Backing up your images and videos when traveling or on a location shoot is a key challenge for photographers on the road. It’s no fun to come home without your photos, and it can potentially be very expensive if you’re on a professional shoot. Many cameras these days do have wifi built-in, but good luck finding a wifi connection in a hotel or public access point that’s fast enough and reliable enough to make backing up gigabytes of images a practical option. You can take a laptop and external hard drive, but there’s an even simpler and quicker option.
My preferred method is to take a dedicated, portable photo/video backup device. Some time ago, I reviewed the NextoDI ND2901. After trying out several different portable backup devices, that one was my go-to backup device that went with me on my travels. But it’s quite an old model now, and it doesn’t keep up with the latest memory card, power, or USB standards that we’ve come to expect.
There’s now a new version out, the NextoDI NPS-10.
NextoDI pitches it as the “fastest, smallest, lightest portable backup storage for professionals.” It’s a self-contained backup device that lets you create backups of your photos and videos from memory cards while you’re on the road. It has an internal hard drive or SSD (or, rather, you pick that up separately and add that yourself) and an internal rechargeable battery. So it’s designed as a convenient method for backing up photos and videos on the go.
I’ve been a long-time user of the ND2901, and it had been a standard part of my travel pack for several years. But it had become quite dated and didn’t keep up with modern standards. The NVS2801 has been out for several years. It’s flexible, but it’s also higher end, aimed primarily at video shooters, and is more than I need (or need to pay for). The new NPS-10 hits the sweet spot of features, portability, and price.
And I have to say, after using it for a while, I’m impressed with what NextoDI has done with this. They haven’t been distracted by flashy bells and whistles (like some other companies have), but they’ve made solid decisions to make a streamlined device that does useful things and, in my experience, after using it for a few months now, works very well indeed.
I’ll go into more detail on these below, but here’s a quick summary of some of the good decisions that I applaud:
- Easy to swap out the internal drive and has wide compatibility.
- Power via USB-C. It means no more separate power pack. Yay!
- USB-C for data transfer. Quick and widely compatible with newer devices and computers.
- Compatible with external memory card reader. If the baked-in memory card slots don’t cover what you need, you can attach any standard USB memory card reader to expand compatibility to other memory card types.
- Streamlined buttons and controls. It means fewer moving parts to go wrong or get jammed.
Memory Card Compatibility
The NPS-10 comes in three flavors, each with a different combination of memory card slots.
They all have:
- 2 x UHS-II SD card slots
- 1 x microSD card slot
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A port
The difference comes in the additional slot that’s at the top of the device. The one I’ve been using has an XQD/CFexpress card slot, because I use CFexpress B on my primary camera that I use for paying shoots.1 There are also versions that have a CompactFlash Type I card slot or a CFast 2.0 slot instead–you’d obviously choose the version that is compatible with your own cameras and workflow. (And if you’re using a different memory card type sometimes, you can plug in an external memory card reader directly to the NPS-10.)
I like that they’ve made the SD slots UHS-II. That means you can take advantage of the faster download speeds of some of the fastest SD cards, cards which are often required for the top-end cameras. (It’s not clear to me what the microSD card slot is, so my working assumption is that it’s UHS-I.)
And, if none of those memory card slots fit your needs, you can always attach any standard external USB memory card reader, which is a really neat feature.2
Storage: SSD / HDD
Something worth noting is that the NPS-10 is sold naked. That is, it does not include any storage. That means you have the flexibility of putting in an SSD or hard drive of your preferred capacity. But it’s also something to factor in when you’re pricing and buying it.
It takes a 2.5″ SATA III internal drive.3 You can choose either an SSD or a traditional hard drive. There are advantages to each.
For a conventional hard drive, the advantages are that they are very cost-effective for large storage capacities. But that’s getting less true as the prices of SSD’s has dropped significantly. And there are downsides to HDDs: they’re often slower, and the big issue for me in a use like this is that they’re more prone to damage if the device is dropped.
So, for me, an SSD makes the most sense in this device. They’re fast, but they’re also very rugged. When you’re traveling with the NPS-10–and, after all, this is a device designed specifically for taking on the road–you don’t have to worry nearly so much about everyday bumps and knocks having disastrous effects on your backed-up data.
The SSD I’ve chosen to use is a Samsung 2TB 870 QVO drive. There are faster and higher-spec drives available, but this is a cost-effective option at a good price, and I’ve had very experiences with other Samsung SSD drives I’ve used. Other good, cost-effective options would the SanDisk 2TB SSD Plus or WD 2TB Blue (Western Digital owns SanDisk, for what it’s worth) or the Crucial M500. If you’d prefer a smaller (and less-expensive) 1TB drive, go ahead. Or, for that matter, if your budget stretches to it, you could just as well use a 4TB or 8 TB drive.
Installing the hard drive or SSD is easy. There are no special skills required to install the drive. There’s a single screw lock on the back panel of the NPS-10. Unscrew that and slide the back panel off. Slide the new drive in until it clicks into place. Then close up the back panel and lock the screw.
Filesystem. One thing to note is the NPS-10 requires that the drive be formatted with exFAT. Some drives come out of the box formatted with FAT32. If yours does, no problem–the easiest option is to just install the drive and follow the prompts on the screen to reformat the drive.
And while it might be just a technical matter, I like that it only uses exFAT. That means you won’t have any issues copying across high-res video files. Some cameras (looking at you, GoPro), use a lowest-common-denominator approach and split their video streams into segments of less than 4GB. That’s because 4GB is the maximum file size allowed for the older FAT32 filesystem (that’s still widely used for compatibility reasons). It’s a process called chaptering. But because the newer exFAT filesystem has a much larger size limit for individual files, some newer cameras are smart enough to be able to detect what its memory cards are formatted with, and when they’re formatted with exFAT, they save the video as a single uninterrupted stream. That is, they only split up the video if the memory card is formatted with FAT32 (e.g., an SDHC card). But if you then tried copying that very large file–say 10GB–across to a backup system that only supports FAT32, you’d run into problems. All of which is a long explanation to say that the NPS-10’s requirement to use an exFAT-formatted drive is a good thing and prevents complications later.
Here’s a quick rundown of the features and performance.
Controls. Controlling the device is simple, but it does work a little differently to most other mobile devices. The screen is not a touchscreen. And, as you can see, there are no buttons on the front. In fact, there’s only one controller, and it’s on the side. It doubles as a wheel for navigating menus and image grids. And you press it as a button for selections. On-screen directions will tell you whether you need to do a short press or hold it in for a long press. While it takes a minute to get used to it, I’ve actually found it to be an intuitive way to interact with it.
Fast Copy. This is, as it sounds, the quick option. It simply copies the files from the memory card to the device’s drive. It doesn’t perform any data checks on the copied data.
Copy & Verify. This does the Fast Copy and then continues to make a thorough comparison of the copied data with the original data on the memory card. So it’s verifying that the copy is bit-for-bit accurate. And that makes this process slower. It takes roughly double the time of the Fast Copy operation.
You also have a choice, though, and that is whether it checks a few random samples (quicker) or a complete, thorough verification of all the data (slower).
Incremental Backup. On the NPS-10, the incremental backup feature is called Update. The device can detect if you put the same card back in that contains some of the same data that you’ve already copied. You’ll get a choice of incrementally backing up just the new files or of creating a whole new copy.
Having incremental backup might sound like a basic thing, but surprisingly not all photo backup devices have it. And I consider it a must-have item. It’s rare that I want to create a whole new backup of the same data. Much more commonly, I just want to back up the new photos on the card. And if I’m on a travel shoot, I often don’t format the cards between outings–just another way of keeping redundant backups on the road, just in case.
Sequential Copy. If you insert multiple memory cards, it will copy them sequentially as part of a single process. That’s a nice convenience feature.
Playback & Preview. The color screen on the front can be used to preview photos and video. It’s compatible with common RAW photo formats. For video, it works with H.264, ProRes, and some other formats, but is not fully compatible with HEVC video (it will show some screen grabs in a kind of slideshow playback).[^vid] I haven’t tested it with other video codecs, but I suspect that it won’t be compatible with more exotic video formats. It will play back 4K video, although with such a small screen, this is more for rough checking rather than detailed video work.
Here are the compatible formats according to the specs.4
|Media Type||Compatible Formats|
|Photo||JPEG, TIFF, ARW, CR2, CR3, DNG, NEF, ORF, PEF, RAF, RWL, RW2, and SRW. Note: TIFF and CR3 Will Be Supported in a Free Upcoming Firmware Update|
|Video||XAVC 4K, XAVC 2K, AVC Ultra 4K, AVC Ultra 2K, XF-AVC 4K, XF-AVC 2K, H.264 (.mov), AVCHD 2K, ProRest 4K, ProRes 2K, DNxHD 2K, MPEG 444/422/420, and DVCPRO HD|
The practical transfer speeds you get in real-world conditions will vary. A memory card with a faster read speed will transfer more quickly than one with a slower read speed, for instance. It will also vary based on the internal drive you use.
But just for illustration, here’s how long it took for some basic transfers:
- XQD card / 54GB / Fast Copy / 3 min 17 secs (282MB/s)
- SDXC UHS-II V90 Card / 54GB / Fast Copy / 4 min 4 secs (228MB/s)
- CFexpress B / 52GB5 / Fast Copy / 3 min 56 secs (227MB/s)6
Adding the verifying step roughly doubles the time it takes.
Charging and Power
The NPS-10 has an internal rechargeable battery, and it’s designed to operate from that battery. Which means that you can have it backing up in your camera bag while you continue shooting (with a different memory card, obviously). If you need or prefer to run it off external power, you can also do that. You can use the usual range of USB power sources, including an AC wall adapter, an external battery powerbrick, or a car charger. It doesn’t come with any power source, but it’s widely compatible and most likely works with power sources you already have on hand.
The NPS-10 uses the USB-C standard for charging cables, meaning that you don’t need to carry around yet another dedicated charger. You can charge it with any standard USB charging method, ranging from an external powerbrick battery to the USB port on a computer. The time it takes to charge will vary by power source–a computer’s USB port, for instance, usually only outputs a fraction of the power of a newer AC wall adapter, USB charging HUB station, or external powerbrick. NextoDI claims that a USB charger and USB battery pack will charge the NPS-10 in about 3 hours (or 5 hours from a computer). That seems about right from my experience, but I haven’t specifically sat there to time it (I usually leave it to charge while I’m off doing something else).
Downloading to Computer
When you get back from your trip, downloading the images and videos from the NPS-10 to your computer is just as you would for any other external hard drive. Just plug it in, and it should automatically mount on your computer’s hard drive. You then perform any of the usual ingesting/downloading functions you want (or edit directly, for that matter).
Things Worth Knowing
The internal drive has to be formatted with exFAT. If you insert a drive that’s formatted with something else, the device will prompt you to reformat it.7
The microSD slot and SD1 slot can’t be used simultaneously. They’re presumably running off the same controller.
When using the top slot, it’s springloaded. So the card needs to go down and click in place. With the SD and microSD slots on the side, they just slide in.
In a big win for flexibility and expansion, you can attach an external card reader or even an external hard drive via the USB connection (the USB Host port). The device automatically detects the external device–there’s no need to fiddle with menu settings to switch the compatibility mode.
It comes with a rubber sleeve that goes around the sides of the device, with cutouts for the front and back and for the ports. While I’m glad they include it–it does provide a little extra shock absorption for the kinds of bumps and knocks that inevitably come with life on the road–but there’s room for improvement in making it a tighter fit.
Key Tech Specs of the NPS-10
Display: 2.4″ TFT-LCD 320×24 (64K color)
Internal Drive: 2.5mm” SATA (<7.2mm height) (not included by default)
Dimensions: 5 x 3 x 0.99″ / 129.5 x 77 x 25.3 mm (Without Internal Storage)
Weight: 7.1 oz / 200 g (Without Internal Storage)
PC Interface: Type C USB3.1 Gen2 10Gbps
Built-in Memory Card Slots:
– SD (UHS-II) x 2
– microSD x 1
– CompactFlash or CFAST or XQD
External Memory: USB 3.0 Card Reader
File System: It can read memory cards formatted with FAT32, exFAT, or HFS+. The internal drive uses exFAT.
Battery Power: 4000mAh / Operation for approx. 2 hours and charge in approx. 3 hours.
External Power: Supported via USB Type C Connector
Made In: Korea
What’s in the Box?
- NPS-10 device. There are three versions available, each with a different memory card type for the top slot.
- Rubber frame housing.
- Instruction leaflet.
- It comes with an internal rechargeable battery.
What’s NOT in the Box?
- Storage (compatible with 2.5″ SATA HDD/SSD (7.2mm height or Less))
- USB-C cable
- Charger or power source
- Memory cards
There’s a printed version of the manual in the box. You can also download a PDF version directly from NextoDI’s website.
You can find the latest firmware on NextoDI’s website. The organization on that page isn’t the best, but you can quickly pick out the relevant ones for the NPS-10.
Having used the NPS-10 for a while now, I have to say I’m impressed. I’ve found it to be a no-nonsense, reliable, and exceedingly useful tool. It’s an all-business device–the engineers weren’t distracted by adding bells and whistles that don’t help its core functionality. So this isn’t something that’s going to double as a portable movie viewer or include image editing functions. There’s no wireless transfer, and you can’t use it as a wifi hub. But for backing up photos and videos on the go, I’ve found it to work beautifully.
It’s especially well-suited to photographers who are traveling, and, as a travel photographer, that’s been my emphasis here. But it would also be a very useful tool on client shoots on location–I’m thinking here of something like wedding photographers, where it’s absolutely crucial that their images are safe. Or event photographers. Because the NPS-10 runs off the battery without any need to plug it in while it’s backing up, it would be simplicity itself to be backing up one memory card in the camera bag while continuing to shoot, and rotating them as necessary.
Where to Buy
It does not come with a hard drive/SSD by default, so don’t forget to pick one up separately (and build that into the budget). Some good options are:
- The label doesn’t specify which flavor of CFexpress it’s for (A, B, or C), but it’s the CFexpress B form factor. It’s not compatible with CFexpress Type-A or CFexpress Type-C. (I’ve not tested the SD slots with a CFexpress A card, but I’ve seen nothing to suggest that those slots are compatible with CFexpress A.) ↩
- You can attach either an external memory card reader or even an external hard drive. ↩
- The height of the hard drive or SSD must be 7.2mm or less. ↩
- I’m using firmware V1.1(2020.4.29) here, which is the latest firmware version at time of posting. ↩
- This was not precisely the same set of images as with the other sets–it was about 2GB smaller. ↩
- I was surprised that the CFexpress B card was the slowest of them to download, given that it has a much faster speed rating (1700MB/s). I would expect it to be the fastest. But I haven’t investigated further on this result given that the purpose here is just to provide a ballpark idea of how long it takes to download. ↩
- If you connect an external card reader or hard drive, that external storage can be formatted with FAT32 (which many cameras use and is a standard for formats such as SDHC memory cards). ↩