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Digital Foci Picture Porter (Portable Picture Storage) Review
by Ben Stafford -  2/20/2006

The Digital Foci (pronounced "foe-sigh") Picture Porter provides portable media storage and backup if you don't want to carry around a laptop. The multiple card reader can handle all of the most popular memory card formats. A 2 inch color screen lets you browse thumbnails and navigate through menus. The Picture Porter is available in 20GB and 40GB capacities, starting at $369.

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In the Box

In the box, you will find the Picture Porter, remote control, USB cable, video cable, audio cable, ear bud style headphones, AC adapter, user's guide, Ulead Photo Explorer 8.5 SE (windows only), and leather carrying case. The Ulead software, drivers for Windows 98, SE, 2000 and Mac 8.6, 9.x are included on the resource disc.

Features

The Picture Porter exists primarily to act as a portable data storage device for digital media. In our case, we're interested in it to free up space on our digital camera's memory card or to backup the images on the memory card when we don't have a computer along for the trip. The Picture Porter can handle the following card formats: CompactFlash I/II, MicroDrive, Smart Media, Multi-Media Card, Secure Digital Card, Memory Stick, MS PRO, MS Duo, and MS PRO Duo. The built-in card reader can transfer content from the memory cards with a USB 2.0 interface onto the internal 1.8 inch hard drive. You can get the Picture Porter in 20 and 40 GB capacities in two colors -- graphite and frosted white.

A 2 inch color TFT LCD allows you to view the menus and browse the contents of the internal hard drive. When viewing images, you can see them in a thumbnail view that shows 8 images per screen and then you can drill into each image to see the full screen view. As far as images, the Picture Porter can also allow you to preview RAW images from cameras. The images from my Olympus E-500 show up fine in full screen mode. In thumbnail mode, a little "RAW" placeholder shows up.

When you insert a memory card, you have a couple ways to transfer the contents to the Picture Porter device. You can browse the contents of the memory card and then copy and paste a folder or files from the memory card to a folder in the device. Another method is to navigate to the memory card, click the Menu button and choose a backup option to copy all contents or just photos and videos from the card to the Porter.

The Picture Porter can also be used as an MP3 player or movie viewer. A headphone jack along the side of the device allows you to listen in.

A built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides 3.5 hours of battery life with continuous video playback and 7.5 hours with continuous music playback.

An included infrared remote allows a nice way to control the device from across a room. If you hook the unit up to a TV, you can sit back and browse away (or control mp3 playback).

Design and Build Quality

As far as build quality, the Picture Porter is pretty solid. The case is rigid and buttons are easy to depress. The case has an attractive glossy finish. A rubber cover protects the Compact Flash slot from dirt. The Picture Porter is not small, about the size of a narrow paperback book. The official dimensions are 5.2" (L) x 2.8" (W) x 1.2" (H) and it weighs in at 8.6 ounces.

The front of the device has the LCD and a set of buttons. The power button is on this front face. A directional pad with four direction arrows surrounding a enter key allow for navigation through lists and thumbnails. To the left of the directional pad is an Escape button to navigate back a level. To the right of the directional buttons is the Menu key that provides context-specific functions. A "zoom" rocker allows you to zoom into and out of images, increase and decrease volume, etc.

On the right side of the device you'll fine the slot for Compact Flash cards. The Video out and two Audio out jacks can also be found here.

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On the left side of the device, you can plug in the AC adapter and USB cable. The sensor for the remote is also here, along with the slots for SD/MMC, Memory Stick and Smart Media cards.

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Performance

Transferring images from a memory card is very simple. The easiest way is to navigate to the memory card icon in the main menu, click the Menu button to bring up the context-specific menu and do a full backup. A nice progress meter will appear to show the status of the backup progress (you'll also see this progress meter when doing a copy and paste).

Once hooked up to your computer, the device acts like a USB mass storage device. Browse the folders, move files back and forth, create new folders, etc. Transfer time was on par with other USB 2.0 devices.

The included infrared remote is a nice feature to have and worked well. As long as the Picture Porter is facing the right direction, you can perform any control of the device that you could when it was in your hand.

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Another nice feature of mp3 playback is that you can allow the music to play in the background. So, you can start a playlist and then browse images.

Conclusion

If you don't have a laptop or you aren't taking one with you on vacation and you need a way to backup your images, a device such as the Digital Foci Picture Porter is a good plan. There are many other ways to accomplish this, so it's up to you to decide on how you want to handle. For example, it may be cheaper to get more memory cards, but you give up being able to view images or perform a backup. The battery life and capacity of the Picture Porter are sufficient to last you a whole trip.

Overall, the Picture Porter is a good solution. You may find other devices that have higher capacities (since you'll only see 20GB and 40GB) in this model. Operation is simple and intuitive -- it won't take you long to figure out.

Pros

Cons

Where to Buy

Probably the best place to find the Picture Porter is Digital Foci's website at www.digitalfoci.com.