Photography and Art

Travel: Portable Hard Drives and Rugged Cases

29 September 2012

Travelling with a Portable Hard Drives

It is always great to travel and digital cameras has made the process of taking photos easier. Digital cameras have made travelling with a camera a more convenient experience compared to the days of shooting with film. There is no need to lug around a bag full of films in an x-ray bag these days which has meant lighter camera bags or alternatively more available space for other equipment. Films replacement, the memory card, can store the equivalent of tens of rolls of films depending on its capacity, and the image format used. Certainly with compact cameras and an 8GB memory may more than enough to capture memories from a 2 or 3 week holiday (assuming minimal use of video capture).

For the photo enthusiast or keen travel photographer a single memory card is not going to be enough and in fact it is possible that card may be filled in a single day. In this case the image format used would be RAW (effectively the digital negative) which are generally much larger than the lossy but universal JPEG image file format. Some photographers may have their camera set up to store images as both RAW and JPEG formats depending on their requirements. These collectively large image files will usually require the use of several memory cards or cards of higher capacity. It is not unusual for a photographer to carry several spare memory cards but there is usually a limit to the number carried due to the cost.

SDHC Memory Cards

A more cost effective method than continually buying memory cards is to use a media viewer. Devices like the Epson P5000 are designed to allow quick downloading of the contents of a memory card to an internal hard drive and so freeing up that card for use again immediately afterwards. These media devices have an added benefit in that they can view the stored photos and make a useful tool for reviewing shoots. Unfortunately, the usable life of the media viewer device may be prematurely shortened because the hard drive capacity will as some stage be exceeded. An increased number of photos (perhaps because of a longer journey), larger files (higher megapixel camera), and video can quickly consume a hard drives capacity.

With laptops being generally being much more portable than they use to be they can usually fit easily into hand luggage when travelling. As a result they have made a much better alternative to the media viewers as (depending on internal hard drive capacity) they can store a large number of photos and videos and with the necessary applications installed they can be better examined and edited if required. It is possible that the available space on the internal storage may not be enough and this is where using an external portable hard drive comes in useful. An external hard drive can have more than sufficient storage for any photo shoot.

Portable Hard Drive

Portable hard drives are fine to use in indoor environments but when transported they are exposed to the possibility of being shaken, knocked around, or even dropped. This type of experience has the potential to reduce the life of a hard drive. To ensure that the portable drive can take the riggers of travel some added protection may be necessary.

There are many portable external hard drives on the market with capacities as much as 2TB. A suitably large capacity portable hard drive can be used for years if treated with care. The choice of portable hard drive must be carefully be considered. When travelling there is allows the possibility of a hard drive being exposed to vibration, the elements, and the possibility of being accidentally dropped. Some portable hard drives have been designed with this in mind.

The following may be considered:

Hard Drive Soft Case

This is a padded case that holds the hard drive and cushions any impacts. It will make the overall hard drive dimensions bigger but provide an extra degree of assurity that the disk it holds is damage free. To connect the USB cable the case has to be opened to gain access to the port on the drives body but the drive may be left in the case whilst in operation.

Rugged Soft Case for a Portable Hard Drive

Hard Drive Hard Case

This type of case is design to permit the use of the drive whilst still encased. One such case is the Western Digital rugged case for their MyPassport series of pocket hard drives. It provides a padded interior and a hard (impact absorbing) exterior that also provides weather sealing. The case provides a port for connecting a USB cable without having to open the hard case to gain access to the hard drive.

Hard Case for Portable Hard Drives

Rugged Hard Drives

The previous solutions apply when wanting to protect a portable hard drive from potential ??? abuse. There are hard drives specifically built with rugged enclosures. Freecom and Lacie are some of the manufacturers of such hard drives. These ruggedised drives may overall have smaller dimensions than the rugged cases making them a bit more convenient to slip into a camera bag where space may be at a premium.

Rugged Hard Drive

Camera Bags 

A camera bag with its padded compartments can prove very useful for keeping a portable hard drive protected when in transit although it should be assigned a compartment of its one to ensure no other equipment knocks against it. However, there hard drive will be unprotected from a fall (or the elements) if it is to be used whilst on location. 


All the options described here should go some way to ensuring that the portable hard drive is not damaged in transit on rough journeys and in terms of the dedicated cases, the hard drive continues working reliably should it be dropped. For the photographer shooting a large number of photos and videos that are not easily replaced an additional hard drive may be in order to serve as a backup. EA


Mini News

22 November 2012: Sigma 18-250mm now available in Sony's A-Mount

Sigma Imaging UK Ltd has announced that the 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 DC Macro HSM lens is now available at a suggested retail price of £499.99. Sigma's APO Macro 180mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM lens will shortly be available in Sony's A-Mount for a suggested retail price of £1499.99.


17 October 2012: Firmware update for Sony NEX 7 v1.01

Sony NEX firmware update provides the following;

  • Addition of capability to enable or disable the MOVIE button
  • Addition of exposure settings of bracket shooting (three frames /1.0EV,2.0EV, 3.0EV)
  • Improvement of response for showing auto review image.
  • Improvement of image quality when using a wide angle lens
  • Improvement of indication when setting “Flexible Spot”.

Visit the link: http://www.sony.co.uk/support/en/product/NEX-7/updates

Firmware updates are also available for the a77, a65, and a57.


15 October 2012: Purchase Sigma's 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM ultra wide angle lens and claim FREE 77mm UV DG filter

From Monday 15th October 2012, Sigma Imaging UK Ltd are introducing a short term special offer that enables anyone who purchases Sigma’s multi-award winning 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM ultra-wide angle lens to claim a FREE Sigma 77mm UV DG filter worth over £60!

A Sigma Ultra Violet filter is the perfect accessory to protect your lens from damage to the front element. Sigma’s DG filters benefit from a special multi-layer lens coating, developed to counteract the highly reflective characteristic of image sensors.

Terms and Conditions apply. Visit www.sigma-imaging-uk.com or ask your local photographic retailer for more details of this offer and how to claim your FREE Sigma 77mm UV DG filter.