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Back up photos with no laptop

Someone asked this a year ago and the topic is now closed, so I'll bring it up again.
I've got a small digital camera (Canon Powershot) whose storage medium is a memory card. At home, I can insert the memory card into a slot in my laptop and thereby transfer the photos into the computer. From there I can save them onto a thumb drive, upload them to a cloud storage, burn them onto a CD, etc.
So far so good ... but ... on our upcoming trip I am determined not to bring a laptop or any other computer (no iPad, no tablet, etc.).
It looked like many of the replies to this topic last year were assuming that the traveler had some type of computer like an iPad with a slot to insert the camera's memory card. But, here is the reply (from someone called zona1) that makes sense to me:
"Many hotels have a computer for guests to use. Bring along an inexpensive memory card reader and a portable hard drive. Both plug into USB ports. Just transfer files from the memory card to the hard drive. An alternative to the portable hard drive would be a thumb drive."
Does this make sense? My camera store told me that they sell an adapter (i.e., memory card reader) that allows the photos from the memory card to be transferred into a computer via a regular USB port. Unless any of you know some reason why this won't work, it is what I will plan to do.
I realize this will make me dependent on hotel computers, but I probably won't even need to do it as I have enough memory cards to hold as many photos as I'm likely to take over the entire course of the trip. I just feel safer if I can save photos onto a thumb drive and tuck it away inside my suitcase instead of carrying it around in the camera, where if the camera got stolen then all my photos would be gone too.
Advice will be most welcome!

Posted by
31524 posts

ep,

That solution may work, but a few points to keep in mind....

  • Hotels in various locations will have a variety of computers for guests to use. Some will be quite old and have limited features.
  • Some hotels may be "reluctant" to allow USB cards / thumb drives to be connected to their machines, due to the possibility that viruses or malware could also enter the computer.
  • When downloading photos via a Memory Card Reader, your photos may have to be first loaded onto the hard drive, and then transferred to your Thumb Drive. If you have a lot of high capacity photos, you may run into memory limits. You'd also have to remember to delete your photos after the transfer.

While it may be possible to use only hotel computers, it seems like rather a cumbersome method. I always pack along a Netbook (which has a built-in card reader) and so far that's worked well for backing up photos.

Posted by
10344 posts

Bringing your netbook is going to be easier.

Posted by
4958 posts

I think the USB card reader approach may work fine. When you plug the card reader into the computer, it will show up as another drive letter on the computer - say E: (in Windows). Plug in your USB flash drive and it will become another drive letter, say F: (may be different letters on different computers, but so what?). Just remember that the Powershot will not put all images into one big directory - for some reason, it makes multiple directories on the SD card and puts the images in different directories.

You won't need to copy the pictures to the computer's hard drive as long as you can use two USB ports. Some computers may have only one on the front, maybe more than one if you can plug into the back of the computer.

And in my experience, you will be allowed to plug a USB device into most public computers, at hotels etc. (Travel Information centers - TI - may also have a public computer you can use for a small fee. Even though I had a laptop on my last strip, I still needed to use a public computer in Cochem, Germany last year to print out a train ticket. I had it on my thumbdrive and printed it that way.) You won't to do the backup every day, but every few days is a good idea.

I'd invest in large USB flash drive instead of a portable hard drive, just for the size. A large USB flash drive (say 128GB?) may cost a bit more but might be well worth it.

A few caveats:

First of all, what kind of memory card exactly does your Powershot use now? If it's a relatively new camera, it may be an SDXC card (for larger capacities - 64GB and larger). SDXC may in fact NOT work in every computer, especially older ones. SDHC is older but is more likely to work in an older computer. In fact, your camera may use both types (they are physically the same size as the old "SD" cards but SDHC and SDXC are different).

SDXC can handle larger files, too (if you shoot videos, a 2GB file may be the largest file size SDHC can handle, but SDXC can handle larger file sizes). And SDXC may be faster. But for shooting stills, you won't care about that at all. Personally, I'd use SDHC cards and get a couple of them, 32GB size, because they are more likely to work in an older computer.

Also, I would use the USB flash drive as a backup, not an archive drive. In other words, don't move your files from the camera card, copy them and leave them on the SD card, so you have two copies (one still on the camera, one on the flash drive).

Posted by
4958 posts

An additional thought: how will you make sure you've copied everything off the camera card each time you make your backups? You might look into something called "portable apps" to store on your backup drive - that is, programs you can run right off the USB flash drive when you plug it into the computer, but without the need to install them (assuming it is a Windows PC). And look for a "sync" program that will copy only the new files that weren't copied the last time. That will take the human error aspect out of this (what if you forget to copy certain pictures?). Again,Canon cameras tend to use several folders on the SD card for photos, not just one.

You can find some cool portable apps here for synchronization (and other things):

http://portableapps.com/apps/utilities

Let's say you bring four 32GB SDHC cards. On your USB flash drive, make four directories, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Then when you make your backups, sync the current card to the directory number. (The camera may use the same names for the folders on each card, so you don't want to overwrite folders from one card with the images from another card.)

You can work this out before you leave, on your own computer. You may be tempted to sort your pictures into one folder while you are traveling, but personally, I would just sync the folders one by one while you are traveling and sort them out when you get home. (But use File Explorer to explore the USB backup drive to sanity check: make sure you see the pictures there on the backup drive to make sure you've copied them).

Posted by
4958 posts

A few more:

Make sure you don't touch the metal part of any USB drive or card reader! You could destroy any of these drives (I've done it more than once) in an instant with something called Electro Static Discharge (ESD) - as simple as the static electricity you'd get from walking across a carpet. Be VERY careful about this. If you destroy a flash drive or camera SD card in this way, everything is GONE, PERIOD. There is no recovery possible. I'd get an anti-static bag and store my unused SD cards and my flash drive inside of that bag.

And be careful when plugging your USB devices into strange computers. If you feel any even tiny shock from some poorly-grounded computer, DON'T USE IT. It's not worth the risk.

Posted by
2949 posts

Wow, these replies are really helpful. The memory cards I have are brand new, but they are plain vanilla SD, 2GB (ProMaster 5306, to be exact). The camera is also brand new, I bought it for this trip.

I will definitely check out the smartphone option. I don't own a tablet or other small computer and I will not be buying one.

And yes, copying from memory card to thumb drive -- not deleting from memory card -- that's what I would strongly prefer to do.
Thanks for the caution about not touching the metal parts. Whoa. Not fun.

Posted by
2949 posts

Also, midway through the trip we are going to have a short visit with personal friends (American expats), so if we are really stuck and need to use their computer at home, we can.

Posted by
4958 posts

2GB cards - really? Those are extremely small by modern standards. You should probably get larger cards, unless you aren't planning to take many pictures or no video (video can fill the card quickly). 32GB cards aren't that expensive. As I said, I'd get SDHC-type, and maybe I'd get a couple.

You should start using the camera now to get used to it but also to get a feel for how much space you'll need on memory cards. Better to have too much space than not enough...

Posted by
3 posts

Well to back up things with no laptop or saving device is always complicated.
It helped me , when I was travelling, to use a VPN server to save and sent different thing
maybe you find something on that webside:
www.vpncomparison.org

Posted by
650 posts

When I was in Spain two years ago, they would not allow us to hook up or insert anything into their computer for the reason Ken mentions. Will be at the discretion of the hotel. You can always use an internet cafe as we had to do.

Posted by
10344 posts

Re the last post, some internet cafes also restrict the customer's use of thumb drives in their USB ports, for the same reason.

Posted by
725 posts

I bought a small 3-in-1 from Dell. I can use it as a laptop or a touch Screen tablet. It has a card reader and 500GB hard drive. Like the OP I was not comfortable depending on my memory cards to keep my photos safe. I also have to figure out how to use Dropbox. It is very small. ....11.6"screen and will easily slip in my cross body bag for the trip.

Posted by
2949 posts

In reply about the 2GB cards, I actually prefer the idea of having several memory cards and swapping them out every few days. That way, each filled (or almost filled) memory card can be safely put away in my luggage while I go sightseeing with the camera and take new photos.

The saleswoman told me each card would hold about 250 images, but the following website indicates it is about 350 (the camera is 16MP).
[Number of pictures that can be stored on a memory device ][1]http://kb.sandisk.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/69/~/number-of-pictures-that-can-be-stored-on-a-memory-device

I used to do professional photography (in the days of film), so for me a vacation means not having to take pictures, LOL. Seeing Europe with my significant other is not the same as seeing Europe with a camera stuck in front of my face. But for this trip I do want to take some. I don't intend to take any video, and I doubt I will take more than 50 exposures per day.

Posted by
4958 posts

The number of pictures you can fit on a memory card depends on the camera. You didn't indicate which model Powershot you have, but if you do a web search for the model number, you should land on a Canon page that will tell you an approximate number in different modes (search for "Number of Recordable Images.") I highly recommend the highest quality ("Super Fine") when taking pictures.

I don't know how long your trip is, so I guess I don't know how big of a memory card you really need. But as I said: better to have too much space than not enough.

Posted by
15 posts

B & H Photo lists a number of memory card back up devices on their website, such as the 500 GB Digital Foci Photo Safe II. I have never personally used them, but it sounds like what you are looking for. You download the photos to the device via built-in memory card slots. When you get back home, you can download the photos from the device to your computer via a USB 2.0 port.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
2949 posts

That Foci Photo Safe device looks very handy. I can see where it would be worth its weight in gold for a professional, or for any serious amateur who is going to be shooting a lot during a trip. Not sure I will make the investment, but I'm glad to know it is one of the options out there.

Posted by
2 posts

Having started with digital in 2002, I've experienced the highs and lows of the medium. Even with current technology, I would never entrust a full vacation of images to a single memory card. Yes, you can probably store your entire trip on one 64GB card, but to do this assumes that: 1) Your camera will never be lost or stolen 2) You will never have a camera failure that affects the images 3) You will never have a memory card failure.
Over the last 12 years, I've had all three, so I've become more practical. I always carry a cheap (under $100) point-and shoot backup camera. I bring multiple smaller SD cards, usually 4 0r 8GB, and try not to put more than 2 to 4 days of images on each card. All the cards except the one in the camera stay in my suitcase - in the hotel or on the bus - never carried with me during the day. Nothing gets downloaded until I get home. Wishing you happy travels and great pictures!

Posted by
2949 posts

dchelland, I like your thinking. What you describe is pretty much what I've settled on after considering the helpful suggestions offered by others on this topic. Buying several small-capacity memory cards makes more sense for me than messing with adapters and hotel computers.

I'll put a new memory card in the camera every 2 or 3 days, and store the used cards with images on them inside of my luggage. I can see how this wouldn't be ideal for someone wanting to view the images they shot several days ago, or to post images online or email them while the trip is in progress. For my purposes, though, it seems the most practical solution.

Posted by
96 posts

From today's WSJ:

"There’s a relatively new type of thumb drive that should do the trick. These models have a Lightning connector that plugs into an iPhone or iPad, as well as a USB for connecting to a computer.

"If you’re mainly using this drive to back up photos from an iPhone, I recommend the Leef iBridge. It’s easy to pocket (about the width of a standard thumb drive) and has an elegant companion app. It also couldn’t be easier to use: Simply plug the drive into your phone, toggle through a few prompts and iBridge’s app will automatically copy your phone’s Camera Roll over to the drive.

"The process will take a while if you have a lot of photos, but after the initial transfer, subsequent backups are pretty quick. The app is smart enough to copy only new photos that you’ve taken.

"When you get home and are at a computer, plug the iBridge into the USB port. The device will show up like a standard thumb drive.

"The iBridge is compatible with all iPhones released since the iPhone 5, and comes in a range of capacities. The 16-gigabyte model costs $60; the 32-gig one goes for $80. The line maxes out at a 256-gigabyte version ($400), which will be released in a few weeks. But most people should be fine with the less expensive iBridges. Since the average iPhone photo is under 2.5 megabytes, even 16 gigabytes is enough to store over 6,500 photos.

"If you’re carrying a point-and-shoot or a higher-end DSLR that uses SD cards, take a look at the My Passport Wireless portable hard drive from Western Digital. It has a built-in SD slot, and can be set to automatically copy files from an SD card that’s inserted into the drive. These start at $130 for a 500 gigabyte model."

Posted by
607 posts

I was thinking about not bringing my netbook and just an ipad.

I bought a large capacity 32 GB SDHC card so that I would not have to download photos (will hold over 5000 hi res photos). That is about 250 shots a day for 20 days. I am more concerned about battery life than memory space. Downloading/copying to another card or thumbdrive would just mean having to keep track of another tiny item which can be lost. It would be nice to have a backup, but back in the day, I used to haul around bags of 35 mm film canisters and I was one drop or Xray machine from losing everything. So, I don't mind taking chances with photos stored in a digital memory card.

In the end, I will probably haul my netbook. I may have to do some work and the old PC is just a bit easier to do stuff than with an iPad. Also, downloading the photos on the laptop allow me to edit the photo names each day so that I can keep track of all the images. After a while, all the churches and buildings can become a blur if I do not do this on a daily basis.

Posted by
2949 posts

As the original poster, I just wanted to let you know what I've settled on. I met with a professional photography instructor who also does travel photography. He concurred with me that my best bet is simply to bring several memory cards and insert a new card every 2 or 3 days. I'll store the cards in my luggage, not carry them around with me.
The only other "backup" item he recommended is a spare battery, which I happily bought and am bringing.
As for the possibility of a camera malfunction, I do have an iPhone as an extra means of taking a photo if need be.

Posted by
1 posts

There are two ways to backup iPhone photos:
Backup photos with iCloud
1. Make sure that your iPhone is connecting with Wi-Fi.
2. Go to setting>iCloud>photos> Backup. And all photos is backup to iCloud. Of course you are required to log in your Apple account.
3.Log in Apple account again on your computer iCloud, and you can sync photos from the backup files. The other one is with iPhone Transfer to backup photos directly.

Posted by
5 posts

My solution was to use my smartphone, a combination of cables/SD card reader, and an app called Nexus Media Importer which I bought for a couple of bucks from Google Play. I see you already have a solution but this may help someone in the Android world (I don't know much about Apple).

I think that Wi-Fi-capable cameras or SD cards are now available. If that's the case, then no extra hardware or software is required!

Posted by
2949 posts

Interesting points, Hunterella and Al. I didn't want to use a cloud-based service as I prefer to keep my photos private (same reason I don't participate in Facebook). I also didn't want to send photos to anyone until after arriving home at the end of the trip. Also, my digital camera takes higher resolution photos than an iPhone would, and has many options for improving photo quality in various situations.

I was happy with my method of using individual memory cards. I had a designated compartment in my luggage for the new & used cards. I put a new card in the camera every 2-3 days and, before leaving the hotel room, tested it by taking one photo of the room interior. This was also helpful later on when I was in the midst of downloading the photos and wanted to avoid getting mixed up as to which card was #4 versus #5, that sort of thing -- the 1st photo would remind me "Oh yeah, that was the hotel in X city."

After arriving home, I stuck the cards one by one into the card reader for my PC and saved the photos. For some unknown reason one of the cards didn't initially download completely; it got "stuck" about halfway through. I tried it again later and it made more progress but got stuck again. Yikes. On a subsequent attempt, to my great relief, it completed the download successfully.

My camera shop had recommended bringing a spare battery, which I did, but I didn't need it. I just recharged the existing battery every night.

Posted by
31524 posts

epltd,

It's great to hear that you've found a solution. I agree with the advice you were given by the photography instructor, as that's similar to the method I use. I'm not an instructor but have been involved with photography since the '60s.

Just for interest, this is the method I use.....

  • I have several large SD cards for my P&S Camera. I travel with a Netbook so back the photos up each night. When the card is full, I store it in my Money Belt using plastic to insulate it from moisture. If someone were to "pinch" my camera, I'd only lose the photos that were taken that day.
  • I also use several large CF cards for my DSLR Camera. I typically shoot RAW only so not practical to transfer these to the Netbook, although it would be possible to store them there. The Netbook simply doesn't have the "horsepower" to process photos, at least not in timely manner. Again when the cards are full, they're stored in my Money Belt. Again, if the camera was stolen, I'd only lose the photos on that one card.

Be sure to format the cards in-camera prior to first use.

Posted by
607 posts

We were in Italy in May. I took over 4500 photos over 20 days and downloaded into my netbook every night. This allowed me to organize and rename photos as I went along. This still took about 20 minutes each night, for downloading, reviewing and looking up correct spelling of sites, etc. to do some renaming.

Regarding using cloud services, please note that even with very highspeed internet, it takes a loooooong time to upload hi res photos. I tried to email just 3 photos to a friend over the hotel wifi and it took more than half an hour. I could not imagine trying to upload several hundred photos each day.

Posted by
4958 posts

I traveled to Croatia and Bosnia in May for two weeks with my DSLR, my P&S camera, and my netbook. Even though my netbook has a 500GB SSD in it, that was too small (also has the operating system and some videos) to store all of my pictures, which took about 250GB of space in all. So I brought two portable backup drives and stored my pictures on both of them. I shoot my pictures as "RAW+JPEG" (saves a large RAW file + a small JPEG file for each picture), so I can still work with the JPEG files on the netbook but have the better-quality RAW files for later processing. Yes, the RAW files are huge. My netbook can still process them but it takes more time.

I still followed the golden rule of having two copies of every file on two separate devices. Next time maybe I'll have a 1TB SSD in my netbook so will need only one backup drive.

Posted by
635 posts

I don't shoot RAW, so my storage requirements are not as great. Still, thanks to a combination of OCD and paranoia, I have a backup protocol. Every evening I back up the day's shots from the SD card to the iPad. Then I upload the best, most irreplaceable images to a temporary Picasa album. How many are uploaded depends on the speed of the available wi-fi connection. Backing up from the SD card to the iPad has the advantage of being able to view the images in a fairly large format, to check for defects not previously noticed.

I love quality camera equipment, but while in Europe I love mobility more, so my primary overseas travel camera is a Canon S120 P&S. On last year's trip to Munich it was all I used (along with a GoPro for extreme-wide-angle), even though I'd also brought as a backup an older Samsung WB150 P&S -- also small, lightweight and reasonably capable.

At the very start of this year's trip, while on the airliner enroute to Rome, I aimed the S120 out the window. Lo and behold, there was a big, black dust spot on the sensor, in the middle of the frame, that wasn't there the day before. I put the S120 away and broke out the backup Samsung. My grandson and I landed in Rome and took the FM-1 to Ostiense. I took about a dozen shots on the train and at Porta San Paolo as we started our 2-mile pilgrimage walk toward the city center, when suddenly a big dust spot appeared on the Samsung! Fortunately, though, this spot was at the very top of the frame. So I spent the next nine days in Italy and Germany composing shots on the Samsung to avoid the dust spot, which would be cropped/edited out of each shot on return home. (Results here.)

On our last evening in Munich before returning home, we took a short farewell walk on Sendlingerstraße, intending to take a few last photos. Now, though, there were more dust spots, and these were in the middle of the frame. Aaugh!! So the last batch of photos from our trip was on the backup-to-the-backup, the iPhone 6.

Posted by
2 posts

You can backup iPhone photos with Google+, which needs no laptops. In the Google+ App, tap on hamburger menu. Make sure you are on your preferred account. Click on the gear. Tap on Camera and Photos. Turn Auto Backup on. I suggest also turning on Auto Enhance and Auto Awesome. I turn on Full Size Backups and also choose to do them over Wi-Fi only. If you have never backed up your photos you should back everything up (I suggest Wi-Fi for this). From your computer, go to Google+ and hover over Home and select Photos.

Posted by
1 posts

If you just want to back up a few Photos, you can transfer those photos with airdrop. On the other hand, you can use iCloud to back up your iPhone photos, but some photos from iTunes may be removed. When you want to transfer photos to Mac or PC directly, iPhone Transfer may help.

Posted by
175 posts

Get one of these:

http://www.amazon.com/Kingston-Digital-Companion-Expanded-MLWG2/dp/B00KU2E9IW

It's a really cool little device that I just used on my 18 day trip. It enables you to view and move media files around with no computer or Internet connection required. I typically did my backups and file transfers on the train. Works with USB sticks, SD cards, or, if you have a lot of large files (like GoPro footage) it even connects to any portable USB-powered hard drive.

Best of all, it lets you offload photos from your smartphone without needing to connect to the cloud. It's all controlled with a free app. So it essentially enables virtually unlimited storage of iPhone photos, which is handy if you get that annoying message that there's no more space on your phone when you're not connected to the cloud and you want to still take more photos.

Plus, it functions as a battery backup for your phone, a wireless hotspot for multiple devices when you do have an internet connection, and can even stream media to multiple devices (nice if several people all want to watch movies that you have downloaded and stored on HD or SD card.)

The best part is, I felt like Jason Bourne when I was on the train moving files around with this mysterious little device sitting on my lap. More than one person stared at me trying to figure out what I was doing as I swapped out SD cards and organized my files into folders for easy access later. Not bad for $30!