Digital Foci Photo Elite – Photo Backup Device Review

As you may know from reading other posts here or from checking out my photo site, I use a Nikon D300 and a Nikon S550 camera. I have about 16GB of CF cards for my D300 and an 8GB SD card for my S550, but these are not enough for a week long vacation where I’m going to be taking quite a few pictures. For past trips, like the trip I took to Boise, ID for a week, I have taken my older laptop with me. And while on that trip I bought a 160GB USB hard drive as a second backup device. As you can imagine, a laptop is not a convenient device to carry on a trip.

There are several devices on the market to allow backing up photos on a trip. Here is a partial list of devices. After reviewing the devices and checking prices, I found Digital Foci was selling a refurbished an 80GB unit for about $50 off. As you can see from the following pictures, the device is pretty hefty. It’s not a contender for an IPOD replacement, although it does almost all the functions of an IPOD. But it has CF and SD card slots built in and it has backup and compare [verify] functions built in. It backs up 233x CF cards at 4.88 MB/sec.

This device has all the functions of a modern multi-media kitchen sink. It also has a 12 hour battery life when playing MP3s. It remains to be seen how long it will last when backing up photos cards.

Features I liked

  • The photo display and review features are very nice. The rotate and zoom features are well designed and even for large, 12MP, JPG images, the display time is very short. It takes 2 – 5 sec to display 16MB 12MP RAW images however. The photo album display features are best utilized if you reduce the images to 1.5MP or so [1280×1024 for example].
  • Photo card backup is great. Inserting a card brings a popup to the screen asking how you would like to do the backup. Beware of the glitch though where the card is found but the hard drive is not found. Make sure you see the hard drive in the menu before inserting the card in the device. The work around is simple once you know the secret.
  • The computer connection works quite well. The transfer is also very fast. I did have some intermittent connection problems with the USB cable, but seating the cable more firmly in the device fixed that.
  • I have been using this device for hours and hours to listen to podcasts. The Photo Elite has a little speaker, which isn’t much good for music but is just fine for podcasts. No constraining earbuds to wear and you can carry it around with you while you work around the house. The only problem is that it doesn’t remember your place in the podcast when you shut the system down. But you can pause it for many minutes without noticeable drain on the battery.

What the device is not.

  • This device is not a replacement for my Sansa MP3 player. The Sansa has longer battery life and is shirt pocket size. This device is large and cumbersome for an MP3 player.
  • It’s not a game console, although it has a game built in called MATRIX which is suspiciously like Tetris. But the screen is larger than a PSP and there are card slots, so while your PSP or DS may have most of this device’s media features, the game consoles don’t provide the convenient photo backup feature and I’m not sure that any of them have 80 or 160GB of on-board storage.
  • The Photo Elite has no WiFi capability. But you won’t miss that drain on your battery.

I’ll bet this device:

  1. has a laptop drive hiding inside.
  2. is based on some form of embedded Linux – good for them.
  3. contains software written by software engineers living in California. The interface is well designed and performance is snappy.
  4. will have future follow-on devices with more storage and more functions. These guys are on a roll.

Good luck to Digital Foci. This device gets my vote for coolest thing to solve my photo card backup problem at a very reasonable price. And listening to dozens of hours of podcasts is a real bonus. You go, Leo…

– windy