Image Bank CP-150
The Sima Image Bank CP-150 is a compact, portable storage unit for digital camera users. The purpose is to provide an economical alternative to purchasing expensive flash memory cards. The user downloads the contents of the memory card into the Image Bank, erases the card and uses it again, and again.
The Image Bank contains a 3.2 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 will probably find that 3.2 Gigabytes holds more photos then they'll take on even the longest vacation.
Sima is currently offering the Image Bank for $149.95 which includes a pre-installed 3.2GB hard drive and a battery pack.
Equipped with both SmartMedia and CompactFlash card slots, the Image Bank works for many digicam users. If your camera requires any other form of media such as the Memory Stick or MultiMediaCard (MMC) flash cards the Image Bank will not work for you, look at theDigital Wallet or the soon to be released NixVue portable storage devices instead.
The folks at Card-Media have just announced the availability of a Memory Stick to CompactFlash adapter so you will be able to use Sony Memory Sticks in the Image Bank. The adapter has been tested with up to 128MB Memory Sticks. This product will be available at: www.card-media.co.uk (for UK customers) and www.card-media.com (for the Europe).
The CompactFlash card slot is a Type II so it can accomodate either the original Type I cards or the newer high-capacity Type II flash cards and of course the IBM Microdrive. No adapters are required, simply insert any SmartMedia or CompactFlash card in the appropriate slot.
When you get back home or to the office, you download the contents of the Image Bank's hard drive to your computer via high-speed USB. Drivers are supplied for MS Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000 and MAC OS 9.0 and higher. A standard USB 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)
The Image Bank is supplied with a 12VDC car power plug and a 110V AC adapter. When I first plugged it in I expected to see a "charge" light come on until I realized that it didn't have a battery. To keep the size and price down it doesn't include an internal battery but can be powered from any 6v to 8v DC power source.
It now does come with a rechargeable battery pack!
Using the Image Bank:
You simply plug in the AC or DC cord, insert a flash card, press the power button, wait for "ready" light, and then press the SM or CF button depending on which card slot is used.
The LCD display will show the HD (hard drive) and either the CF (CompactFlash) or SM (SmartMedia) icon, they will blink back and forth during the copying operation. Across the bottom are five bars to indicate the progress of the copy. The "busy" light is lit during the copy process.
The copy process is fairly robust. I copied 100MB of data from a 1GB Microdrive in about 1m 40s and the average size 8MB flash card will download in around 15 seconds or less.
The contents of each card that you download is placed into its own folder and is named 001.itd, 002.itd, etc. The entire contents of each flash card is copied to the folder. The flash card is NOT erased, in fact there is no way to erase the card while it's in the Image Bank. It's always best to use the camera to delete or format memory cards.
Here's the complete Image Bank CP-150 package. It includes the Image Bank CP-150 with a 3.2GB hard drive, battery pack, DC car cord, AC power adapter, USB cable, CD with driver software and instruction manual.
Steve's ConclusionThis is an excellent image storage device given two shortcomings (in my opinion): a battery and a padded carrying case. SIMA has since added a battery pack to the package.
According to Sima they feel that the "average" digicam user has enough flash memory for a normal day's worth of photo-taking so you only need to use the ImageBank at the end of the day. They are developing a battery pack for what they term "professional" users though, it will be available in 30-45 days.
The Image Bank is a simple but highly effective solution to the problem of not having enough flash memory for an extended vacation or for the serious amateur or professional user that shoots a large amount of pictures per session. With today's digicams creating larger and larger images this problem is going to become common even for the casual user if he uses the camera's highest quality JPEG setting let alone the uncompressed mode. The 5-megapixel Minolta DiMAGE 7 that I just reviewed can create 2 megabyte JPEG and 14 megabyte TIFF images. You won't get a lot of those on even a 64MB size CompactFlash card.
The operation of the Image Bank was simple and flawless. Basically just stick your flash card in the slot and push a button, it doesn't get any easier than that. And it was almost as simple to move the files from the Image Bank to the host computer's hard drive. Once connected the Image Bank's hard drive becomes a removable drive that shows up just like your C: drive. You can use Explorer and drag the image folders to your hard drive and then access them with any graphics viewing, editing or printing program within minutes.