Steve's Digicams

Image Tank G2

Review posted 5/15/03

Image Tank G2

Grand-Level Technology's Image Tank G2 is a compact, portable, battery-operated storage unit for digital camera users. Its purpose is to provide an economical alternative to carrying around an expensive laptop or having to purchase a large number of flash memory cards when going on a vacation or extended field assignment. The user downloads the contents of the memory card into the Image Tank, erases the card and uses it again, and again.

The Image Tank G2 as configured by JOBO Digital sells for $349.95 and comes with a 20 Gigabyte 2.5-inch hard drive like those found in laptop computers. It can easily be upgraded by installing a larger capacity hard drive but most average users will undoubtedly find that 20 Gigabytes holds more photos then they'll take on even the longest vacation. Professional users with 6-Megapixel and higher dSLRs can generate 20 Gigabytes of image data much quicker. The times, technology and prices keep changing, two years ago this same type of device came with a 3.2 Gigabyte hard drive, communicated via USB 1.1 and sold for about the same price.

Transferring data from the Image Tank G2 to the host PC is much faster now thanks to a Mass Storage compliant USB 2.0 interface. It's plug-n-play with today's Windows ME, XP and 2000 (with Service Pack 3) and Macintosh OS 10.x operating systems, no special drivers are needed. It also works with Windows 98 and Mac OS 9.x with drivers and is backwards compatible with older USB 1.1 interfaces at the slower data rate. Firmware and software driver updates are available via the Internet.

Image Tank G2

Equipped with a CompactFlash Type II card slot, the Image Tank G2 works "as is" for those with solid state CF flash cards or Microdrives.

Image Tank G2

To handle media other than CF cards JOBO has a 4-in-1 CF adapter for SmartMedia, Memory Stick (not Memory Stick Pro compatible), Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard flash cards. Both Fuji and Olympus make a CF adapter for their new xD-Picture cards.

Image Tank G2

When you get back home or to the office, you download the contents of the Image Tank's hard drive to your computer via high-speed USB 2.0.   If your computer supports USB 2.0 the data will be transferred at up to 480Mb/second (that's Megabits, not MegaBytes). Drivers are supplied for older Windows 98/98SE and Mac OS 9.x users and a USB 2.0 cable is included in the package.

The Image Bank "mounts" like a removable drive resource. You can use any file management program to copy the image folders from its hard drive. (Each card downloaded creates a unique folder)

Image Tank G2

The Image Tank G2 is supplied with a standard 12VDC car power (cigarette lighter) plug and a small 110-240V AC adapter. There is a built in 7.2V lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack that can power the unit for 70 to 100 minutes (approx. 44 downloads of a 256MB CF card) per charge.

The recharging time is 3 to 8 hours, charging status is indicated by a red/green LED on the power plug. The battery pack can be recharged approx. 500 times before it needs to be replaced.

Using the Image Tank G2

Image Tank G2

Downloading Flash Cards

To download a CF card -- You simply insert the flash card, turn the unit on, and press the EXE button - that's it!

When powered up, the LCD will indicate the available free space on the Image Tank's hard drive and it also shows how many MB (megabytes) are on the flash card when it's inserted.

The back lit LCD display shows a HDD (hard disk drive) and a Flash Card icon that blinks back and forth during the copying operation. The transfer status is indicated by a rapidly-changing PER CENT icon and a counter showing how many files have been copied. Down in the bottom right is the battery level indicator.

The copy process is fairly robust. I copied 497MB of data from a 1GB Microdrive in about 4:30, so figure a completely full Microdrive will take about nine minutes to empty into the Image Tank G2. Next up was a Lexar 24x 512MB card with 237MB of data files, it copied over in 1:40. The same 237MB of data on a slower SanDisk 512MB CF card took 2:05. And using the 30x rated Transcend 1GB card that same 237MB of data transferred over in 1:31.

Image Tank G2

The Image Tank has a DELETE command that can erase the files from your flash card after the copy process is complete. I would recommend that any deleting of flash cards is always best done in the camera and it's a good idea to use your camera's FORMAT command from time to time to free up "lost space" on your flash card.

Downloading the Image Tank to your PC

Image Tank G2

To download the Image Tank to your PC you just plug in the USB cable and turn the unit on. Using Windows XP Pro my computer beeped and then went through the usual two-minute process of recognizing a new USB device and doing whatever it does to make it useable.

After Windows finished recognizing the Image Tank's hard drive it then appeared as Removable Disk (G:) - shown here in the My Computer window.

Expanding Disk G:'s contents (left window pane) shows the folders created each time a flash card is downloaded. The entire contents of each card is placed into its own unique folder and named CARD0001 ... CARD0002 ... etc.

The CARD0004 folder was created when we downloaded the Microdrive with 497MB of image files. I drag-n-drop'd this folder to my PC's hard drive and it took 7:33 to upload. My PC is a Pentium 4 / 2GHz machine with native USB 2.0 support. The Image Tank G2 was plugged directly into the motherboard's USB 2.0 connector for these tests.

The Image Tank G2 includes menu functions to list the "CARDnnnn" folders on its hard drive and selectively delete any of those folders without need of your computer. This can be accomplished with the G2's LCD display and the control buttons.

Image Tank G2

Here's the JOBO Digital Image Tank G2 package. It includes the Image Tank G2 with 20GB hard drive and battery pack pre-installed, carrying case, DC car cord, AC power adapter, USB cable, CD with driver software and instruction manual.

Steve's Conclusion

It's been a while since we last reviewed one of these portable storage devices and they have definitely been improved. The same company that makes the Image Tank G2 also made the Image Bank that we reviewed two years ago. They've added an internal rechargeable battery, a vastly improved LCD display, a much faster USB 2.0 interface and a 20GB hard drive versus the 3.2GB hard drive installed in the Image Bank. JOBO is still selling the Image Bank, it's $149.95 now but when it first came out it sold for about the same $349.95 that the Image Tank G2 sells for now.

Even with today's greatly reduced flash memory card prices you can never have enough of them to accommodate a long vacation. And if you did have that many cards what would you do with them when you're not vacationing? The Image Tank can be used as a portable data transfer device for any kind of computer data, not just image files. Easily move up to 20GB of data from your office computer to the home computer or vice-versa.

There's always the argument that you can take your laptop with you and offload your flash cards to its hard drive. This is true but consider the target that a laptop makes in your hotel room or rental car when you're not there. The Image Tank can be easily carried on your belt, even into the wilderness, try that with your expensive laptop.

Go to
JOBO Digital's web site

Image Tank G2 Specifications

Dimensions 5.7 x 3.4 x 1.4" (HWD)
Weight 11.9oz / 340g including drive and battery
Storage Temperature -10° - 60° C
Operation Temperature 0° - 45° C
Connection to computer USB 2.0 (up to 480Mb/sec.)
Power Supply Battery: Rechargeable, internal 7.2v battery
Auto-switching AC power supply (100-240v)
Supply Current 1.2A
Recharge Time 3 - 8 hours
Battery Runtime 70 - 100 minutes
Memory Card Support CompactFlash Type I and II
SmartMedia (with optional 4-1 adapter)
SD/MMC (with optional 4-1 adapter)
Memory Stick (with optional 4-1 adapter)
xD (with optional adapter)
Transfer Rate (max) Card to HD 16Mb/sec
HD to Card 10Mb/sec
Operating System Windows 98 / 98SE / ME / 2000 / XP
Mac OS9.X / OS10.X

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