Travel and Backup
Richard Gaston asked this in another post. I thought it was interesting enough to bump it upstream and solicit others' opinions, too.
When you say you take memory cards for 5000 pictures, then are you saying you don't back-up? Or are you also downloading them into your netbook? With Lightroom? I am trying to figure out a better way to travel and back up - currently I take my Mac Laptop and two external hard drives. Quite heavy.
This is one of those practical topics that I hope others will weigh in with their working methods. I've heard and read a number of strategies and, to be frank, I don't have enough experience with other methods to offer any sort of definitive opinion. That said, here's what I do.
I have two variations in my travel kit. Where weight is an issue but not a panic, I take my Sony netbook. It runs Lightroom and has an SDHC card slot built-in. Each night I upload my images to the netbook via Lightroom and clear my camera cards. While uploading to Lightroom, I simultaneously make a backup copy onto a small Western Digital passport drive just in case my computer is lost or damaged. Parenthetically, when I was in Asia and concerned even more about loss, I carried a second passport drive for a second backup. One drive was with me at all times, the second one was packed in my luggage.
There are times, however, when even a netbook is too much to take. For those occasions, I use a Nexto backup drive. (http://www.nextodiusa.com/extreme.htm) These handy little "image tank" units allow transfer from my camera's memory cards directly to the Nexto hard drive without needing a computer. Obviously, I can't visually check my images, but at least I can upload a backup from my cards. In this case, I leave the images on the cards and just take extra cards. I have 6@ 16GB cards and 4@ 8GB cards. With my cameras, this gives me enough for 8,800 exposures, just under 3,000 bracketed compositions. I've never run out of space yet, but I suppose it's possible. In that unlikely event, I have the option of not bracketing so extensively, or a more radical option of deleting the images from one or more cards so I can keep shooting. This runs some risk because some of the images would only be on the Nexto with no backup as a safety. As I say, fortunately I've never faced that gamble.
One additional comment. My strategy is to avoid changing cards in the field at all costs. Those little plastic buggers are just to small and too easy to drop. I also fret over dust and grit entering the card slot. If I need to change a card in the field, I head for the car where the environment is at least enclosed. Not always practical, but I try to do it if I can.
By the way, this is another reason why I prefer carrying two cameras with me. If one camera runs out of available memory or battery power, I can switch to the other camera and keep shooting. With two cameras, I don't have to swap lenses quite so often and exposing the sensor guts to the environment. I'm also insulated from a camera failure — something I never thought about in the days of mechanical cameras, but an inevitability with such highly complex electronic ones like we now use.
The only failure I've ever had in the field was with an Hitachi MicroDrive. These were notorious for failing, I suspect because of the moving parts. I've never had a failure with an SD or CF card. Knock on wood. Nonetheless, I just can't imagine being in the field without some form of backup — either my netbook or the Nexto.