Today, Panasonic announced two gadgets that will definitely be useful to P2 shooters who have to offload cards in the field.
AJ-PCD2 — A SIMPLE ONE CARD READER
This is a simple one-card reader — just plug it into your computer/laptop via a USB 2 cable, then pop a P2 card into the reader and you’re ready to copy its footage to your hard drive or even edit it directly from the card. A nice touch: the PCD2 doesn’t need battery power, it just draws whatever juice it needs from your computer.
Of course, this might sound similar to the popular Dual Systems adapter, which plugs into your computer’s ExpressCard slot and lets you read one P2 card at a time. The difference? In the real-world, the Dual Systems adapter has been plagued by endless problems—ie, driver incompatibilities, kernel panics (on the Mac), finicky hardware, and the fact that many computers don’t actually have ExpressCard slots these days (like Apple’s 15” Macbook Pro).
The beauty of the new PCD2 is that you can plug it into just about any computer you can find, Mac or Windows. And since the drivers Panasonic makes for its 5-card readers (the PCD20 and PCD35) have been pretty stable, it’s reasonable to assume the same thing for the PCD2.
What you give up with the PCD2 is a fast transfer speed, since USB2 is pretty pokey. It’d be great if FireWire 800 were also an option, but USB2 is still functional.
The other hitch to the PCD2 is that Panasonic set its list price at $350, which seems pricey for a single card reader. On the other hand, sometimes it’s just worth it to pay more than you should, but get something that works consistently, with no hassles. We’ll see if the PCD2 is that kind of product when it ships in April.
Update: Hey, I just realized that the PCD2 is designed to work via not one but two USB cables (see my updated picture). Why? Does it use two cables to speed up transfer speeds beyond what a single USB2 cable could deliver? Is that even possible? That would be nice. I’ll try to get some intel from Panasonic…
AG-MSU10 — A BETTER, MORE EXPENSIVE P2 STORE
This is Panasonic’s other new in-the-field tool. No pictures for it yet, but it’s also a single P2 card reader, except it also has room for a removable 2.5” hard drive enclosure (one that you plug your own hard drive mechanism into). In fact, it’s a little hard to be sure, but Panasonic’s press release makes it sound like the MSU10 is designed specifically for SSD drives, which have no moving parts, are far less liable to crash and write data much faster than spinning hard drives. The drive’s enclosure has a USB2 and eSATA interface, so you can offload it to any computer.
The MSU10 also has a 3.2" screen for previewing footage, and managing card operations. Panasonic also says it has a 1-touch copy function, which sounds nice.
So basically, this is what I always wanted Panasonic’s old P2 Store to be— ie, a very capable, ultra-portable offload device with expandable storage. At $2500 (not including the hard drive/SSD you provide), it’s not exactly low-cost, but again, if it truly works without hassle, it could be a great option for frequent field shooters.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for October to see it in action.