The memory card in our digital camera was full, and it was an emergency: snapping spring flowers. So we stopped at a camera store to buy a new memory card and, of course, we paid top dollar.

If you plan ahead and remember to bring them, you can buy 1-gigabyte flash memory cards for less than $10 apiece. A half-dozen would cost less than the small Photo Safe battery-powered hard drive we were given to try out from Digital Foci ( The drive is pocket size and sells for $149 for the 40-gigabyte model. That would be $400 worth of memory cards, if you wanted that much memory.

On the face of it, it would seem like a much better deal to just buy a few extra memory cards and drop them in your pocket. But that was at first glance. After a moment’s thought, we realized the tiny drive had some big advantages.

With a pocket full of flash cards, it’s hard to remember which ones are full and which are not. It’s also almost impossible to recall what’s on each of the full ones. Then when you back up to your computer, you have to insert and empty each of the cards, one at a time.

None of this is terribly onerous, but it’s so much simpler to just unload a card into the pocket hard drive when it fills up. There are seven slots in the side of the Photo Safe drive to accept almost any of the cards used by today’s digital cameras. An adapter can be purchased to add three more. Come home or back to the office and just plug the hard drive into your computer to unload all the stored pictures in one sweep. Most computers will have a program that organizes them as they come in; if not, there are several such programs you can buy.

All in all, we felt it was worth the price difference to be able to empty just one or two cards and keep shooting. This would be for people who take a lot of shots:  professionals or shutterbugs. If you take only a few shots whenever you use the camera, then it’s not worth the extra cost for the Photo Safe hard drive.

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