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FlashTrax Digital Wallet
Old 05-23-2003, 04:12 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I just finished my preliminary review of a FlashTrax 30GB unit and will be writing a full review with images later. Hopefully development may already be aware of some of these issues and plan to address them in a future firmware update. I've e-mailed these issues to the developers and hope to get some feedback.

Apicture and press release is at http://www.dpreview.com/news/0303/03...kflashtrax.asp

I have used several digital wallets, and currently use a Delkin PicturePad (a/ka/ Nixvue Vista) for most location shooting (primarily because of its bitwise verify feature... otherwise it is a poor device). I believe the FlashTrax has the potential to be a vastly superior product to the Delkin PP and every other digital wallet currently out there.

===== Critical Issues: =====

In my opinion, two things are critical. They are 1) lack of RAW file support and 2) lack of a verification function to verify the files copied from the CF card copied correctly.

With regard to RAW file support, I understand that it is in development. An estimated ETA would be nice. No promises needed - just is it going to be this summer, or next Christmas?

The lack of a true bitwise verify function makes the FT unsuitable for me and many others since the Delkin PP (finally) has this function.
We just can’t erase and reuse a CF card in the field without some confirmation that verifies each file copied without corruption. I can’t spend the time to browse each image to confirm it copied, nor waste an extra assistant to do so. Even a “quick” verify of file names, size, and checksums would be better than nothing.

===== Near Critical Issues =====

Copied files are given the date/time stamp of the date/time of the FT unit... they should retain the date/time stamp of the original file on the CF card. This can be very problematic.... especially where time of the image matters.

Also, many times I will shoot with more than one body at the same time, and download the CF card when full. When I get back to the shop, I upload from the wallet to the computer, and sort by date/time, so all images are in chronological order by time, regardless of which body they were shot with. The FT would corrupt this workflow.

Battery life on every digital wallet sucks. Two full 1 GB transfers from a Microdrive on a full battery charge simply won’t cut it. I and many others deal with it with other digital wallets by using an external battery or cigarette-lighter adapters.

Since every manufacturer has this battery problem, users simply have to make do. But the first manufacturer to give us 10 full 1GB Microdrive downloads on a single battery charge will be crowned king.... I promise you. Weight is not the issue... give us an external battery that will pigyback under the unit, and we will be VERY happy. People who want light weight, can have light weight. People who want long life, can clip on the secondary battery.

There seems to be no ability to rotate or zoom in slideshow.

No way to “lock” rotation in slideshow. When I do a shoot, I may have 2000 images from the morning session all shot vertically. When we want to slideshow them back in the hotel room with the models during lunch, slideshow should “remember” the last rotation orientation, and keep it until changed by the user or powered off. I think the way most people shoot will tend to have long sequences of images in the same orientation - several verticals in a row, then several horozontals in a row.

Another setup option should give the option of rotation being counterclockwise, or clockwise. 99% of all photographers shoot verticals with the left end of the camera down, so they need COUNTER-clockwise rotation. The FT does CLOCK-wise rotation, so we have to rotate 3 times. It just slows us down more.

===== Other important issues. =====

Images don’t load fast enough. Faster than the Delkin PP, but still slow IMHO. Loading time was around 5 seconds with the average 2.5MB JPG from a 5 megapixel camera.

Also, when pressing a button to move from one image to the next in slideshow or viewing images manually, there is no indicator on the screen that anything is happening... this is frustrating and you start pressing hte button repeatedly to make something happen. Pressing the button to go to the next image should do “something” immediately like show a “percent loaded” bar in the corner as the next image loads.
Your target should be a load time of a 2.5MB JPG to a max of 2 seconds or less.

Even tack-sharp images look a little soft on the screen. It needs a sharpness control along with brightness and contrast.

===== Minor issues =====

Give us a decent protective case... please. A device this (potentially) good deserves something more than the felt bag like a bottle of Crown Royal comes in.

The rubber cover for the CF slot won’t last long. I realize that this will be a hardware change, but at least consider it. In the mean time, plan on a lot of e-mails asking for replacements. Sealing the CF card bay internally so that dirt getting past the (missing) rubber cover can’t get any further inside the unit would be suggested.

A battery status on the bottom corner of the screen (percent power remaining) while navigating would be nice. Having to go into setup to see remaining battery life is a pain. That is an important piece of information continuously needed to be referenced, so it should always be displayed on the bottom corner of the screen.

When copying, displaying a count of the number of files being copied would be nice and a little reassuring. Estimated “time remaining” to finish the copying from the CF card would be nice too.

Repainting the whole screen when navigating thumbnails is a little distracting... should repaint only the yellow selection box around the selected image.

A convenient way to delete images while viewing would be nice.

===== Good stuff =====

I saved the praises for last. Several things impressed me with this unit:

Rotation is fast. Almost instant.

Zoom is fast. Almost instant. The configurable zoom percentage is great feature.

Color depth of the display is good.

Aspect ratio of the images on the display is accurate (a serious problem IMHO with the PP which “squeezes” some images).

Buttons are positive, and well laid out. Navigation is natural.

Engraved labels on buttons are a good feature (screen-printed labels eventually wear off).

Buttons are generally dedicated rather multifunction buttons that do different things at different times on other units.

One-button copy of CF card without having to open and power up the system is an excellent feature.

Time to copy a full 1GB Microdrive was acceptable at about 15 minutes.

Fits in a standard man's shirt pocket.

===== FCC Certification =====

One important note, while the manual describes the device as FCC Class B compliant, there is no such indication on the device itself, and no FCC device ID. The feds may get a little testy about that.


 
 
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