We have lived with an Epson P-4500 for some months and find it is a great alternative to carrying a laptop or a whole bunch of memory cards.
A multimedia storage viewer does a number of things. It can download files off of a memory card and store them on disk. It can act as an external hard disk when you connect it to a computer. It can also allow you to view the media on the device. And because it is called a multimedia device, it can handle not only still image types but also video and audio. Epson’s line of viewers is all of the above, plus more. We spent some time with a P-4500, a model that has since been replaced (see the press release at the end of this article).
The P-4500 is a 148 x 85 x 32 mm device weighing around 438grams (5.8″ x 3.4″ x 1.3″ and 15.4 US oz or 0.97 US lb.). The largest part of this when you look at the device is a 3.8″ color LCD screen that is bright and clear, plus a line of buttons and direction controls. On the top it has two memory card slots, one for CompactFlash and the other for SD cards. Other cards can be handled with third-party adapters through the CF slot. One one side is the power switch and on the other are covered connections for the USB 2.0 cable, AV connector and the power adapter/charger. It has a lithium-ion battery that never seems to give out. It uses an 80GB hard drive for storage, so there is plenty of capacity.
In use, it is a joy. Switch it on and an icon menu comes up. Insert a card and it takes you straight to a backup the card option. Card contents are extracted and stored in folders by date/time, so you loose nothing of how the files are stored on the card. When the transfer is finished you get a message that you can remove the card. That is it. From the menu you can browse media you have backed-up, other media you have stored on the device, watch slideshows, etc. The P-4500 understands a great range of file formats and types. Some of these are:
* RAW files from Epson, Nikon, Canon, Konica Minolta (Sony), Pentax, Olympus and Adobe DNG (which covers Leica)
* Videos in MPEG 1/2/4-ASP, DivX, Motion JPEG and WMV
* Audio in MP3, MPEG4-AAC and WMA
It has a built-in mono speaker and a headphone and MP3 player remote control (included).
My main interest was in photo handling, but let me say here that it handles video and audio well. Not fussy about formats, unlike a video iPod, for example, it can play most things. For photo download it is great. The ability to view even RAW files, put them in slideshows and display useful information, including a histogram, is a great boon to photographers in the field and to those who need to make a presentation. Downloading of images is fast.
When you get back home you plug in the USB 2.0 cable, plug this into the computer and it appears as a disk drive. This means you can use whatever workflow you prefer without being locked into a proprietary application. When you plug the drive into the computer it will display a warning to use the power adapter to avoid any file loss if the battery runs out but it will work happily off of its battery while connected, which is important for laptop users. For presentations you can connect toa TV or data projector. It is also capable of direct printing with Epson Photo printers.
The slideshow does fade transitions between images
Battery life is excellent. There is a clear battery capacity display and in practice I never ran it out in a heavy day’s shooting and reviewing. If you were just going to use this occassionally to download pictures from the camera and then shut it down I suspect you would easily get a weeks work out of it. I didn’t try this formally but from day to day the unit held charge well and did not seem to drain the batteries fast. The battery is removable, so you could carry a spare. The power connection is a standard 5V DC connection, so although Epson don’t provide one, there should be no real problem in finding a car adapter to recharge while away from mains power.
This is a stunningly great device. It works without a fuss. This was one test item I was sad to return.
Below is the press release from Epson for the replacement models:
Epson releases the Epson P-3000 and P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewers with the world’s first four-colour filter LCD in a portable display device
Epson has released the Epson P-3000 and P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewers successors to the hugely popular Epson P-3000 and the P-4500.
The Epson P-3000 and P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewers are perfect for professional and advanced amateur photographers who need high resolution viewing, maximum storage space and high speed data transfer of digital images and other files.
The Epson P-3000 and P-5000 use Epson’s Photo Fine Ultra technology which offers 24-bit true colour viewing with the world’s first four-colour filter LCD (red, green, blue and emerald green) in a portable display device.
With these improvements the E
pson P-3000 and P-5000 have greatly expanded the visible colour gamut with coverage 119% wider than S-RGB.
The P-3000 and P-5000 feature a razor sharp 4.0″ LCD screen (640 x 480 pixels VGA) which is the largest in its class and continues Epson’s technology leadership in mini-LCD display products.
A range of PictBridge, USB, SD and CF card connectivity is offered on the P-3000 and P-5000 and performing file transfers from memory card to disk is now up to 250% faster than previous models.
The P-3000 and P-5000 are the perfect support tool for professional and advanced amateur photographers using cameras with large file formats, as advanced RAW file support allows the Epson P-3000 and P-5000 to display a variety of RAW file formats from leading DSLR manufacturers. This allows photographers to immediately check the focus, exposure, colour, and composition of photos on screen.
The P-3000 and P-5000 are capable of displaying JPEG images of up to 30 million pixels allowing photographers to preview images from ultra-high resolution digital cameras.
The powerful CPU and unique display algorithm of the P-3000 and P-5000 allow full frame images and thumbnails to be viewed significantly faster when displaying an 18 million pixel JPEG image in full frame than its previous models.
The ability to display up to 64 thumbnail images per screen enables photographers to find specific images easily from amongst the hundreds that may be stored. Close up viewing and focus checking is simple with a one touch zoom key on both the Epson P-3000 and P-5000.
The P-3000 and P-5000 support a range of file formats including for images: JPEG, Tiff, Adobe, DNG and multi-vendor RAW; audio: MP3, AAC and WMA; and video playback: MPEG ½ and 4, Motion JPG, DivX and WMV.
Professional and advanced amateur photographers can choose the storage capacity that they require. The P-3000 has a 40GB hard drive, while the P-5000 boasts an 80GB hard drive.
Data management is easy with the included Epson Link2 software. This software allows easy organisation and transfer of media files between the viewer and a computer, as well as a convenient back up feature to secure new data.
The Epson P-3000 Multimedia Storage Viewer RRP in Australia is $899 and the P-5000 RRP is $1199 including GST, and they are available through computer super stores and photography retailers. US pricing is US$499.99 for the P-3000 and US$699.99 for the P-5000.