Fast, High Capacity Storage for the Road
By Ron Eggers
As a long time user of the Epson P-2000, I was looking forward to playing with the newest generation of the company's portable storage solutions. While I took a look at the P-3000 at a trade show, I never did get my hands on it for testing. So I was really interested in working with the P-5000. I mention the P-3000 because that was a radical departure from the P-2000. It had different styling and a different user interface. Many of the specs and capabilities of the P-3000 have been incorporated into the P-5000.
In cases where Epson talks about significant increases in file-transfer speeds and image rendering times for the P-5000, the company is actually talking about an increase over the previous series, not the previous model. The P-3000 already had the increased transfer speeds and rendering times. The main difference is that the P-5000 has a larger hard drive. The P-3000 has a 40GB hard drive while the P-5000 comes equipped with an 80GB drive. Since I tested the P-5000, I'll concentrate on that model.
The first thing that anybody who's used a P-2000 will notice with the P-5000 is the new styling. It's really a beautifully designed piece of equipment. Slightly enlarged rounded grips on both sides of the viewer make it easy to hold. All the controls run down the right side of the LCD. Besides the power switch, there are only seven buttons and a four-position navigation wheel, so maneuvering from menu to menu (or image to image) is easy.
The other thing that a new user will notice is the larger screen. Epson has developed a 4-inch LCD, with Photo Fine Ultra technology and 640x480-pixel resolution that delivers a color gamut approaching Adobe RGB. The screen supports 24-bit images and up to 16.7 million colors. The filtration system of red, blue, emerald green and yellowish green enhances color rendition and increases image brightness.
The LCD is easy to see, even from odd angles. I tilted it in various directions to see how far I was able to make out the image. Tilting it horizontally, the angle of view is wide enough that three or four people could easily view the displayed images at the same time and see each picture as it should be. Tilting it down, you can adequately see the image until you lose sight of the screen itself. Only tilting up causes the view to deteriorate at an extreme angle.
The P-5000 has an elegant user-interface. Powering-up brings up the main menu with its eight choices. Each menu item has its own set of options. The P-5000 has CompactFlash and SecureData memory card slots. Removable memory formats such as Memory Sticks and Smart Media can be transferred with an adapter. Inserting a memory card brings up a card menu, including the capability to browse the card or transfer its contents to the P-5000.
One thing I like about the card slots is that the cards are pushed all the way into the unit, rather than sticking out of the slot, as with some other units. That way it's possible to transfer images while the P-5000 is placed back into the camera bag, without the possibility of the card being dislodged or even broken off.
Image transfer is fast, some 250 percent faster than the P-2000. It only took 2 minutes and 12 seconds to transfer 959MB of data (73 Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II files) from a CompactFlash card.
Once images have been transferred, moving the cursor over the individual directories brings up sets of tiny thumbnails, 64 to a screen. But only the first 64 captured images can be displayed. It's not possible to navigate through the files at that point. Still that makes it easier to figure out what images are in each directory. Accessing the specific directory brings up a set of larger thumbnails, 12 to a screen, and it's possible to navigate through all the images in that directory. Rendering the full-screen images is also fast, in fact, five times as fast as with the P-2000. It's possible to assign one- to five-star ratings to individual image files.
One of the things that limited the functionality of the P-2000 was that it had difficulty displaying higher resolution images and handling RAW images. The P-5000 corrects those limitations. It can display images up to 30 megapixels and it works with a wide range of RAW file formats. According to the specs, it will display RAW files generated with higher-end Epson, Nikon, Canon, Konica-Minolta, Pentax and Olympus digital cameras. I tested the unit with 16-megapixel Canon RAW files. The unit was able to display the RAW files as mini thumbnails, larger thumbnails and full-sized images.
It also supports numerous video file formats such as MPEG4, Motion JPEG, MOV, AVE and DivX, as well as MP3 and AAC audio files, among others. The P-5000 can also be used to print directly, with printers that support PictBridge printing. And it can be used to create presentations. It's possible to make interesting image presentations with transitions and image movement. Displayed images and slide shows can be displayed on NTSC and PAL video devices, including TVs and VCRs.
There are a couple of things to consider when looking at the P-5000. The first is whether it's going to be used primarily as a portable storage device or as a multimedia device. If the primary intent is as a portable storage, than the Epson is the right choice. If multimedia capabilities are the primary capabilities, than the P-5000 wouldn't fill the bill.
That's because it doesn't have all the multimedia capabilities that some competing hard drives have. For one thing, it will play back video, but it can't record it directly. You have to record it on another device, and then transfer it via a removable media card. For another, it's lacking an FM radio, so you can't record audio from a radio station. That's a capability that I use quite a bit on the units I have that have an FM radio, so I would miss it if the P-5000 were the only portable storage solution that I had.
But video and radio recording capabilities aren't essential for many photographers. For most photographers, portable storage, viewing and presentation capabilities are the primary considerations when deciding on a media device. The Epson P-5000 has an estimated street price of $699.99, making it one of the more expensive high capacity storage units on the market. But, if speed and display quality are important, the extra price is worth it.