While useful for anyone at any level, these next three articles on “Technology for the Photographer” are geared for the semi-pro and professional photographer.

The final in the series! Mobility and Accessories!

I actually started writing this article sooner than I planned. I’m just so excited with this article as it’s really, in my opinion, the most exciting for all the amazing things coming out. And it makes sense. Though miniaturizing is expensive, it’s got to be cheaper than developing something bigger. I think it’s also easier to prototype: Make a big version then shrink. Now, what shall be the first thing to start off on?

Mobile Systems

Western Digital My PassPort Wireless Pro USB 3.0. 2TB & 3TB. Image by B&H Photo Video.

Western Digital My PassPort Wireless Pro USB 3.0. 2TB & 3TB. Image by B&H Photo Video.

Mobile Backup. Yes. I think it’s fair to say this is an important with photographers: backing up files while on location. I usually use my laptop or iPad. But the laptop is a bit of a drag. Unless I’m going to edit photos right then and there, the weight makes it tough to lug around. The iPad is not so bad. It’s fun to do simple and quick edits. Unfortunately, even if you have a 256GB model, and thats a lot of money, is still not that much space. It will work for a while

Western Digital has been pretty good on this front for a while and they just came out with a new device: The Western Digital My Passport Pro USB 3.0.  Super excited about it! It’s a battery-power portable hard drive with built-in WiFi. Nothing new. Right? Well, it has an SD slot too. Okay, that’s still not new. The previous version of this unit had exactly that. But as I’ve read and been told, there were big problems with the performance of the SD drive. That has been fixed. Also, this comes with a 6,400mAh battery too for use as a power bank! Up from 6 hours to 10 hours of usage. You can charge devices like a phone or tablet in a pinch. It also has a USB 2.0 port to connect other peripherals like a card reader.

This is such a great unit. I think the unit is a bit crippled with USB 2.0. I understand why they didn’t put in a CF card reader into the unit. Apart from the extra space, CF is on the way out. So put a USB slot into the unit. But CF is being replaced by CFast and XQD. Which is going to be used with cameras with many or larger files. So it’s a bit of an issue. It does have a USB 3.0 connection when connecting to a computer to transfer files off when back at the computer. So that’s good. 2TB unit is $189 and 3TB for $229. Compatible with both Mac and Windows. Measure’s 5″ x 5″ and weighs 1lb. Totally on my radar!

SanDisk Extrem 500 Portable SSD Image

SanDisk Extrem 500 Portable SSD

I have to give a shout-out to B&H Photo Video in New York. I decided to stop by to drool over camera gear and on a whim, decided to walk into the storage department. They actually had these units on display! Dave, the B&H rep I was talking to was great in answering questions I had. I’m still a bit surprised they had them in stock so fast after this unit was announced.

Another option is your basic external hard drive connected to your laptop. But my oh my have these changed over the years. For me at least, the turning point came when hard drives became USB-powered. But I always thought using SSDs would be the ultimate. No moving parts and  speed.

The SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable SSD. These units made quite the stir when released. For less than $99, you get 240GB of storage. For only $50 more, you get 480GB of storage! They even have a 120GB for $80. But that’s quite silly really for half the size and only a $20 savings. Measures 3″ x 3″ and weighs .3lbs.

How’s this tiny Hercules: MyDigitalSSD OTG SuperSpeed USB 3.0 mSSD. Rated extremely high on Amazon. How about this: 256GB for $90 and 512GB for $170. But you know what, it’s actually a few grams heavier than the SanDisk! It’s a nudge longer but almost half as wide. And it’s a few grams heavier too!

My Digital SSD OTG Portable Drive. Image by MyDigitalSSD.

My Digital SSD OTG Portable Drive. Image by MyDigitalSSD.

In terms of speed, they are quite similar with Read/Write speeds being between 300MBps – 400MBps which is about half the speed of my internal Macbook Pro SSD. Which is okay in my book. The MyDigitalSSD drive supports SuperSpeed. This is a protocol that doubles the USB 3.0 speed from 5Gbps to 10Gbps.

Here’s the thing: You can have the same Read/Write speed on different devices. But that reading doesn’t count tell you how fast data will move from the drive to the computer. It’s like using two different hard drives and one is connected to USB 3 and the other USB 2. You’ll definitely notice a difference. Right? But your computer has to support SuperSpeed and not all do. So do your research. My Mac supports it! But the USB 3.0 drive connected to it isn’t SuperSpeed…

For me, if I had to start with one, I’d go for the WD unit. At the top end, it’s only a $60 difference, does everything the other two units does and more. Having that power-bank will come in handy too. You lose speed but it’s really not a big deal and you don’t need a computer to save files to it.

I think if I knew I was going to have my computer with me, the portability and speed of the MyDigitalSSD would be my choice. It’s simply cheaper and faster with SuperSpeed on my Mac. I like a big company like SanDisk for support and it should theoretically be better. But I’ve heard and read nothing but great things about MyDigitalSSD as well.

Two have both the WD and MyDigitalSSD would be a luxury for me. I could live with the WD unit for quite a while before getting the other.

TP-Link PB10400 Battery Charger. Image by B&H Photo Video.

TP-Link PB10400 Battery Charger. Image by B&H Photo Video.

Batteries-Chargers (BC). This technology has just gotten so amazing over the last 3 years. Laptops last all day on a charge. BCs smaller than a pack of cigarettes can charge your dying phone several times over. They can even charge the laptop in a battery! Believe me, I’ve seen the evolvement of batteries over the years. I still remember when the first iPad came out and a colleague told me it will last all day on a charge. I just couldn’t believe it. I used lots of tablets and most wouldn’t last more than 90 minutes. So yes, batteries technologies are exciting!

I got introduced to BCs quite recently. When I moved to New York, I was using GPS a lot and I was lucky if my phone would last half-way through the day.

I’ve also started experimenting with the app Periscope. It’s an app that allows you to broadcast live video and interact with your viewers. I personally love it and met some truly interesting and talented people. Not sure I’m going to use it with business. Just playing with it right now. Won app of the year from Apple. Now Facebook is trying to move into that neighborhood. But like GPS, broadcasting live video from a phone is bad for battery consumption. Worse actually. I held off buying a BC just because at the time, I thought they were still too expensive.

Anker PowerCore 20000mAh Battery Charger Image

Anker PowerCore 20000mAh Battery Charger

Once in New York, I went to my new go-to store B&H Photo and Video to check on BCs. I found this great little BC by TP-Link that holds 10,000mAh for $20! GPS was just killing me so it I got lucky with this little unit. I have to thank the sales rep that was helping me. I would’ve totally missed it if not for him.

This thing will charge your phone over several times. Or your tablet once. Or if you’re using Periscope, just keep the battery plugged in during the broadcast. Might be a little awkward but it works.

The problem in paradise is the shape. It’s bulky and doesn’t fit well in most bags. Also, instead of having two 2amp USB connectors, one of them is 1amp. Which usually isn’t a problem as I only need 1 USB connector at a time. At the time, $20 was a bargain and I couldn’t complain.

A few weeks ago I think I saw the perfect BC for me. It’s made my Anker who has lots of experience with BCs. It holds 20,000mAh, cost $42.99 and almost completely flat. It’s perfect to leave in one of the pockets in any cases I have and forget about it for a few months. When I got to New York, this battery would’ve cost double this price.

Think Tank Airport Navigator Roller Bag. My Favorite and on the Purchase List! Image by B&H Photo Video.

Think Tank Airport Navigator Roller Bag. My Favorite and on the Purchase List! Image by B&H Photo Video.

Bags. Really? A bit silly maybe. But one of the reasons why I included it comes from the visit I paid B&H Photo Video the other day. Five years ago, a bag with slots for tablets was rare. Now, even some of the smallest bags come with tablet slots. I think bag manufacturers are really listening to photographers. In fact, a few just hopped into my head which I will be sending over to my favorite bag manufacturer.

The Think Tank Airport Navigator. My favorite bag! I think it’s the smallest of all their rolling bags. But I also think it’s one of the smartest designs too.

Probably my biggest draw to this bag in terms of functionality is how the cameras are accessed. I love how you don’t have to lay the bag down and open the whole thing to take one piece out. This being the case, it’s also much faster to secure since all you’re doing is unzipping the top. Of course if you need to access other items in the bag, you’ll have to unzip the larger compartment.

The next great feature is how you store the laptop. Super easy to access. Again, you only have to unzip the front of the bag and remove it. That compartment also has a slot for storing documents and I bet an iPad would fit in there too. From my research, this bag is small enough to fit under most airplane seats in contrast to other camera rolling bags. So not only can I have the bag with me at arms reach, it won’t require much to remove and return the bag to the case. I won’t bug my flight-buddy!

I got a feeling it’s not as popular a bag as their other rolling bags. I rarely see it being used. But I largely believe, if I’m right, is because most photographers carry items with them that serve more of a security blanket than real use. Really? Do you need that 5th lens? Do you need a backup for each speedlite? This bag wouldn’t be very good for a sports or wildlife photographer due to their enormous lenses. But for many other genres, I think it rocks. For shoots where I’ll be gone for a while, I would want a bigger bag to carry extra gear and spares. The Airport International V2.0 would be my next choice.

Think Tank Airport International V2 Roller Bag. Image by Think Tank

Think Tank Airport International V2 Roller Bag. Image by Think Tank

I must say..  While there are some really great bags by different manufacturers, I always go back to Think Tank. When I was starting out, many pros and serious amateurs told me Think Tank was the only way to go. I thought it was just gear-worship and I march to my own beat as well.

You know what else? Don’t underestimate how a great camera bag makes an impact on clients. Especially commercial ones. When they see you wheel or carrying a nice, clean and professional looking bag, it shows a level of professionalism. My camera bag I use for anything interesting is amateur grade. But I can fit everything neatly into it. It’s a tight fit but it works. On that note….

Colleague Kelley L. Cox, freelance photographer for USA Today Sports Images and photographed this year’s Super Bowl and NBA Finals, has offered a little gift for anyone thinking of purchasing some Think Tank products. Use this link and you’ll get some extras when making purchases from Think Tank’s website.

I’m going to embarrass Kelley a little more with this great video Think Tank did with her promoting the Roller Derby Roller Bag. There’s nothing embarrassing about the video. It’s actually one of the better videos from Think Tank in my opinion. She’s just very humble.

Accessories

Tablets. There’s really no question at this point how useful these are on location. Where do I start? Reviewing documents, using apps for the shoot, previewing images on a bigger screen, backup up files on them. Then there’s all the non-shoot related reasons: showing a potential client your portfolio, getting light office work done, eMail, books and magazines. The only thing I’d say is do your research on which platform has the better apps you think you’ll want to use, screen-size and memory capacity.

Don’t make the same mistake I made and get one with 16GB. I bought it at the beginning and didn’t see what was coming. Memory surplus future-proofs your gear a bit. Like I mentioned in the first article. And while a 256GB iPad could be pretty cool, thing of a simple external storage device too.  You can get this awesome 256GB SSD external drive for less than $100 or it’s 480GB version for less than $150! It’s an extra piece of gear. But you can bet it’s quite bulletproof.

I’m not going to get into which brand is better. But I really dig how the new iPad Air Pro has a screen that adjust it’s temperature in relation to the ambient light temperature.

Pen Tablets. I was a huge skeptic with these at first. But the precision the stylus allows far beats that of a mouse. You’ll never see anyone with half-way decent editing skills use a mouse.

I have an earlier Wacom tablet and it works. It’s totally fine for editing. But it only has 4 programmable buttons and they are located in poor areas. The newer version of the base models still work this way but the buttons look a little more finger-friendly. But the buttons are still located in bad spots.

Wacom Intros Pro Pen Tablet. Image by B&H Photo Video.

Wacom Intros Pro Pen Tablet. Image by B&H Photo Video.

The Intros Pro which is the next step up are damn fine units. I love the button positioning which you get 6 instead of three. There is also a radial button that allows you to increase and decrease zoom in Photoshop. I’m assuming it’s programmable. Last but not least, it comes with both a USB and wireless connection methods. I just hate the cable on my tablet. So yes, wireless is nice. I just wonder how good it works.

Now, how about Wacom Cintiq? These are tablets with display screens in which you directly perform the editing functions on the screen. My Design colleagues lust after them and I tend to see wildlife photographers use them. I’ve never seen graphic artist or other photographers use them. I just wouldn’t use it enough to justify the cost. But if I had a full-time retoucher and s/he wanted one and it would vastly increase their workflow, I would go for it. I’d be totally happy with the Intros Pro.

It’s Never Stopping

You know I’m not even scratching the surface to what’s out there in mobile and photography accessories.  It’s just so amazing what’s coming out what seems like every week. You know what? It’s never going to stop as long as we have tech. And the more we integrate photography with digital systems, the more things we are going to be able to do with less gear and money.

Technology for the Photographer

So that’s it! I hope you found this series useful. As long as it took, I especially enjoyed writing the last two articles. I think the big take-away from this is: there is always something better right around the corner. Do your research and get what best fits your needs and move forward. Best to talk to those who have real knowledge and be picky with those on the web!

About the author

Ricardo Gomez is a Fashion Photographer based in New York City.

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