Yes, iPods make terrific digital music players. They're also not so bad for storing movies and pictures from your digicam.
When I hit the pavement for street shooting or the trail for an afternoon hike, I usually have my digital camera and iPod tucked away in my backpack. I bring the camera for obvious reasons, but recently, the iPod has become just as important.
Yes, a little music is sometimes the perfect antidote to the relentless din of street noise, not to mention the fact that when I have my ear buds in place, fewer oddballs bother me. The iPod also stores all of my calendar information, in case I run into a friend who wants to schedule a lunch. It also holds handy reference notes, such as important restaurant locations and other vital statistics. Just about anything I can read on my computer can be transferred to my iPod. In fact, I recently read an article that reported that the dailies for the Lord of the Rings trilogy were whisked around the globe on an iPod.
The 40 GB hard drive in my iPod is as big as the drive in my laptop. I have quite a bit of music, but that's not why I bought an iPod with such a big drive. The real reason is that I can upload movies and photos from my camera's memory card directly to the iPod. That means that as long as I have batteries to power my camera and two memory cards with me, I can shoot until my shutter finger cramps up in lactic-acid misery.
This scenario became particularly appealing when I got hooked on shooting movies with a Contax SL300R T* pocket digicam (http://www.kyoceraimaging.com), shown in Figure 5-24. Even though it weighs just a tad more than four ounces and fits in the palm of my hand, it can record full-frame (640 480) movies at up to 30 frames per second (fps); that's the same frame rate as a dedicated digital camcorder. If you're interested in this amazing functionality but want to save a few bucks, check out the Kyocera FineCam SL300R, which uses the same technology but costs less than the Contax.
This bit of movie magic is enabled by RTUNE™ technology that allows the camera to write directly to a high-speed Secure Digital (SD) memory card until the card is full.
Needless to say, at 30 fps, or even 15 fps, it doesn't take long to fill an SD card. So, I either had to invest a small fortune in memory cards, or find another solution if I wanted to continue my obsession with digicam movies.
The other solution turned out to be the Belkin iPod Memory Reader (http://www.belkin.com), shown in Figure 5-25. This device plugs into the iPod's Dock Connector (but not the iPod mini) and can accommodate five different types of media: CompactFlash (types 1 and 2), SmartMedia, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, and MultiMediaCard. You take the media out of the camera and upload its contents to the iPod while you insert your second memory card into the digicam and keep shooting. When the day is done, plug the iPod into your computer and upload all those photos and movies via the fast FireWire connection.
At the time of this writing, 256 MB high-speed SD cards cost about US$90. The Belkin reader runs US$100. So, for about the price of one memory card, I can add gigabytes of storage to my digital camera.
You might be wondering why I carry two memory cards instead of just one. Unless you want to hang out and have a cup of coffee during the upload process, you'll need that second card to keep shooting. The Belkin might be convenient, but it isn't fast. I tested its speed by shooting a full-frame video at 30 fps with the Contax using a SanDisk Ultra II 256 MB SD card. I kept shooting until I got the "memory card is full" message, then inserted the card into the Belkin and initiated the upload. I timed the process with a stopwatch, and it took a whopping 10 minutes to complete the transfer.
You probably don't want to wait that long before you start shooting again, so I suggest you carry one, maybe two extra memory cards so that one can be uploading while you're shooting with the others. The good news is that you can put the iPod and media reader in your backpack during the transfer process and keep moving.
In case you're curious, it took only 16 seconds to upload that same 256 MB of video from the iPod to the computer via the FireWire connection. Don't you just love bandwidth?
It's true; you'd go crazy trying to shoot a full-length feature movie with this rig. But the Belkin iPod Memory Reader does provide you with a reliable backup solution while you're on the go. And, thanks to the ample hard-disk space in the iPod, you can shoot many memory cards' worth of video and pictures before having to retreat to your computer.