Dual memory card digital camera please

Over the weekend I was investigating what technology was available for backing up digital photos while travelling. It’s a long time since our round the world trip, which is when I last looked into such things. Back then I found a HDD caddy/card reader combo that would backup the contents of a variety of memory cards at the push of a button, which worked reasonably well and provided a home for an old laptop drive I had spare.

Sadly it’s not for my holiday but, thanks to a few hints from Ken, Nigel and Iain on twitter, here’s the short list:

  • Take a laptop: bulky equipment to lug about and susceptible to theft.
  • Card reader/HDD combo: there doesn’t seem to be many options in this category any more, perhaps because they look comparatively expensive now that memory card prices are lower. Not as bulky as a laptop but still something else taking up luggage space.
  • USB On-The-Go bridge: much like the last option, although potential to use a USB sticks instead of a hard disk. Not much to choose from here either unfortunately, and no decent looking ones that I could find.
  • On-line backups: doesn’t seem that practical while travelling, at least not without some effort tracking down internet access, possibly back to taking a laptop/netbook, unless Eye-Fi does the job that is. On the plus side, if anything gets stolen you wouldn’t lose any photos that were already uploaded.
  • Just buy more memory cards: not a backup as such, but less chance of losing all the photos. Much more affordable than before too, so backing up to free up space on the memory card isn’t such an issue, which may explain why some of the alternatives seem less common now.
  • Shoot with film as well: a great suggestion from Jenny, although it does involve taking more than one camera, and getting the photos developed! The negatives might make a good long term backup once you get home too.

Taking a few cards seems like the easiest approach but, even though the risk of losing all your holiday snaps is small, I still don’t exactly trust technology. So here’s my suggestion for camera manufacturers: dual memory card slots. For the paranoid these could be configured to store every photo on both cards for an immediate backup, and for trigger happy snappers it would mean more storage before swapping cards. Win win.

It should also be possible to provide adapters for a lot of existing cameras that would do the same thing; something not too dissimilar to a RAID 1 version of a PhotoFast Compact Flash adapter for example. Does such a thing exist already, or do you have any other suggestions for backing up digital photos on the move?

Photo © Jorge Quinteros cc by-nc-sa 2.0

Updated: added the retro film option! (11 March 2011)

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10 thoughts on “Dual memory card digital camera please

  1. You can get specific hardware devices to do this sort of thing for you while on the move, clearly not a cheap option though and a very specific product for such an amount of money.

    Taking a small computer with you (netbook) or similar seems like an obvious choice to me. Also, the eye-fi option but you’ve already covered those and their drawbacks.

    When I went travelling around Australia I used the “buy lots of cards” option to spread risk rather than take actual backups. Back then I was using 128MB compact flash though which had more of a reputation for failure than current SD cards.

    One other option that strikes me as a realistic possibility is backing up to your smart phone. I can’t see there being anything to stop you buying a large micro SDHC for your phone and a USB cable to connect camera and phone together with some sort of App to do the transfer. I’d bet someone has thought of that already although I’ve not investigated myself.

      • You’ve got me really looking into this now. Looks like the original USB data copier device is the syncbox which doesn’t appear to be available in the UK. However, Belkin have an alternative which you can find on Amazon for a tenner or elsewhere for under a fiver.

    • None of the USB copiers I found had great reviews, and they seem well behind the times now.
      The idea of copying to a smart phone is an interesting one but it’s not ideal because the phone is worth stealing. I think memory cards are much more readily hidden away and are probably less tempting a target anyway. Still, a backup is better than no backup. Would be geat if you could do it with a phone and no extra device- is there an app for that?!

  2. Nice suggestion although it wouldn’t address the thing I trust even less than technology – myself. Having left various possessions scattered all over the world whilst running for buses, taxis and less comfortable modes of transport I wouldn’t want a solution where my two backups are within touching distance of each other. Also, there is nothing that says rob me quite as much as a clearly lost tourist wondering around with a camera – where ever you are in the world.

    When I travel I like to travel light so I’d like something that was really light. The hardware devices that Graham mentioned all seemed to be a similar size (and therefore probably weight) to a camera which seems OTT for a backup device. What would be really nice was a small battery powered device to copy from one memory card to another and did nothing else but I’ve never managed to find anything that does this.

    • My thinking is that a dual memory card camera would definitely address the Iain threat to photo loss… as soon as you take the memory cards out, at which point you can put them in separate locations, e.g. one in checked luggage and one in carry on. You’d be at risk until you took out a single card and made a copy anyway, but with with two cards still in the camera you’d at least be protected from a memory card fault. I think the biggest advantage is that there isn’t a separate step involved to make a backup. Even if the copying devices are small enough and work well enough (reviews suggest that they aren’t actually much good), you still have to go through the hassle of making a copy. In the past I did make copies, but more recently I’ve become complacent because I haven’t lost any photos, which is obviously fine until something goes wrong! I’m sure I’m not alone either, so getting a backup by default seems like it would be a good thing ™.

  3. My biggest worry is that I may get confused which cards have photos on I have just taken, and which hold photos I’ve already backed up.
    Why don’t cameras flip the “lock” tab on the cards when you remove them, so you have to physically un-lock them before they can be re-formatted ? Backup devices could un-lock them once pictures were safely stored elsewhere.

    I guess I should be more organised and format cards once I’ve moved images onto my Raid system at home, but that’s a manual process, and error prone as a result of me being lazy.

  4. @Iain, thanks for the Android 3.0 link- sounds like it could be handy.

    I also got an email about this the other day pointing out that there’s also an iPod solution. Have an iPad? Then you’re covered too.

    All of which sounds great, except I’m still nervous of backing up photo’s to something that’s likely to get stolen; I know someone who’s lost photos that way in the past, and they weren’t on anything nearly as tempting as an iPad!

    @Mike, I miss having physical lock tabs. If they were good enough for VHS and floppy disks…
    Having some sort of automation to get all the photos off cards and organised back at home would be really handy. Mine are spread randomly across various drives. At least I hope they still are!

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