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Olympus S-HD-100 Hard Disc Drive Storage System

A vibrant blue box sat on the floor of my home office. Large white, bold letters on top of the box read, "OLYMPUS". It's been there for days, untouched. I had kept the box at bay, not wanting to unpack the content until the needed interface arrive. Today, the PA7 adapter came.

The blue Olympus box contains the S-HD-100 Hard Disc Drive Storage System. The purpose of the Olympus S-HD-100 is to provide a standalone photo storage and printing system. Photographers could connect their Olympus "Dock&Done" compatible digital camera to the S-HD-100, transfer the photos on the digital camera to the S-HD-100 internal hard drive, and print to a "Dock&Done" compatible printer. However, I don't have a "Dock&Done" compatible digital camera, nor a "Dock&Done" compatible printer. My intention for the S-HD-100 is to use it as a removable hard disk to store photos on long extended trips. With the optional PA7 adapter, I hoped to directly copy photographs from my digital cameras onto the removable drive.

Insight Although the long extended trip to Malaysia that I had planned for this year had fallen though, I have gotten some real-world experience of using the Olympus S-HD-100 and the PA7 adapter on my recent trip to Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California.

The Olympus S-HD-100 is manufactured as a slim white case with silver sparkles. It has futuristic design ques that is pleasant to the eyes. The external casing is robust and sturdy. There is an "on" indicator LED in the front, but the actual on/off switch is in the back, designated with a '0' and an '1'. A mode switch on top allows toggling between "DOCK" mode and "PC" mode. A long ACCESS indicator LED resides beside the mode switch. A silver push button reveals the "Dock&Done" port under a silver cover. Four ports are in the rear of the unit: "Dock&Done" printer port, mini-B USB port, standard USB port, and power port.

The mini-B USB port allows the S-HD-100 to connect to the computer. When the mode switch is set to "PC", it act as a mass storage device (or a removable drive). It this mode, the S-HD-100 also acts as an USB hub; USB devices could be plugged into the standard USB port on the back of the S-HD-100. Thus, the S-HD-100 wouldn't take up all of the USB ports on your computer if it only had one. There is a warning in the instruction manual for the standard USB port: "you cannot use VBUS-based devices because the power supply via VBUS is not supported". I have no idea what a VBUS-device is. The USB memory card reader I plugged into it seems to work fine.

The S-HD-100 contains a 40 GB hard drive. Marketing label claims that it "stores up to 40000 pictures". Of course, the actual number depends on the resolution of your digital camera, compression ratio, and image file format. Shooting 6 MB RAW images with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel, the 40 GB hard drive could store six thousand photographs. Just make sure you don't do any kind of RAW conversion on your trip. On my Catalina Island trip, I shot 279 photographs. After processing the photographs to TIFF and JPEG formats, they took up 10 GB--a fourth of the space on the 40 GB hard drive.

The S-HD-100 does not run off battery power nor does it run off the USB power supplied by your computer. So you'll always have to carry the included Olympus DP1049 AC Adapter with you on trips. The AC adapter is rated at 5V 2A. Therefore it may be inconvenient to use at locations where AC outlets are hard to find, such as in the middle of a national park.

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Olympus PA7 USB Adapter

After a week of waiting, I had finally received a small package from New York City. Contained within the small package is a slim blue box for the Olympus PA7. I had ordered this interface from Adorama though Amazon. The box was extremely light. And shaking it produced no sound. It seemed that Adorama had sent me an empty box.

I had wondered how l would explain to Adorama that they've sent me an empty box. Who would believe that the slim blue box within the shipping package at my front door would be empty? But I opened up the Olympus blue slim box anyway, with my fingers crossed.

Surprise, surprise! The blue slim box actually contained an instruction manual and the PA7 adapter. The PA7 adapter is extremely light. It's packed in bubble wrap that prevented movement and rattle in the Olympus box. So, fortunately, I didn't have to explain to Adorama that I had received an empty box.

The PA7 adapter is a small white box, about twice the height of a matchbox and twice as long. It has a "COPY" button on top and a standard USB port on the right. Before getting the adapter, I had wondered how it interfaces with the S-HD-100. Did it connect to the USB port on the S-HD-100 and act as an USB bridge? It turned out that the PA7 adapter interfaces to the S-HD-100 "Dock&Done" port.

To use the PA7 adapter with your S-HD-100 and your digital camera, all you have to do is attach the PA7 to the "Dock&Done" port on top of the Olympus S-HD-100 Hard Disc Drive Storage System, switch the mode switch to "DOCK", connect your digital camera to the USB port on the PA7 adapter, turn on the S-HD-100, turn on your digital camera, and push the "COPY" button. If your digital camera is compatible with the S-HD-100 and the PA7 adapter, the adapter will automatically copy all of the images in your digital camera to the S-HD-100. The blue "ACCESS" light will start blinking slowly.

However, the PA7 is not compatible with all digital cameras. I've found that the S-HD-100 and PA7 combination is compatible with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1. Unfortunately, the combination did not work with the Canon EOS D30, the Canon EOS Digital Rebel, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P92, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T11, nor the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-U30. I was able to shoot photos with my Digital Rebel onto a SD card (see my review on the Minolta CF-SD1), then transferring the photos to the S-HD-100 through the DMC-LX1 digital camera.

Transfer took a long time. A full 512 MB card took approximately 40 minutes to transfer from the DMC-LX1 to the S-HD-100. It is slow process, so be prepared to do it at night after a full day of shooting.

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Copyright © 2006 by Chieh Cheng. All Rights Reserved.