Epson’s “secret” killer feature…

Laptop-free travel is a dream of a lot of us who want to lighten our loads. One of the things that a lot of columnists and writers point to as alternatives are the multimedia storage storage devices like the Epson P6000/P7000.

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These are phenomenal little units, and I carry one along even when I have a laptop as a backup. But carrying one of these units in lieu of a laptop isn’t really going to help you as redundant backup unless you do one of three things:

  1. Don’t re-use your cards during the trip, so you’ve got a copy of your “take” on the Epson and a copy on the cards.
  2. Buy two Epsons (!) so you have your redundant backup. It’s an elegant, if somewhat expensive, solution.

For the third, most reasonable, and totally undercovered solution in almost every review and Epson marketing piece of these multimedia storage units, hit the next page.One of the deepest secrets of the later Epson units is that they allow you to backup onto other USB storage devices…in other words, those little USB 2.5″ bus driven portable hard drives we all carry to back up onto from our laptops. But there’s a rub. The little Epson doesn’t have enough oomph to actually power the auxiliary drive like your laptop does. So in order to use your USB drive, you’ve got to get an AC adapter (5volt, 2amp) for your hard drive.pips-5v2a

Because the near-universal usage of these drives is backing up laptops, most of which have plenty of juice to “bus” power the drives, many manufacturers have totally eliminated the auxiliary power input on the drive, and stopped making the little AC adapters too (they only weigh an ounce or so).

So you want to make sure you get your auxiliary USB drives from a manufacturer that still offers the AC adapter option. Here are a few that that still do: the G-Drive Mini , the Weibetech Toughtech Mini , and the LaCie Rugged . There are probably a lot more out there, but I’ve used these three successfully.

If you’re a Mac person (like me) and you’ve bought your auxiliary drives formatted to the Mac, you need to reformat them to FAT 32 (the PC standard drive format) for the Epson to “see” them (don’t worry, your Macbook will still be able to see and work with the drives…it’s just that kind of system…so versatile, so inclusive!).

Of course, make sure you backup any data on the drive before you reformat it. Here’s a step by step guide on reformatting a drive to FAT 32 using Mac’s Disk Utility: Caveat: I take no responsiblity for your data. Do this at your own risk! Make sure you select the portable drive and not your main drive. Oh boy, will you regret that! Please be careful.

  1. In Disk Utility, select the appropriate disk (please don’t reformat your main drive and then blame me!!!)
  2. Click the “Partition” tab
  3. Under Volume Information, expand the Format field and choose “Free Space”
  4. Click “Erase” (you’ve got everything on this drive backed up someplace else, now, right? Tell me that you do before you hit that button!)
  5. Expand the Volume Format field, and choose “MS-DOS File System”

Click Erase again and wait for it to do the job. When it’s finished the drive will be readable by the Epson, and your Mac (and of course, a PC too).

Now here’s another great use for these little Epsons and their beautiful screens—they can be used as kind of a post-film era Polaroid. I had an assignment in a village in Transylvania where NOBODY outside my hotel spoke English. And yet I had to get a lot of people shots for the story, and I had only a part time fixer/ translator.

So whenever I got shots, I’d download them onto the Epson and bring ’em back to show the subjects. And they loved it and brought more people into the pub, or their farm, or wherever, to see the shots, and then I had more willing subjects (like Etelka the baker, below, caught in a sepia moment). For a more in-depth info on that gig, check out this story on the Professional Photographer Magazine website.

© Bob Krist

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Bob,

    Great advice. I happen to use a Hyperdrive but I find the little PSDs to be indispensable. Love your blog too.


  2. I wish someday you might share your opinion on these new Netbook computers versus using the epson’s.

  3. Another solution might be to use 64GB USB flash memory drives (i.e. Kingston DataTraveler 150 USB flash drive – 64 GB) instead of a 2.5″ hard drive and and an external AC power adapter to connect to your Epson. The USB flash memory drives are much smaller than any 2.5″ HD and AC adapter, are more rugged (no moving parts), do not require external AC power and are probably more reliable. One 64GB drive (about $120 street price) can hold about 2,000 RAW + JPEG images from a D3x or about 3,000 14-bit RAW + JPEG images from a D700. FWIW, I have not tested this idea,…

    1. Hi Michael: Yes, Rob Sheppherd uses these and swears by them. I have to see if the Epson “sees” them. It would be a very lightweight solution.

  4. Bob,

    Great post. You may also want to use the iTouch (or iPhone) to show your photos to people who you photographed…it’s much smaller/lighter than the Epson. I did that in Kerala last month to great success.



    1. Tewfic: One more reason I need to stop procrastinating about getting an iPod touch!

  5. Bob,

    I have a netbook, Asus 1000HA. The biggest issue I have with it is no built in CF reader. Need to carry one. So, I have found this device to be extremely helpful…

    I have no affilation with this company. It is the only place in the US where they sell them. The device is called Nexto DI. Nice device for backing up your work. Plus it can act as a usb device so another backup can be done to a netbook.

    Also, when traveling lite, I will carry my HP iPAQ 210 along. That has a SD and CF slot. With 32GB SD and CF cards available that has more than enough space when traveling for a few days.
    Plus the app on the iPAQ lets me view the images (Resco Viewer) has the ability to view NEF images, plus histograms. The iPAQ has wireless so in a pinch I can get on the web.

    Great site.

    Thank you!

  6. Bob,

    I enjoyed your notes. Lynn and I are traveling to South Africa for game drives for the third time next month. In the past I have taken along a 30 gb FlashTrax from Smart Disk in addition to a Dell Inspiron 700 laptop (12″ screen). Smart Disk was purchased by Verbatim and no longer manufactures this product.) I more recently purchased one of their lastr 80 gb Flashtrax XTs. And, I just bought the Sanho Hyperdrive (500 gb) mentioned above. With the carry-on rules constantly changing I also bought an HP Netbook (8″ screen), but I only plan to use it to retrieve e-mail and to write travel stories for my site. No laptop this time. So, all of my photos will be downloaded to my SmartDisk 80 gb Flashtrax XT and my 500 gb Sanho Hyperdrive on this trip.

  7. Thanks for a very interesting article in this weekend’s Wall St Journal. Your work is wonderful.

    Also, I’m curious whether your site is hosted on Smugmug. I’m a new SmugMug user, just setting up my site there.



    1. Hi Rich: Nope, it’s not hosted by Smugmug. It’s just a hosting service that my designer uses. Bob

  8. Aren’t netbooks mostly cheaper than these Epsons, and a lot more versatile?

    1. Nick: Yup, they are, except for the screens, which look, in my experience, like heck. But if you can live with the PC OS, then a netbook might be a better way to go….for a while. There are firmware upgrades coming down the line for the Epsons that will make it a tougher decision. I can’t say anything specific, but have you ever played “tether” ball? It’s fun! Bob

  9. Hi All,
    I really appreciate this blog. I wonder if someone has tested the Michael’s solution.
    Thank you in advance.

  10. I followed you instructions, formated usb drive as FAT32, Epson still will not read or write to it. Say there may be a problem with usb device or not FAT32. Which it is. Any help?

    1. Russ: Do you have power going to the harddrive? Do you have the latest firmware in the Epson? If you do, it should work. I’m not able to do long distance diagnosis, but you should first make sure you have those two things covered. Also, which Epson? The earlier models won’t work. Bob

  11. Its a P3000.

  12. My available formatting steps are as follows.
    -open disk utility
    -select drive
    -click on partition tab (however volume info is inactive)
    -go to volume scheme, pulldown is set to current, I must select a partition, 1 or more for volume info to become active
    -so having selected 1 partition, I now have access to formating options for the drive
    -select free space from pulldown
    -choose apply, there is no erase command in the partition tab.

    have done this and still the Epson will not see the drive.

    Other… under erase tab, have another option for format as FAT, but does not work either. Not sure what the difference is between Partition formating and erase formatting.

    alas no go here. Russ

    1. Russ: I’m at a loss as to how to help you. The instructions that I posted have worked for me and a lot of others. Are you on a Mac (that’s another important bit of info)? I don’t know what to tell you other than I’d go back, if you’re on a Mac, and follow those instructions for formatting the drive again very carefully.

      Do you have the USB drive powered by the separate AC adapter? The Epson will not see the thing if it is not powered independently.

      Next stop might be the computer store for help with this. BK

  13. Thanks Rob. Yes on mac. Tried over a dozen times, all different ways. You might revisit your instructions as there are some differences in your version versus the latest mac os, see my instructions.

    Looks like I will buy a new drive and see if I can get it to work. P3000 should work, not too old, correct?

    Thanks again.


    1. Russ: Do you have the auxiliary AC adapter powering your USB drive? I keep asking, but you’re not telling:-).

      If you don’t, that is the root of your problems. The Epson can’t power or see the drive by itself. If you do, I don’t know what to tell you. I can only tell you that it’s worked for me and dozens of other readers. BK

  14. Bob, found some answers here. The ac adapter is not required for the Epson (though probably a good idea), as the drive (with AC) is copying from the Epson as we speak without one.

    The issue lies in the options button in Disk Utility. One must click the options button and choose Master Boot Record for PC compatibility. Then from the format pulldown, choose FAT32. This is what made the difference for me.

    Thanks for the good idea. Happy to have solved it.


    1. Russ: I’m glad you got it working! That is a relief. Happy Travels. Bob

  15. One other happy accident. Macally enclosures use the same voltage/plug ac adapter as the Epson, so the adapter can be used for both units. One less donglely thing to pack.


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