Shootout: Canon M80 V Photo Safe II

Face-offIn this digital storage device face-off, we’re looking at two products that may do the same thing, but are chalk and cheese at face value. Canon’s M80 storage device (much like Epson’s device, indeed almost one and the same) and Digital Foci’s Photo Safe II have been on the market for some time but there isn’t much choice in this area, so they stand up as current offerings.

Each does much the same thing - provide a portable, mains or battery-powered hard drive with slots for memory cards. They are designed for photographers who want portable storage and back-up while they shoot.

Some of you may be wondering why such a thing would be necessary. Surely, you could just carry a lot of flash memory cards? Yeah, well you could, but photographers wanting to protect their images should engage with multiple points of failure. So to be reasonably certain of averting disaster while shooting on location, a shooter might have their cards, a laptop, and a portable hard drive of a conventional type to plug into their laptop.

If they choose to add another device such as an M80, they have an additional back-up but, as I proved to myself recently at a Superbike race event, if you carry an M80 on your belt, you’ve got a lightweight drive to which you can back up while you’re patrolling the race circuit. When you get back to your laptop, you dump your pics to your laptop all at once, saving the shuffling of cards through a reader. Hey, it’s not everyone’s idea of a good workflow, but it works for me.

The question is: which device is right for you? So it’s off to the tournament arena, with head-to-head feature comparisons.

Storage Photo Safe II, 500GB. Canon M80, 80GB. Winner: Photo Safe II, hands down.

Cards supported Photo Safe II: CF, SD/HC, MMC, miniSD, MS/Duo, xD Canon M80: CF, SD/MMC, Winner: Photo Safe, but by a slim margin given the dominance of CF an SD.

Screen Photo Safe II: 2in LCD, backlit, menu data only Canon M80: 3.7in TFT LCD, 640x480, 18-bit colour. Winner: Canon M80, hands down.

Supported file types Photo Safe II: All file types Canon M80: JPEG, TIFF, Canon RAW, MPEG 1/2/4, Motion JPEG, MP3, Wave. Winner: Photo Safe II. However, the Canon does something the Photo Safe II cannot, which is display all the file types it supports.

Card transfer rates Photo Safe II: Card to Photo Safe, up to 5MB/sec; Photo Safe to PC (via USB 2.0), 60MB/sec. Canon M80: Card to M80, up to 4.1MB/sec; M80 to PC (via USB 2.0), 7.5MB/sec. Winner: Photo Safe II. This will be a deal breaker for a lot of users for whom speed is king.

Weight Photo Safe II: 272g Canon M80: 360g Winner: Photo Safe II

Battery life Photo Safe II: Up to 20GB of data from high-speed card on full charge Canon M80: Up to 37GB on full charge. Winner: Canon M80

Supported OS Both: Windows, Mac. Winner: Tie.

Usability Photo Safe II: There’s nothing at all user-friendly about the Photo Safe II’s controls and interface. It looks a lot like it was designed and built by a backyard modder. It’s clumsy, but it works, and the menu system isn’t difficult to master. Canon M80: A joy to use, though a bit slow moving between images. The menu structure is intuitive, as are the controls. The single biggest advantage the M80 has is its screen and ability to display image, video and audio files, transforming it from a mere hard drive to a PMP. And the display is gorgeous, one of the best I’ve seen on a small device.

Price Photo Safe II: $400 Canon M80: $1099 Winner: Photo Safe II

Conclusion: Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? If you need a big portable hard drive and speedy operation, the Photo Safe II is the way to go. However, if you prefer a device that actually displays your images (and this counts for a lot) and can do double duty as a PMP, the Canon M80 is pretty sweet.

More info on the Canon M80 here and the Photo Safe II here.