Personal Storage Devices: Digimate III vs Hyperdrive Space

Prior to actually making a purchase, I did my research and one thing I noticed is how adamant that some people are against the concept of a personal storage device (PSD). They talk about how the price of CF cards (or SD/SDHC) have fallen to the point where it is cost-prohibitive to invest in a storage device. Then they go on to discuss the short-falls of a hard drive based storage device and how hard drives are more prone to failure.

What I think most of these haters don’t understand is the need for a backup solution, not a replacement for additional flash memory. It doesn’t do me any good to have multiple 8GB CF cards if I only have 8GBs worth of images. The idea, at least to me, is to backup your 8GB of images. If you’re spending a whole day in the blazing heat trying to capture images of racecars (or whatever), the last thing you want to happen is to lose those images. “Why not invest in quality CF cards so that you dont have to worry about losing your images?”, is usually the next response. Well, what about theft? What if you misplace your 8GB card? And contrary to popular belief, FLASH DOES FAIL. The mere fact that NAND flash chips HAVE a lifetime should give you an idea. So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let us move on to my comparison.

Here\'s what a Digimate III looks like..

Digimate III High-Speed

I originally bought the Digimate III, well, because it was cheap. It cost about $35 shipped from You simply provide your own hard drive (2.5″ IDE), pop it in, charge up the “generic” Li-Ion battery (Fuji NP20 battery available all over eBay) and you’re ready to rock. Going with the Digimate III, I knew it was going to be slower than what some of the more expensive units claim (the manual says 5.5MB/second max), but $35 was music to my ears.

Feel: It doesnt feel like a quality piece of equipment. That’s not to say its a POS, but it just feels “thin”. The materials are thin and the whole unit is kind of lightweight. One thing that was nice was that the edges are “rubberized” plastic, so you can get a good grip on the unit.

Appearance: The color OLED screen is.. umm, crap. the viewing angle sucks. From some angles the whole screen looks lit up. There’s not much information on the screen, aside from the bare essentials (remaining hard drive space, card space, and progress in the form of a XXX%). My Digimate III was silver, but I’ve seen the black one. I think the black would look much better. The silver is kind of cheap looking, but the quality of the paint is OK I guess.

Operation: There are only two buttons on the unit. One that doubles as “power” and “confirmation”. The other button is “copy” and “select”. You basically turn it on, plug in a card, select a partition (if your drive is partitioned), then hit copy. Once the backup is done, the unit stays on for a bit then shuts off to conserve power. When it copies to the hard drive, it stores your card’s contents in a “serialized” folder, like XX0001, XX0002, etc, where ‘XX’ is the type of card you copied. So if you were copying CF cards to the Digimate, the folders would be ‘CF0001’, ‘CF0002’, etc. All in all, its quite simple to use but lacks pretty much anything “special”.

Sanho Hyperdrive Space

Sanho Hyperdrive Space

However, after using the Digimate for a few months, I wanted to see if I could find a Hyperdrive. I had orignally wanted a Hyperdrive Space, but couldn’t force myself to part with $149 (+tax+shipping) for the Space case only. So I started cruising the regular outlets to see if I could find a used one (, and eBay). I came across an old listing (1 month old) and decided to PM the original poster to see if he still had it. As luck would have it, he did and he offered to sell it to me at the same price, $100 shipped. I received it yesterday.

Feel: This thing feels much more solid. With the drive in it, it actually feels quite a bit heavier than the Digimate. If the Digimate didnt feel like a piece of quality equipment, the Hyperspace Space definitely does. It doesnt feel flimsy at all. However, being a painted black surface, it is much more slippery. Unlike the Digimate III with its rubberized sides, the Hyperspace Space does feel like it could slip out of your hand if you weren’t careful. If you’ve ever held an iPhone, its kind of like that, just all smooth and slick, no texture or anything to provide extra grip.

Appearance: Its kind of plain, but not as plain as the Digimate III. There are 5 buttons on the face that allow you to operate the many functions and features of the Hyperdrive Space. The buttons are the membrane-type, which I kind of like. That way its harder for dust to collect there or whatever. Its a bit longer than the Digimate III, but its a bit thinner and narrower. I’d take thinner over shorter anyday. The screen is a plain ol’ LCD (not color) with the Indiglo type illumination. The screen provides much more information. Although I originally didnt think I needed anymore info than the Digimate provided, having more information is nice.

Operation: Using the 5 buttons, you can be a lot of things, which I wont get into here. But things like formatting the drive, browsing the drive contents, copying from hard drive to memory card, etc are all built-in and accessible using the 5 buttons. For copying memory cards, its just as simple as the Digimate. In fact, you can set it up so that as soon as you stick in a memory card, it will turn on and begin to copy the card’s contents (so, basically, buttonless operation). The card’s contents are copied to the Hyperdrive into their own folders, just like the Digimate. However, on the Hyperspace, you can either use a date/time combo naming convention or create your own (serialized) name. The Time/Date folder names look like this “YYMMDDHH.MMS”. Or if you create your own name, you can use, I think 5 characters, and the rest would be the serial number, starting from 000″. Pretty cool, but the Digimate’s naming convention was fine too.

Transfer Speed Comparison

Now, here’s where the two begin to differ drastically and you’ll realize why a Hyperdrive Space is $149 and the Digimate III is only $35.

Although this is not scientific, it should give you an idea of what to expect. You should also know that copying speeds from memory card to PSD will differ drastically depending on the type of card and the brand/model of card. Additionally, how “full” or “empty” a memory card is could affect its speed as well (meaning, a full 4GB card may transfer slower than a 4GB card that only has 2GB worth of content). Oh, and one last thing, my tests were all done with a Seagate 2.5″ 160GB 5400RPM 8MB buffered IDE drive. The faster the drive and the more buffer you have, the faster the transfer from memory card to hard drive should be.. but I wouldn’t know. I do hope to test a SSD in the Hyperdrive case in the coming future, so check back for that.

I read an article that mentioned Compact Flash (CF) cards have a 16-bit data bus and SD/SDHC cards only have a 4-bit data bus. Now, how this factors into manufacturers’ claims of “150X” or “233X”, I don’t know. But I will find out once I speak to my flash engineering buddy (edit:: my buddy told me that a 233x SD card should be the same speed as a 233x CF card.. although the CF card uses 16-bit parallel processing versus the SD card’s 4-bit serial processing, the SD card controller is clocked higher so the resulting read speed should be the same). So keep that in mind. As a matter of fact, Hyperdrive advertises “1GB per minute” when used with Sandisk Extreme III CF cards (that’s 17MB/second for the math challenged).

PSD: Digimate III
Memory Card: Kingston Ultimate 100x 2GB Compact Flash (this is an old card, hence 100x)
Card Contents: 695MB (as reported by Digimate)
Time to Copy: 124 seconds (2:04 minutes)
Time to Copy 4GB: 730 seconds (12:10 minutes) (calculated based on actual transfer of 695MB)
Transfer Rate: 336.29 Megabytes per minute

PSD: Sanho Hyperdrive Space
Memory Card: Kingston Ultimate 100x 2GB Compact Flash (same card as above)
Card Contents: 1.62GB (as reported by Hyperdrive)
Time to Copy: 158 seconds (2:38 minutes)
Time to Copy 4GB: 390 seconds (7:30 minutes) (calculated)
Transfer Rate: 629.95 Megabytes per minute

PSD: Digimate III
Memory Card: Kingston Ultimate 100x 2GB Compact Flash (same card as above)
Card Contents: 1.62GB (as reported by Digimate) (same contents as above)
Time to Copy: 300 seconds (5:00 minutes)
Time to Copy 4GB: 740 seconds (12:20 minutes) (calculated)
Transfer Rate: 331.78 Megabytes per minute

PSD: Sanho Hyperdrive Space
Memory Card: Kingston Elite Pro 133x 8GB Compact Flash
Card Contents: 4.0GB (as reported by Hyperdrive)
Time to Copy: 358 seconds (6:58 minutes)
Time to Copy 4GB: 358 seconds (6:58 minutes) (actual)
Transfer Rate: 686.48 Megabytes per minute

In testing my Kingston Class 6 8GB SDHC, you can see the Hyperdrive’s advantage diminishes greatly. So much so that I would even recommend against purchasing a Hyperdrive if you’re main use is going to be SD/SDHC. For $35 (or almost 1/5 the cost of a Hyperdrive), the Digimate III is only about 15% slower than the Hyperdrive Space when copying SDHC cards.

PSD: Digimate III
Memory Card: Kingston Class 6 8GB SDHC
Card Contents: 5.26GB (as reported by Digimate)
Time to Copy: 1224 seconds (20:24 minutes)
Time to Copy 4GB: 931 seconds (15:31 minutes) (calculated)
Transfer Rate: 264.30 Megabytes per minute

PSD: Sanho Hyperdrive Space
Memory Card: Kingston Class 6 8GB SDHC
Card Contents: 7.17GB (as reported by Hyperdrive)
Time to Copy: 1388 seconds (23:08 minutes)
Time to Copy 4GB: 775 seconds (12:55 minutes) (calculated)
Transfer Rate: 317.38 Megabytes per minute

PSD: Sanho Hyperdrive Space
Memory Card: Kingston Class 6 4GB miniSDHC
Card Contents: 435.2MB (as reported by Hyperdrive)
Time to Copy: 84 seconds (1:24 minutes)
Time to Copy 4GB: 791 seconds (13:11 minutes) (calculated)
Transfer Rate: 310.86 Megabytes per minute

My Camera Equipment Update

I’ve been meaning to write a more comprehensive post about my camera gear and how I got to where I am today.. but since I dont feel like writing too much right now, I’m just going update ya’ll on recent changes..

My kit currently consists of:

Canon EOS 30D 8.2 megapixel camera
Canon BG-E2 battery grip
Tamron SP 1.4x teleconverter
Kenko Extension Tubes
Sigma EF 500 DG Super flash
Tamron SP 17-50mm f2.8 Di II lens
Canon EF 28-70mm f2.8L USM lens
Canon EF 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM lens
Canon EF 50mm f1.8 MkII lens
Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS USM lens
Kingston Elite Pro 2GB Compact Flash
Kingston Elite Pro 4GB Compact Flash
Kingston Ultimate 2GB Compact Flash
Kingston Ultimate 8GB Compact Flash

I just received the Kenko Extension Tubes.. good quality pieces.. unfortunately, I havent had time to play with them, other than to put them on the camera along with my Canon 50mm f1.8 MkII.. but the lighting was poor (in home, at night, under flourescent lighting).. hopefully I’ll get a chance to play with them this weekend.

But more importantly, I just received my Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM lens I purchased used from Prior to visiting, I was conflicted over whether I should buy a new Canon 24-70mm f2.8L USM (currently $1,079.99 at B&H) or if I should try to find a used Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM or used Canon 24-70mm f2.8L USM. The Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM was released by Canon in 1993. The Canon 24-70mm f2.8L USM replaced the Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM in November 2002. However, the Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM was a bit cheaper than used 24-70mm f2.8L USM lenses. I managed to find a few (at and on of the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L USM priced at around $950 + shipping (or like 4 gallons of gas to drive to Hollywood). But both of them would’ve been out of warranty (although they both looked very very clean, almost brand new). On the other hand, I found a few Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM lenses around the $750 + shipping price range. Problem was, the one I was interested in (date code UP, which is 2001 manufacture year) didn’t have pictures of the lens.. the seller (on FM) was being a prick and said he’d try to first sell it to someone who didnt need to see it first (?). Anyway, after reading various posts and threads about KEH‘s very conservative rating system, I decided to take a look at what they had to offer in the used variety. They had about 6 copies of the Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM lens. Two of them were BGN (or “Bargain”), two of them were EX (or “Excellent”) and two of them were EX+ (or “Excellent +”). Even though I read good things about the BGN copies, I didnt want to risk it. So I decided on the EX grade. The two that were on KEH were priced at $751 and $789. For $751, you weren’t going to get the lens hood. For $789, it included the lens hood. Since I wanted the lens hood anyway, I decided to go for the $789 one. Additionally, KEH offers a 1 year extended warranty for an additional $19.99. I figured it was worth the $20 to get at least the first year’s peace of mind. So for a bit over $800, I got a Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM lens.

Today, I received the lens. I was pretty anxious to open it, hoping I’d be one of the lucky ones who got a really really clean lens. After I ripped off the bubble wrap and massive amounts of tape, I pulled the lens out of the bag. I was very surprised. The lens was very very clean. There were a couple of tiny nicks and the “threads” where the hood locks into had some slight brassing (fixed with a Sharpie!). The hood looked practically brand new. But most importantly, the glass was flawless and I didnt find any dust at all (but hopefully, I’ll get a chance to look at it more closely tomorrow). It came with both caps. The lens cap shows some minor wear, with the edges on the “Canon” and “Supersonic” rubbing off a bit. I wanted to take pictures of the lens to show everyone, but that will probably have to wait until tomorrow (when I was looking for reviews of KEH‘s grading system, I read LOTS of stuff about how conservative they were, but never saw exactly how clean these lens actually were). So stay tuned, I’ll put up pics to show you MY Canon 28-70mm f2.8L USM EX grade I received from Oh, and one last thing, the date code was “UN” (which is 1999.. just remember date code “UO” is 2000). A little older than I’m comfortable with, but again, I got the 1 year warranty so I’m good. And one more thing, the USM on this lens is FAST. It is definitely faster than my Canon 28-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM and I’d even say its faster than my Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS USM (although the 70-200 focussing system is moving a lot more, I suppose). In fact the focussing was so fast and silent, when I first tried it, I wasnt even sure the focusing was working (no lie!).

So all in all, I’m very happy with my purchase.