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1 GB IBM Microdrive travel report -
2500 km Rajasthan rough road experience

by Dr. Alfred Richter

Just recovered from the flight back from Dehli to Frankfurt, I want to share my experience with the new 1 GB IBM Microdrive on a three week trip through Rajasthan, North-India.

Storing digital pictures during a trip has been discussed in various articles, newsgroups and related forums - and is still a problem. Though the storage capacity of Compact Flash memory cards increases and the price per MB drops continously, memory cards are expensive if you want to store – let´s say about 1000 high-resoluting images on a journey. Using a notebook computer or Iomega´s clik drive for frequent upload of pictures from smaller CF cards were one solution and often mentioned in the discussion. I also travelled with a notebook computer through Scotland earlier this year. But on the trip to india I wanted to avoid the additional weight of a notebook.

Since IBM announced its 1 GB Microdrive in June 2000, I was looking forward to use this CF-Type II compatible device with my CASIO QV-3000EX. This report gives some information about the field test – and to conclude in advance: Camera and Microdrive worked without any problem!

The camera I used was manufactured in an early series and delivered in May 2000. The original firmware version 1.000 had to be upgraded to 1.002 to handle the microdrive in a correct way (Maurice Delarney set up a page which details how to download and install the upgrade:

On the 18-days trip I used two sets of 1600 mAh Ni-MH batteries (Olympus CAMEDIA and Varta PhotoAccu) which I recharged alternating after complete discharge. With one set of batteries I could take about 100 pictures with the LC-Display ON. Doing so, I had to use the battery charger (Olympus CAMEDIA) approximately 12 times. In total I have taken 1244 pictures, most of them 2048x1536 pixels, “normal” quality setting, some with 1024x768 pixels. I frequently choose the lower resolution setting for panoramas, using the digital zoom also reduces the size of the images. At the end of the trip, 34 pictures in high resolution mode could have been taken aditionally.

The trip started in Udaipur, going to Kumbalgarh, Ranakpur, Mount Abu, Jodpur, Jaisalmer, Osyan, Bikaner, Mandawa, Jaipur, Agra and ended in Dehli (see map). The roads in the Thar dessert are rough roads, with a lot of holes. The indian bus didn´t exceed an average speed of about 40 km/hour even on National Highways.

In several towns we used scooters or bicycle-rickshaws for local transport. The fascinating scene forced me to take pictures even from those hell trip vehicles on hell trip roads with bumps, bumps, bumps between cows, pigs and camels and the other traffic.

Another test to camera and Microdrive was an escape into the Thar dessert on the back of a camel. Temperatures climbed to about 35 degrees celsius, dust and sand had to be prevented to cover the camera body. Some nice pictures resulted from this ride.

After a few days using the camera in Rajasthan with the new IBM Microdrive I noticed a strange behavior: the time to shut down the operational mode after switching to OFF-position got about one minute and more (compared to about 5 seconds I have noticed before). Fortunately I could remember a tip seen in some newsgroup weeks before: switch the internal card browser to OFF. This indeed cured the problem without having any effect to my pictures. Up- and downtime of the camera turned back to normal values.

Amber Fort near Jaipur offers another tourist vehicle: elephants. On this ride I also took some pictures.

After returning to Germany I uploaded the pictures using CASIO´s Photoloader Software to my local computer. It took about 80 minutes to transfer the data via the USB-connection to the machine. I used fully charged batteries for this upload, after finishing the action the camera still indicated FULL (3/3 marks) for the batteries. All pictures could be transfered as desired.

To summarize the experience: during the journey I didn´t have a single problem with the CASIO QV-3000EX or the IBM Microdrive (except the card browser setting mentioned above). Even fotos taken on rough roads and trips with scooters and rickshaws didn´t cause write/read errors or anything like this.

First pictures from the India trip can be seen at my Photo-Album: Faces Of India


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