DPS 6-06: New Product Roundup, Capture NX 2, Lexar USB UDMA Reader, WRP MP-7 Camera Bag, 320GB Laptop Drive

Lexar Dual-Slot USB CompactFlash UDMA / SD SDHC Reader

Ever since Lexar introduced their awesome Firewire 800 card readers I've been really jealous of Mac users. The lack of a Firewire 800 interface (let alone any powered Firewire interface at all) on most Windows laptops has meant that USB (or PC/Express card adapters) is the preferred way to do card loading for Windows users. But until now there wasn't a reader that really utilizied all the speed that was available from USB2 and UDMA.

This card reader really screams! At nearly 30MB/second it can file almost as fast as you can shoot!

Lexar Professional UDMA Dual-Slot USB Reader - Card reader ( SD, CF, SDHC ) - Hi-Speed USB


The new USB dual-slot reader from Lexar addresses this short-coming in a big way, with a very high speed offering that is also compact and provides dual-slot (1 for SD/SDHC and 1 for CompactFlash) convenience. It's unique "pop-up" design also means that the card openings are automatically protected from dirt and dust when not in use. This is a great feature if you're like me and use your equipment a lot in harsh environments.

As far as raw performance, a simple DOS copy from the reader, using a speedy 300x Lexar UDMA card yielded over 21MB/second transfer rate on my older XP machine. A newer dual-core Vista machine achieved 25MB/second within DOS and a blazing 27.4MB/Second when transferring NEF files using the Load Card Wizard from within DigitalPro for Windows. If you're using lossless compressed NEFs on the D3 or D300 (or compressed NEFs on older cameras) that means you'll be transferring nearly 3 frames per second! Of course JPEG users will be moving images even faster. Obviously these speeds do depend on the USB interface in your computer. It not only has to be USB2.0 but be a fairly good imlementation to take full advantage of the reader's performance capability.

Amazon has the new readers in stock for only $34 (B&H is Out of Stock). A tremendous value!

WRP's new MP-7 Photo "Location" Back Pack

As regular readers know, I've always been a fan of Moose Peterson's MP-1 and MP-3 bags as the most efficient way to carry photo gear and make sure it can get on the airplane with you where ever you go. My MP-3 in particular has been all over the world many times with my 200-400 lens along with 2 D-SLRs and all my other photo needs. The MP-1 doesn't travel quite as much anymore, but is still the bag I turn to when I need to carry my 600f/4.

But for trips where I don't need the big glass I don't like carrying that large a pack, so I've gone back to using my older Stealth "all in 1" bag. It's a great backpack if you want an all in one for your cameras plus your computer, but it doesn't allow me to carry all my accessories and it winds up being a little stingy on computer accessory space as well when I have it do double duty.

So I was really pleased when Moose & WRP came out with the new MP-7 pack, which has the same basic design as the MP-3 but is slightly shorter and has an accessory pouch on the side--a handy addition. It's designed as the ideal camera bag for trips where you don't need a super-telephoto lens. Moose packs his with a single D3 coupled with his 200f/2 on one side. In my case though I really like traveling with my 2 D300 bodies--especially since I plan on using this bag for some longer trips like my Asia photo safari so I really need 2 camera bodies. By using an extra divider from an old bag I was able to nicely divide the long side to take one D300 with MB-10 grip with my 70-200f/2.8 mounted and another riding just above it. A LensCoat on the D300 also does the trick nicely. I got one in Green for a change so not everything in my bag was black:-)

Another important difference in how I pack the bag is that I use two smaller DX lenses (the Nikon18-200 and the Nikon 12-24). These are small enough that if you toss the bag over your shoulder quickly they can move around in the bag. Fortunately there is a clever trick I learned many years ago from Moose which is to fold your fleece or jacket (or a vest if you use one) up in the top of the bag under the cover. This provides some padding for the top of the bag, gives you a place to store your photo vest or fleece and helps keep the contents from moving around.

Fully loaded for an African or Alaskan safari my MP-3 weighs in at 26 lbs., while the MP-7, with almost the same gear minus my 200-400 and the flash brackets I use with it is a breezy 15 lbs. When coupled with my Victorinox rolling briefcase which holds my computer and projector, I'm all set for Asia or for quick photo seminars or other landscape photography efforts around the country.

One other nice touch in the MP-7 is the small open mesh pocket on the side. I always carry my D2X GPS unit from Red Hen, but often don't have the time to grapple inside my bag for it when I want to put it on the camera. With an external open pocket I can keep it or whatever else I need handy in easy reach. I'm looking forward to using the MP-7 on some of my "non-wildlife" adventures as the year unfolds!

You can order the MP-7 directly from Moose & WRP in Green or Black for $254. Extra dividers if you want them are $31.50.

Samsung 320 GB SATA Laptop Hard Drive

It was with some trepidation that I ordered a 320GB Hard Drive made by Samsung only a few days before heading off to lead a 2-week African photo safari. After all, I'd never owned a Samsung hard drive before, and had never tried putting such a large drive into my laptop. But the allure of being able to store one complete copy of my images in my laptop--so that I'd only have to use an external drive briefly each day or two to archive my images was irresistable.

And the reviews I'd read on the Samsung were very positive as were the performance benchmarks. Even though the drive is "only" a 5400rpm drive, the performance numbers were quite comparable with many drives which spin at 7200rpm. The power requirements were also fairly minimal as hard drives go. The drive is only available with the newer SATA interface (which fortunately my ASUS uses), so you do need to make sure your computer is compatible with it.

As always, swapping system drives is not for the faint of heart. Before starting I always make a full backup of my current drive onto another drive in case something goes wrong. Then I use Acronis True Image 11 to clone my system drive to the new drive. Note that you'll need a "spare" external drive enclosure to let you hook up your new drive to clone it.

TIP: One of the problems with cloning drives is that activated software often won't run after you change your hard drive. I'm not completely sure, but it seems that if you not only do your best to keep the boot record the same (often a checkbox in your cloning software) but also keep the size of your system "C" partition identical (put all the extra space in your second or "D" partition) then that is one less item the software detects as a change and it is more likely to just run after the update.

After you've cloned your hard drive it is "simply" a matter of installing the new drive into the system. The difficulty of that process varies greatly by model and make. Dells, Thinkpads and Toshibas tend to be fairly easy, ASUS isn't too bad, and Sony's are typically awful. It took about 5 minutes total on my ASUS.

The system booted instantly, and I was pleased to find that both Vista & Photoshop CS3 were happy to run right away, as were my nik and PictureCode plug-ins and Dreamweaver CS3 as well as Capture NX. Somewhat surprisingly my Pixel Genius plug-ins were just about the only software that complained and needed to be re-activated.

The new drive was indeed quite fast. It appears to be even faster than the prior performance champ, the 160GB Seagate drive I had been using. And I can report that after 3 weeks on the road, nearly a dozen flights on small planes, loading and filing 12,000 images with somewhat spotty power provided by various generators and batteries, the drive is still working great.

To make full use of the drive and keep image filing as quick as possible I moved my Shoots & Submissions folders to my large "D" partition in DigitalPro for Windows, and also placed my Filing Cabinet folder in "D:\\photos". Then I used the Travel/Return feature of DigitalPro to clone my folder structure to the new drive so I wouldn't have to "re-invent the wheel" while foldering in the field. Keeping them all on the same drive made the filing from Shoots to File Folder essentially instant, which is a great feature of having a large hard drive.

Then on my return I simply used the Return command with Auto-Filing turned on and all my images were renamed and sequenced to fit in nicely with the images I'd taken from previous trips of the same subjects. It couldn't have been any faster or easier!

Newegg.com has this SATA drive for the pretty amazing price of $139. Remember to check to make sure your laptop can support that large a hard drive -- in particular your BIOS might require that your system partition be no larger than 130GB, but you can most likely still use the drive if your system is fairly new--and if it uses the newer SATA interface for the hard drive instead of the older "ATA" or "parallel/IDE" interface.

Event & Photo Safari Update

We are absolutely still planning to lead our photo safari to Cambodia, Burma and Laos this December and encourage you to join us. Our money goes directly to hard working local private companies who need our support. Tourism, as you can imagine, is way down due to recent events which actually makes the photography and the travel experience even more unique. Even if you can't make it to be part of our trip, we encourage you to consider visiting Burma if you can.

We still have one opening for our Alaska Grizzy Bear photo safari in July (July 8-15) due to a cancellation. Our Southeast Asia trip is nearly wide open. It's a little more unusual and harder to convince people to go, but everyone who has come along has been delighted. We've also just announced our 2009 South Texas Bird Photo trip for April. This trip has sold out the last two years, so plan ahead and sign up soon!

Cardinal Photo Safaris Update:

Grizzly bear female
Alaska bear safari

Alaska Grizzly Bear & Puffin trips, July 2008:

Our 2008 sessions are nearly sold out but we have 1 opening left for week 1 (week 2 is sold out), so learn more or sign up soon. We'll have plenty of Alaskan Brown "Grizzly" Bears, as well as visit rookeries for Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins, Common Murres and Kittiwakes. We're also likely to have some good Bald Eagle photographic opportunities and of course scenic shots of mountains, coastline and lovely flowers. This is a great trip for couples or non-shooting companions as the lodge is in a beautiful setting on the coast with plenty of opportunity for other activities.

Africa :
Botswana, November, 2009, To Be Announced

Our trips feature plenty of mammals & birds. We'll see lions, elephants, giraffe, leopards, cheetah and quite a few varieties of antelope along with several dozen other species of exotic animals. For more details email safaris [at] cardinalphoto.com.

Angkor Wat at Sunrise

Asia Photo Safari, January, 2007

Burma and Cambodia, December 2008:

We're excited about returning to Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia. The main trip will be divided between the temple areas in Cambodia (especially the Angkor temple complex including Angkor Wat) and Burma (including historic Mandalay and the plain of temples at Bagan, as well as the capital Yangon, nee Rangoon). Learn more. We'll also have an optional post-trip extension to Laos, featuring Vientianne & Luang Prabang.

We just finished a second very successful 2007 trip and are ready with what we think will be an even better itinerary for next December and next December. Learn more about the trip now.

Crested Caracara
South Texas Safari, 2008

South Texas Birds, April 12-18, 2009

Maximum 6 photographers, 3 slots open

After another great safari this year I'm anxious to get back to "The Valley" in south Texas and join a few of you to really focus on bird photography for a week again next year. There is no better way to improve your shooting skills, hone your flight shot technique and come home with lots of great images than by spending a week with us at these awesome Lens & Land properties.

Just like this year we'll be including luxury accomodations at a brand new game lodge close to the ranches. The small trip size (maximum 6 shooters), private ranches, and full service structure (all your local transportation, room, meals and drinks are included!) make this the premier trip to South Texas for bird photography. Learn more or get your deposit in now.

This trip Sold out in 2007 and 2008!

Read what past participants have to say
events updated 6/6/2008

Nikon Capture NX 2

Nikon has released a major upgrade to Capture NX. Version 2 greatly enhances the basic editing functionality, with additions including:

  • Multiple Monitor Support & User Workspaces

  • Highlight & Shadow correction command

  • Improved layout for Editing palettes

  • Auto Retouch "Healing" Brush

  • Expanded U Point capability

Batch processing is not much changed, so if you are looking for a major upgrade in that area you're likely to be disappointed.

There is already an e-Book out on NX 2. If you've had trouble getting your head around the new interface in NX (and now NX 2) I'd highly recommend either spending some time with O'Dell's eBook or sitting through a demo from one of the Nikon gurus at Photoshop World or some other conference where they are exhibiting. You may or may not love the interface, but it is much easier to understand it's power after you see it demonstrated by an expert.

There is a 60-day trial version available from Nikon USA. NX 2 retails for $179 or $109 for current users of Capture NX. We're particularly curious what readers think about the upgrade policy, so let us know.

If you have a hot tip or news item for DigitalPro Shooter, write us at dps@proshooters.com. If your tip or news item is picked as the Shooters' Tip of the Week, we'll send you a really cool DigitalPro hat! Or just write us to let us know what you think of the newsletter.

To keep up with the latest articles and reviews, join me at http://www.nikondigital.org. For the latest versions of DigitalPro, visit http://www.proshooters.com/dp.

Good shooting!

--David Cardinal, editor DigitalPro Shooter
nikondigital.org / Pro Shooters LLC


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