Image Tank Review- Wolverine PicPac 250GB

JusticeiroJusticeiro E clunibus tractumRegistered Users Posts: 1,177 Major grins
edited October 15, 2009 in Accessories
WHY YOU MIGHT CONSIDER AN IMAGE TANK

When thinking about making a purchase of a portable storage tank, Information is relatively difficult to find. This, to my mind, is rather strange- I have always found these sorts of devices incredibly useful for the type of photography that I do. When you are on the road for several weeks, and hauling an expensive and fragile laptop to Central Asia or the Balkans is not an attractive idea, then an image tank is an absolute necessity. Even so, before purchasing one of these things even posting questions on Dgrin, that vast repository of all knowledge photographickal, got me little to go on. Having spent my money somewhat blindly, I hope that you might benefit from my experience.

ADVANTAGES OF AN IMAGE TANK VS. CARDS

The general advantage of an image tank versus simply buying an enormous number of CF cards is this; cost. A decent image tank should run less than a dollar per gig, whereas a quality 4 gig card costs about $6.50 or so. Tanks with high storage capacities are getting cheaper, and more reliable, all the time. in order to get the same amount of storage space as on a 250 GB image tank, which generally costs under $200, you would have to spend about $1600 on cards. That's a lot of cash- enough to buy yourself a really quality lens.

DISADVANTAGES OF AN IMAGE TANK VS. CARDS

Essentially, security. With an image tank you are putting all of your eggs in one basket. You can, however, if you are paranoid, still buy two of them and end up saving money. All of the image tanks currently available, as far as I know, are essentially based on rotating hard disk technology. Moving parts means things can break.

MY PERSONAL HISTORY WITH IMAGE TANKS

I've been using an image tank of some type since 2005; my first was an 40 GB mediagear. When the limitations of that device became onerous (it ate power like no tomorrow and it took 25 minutes to download a one gig card) I switched up to a Wolverine ESP. While a generally good product, essentially a cheap knock off of the Epson series for less than half the price, it had its limitations. The ESP series tries to do too many things at once, being somehting like a bad Ipod, a strange TiVo, and a relatively decent image tank. I already have an iPod and don't care to have a TiVo, so these features didn't really appeal to me.

The quality of the ESP was also somewhat lacking although, truth be told, I abused mine terribly. I lost the carrying case, and stuck it in my bag for a year or so, where it bounced and jostled. After cracking the case, repaired with tape, it put up a good fight for the next six months, but eventually died. Take note, however, that whereas the build quality wasn't as good as epson, the customer service from wolverine was second to none.

The first ESP I had was apparently defective, dying after about 2 days. I sent an e-mail to Wolverine and cursed myself for not shelling out the extra cash to avoid an unknown company. Instead of getting a runaround, however, ten minutes later I received a phone call from a wolverine technician. An actual Human being, who called me in response to the e-mail that I had sent (which included my telephone number). We talked the problem over,I mailed the image tank to them COD, and 4 days later I had a brand new ESP. This one worked for the next two years, until I destroyed it. That's my fault, however, not Wolverine's.

THE PICPAC 250 GB IMAGE TANK

So I decided to replace it with a PicPac. It is bare bones, doing nothing but being an image tank. It can be had from B&H for $180, with 250 GB of storage space (functionally something like 235, discounting firmware). That comes to $0.72 per gig of storage.

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It's rather small (see above for my industry standard cell phone size comparison) and not too heavy.

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Here's what you get in the box:

1. A little leatherette case, probably not too worthwhile for actual protection.
2. A power cord.
3. A firewire cable
4. Software to run it on your PC (it's pretty much plug and play on the Mac).

PERFORMANCE

The PicPac powers up in about 3 seconds, cleanly and smoothly. It doesn't seem to do the internal "hemming and hawing" that a lot of other external hard drives do. Granted, it's dedicated for a pretty specific purpose, so the demands on the firmware can't be that high. I'm not sure how it does with storing files that haven't been "received" by the normal means (i.e. 'sticking a card into the slot') I haven't risked transferring files to the PicPac frm my computer. It is likely not a problem, but as I live in Germany and everything costs twice as much here, I don't want to risk it until I am scheduled to return to the land of cheap equipment (a.k.a 'The United States) where I can replace it should it explode, or begin to sulk in a passive aggressive manner. This could be a totally irrational fear, but as computers are a sufficiently advanced technology to be indistinguishable (to me) from magic, I fear lest the gods become angry. Anyway, the PicPac can copy a lexar card at about 80 seconds per gig. If your a cheapo and you have bought a Kingston, I have no idea if it makes a difference, I only know that you should have spent the extra $5 on the lexar. Really. The PicPact generates little significant heat, and is not loud. It handles virtually all sort of memory cards and they are "fire and forget" (stick it in, press "copy," wait until done).

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While processing it indicates, as a percentage, how much of the card has been copied. It also tells you of the copying was O.K. I've never had it not be, so if there are corrupted files, I don't know what it would tell you.

POWER

I've not tested battery life under extreme conditions, but it seems to be good. I would expect it to last several days or up to a week without a charge. I've been using it irregularly for two weeks, and haven't plugged it into the wall since then.

One nice thing about it is when you hook it up to your computer via firewire, unlike the MediaGear or the earlier ESP, it's power requirements are so low that it can function only off the power provided by the firewire hookup. You don't need to plug it in to both the computer and the wall socket. In fact, it even gains charge in that situation- which is why I don't really know how long it would take to entirely tap out the battery.

BUILD QUALITY

The build quality feels good. It's hard and shiny black plastic, and has a relatively solid feel to it. Clearly Wolverine has decided to address some disadvantages with the earlier ESP model in this respect. Then again, unlike the ESP, it has no video screen to view the photos with, which may explain why it seems less delicate. It also, like the ESP, is based around a spinning hard disc, but the hard disc makes little noise and doesn't give you that gyroscopic "tug" the way my Western Digital external drive does. Or did, it went belly up last week.

Despite this, for an extra ten bucks, I bought a hard shell carrying case at B&H that clips to my belt. For such a small amount of money, the protection from physical shock is well worth it. Also, I seem to exude a field of some sort that causes complex devices to stop working, so a little extra protection is always a good idea.

CONCLUSIONS

If you are looking for an image tank, then this is one you can purchase with little likelihood of buyer's remorse. The costs is really quite reasonable, the operating system is faster and more responsive than earlier wolverine products, the company's customer service is unparalleled, and the operating life seems to be excellent. Well worth the $180, although if I were to do it again I would probably shell out the extra $20 to upgrade to the 320 GB model. Until there is a good 500gb solid state photo tank available for the same price, I would go with this one.

PROS
-Cheap
-Very High Storage Capacity
-Fast Download Speeds
-Easily Portable- way better than a laptop.
-Good Power Usage
-Plug and Play with Mac

CONS
-Relies on normal disc technology w/ moving parts
-no screen to view photos with
-isn't plug and play with PC
-Rubberized skin would make me more comfortable with shock resistance


A link to this product can be found on B&H here.
Cave ab homine unius libri

Comments

  • rainbowrainbow Major grins Registered Users Posts: 2,765 Major grins
    edited August 18, 2009
    Thank you for this detailed information.

    I recently finished a two week trip to Costa Rica and opted for five 8 GB cards. This worked well, but I was fearful of losing/corrupting one of them and losing the photos on them. For this time frame, I am satisfied with just taking this risk.

    However, on a more extensive trip, I can see the value of an image tank. In fact, it can serve as a double back-up to a laptop. My main concern from your report is the longevity of these devices, whether from moving parts or operator error.

    Thanks for sharing and providing this new and valuable information.
  • cmasoncmason Old dog, new tricks Raleigh, NCRegistered Users Posts: 2,506 Major grins
    edited August 18, 2009
    I have used the Epson, and it was extremely well done, but seemed to focus on image viewing more than anything. However, they are far too expensive for what they do.

    I have considered many of these, including the often mentioned Hyperdrives. I will now look into the Wolverine as well, thanks.

    I have also been seriously considering a netbook to serve the purpose of an image tank. Think of it as a multipurpose device that will also store images. Not as simplistic, but a nice alternative. You can currently get a Dell mini 10v with 120GB Hard drive for $269 refurbed at delloutlet.com.

    Anyone use a netbook for image backup/download?
  • chrismoorechrismoore Major grins Registered Users Posts: 1,083 Major grins
    edited August 18, 2009
    I have been through two wolverines and have only great things to say about their reliability and construction. My main problem was the battery life. It was about totally drained after transferring about 10GB of photos (same on two different devices). Most of the time it is simple enough to recharge, unless you're camping/hiking or overseas without access to outlets. For that reason I switched to hyperdrive. Cost a bit more but they claim 250gb transfer per charge, and the real bonus for me is the add on to sync to an external drive without a laptop thus not putting all your eggs in one basket.
  • JusticeiroJusticeiro E clunibus tractum Registered Users Posts: 1,177 Major grins
    edited August 19, 2009
    chrismoore wrote:
    I have been through two wolverines and have only great things to say about their reliability and construction. My main problem was the battery life. It was about totally drained after transferring about 10GB of photos (same on two different devices). Most of the time it is simple enough to recharge, unless you're camping/hiking or overseas without access to outlets. For that reason I switched to hyperdrive. Cost a bit more but they claim 250gb transfer per charge, and the real bonus for me is the add on to sync to an external drive without a laptop thus not putting all your eggs in one basket.

    I think I'll unhook it from it's power and run it through a stress test.
    Cave ab homine unius libri
  • chrismoorechrismoore Major grins Registered Users Posts: 1,083 Major grins
    edited August 19, 2009
    Justiceiro wrote:
    I think I'll unhook it from it's power and run it through a stress test.

    Would be interested to see how it does for you as I never did ask anyone else what kind of performance they got from a single charge. Couple of other things I like about the hyperdrive is you can easily swap out the internal drive. I have not tested their 250GB per charge claim, but you can buy an extra battery to slip in there relatively cheap in case it runs down without the need to worry about charging it.
    Great review by the way, very in depth and informative thumb.gif
  • JusticeiroJusticeiro E clunibus tractum Registered Users Posts: 1,177 Major grins
    edited October 12, 2009
    Having charged up the PicPac fully while in Mannheim, I have spent the last nine days on the road loading cards into it- 3 to 4 gigs per day. I finally had to recharge it after about 30 gigs and 20 cards. This power usage seems to me to be reasonable, though I would like to see better. I guess if your going to be off the grid for more than a week, you might seek different options.
    Cave ab homine unius libri
  • EkajEkaj I Like Pie Registered Users Posts: 245 Major grins
    edited October 13, 2009
    I prefer a netbook over a device like this. I have an Asus EEE pc that I really enoy using. Its small enough to fit in my camera bag, and it will even run ps4.
  • GtogsGtogs Big grins Registered Users Posts: 12 Big grins
    edited October 15, 2009
    Ekaj wrote:
    I prefer a netbook over a device like this. I have an Asus EEE pc that I really enoy using. Its small enough to fit in my camera bag, and it will even run ps4.

    Do you have any problems with resolution?

    I have an Acer netbook, I tried to install Canon's Zoombrowser and recieved a message that it didn't have the resolution to run the program!
  • EkajEkaj I Like Pie Registered Users Posts: 245 Major grins
    edited October 15, 2009
    Gtogs wrote:
    Do you have any problems with resolution?

    I have an Acer netbook, I tried to install Canon's Zoombrowser and recieved a message that it didn't have the resolution to run the program!

    I haven't had any issue like that. I don't remember off hand what the resolution is but I believe it is at least 1200px wide. Granted I wouldn't do any serious editing on a netbook, but it is nice to see them on a larger screen after a day of shooting.
  • GtogsGtogs Big grins Registered Users Posts: 12 Big grins
    edited October 15, 2009
    Ekaj wrote:
    I haven't had any issue like that. I don't remember off hand what the resolution is but I believe it is at least 1200px wide. Granted I wouldn't do any serious editing on a netbook, but it is nice to see them on a larger screen after a day of shooting.

    That was my plan, so I wouldn't have to lug a full laptop around. didn't quite work out!
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