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digital camera storage conundrum - Answered!
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Hey Everyone,

Around the beginning of December (of 2004) I posted a question
concerning digital camera storage... My problem was that I was going
on a long trip (far away from most 'civilization' for just under a
month) and I wanted to know what the best option for digital camera
storage would be. I planned on taking around 20 to 100 photos per day
and I couldn't bring my laptop on the trip; my options at the time were
investing a bundle in digital camera memory, purchasing some sort of
small hard drive that could hold the photos, or getting some small unit
that would burn CDs for me.

Here's what I ended up with, and I wanted to pass along my experiences
in case anyone else was in a similiar situation. I was fortunate in
that I was looking for some sort of storage AND looking to purchase a
new digital camera also - so I was able to match both components. I
ended up getting:
1) Canon PowerShot A-95 (a 5MP camera)
2) RCA RD2780 20GB Lyra Audio / Video Jukebox (RD2780)

The wonderful thing was that the Powershot A-95 used Compact Flash
memory, and the Lyra had a Compact Flash slot, and both were on some
kind of sale plus an additional mail in rebate. I also got two Viking
128 MB Compact Flash cards ($4 each thanks to christmas sales!).

What I did was use the camera during the day to take photos leaving the
Lyra behind with the rest of my stuff. With the Viking CF cards I
could get 84 photos (per card) at high resolution - having two cards
made sure that if one filled up I could quickly pop in the other. At
night or when I had a chance I would copy the files off the CF card(s)
to the Lyra (using the CF slot in the Lyra). I kept organization
simple in the Lyra. I made a folder for each day (titled something
like '2004_12_27' or '2005_01_05') and simply bulk copied all the files
across. After the files were copied I would reformat the CF card in
the camera, and be ready for the next day.

Having everything in the Lyra had two benefits:
1) I had 20GB of storage which I could organize in my 'down' time.
2) The large color screen made it much easier to preview shots I had
taken, and the TV outputs on the Lyra allowed me to show off the pics
on any TV that had RCA inputs.

Some of the drawbacks I encountered were:
1) batteries for the camera! Where I went, batteries were sometimes
hard to come by (even though the Powershot A-95 uses regular AA ones).
At one point I purchased some Panasonic AA batteries which died after
3 shots! 3 shots! I ended up sticking with Duracell M3 Ultras when
I could find them, and if I couldn't, then I would use anything that
had 'Alkaline' on the label. In actuallity, over the whole trip I
ended up switching batteries only 4 times (including the Panasonic
debacle - which, by the way, cost me some great shots).
2) I read many reviews, and have used digital cameras before, and I
know the drawbacks of cameras in general... But it seemed like the
Powershot A-95 wasn't able to capture a large enough angle when I took
some shots. I ended up using the panoramic setting which lets you
take multiple shots which can be stitched back together - but I haven't
tried the 'stiching it back together' part yet. Also when you take
these shots they're named ST*_#.JPG where * is some letter
corresponding to the order of the panoramic series, and # is the normal
picture number. This isn't an issue if you take only one panoramic
series, but if you take more then one then viewing it sequentially in
the Lyra is kind of wierd. The Lyra sorts files alphabetically. So
two sets of panoramic series will start off with STA_#.JPG and directly
follow each other in the Lyra listing.
3) the Lyra is finicky about when the CF card is put into the slot.
What consistently worked was to put the CF card into the slot BEFORE
you turn on the Lyra. On a few occasions I put the CF card into the
Lyra after it was turned on, and there were no problems - sometimes,
however, the Lyra would shut down REALLY QUICKLY when I did this.
4) on three occasions over the whole trip the Lyra froze up (crashed
with the screen still on). Usually when I was naming or renaming a
folder. The first time it happened it really freaked me out. I was
seriously worried about my pics in it. Don't worry about it. Make
sure you have a small paper clip with you. On the bottom of the Lyra
is a small hole. Jab the paperclip into the hole and the Lyra will
turn off. Just turn it on again and go on with your life (your pics
will be fine).
5) Although it seems cheesy, USE THE UGLY COVER THAT CAME WITH THE LYRA
or risk certain damage to the machine. The cover is basically an
ugly, squishable, shock absorber. It's really good at handling a
reasonable fall. The rectangular lyra shape wasn't made for
ergonomics and probably will slip out of your hands once or twice.
6) while the Lyra can play movies in .AVI format, it cannot play movies
made on the Powershot A-95 (even though they are in .AVI format - which
is more of a wrapper for different formats)... You can store them for
later viewing, however.

All in all, I think the two devices worked together great for me.
There may have been better options out there, but when I was asking
around no one was able to show me a compelling option that wasn't
terribly expensive (Powershot + Lyra + CF cards + carying case +
batteries were totally around $600). And now that I'm back, I have a
really great 'day-to-day' camera and the Lyra which I can use for MP3s,
more photos, movies, etc., and I have my GBs of pics from the trip!

I'm smiles all around! I hope this helps someone else who may be
looking for a similiar solution...

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