Storage and backups tips and tricks.
There is no such thing as too much storage!
I wanted to bring you along my journey of storage and backups, because it is a very crucial part of photography. Also videography, but I shall not speak of it, because I am ashamed of my process regarding this matter :) Back to photography… Since some time now, I have a steady workflow and I feel comfortable sharing it and maybe someone can take something with them after finishing this little read. But before we start going down the rabbit whole, I want to make one thing clear - my storage/backup system is not perfect, I know it and that is the risk I am taking. My main camera is the Canon R5 and I am using both, the SD and the Cfexpress cards, however, the Cfexpress card is almost never used for photography and saved for those buttery smooth slow motion videos. For SD card I use the SanDisk Extreme Pro 170MB/s 256GB and for the Cfexpress (type B) the Lexar 1750MB/s 128GB. At some point I will definitely upgrade to a 256GB card, because the files are massive and it get full rather quick. Another note I want to make here is that make triple sure which CFexpress card to get for the Canon R5, because some have some weird limitations. Do the research! Now, I have two of the 256GB SD cards and two or three of the same type, but 95
MB/s 128GB which I use for my Canon R cameras since they are less storage hungry. As I pointed out before, on my R5 I never shoot to both cards simultaneously. I remember how people were bashing the R for not having two cards slots and that that is totally unprofessional and that your life span doubles down if you don't have that….and then all of those haters went and bought the camera anyway :) I think that for the price, the R is a great camera. Obviously it is not perfect, but for each of us some things are more important than others.
A quick side note regarding a Lexar 128GB SDXC 1000x card with amazing read and write speeds, the one that has the silver sticker on front. I wish I still had it, so I can show it. The reason I don't have it anymore is that it broke and it broke in a scary way. On the back it had not one, but two rows of the contact pins and one of the frail plastic dividers decided to split - figuratively and literally. Because of this odd malfunction I decided never to get these cards again. Luckily no photos were lost and I got a free pass.
Anyhow, back to storage. Once I'm back from the shoot, I download the photos via my recently purchased SD/CFexpress card reader. I needed one, because my old card reader didn't support the CFexpress card, also, it turned out that it had limited bandwidth for the 170MB/s card. Once I got the new reader, it almost maxes out and copies files at around 160MB/s which is twice as fast from before. This card reader from Prograde is an absolute beast, it even has a magnet on one side of the casing so that you can attach it to some metal part (desk, computer etc.) and I've done just the thing and attached it to my desk to lessen the clutter.
Here's a very interesting thing regarding the CFe card. Can you connect the camera to the computer and download the files without a card reader? Yes sir, you can! But there is a catch, actually multiple ones. Bare with me, because I want to explain this crystal clear. In that initial part of my love phase I was young and naïve and didn't know a few things, because YouTube wasn't talking about it….grrr…. I've been shooting some slowmo stuff and when connecting the camera to the computer, noticing that some files are 0 bytes. I thought that's odd and didn't give too much thought to it and blamed some mystical Jedi forces for intervening with my footage. Luckily that footage wasn't a paid gig. As time went by, this started bugging me and I realized that the footage was there and I could see It on the camera, but not on the computer. Finally, I found out that because of the file system limit I cannot transfer it simply via the explorer on the PC. I had to use Canon's software to copy the footage. Now, I do believe that this is something Canon is doing on purpose, because as far as I understand the whole file structure thing, this shouldn't be an issue. But then again, maybe I'm wrong. Anyhow, I was relieved that the footage wasn't corrupted and the camera is working fine, but I wasn't too happy about the transfer speeds. I then realized that I need an external card reader which has two huge benefits. One is that I can work directly in Windows Explorer without the need of Canon's software and secondly, the transfer speed is waaaaaay faster. Yes, Prograde reader might seem to be on the expensive side, but I don't regret a penny I invested, apart from the fact that first I bought the wrong card reader, they have multiple ones and if you are not careful with the wording, you'll end up like me :) Remember, you want the Type B reader for the CFexpress card ;)
Now, where was I….oh yes, once I'm back from the shoot, I download the files to my external SSD and it's no ordinary SSD :) It's a Samsung SSD 860 EVO 512GB in a SilverStone USB 3 enclosure, which essentially is like a large USB drive and let me tell you, it's awesome! I made this about three or four years ago and I believe that at the time external SSD drives weren't as affordable as they are now, so you might as well go and grab a Samsung T7 1TB or a SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD. The only difference is that both of these require an additional cable for the connection and I think I would still use my oversized USB simply because there is one less cable to worry about. If the cable is not a problem then in my opinion the SanDisk drive is an absolute treasure - it's built to last and has good performance specs. After this process I don't delete the files on the camera until the next or even one more shoot, just to have some peace of mind. I will then edit off of that SSD and once I am done and photos have been sent to the client, I copy then to a SiliconPower A65 2TB 2.5" drive. I used to use those instead of the SSD because I would be often on the road and I needed something reliable. Even though my workflow has changed, I still get these drives. After this 2TB drive is full, I copy that to the Drobo 5N2 NAS (Network Attached Storage) and put the drive away. The Drobo has three WD 14TB NAS drives and there is room for two more. If you are thinking, which backup solution to use, I strongly advise you not to get the Drobo or any of their products. Why? It's fairly simple. I was lured into the mindset that this is a great product and for what it is - use it and forget about it - it sort of is, but I didn't know at what cost this phrase would come. All the fancy reviewers online pretty much only tell you what's written on the box and to some it up, it's a purchase of a lifetime. Is it very simple to use, yes it is that is why I got it. I'm plenty of tech savvy to be able to deal with a more complicated NAS system. If anyone is interested in the Drobo saga, let me know and I will enlighten you with it. So there you have it, as I said, this system/workflow isn't perfect, but for the moment I am happy with it and not planning on doing any changes. Well, not entirely true, I might pick up one of those SanDisk drives at some point, even though I am not a fan of the cable. Decisions, decisions, decisions.... :)