So this past week, I got my iPhone 4. My primary reason for upgrading is the vastly improved camera. Finally, the camera in my phone is good enough that I don’t have to carry a point and shoot when I don’t want to lug around my DSLR. The added benefit is that I always have my phone with me so there will be fewer photos missed because I didn’t have a camera. Of course, the iPhone 4 camera isn’t even in the same galaxy as a DSLR in terms of image quality, but it is good enough for casual shooting.
One of the luxuries of being a photographer in the digital age is the ability to back up your photos in the field to insure that you don’t lose any of your hard work. This is especially important for weddings or expensive trips where there are no second takes if a digital catastrophe claims your data. There have been devices on the market for years that enable photographers to backup their memory cards. I use the Epson P7000 and it has served me well at weddings and on various trips where I wanted to be sure that I came home with all my photos. With the introduction of the Apple iPad and the Camera Connection Kit, there’s been a lot of buzz in the photography world about the potential for the iPad to serve as an in-field backup device. Here I briefly compare the pros and cons of the iPad and the P7000 for photo backup purposes.
The Pros for the Epson P7000:
The main advantage of the Epson over the iPad is storage space. The P7000 has a 160GB hard drive. Currently, the largest iPad you can get is only 64GB. Why on earth would you need more than 64GB for photos? Well, at a wedding I shot recently, I ended up with nearly 40GB of photos in one day (RAW files, not JPEG). Imagine being on a two week trip where you’re shooting extensively everyday and you need your backup device to cover you the entire time. Also keep in mind that your iPad will most likely have other files on it (movies for the plane?) that will take up precious space.
The Epson P7000 is designed specifically for the task of backing up photos. It has both SD and CF card slots as well and USB ports. It even allows you to connect another portable hard drive to make a backup of your backup without needing a PC. The Camera Connection Kit for the iPad only has an SD slot. If you need to backup CF cards (which most pro-level DSLR’s use) you have to plug a CF card reader into the USB port on the Camera Connection Kit. I did a quick speed test between the iPad and P7000 comparing the backup of a CF memory card with 188 RAW files on it. The iPad took roughly 11 minutes where the P7000 took less than 6 minutes. That’s a huge difference if you have a lot of cards to backup.
The Cons of the Epson P7000:
Price is the biggest downside to the Epson P7000. At $799 it is almost as expensive as the top of the line 64GB 3G iPad which can do so many other things.
The Pros of the iPad:
The display on the iPad is quite simply amazing. It’s gorgeous. The Epson P7000 has a beautiful 4 inch display, but it’s nothing compared to viewing your photos on the iPad’s 9.7 inch IPS display and being able to pinch and zoom to examine detail.
The iPad obviously has much more flexibility in terms of potential uses. With the App Store, you can download apps that allow you to edit your backed-up photos and email them or post them to the web. There’s even an option to post your photos to a MobileMe album which is the ultimate in backup security because it ensures that your photos will make it home even if you or your gear don’t. There are also rumors that there may soon be iPad versions of Lightroom and Aperture which would open up even more possibilities for editing and sorting your photos on location.
The Cons of the iPad:
Like I mentioned before, physical storage space is the biggest downside to the iPad right now. The download speed of a CF card to the iPad was also disappointing (Epson was almost twice as fast).
If you have less than 64GB of photos to backup (or however big your iPad model is) and you don’t mind the slow download speed, the iPad and Camera Connection Kit are the way to go. You’ll be able to review your photos on a large and beautiful screen and have a lot of options for editing them.
However, if you shoot in RAW and are shutter happy like I am, the iPad’s limited storage is currently a deal breaker. I’ll be grabbing my Epson P7000 when I head out on trips in the near future. But down the road, when we have iPads with more storage and apps for Lightroom and Aperture, the situation will change entirely.