have them. Many major chain electronics stores or computer stores that sell digital cameras may stock them.

Most digital photo storage devices nowadays should come with internal battery (or at least external AA battery pack). They may also have internal memory card reader.

If you want to hunt for bargains, do a web search with the keywords "OTG" (= On-The-Go) - this term means the device has "host" capability. As I mentioned before, you cannot just hook up an external USB hard drive to the digital camera and expect files to be transferred, because there is no operating system in the external HD to detect the camera as a "slave" device for the file transfer.

Alternatives to ready-made "image tanks":

The OTG bridge -

If you already have a USB external hard drive, this is probably the least expensive method (less than 30 bucks) of using OTG to store images from the camera. This gadget links the external HD and the camera by two USB cables, and act as a middleman using OTG for file transfer. It is battery operated and has USB 1.1.

## you will not find the transfer speed jumps 10 times by using a "USB 2" device: although USB 2 can transfer data up to 480 Mb/sec, the speed of "data flow" is usually limited by the (read) speed of the flash memory card - eg. Sandisk Ultra II "high-speed" card has read speed of up to 10 Mb/sec (USB 1.1 is up to 12 Mb/sec) ##

NOTE: You still need to power the USB external hard drive yourself, by AC adaptor or battery pack, if you know what voltage/ amp it takes - Problem is: most external HDs are sold without these accessories, because they are expected to draw their power from the USB cable hooked up to the PC or laptop.

OTG hard drive enclosures -

Just like USB drive enclosures, you can buy the "shell" of the enclosure and put in a hard drive of your choice. The OTG drive enclosure uses 2.5" laptop hard drives, has USB 2 connection and internal lithium ion rechargeable battery. It is cheaper to buy the enclosure and the HD separately than to buy a ready-made OTG HD - just like buying a USB external HD! (OTG enclosure <$60; 2.5" laptop HD <$80 for 20-40 GB, the larger the HD the more savings you make!)

NOTE: a fast spinning (and more expensive) laptop HD (5400 versus 4200 RPM) probably does NOT make any difference in the transfer of images from the camera to the OTG enclosure, but it is faster when you use the USB 2 to transfer from the enclosure to the PC.

It does not take a tech head to install the HD. It is as simple as opening the enclosure, plug in one broad data cable and one smaller power cable to the HD, screw the HD onto the base plate of the enclosure, close and re-assemble the enclosure. Voila, 5-10 minute job!

Tips on OTG image storage devices:

I have two OTG drives and I have talked to enough people to know that OTG technology is very standard and non-selective, I mean no matter what manufacturer your device is, or whether the device is specifically marketed as a "digital picture storage" device or not (as long as you see "OTG" or "on-the-go" somewhere in their product description):

All OTG devices read memory cards by built-in card readers (or an attached USB external card reader if there is no internal reader).

People have told me some devices are not able to recognize their digital cameras hooked up through the USB - in this case you should take the card out and use a card reader.

All OTG devices copy files - they do not delete the originals on the memory cards. In case the data transfer fails, you can always start over. After downloading onto the OTG, put the memory card back into the camera and use its "format" function to clean the memory for re-use.

All OTG devices recognize and transfer ALL types of files - whether they are still pictures, videos (eg. MOV, MJPEG, MPG, MP4), or ANY other Windows files. My original concern was that most digital cameras come with "video mode" that make non-still files like MOV, and devices marketed for "digital picture storage" do not recognize these files. OTG is non-selective, you can use it to copy, say, all the MP3s on an MP3 player (if your device recognizes the MP3 player as a slave drive).

Higher end devices may have a Windows Explorer type file browser to let you choose which file to copy; the average OTG devices just copy all files on a memory card with the push of a button.

All OTG devices copy all files on a memory card into a single folder. The next time you hook up another memory card, it will automatically create a new folder (usually in numeric sequence eg. "folder0001", "folder0002" etc.) and put all the files into this new folder. The device will NOT read the content of the memory card or recognize the same files being downloaded again.

My personal suggestion is: try to do the downloading onto the OTG device with AC power instead of internal battery if possible - you may not keep track of the battery power usage, just in case the data transfer fails in the middle of the download!

Bottomline is: if you have pro gear and wants high quality and reliability, don't go for the cheaper stuff - well that's the reason you buy a Nikon and not a Mustek or Samsung! However, if you have a budget camera of popular brand, and don't want to buy or keep many memory cards, it is not expensive (<US$150) to get a 20-40GB OTG HD, especially one that you assemble from an enclosure, and it goes a long, long way!

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Old Jul 29, 2005, 10:15 PM   #2
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This is my experience with a non-brandname OTG external drive enclosure (uses 2.5" laptop hard drive) I bought from eBay:

This enclosure is slightly larger than the size of the laptop HD (51/8" X 3" X 5/8"). It does NOT have internal lithium battery, but comes with 4X AA battery compartment (use Ni-MH obviously). It is aluminum and well made. There is no LCD panel, and all the tranfer status/ info ( eg. in progress, error, HD full) are shown by LED lights on the narrow end of the unit.

The manual is brief but clear - the most important things are the installation and formatting of the HD, and they are clearly explained. (Remember the HD must be formatted in FAT32 and not NTFS)

Installation of the HD is a breeze - loosen two screws of the enclosure to remove the end cover, take the circuit board out, plug in one broad data cable and one smaller power cable to the laptop HD (bought separately), replace board and screws, all in 10 minutes (should be less because I dropped a screw!)

I did not use batteries ( haven't got time to charge them up) so I don't know what battery life you can get from 4X Ni-MH AAs. I use an AC adaptor (sold separately). There is only one button and one switch, so operation cannot be simpler. The switch is for "power off", "DC" (host to digital camera), "PC" (slave to computer). The button is the "copy" button. There are several LED lights that show you the status of the transfer.

I use my Sanyo Xacti C4 to take some stills and a movie clip (MP4 format), and use a USB 2 memory card reader to hook up to the unit for copying. The unit took 3 min 10 sec to transfer about 940 Mb = about 5 Mb/sec, faster than my Archos AV320. This speed is consistent with the read speed of the memory card. I am not sure if the transfer speed will be higher with newer high-speed cards.

The unit beeps to let you know the beginning and the end of the transfer. It copies and does not delete the pictures on the card or format it, so you should format the card when you put it back into the camera.

When I hook it up to the PC, you get the usual fast USB 2 transfer speed. Both JPG picture files and MP4 movie files have been copied, so there is no conflict or missing file format!

I have also tried copying several non-image/ video files (like WAV, MP3, EXE, Windows system files, junk ....) onto a memory card - the OTG device recognizes and copies them all!

There won't be any problem with pictures being overwritten because of same filenames - the unit creates a new folder for each transfer, so pictures with the same name in different transfers are not mixed up or overwritten. The device will not recognize that the same files are being downloaded again, if you hook up the same memory card to it.

Total cost: (US Dollars) $30 for the enclosure (includes AA battery compartment, USB cable, carrying case) + $4.50 (AC adaptor) + $14 (shipping) + $65 (40Gb 5400 RPM Fujitsu laptop HD, bought separately) = $113.50 for 40 Gb of mobile storage (remember these units work as external HD for computers as well).

Pet peeve: No internal lithium battery (4X Ni-MH battery life?? Good thing is: you don't have to buy proprietary lithium batteries!). I don't find the lack of an LCD screen any inconvenience because (1) this is a storage unit not a viewing device (2) the LCD will probably only show text messages similarly shown by the blinking LED lights on this unit.

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Old Feb 12, 2006, 4:10 AM   #3
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Hi blindsight; your post on budget storage devices is very interesting, I am trying to rig a system to record onto camcorder orharddrive. I can't get a large enough flash storage and I need a monitor for setting up the cam, I thought I could use a media recorder/storage device, which have a screen and hold 30gb or more. The trouble is these units don,t seem to have a lanc capability and im not sure if the remote lanc switch, will only pause recording of the helmet cam but not the harddrive, and leave emptyspaces on the recorder ,can you help as you seem to have a good knowledge on the subject
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Old Feb 13, 2006, 10:10 PM   #4
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You didn't give any specifics of your camera, but from the odds and ends in your post it seems that you have a "helmet cam" (CMOS or CCD board miniature camera). I am sorry I am not familiar with these devices, I don't know what kind of output or connection they have. I don't know much about LANC port apart from that it is a control port.

However, I can tell you that you cannot record video DIRECTLY onto an external hard drive, because these are merely computer hard drives for storage that allow transfer of already-made computer files (eg. AVI or MOV video files). The external hard drives do NOT have a "video card" for video source input signal.

I do have an Archos AV300 personal multimedia player (PMP), a device you mentioned in your post. You can also record video onto this device, only if your "helmet cam" has AV output in the form of RCA (red, white, yellow) connection. The Archos PMPs all come with an accessory cable that accepts RCA connection, to be plugged into the device's AV input socket (a small headphone-like socket).

If your "helmet cam" does not have an AV (RCA) output, you are out of luck with the Archos or any other brands of PMP or DV camcorders. I know none of the DV camcorders except Sony would accept external AV signal (they say you can transfer old VHS tapes onto miniDV this way), through the RCA cable.
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