Gear Review: Nexto DI
The Nexto DI has been out for a couple of years – it is essentially a portable hard drive that accepts CF cards (SD, and MemoryStick as well), downloads them to internal memory, and is navigable by a small LCD screen. It’s easy to see how this could be an extremely useful tool for photographers and filmmakers shooting on DSLRs – especially those in "constant attention situations," such as photojournalist, documentarians, sports shooters, and wedding photographers, to name a few. Of course its also handy in situations where powering a DI station is simply not an option without a generator (desert shoots come to mind…).
Despite having been in many of those situations myself, I had never used a Nexto until recently on a commercial helicopter shoot. We took up the NVS1501 model on two one hour flights. Naturally, this type of job was perfect for testing the drive: no access to power and a situation where data back up was essential. This particular model of the Nexto was 500GB, 7200rpm, and had a transfer rate of 80MB/s. With those specs, the drive performed well for me, copying my 32GB cards in around 12 and half minutes. Transfer times can be cut in half – but I always like to check my transferred file against he source. The NVS1501 has this covered for me with the "Copy and Verify" function – but it effectively takes twice as long as the "Fast Copy" option. There is also the option of Multi-Copy which allows you to copy the card to the Nexto and a portable, USB hard drive ( it has a USB mini input) simultaneously – however, most drives require AC power for this – which defeats the purpose of using the device in the field. However, when you do want to get your footage off the Nexto after the shoot – you can use its Firewire 800 port to connect to a computer. All three of these ports can be used to charge the device as well
The largest downside was the battery life, which we were able to conserve by shutting the drive down between card copies, but still by the end of our two hour long flights was below 50% (the Nexto spec sheets rate the battery life at 120min.). The battery life is probably directly effected by the inclusion of an LCD screen – which is nice, but not necessary. Some might like that you are able to preview your clips or photos on the screen by accessing them through the menu interface, but this also has a negative effect on battery life. If you stay away from a lot of previewing, 120min might be an adequate amount of battery life depending on how often you are copying cards – i suspect photographers shooting copious amount of RAW imagery will chew through the battery life the fastest by constantly downloading cards.
All in all though, I think this is an interesting tool for photographers and filmmakers. In my opinion it doesn’t have a place on sets of commercial and narrative productions where power is easily found. But in the field it is incredibly useful. It copies cards quickly and easily, its compact, and its light. At $999.00, the price may seem steep compared to other 500GB drives – but it does eliminate the need for a card reader and laptop in the field (maybe even a card reader all together), which relieves you of incredible hassle. Also if you look at it as an investment in your media shooting capacity, it gives you 500GB of quick additional storage on the fly at a rate of approx. $2.00 per GB, as opposed to $5.00 per GB my Lexar 32GB 600x cards give me. A 750GB version is also available.
You can check out the full specs over at Nexto’s site.