Digital Foci Photo Safe II (PST-251)

      Photo Review 8

      In summary

      A pocketable, battery-powered backup device for storing image and video files.Digital Foci’s Photo Safe II provides a choice of 250GB and 500GB of portable image storage in a compact format that will be ideal for travellers. Small and light enough to slip into a trouser pocket or the accessories pouch in a camera bag, it is battery-driven and supports all popular image file and video formats – including raw files from most camera manufacturers. Three covered card slots enable it to accept all popular memory cards and an Auto Copy button provides one-touch copying of the contents of a connected card. . . [more]

      Full review


      Digital Foci’s Photo Safe II provides a choice of 250GB and 500GB of portable image storage in a compact format that will be ideal for travellers. Small and light enough to slip into a trouser pocket or the accessories pouch in a camera bag, it is battery-driven and supports all popular image file and video formats – including raw files from most camera manufacturers. Three covered card slots enable it to accept all popular memory cards and an Auto Copy button provides one-touch copying of the contents of a connected card.


      The Photo Safe II showing the location of the three card slots.
      Portable image storage devices have been around for most of the past decade, although they’ve become less of a ‘must have’ item for many photographers since memory card prices plummeted in recent years. According to a GfK ConsumerScope camera study which sampled 5,000 recent digital camera buyers, typical snapshooters average fewer than 100 shots per month. Consequently, these photographers would be unlikely to exceed the capacity of even a 2GB card – unless they also shot a fair amount of video. When you can buy a standard-speed 2GB memory card for less than $15 and a fast 8GB card for under A$100, there’s little incentive to purchase portable storage devices.
      However, the huge capacity of the Photo Safe II could make it attractive to travellers, particularly those who expect to spend periods of time away from mains power sources and those who don’t want the hassle of carrying a laptop computer on trips. However, although the high capacity, compact size and light weight give the Photo Safe II an advantage over competing products, unlike most competing products, it doesn’t provide image display facilities.
      The table below compares key features of four top-of-the-line products that are currently available in Australia.


      Photo Safe II

      Canon M80

      Epson P-7000 multimedia Storage Viewer

      Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA

      Storage Capacity





      Memory card support

      All popular cards

      CF and SD

      CF, SD/SDHC; other cards via adapter

      All popular cards

      File formats

      All formats for still (including raw) images and video clips

      JPEG, TIFF, Canon RAW, MPEG 1/2/4, Motion JPEG, MP3, Wave

      JPEG, Raw (most formats), MPEG4, MOV, AVI, MP3, MPEG4-AAC

      All formats for still and video

      Time to copy 1GB to device

      Approx. 3.5 minutes

      Approx. 4 minutes

      Approx. 50 seconds

      30 seconds

      Battery capacity

      Approx. 26GB/charge

      Approx. 37 GB/charge

      Approx. 75 GB/charge

      Up to 250 GB/charge

      Viewing screen displays

      2-inch monochrome LCD; operational status display only

      3.7-inch colour LCD, VGA resolution; plays images, movies and music

      4-inch colour LCD, VGA resolution; plays images, movies and music

      3.2-inch colour LCD, displays images, thumbnails, slideshows, operational status


      116.8 x 76.2 x 20.3 mm

      140 x 81 x 34 mm

      150 x 88.7 33.1 mm

      133 x 75 x 26mm


      272 grams

      370 grams

      433 grams

      298 grams





      $615 (street price)

      Design and Ergonomics
      The Photo Safe II has a rigid plastic case with a 2-inch monochrome LCD on the front panel. Overall build quality is good with joints being flush and no rough edges. Below the screen are two buttons; one for switching on the power and the other for initiating the copying process. The front panel below the buttons slides off to reveal the compartment for the user-replaceable battery. A plug-in charger is provided for recharging the battery in-situ and powering the device from the mains.
      The memory card slots are located on the side panels, with a large CF slot on the right and smaller SD/MMC/xD/MS and MS Duo/MiniSD slots on the left. Pull-up rubber covers are provided to keep dust and grit out of unused slots. They’re a bit clunky and can be difficult to prise open if your fingernails are very short. They can also be difficult to push in again – although they do make good dust barriers.
      Two LEDs at the top of the panel show when power is on and the internal hard disk drive is active. On the bottom panel are the input slot for the A/C power adapter plus a mini-USB port for connecting the device to a computer. A grille in the rear panel dissipates heat from the internal HDD while it’s operating (and it can become slightly warm in use).
      Supplied with the device is a flexible plastic pouch that has a Velcro closure and belt loop. Lacking padding, it provides minimal protection and its quality doesn’t match that of the Photo Safe II itself. A Switching AC adaptor/charger rated for 100-240V is also provided, along with a USB cable and a printed Quick Start Guide.


      The Photo Safe II carrying pouch. (Source: Digital Foci.)

      In Use
      Plugging a memory card into the relevant slot and turning on the power lets you initiate the copying process. The LCD displays the type of card and the amount of data it contains and the COPY icon flashes to indicate the device is ready for file transfer.
      When you press the Auto Copy (EXE) button, both the indicator lights blink while the entire contents of the card are transferred to the Photo Safe II’s HDD. There’s no discrimination between file types; everything on the card is copied – including JPEG and raw files, video clips and music files you might have copied to the card.
      Once copying is completed, an OK icon appears on the screen. A new folder is created for each batch of files copied into the device so previous backed-up files aren’t over-written. All files retain their original file names, formats and folder structures.
      The time taken to upload files from a memory card to the Photo Safe II is largely dictated by the speed of the memory card. In our tests with just under 1GB of image files, we found cards claiming transfer speeds of up to 15MB/second took just over 4.5 minutes to upload, whereas UDMA-compliant 300x cards were uploaded in a little less than three minutes. This doesn’t include the approximately 15-second delay between when you press the EXE button and when the file transfer begins.
      After all files are copied, the 100% icon is displayed and you can hold down the COPY/EXE button to display the number of files copied and the number of the folder created for the files. If you don’t turn the device off when copying is completed, it automatically switches off after two minutes of inactivity to conserve battery life.


      The status display.
      To transfer the contents of the Photo Safe II to your computer, simply connect the device to the supplied USB cable and plug it into a USB port on your computer. The device will show up as an external drive that can be used as you would other drives. You can either drag-and-drop individual files or folders into position or use any importing program to copy them across.
      The simplest way to delete files and folders from the Photo Safe II is to connect it to a computer and access the device as you would any other drive. You can delete files from a memory card after all data has been transferred to the Photo Safe II by pressing the POWER/SELECT button, which switches the device to delete mode, displaying a flashing DEL icon. If you press and hold down the COPY/EXE button for three seconds, the files on the card will be erased. (It’s better practice to re-format cards in your camera.)
      Although we had no problems transferring files to the Photo Safe II and none when moving copied files from the Photo Safe II to our PC, we have a few reservations about using it as a principal back-up image storage system. Although a confirmation OK icon is displayed when copying is completed, unlike some competing devices, there’s no evidence of a verification system that checks files against those on the source card after transfer has taken place. Admittedly this function doubles overall transfer times but it provides assurance that files haven’t been corrupted during transfer.
      The only warning you get that copying has failed while files are being transferred is an ERROR icon that is displayed. Copying will be suspended when this occurs and you can switch the device off and attempt to copy the files again. (This strategy is handy if the device runs out of battery power part-way through an upload.)
      In addition, because no viewing facilities are provided, there’s really no way to check that all files have been copied before clearing your memory card without connecting the Photo Safe II to a computer. This tends to negate its value as a replacement for a laptop when you’re travelling.
      Unlike some competing devices, you can’t edit files on the device, nor connect it to a printer for direct printing. Internet connection is only possible via a computer, and you’ll have to resize images on your PC before you can share them in emails or on social websites. These omissions could make it less useful for some travelling photographers.
      On the plus side, however, the Photo Safe II provides the best ‘bangs-for-the-buck’ of all the portable image storage devices we’ve seen thus far. It’s also one of the simplest to use.
      Buy this device if:
      – You require high-capacity file storage while travelling and aren’t worried about checking your shots.
      – You want a handy device you can download almost any kind of file to for temporary storage.
      Don’t buy this device if:
      – It will be your primary back-up device.
      – You want to view images and video clips.
      – You require direct printing support and/or Internet functionality.




      Hard drive: 5400 rpm 2.5-inch SATA hard drive
      Internal memory: 500GB (also available in 250GB capacity)
      Supported memory cards: CompactFlash, SD/SDHC/MMC/miniSD, Memory Stick/MS Pro, MS Duo, MS Pro Duo, xD-Picture Card
      PC Interface: USB 2.0 (compatible with USB 1.1)
      File transfer speed: Memory card to HDD – up to 5.0MB/sec; PST-251 to computer – up to 60MB/sec.
      Supported files: All video and image files – including raw files
      Copy status indicator: Percentage completed, copy confirmation, number of files copied, sequence number of created folder
      LCD screen: 2-inch text/icon display with backlight
      LED indicators: Data access status for memory card and hard drive
      Battery: User-replaceable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery (Max. 80 minutes of continuous file transfer)
      File system: FAT 32 (supports multiple partitioning)
      Operating system support: Windows XP, Vista, 2000 (SP4), Mac OS 10.0 and later, Linux 2.4 and later
      Dimensions: 116.8 x 76.2 x 20.3 mm
      Weight: 272 grams (including hard drive and battery)





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      RRP: $399.99 (500GB as reviewed); $349.99 (250GB)

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build and styling: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Features: 7.0
      • OVERALL: 8.0