Field Backups With the My Passport Wireless Pro – A Review for Travel Photography

Mar 18, 2017

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

Field Backups With the My Passport Wireless Pro – A Review for Travel Photography

Mar 18, 2017

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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My Passport Wireless Pro Review

If you’re a travel photographer or just someone who wants to keep your photographs safe and secure while you’re in the field, one of your biggest challenges is copying and backing up your travel photographs and travel video as it’s captured.

My top three travel photography backup challenges are:

  1. Copying camera photo and video files to a portable hard drive – preferably without the necessity of a laptop computer.
  2. Copying photos and video to a cloud-based storage solution – again preferably an automated process and without a laptop computer.
  3. Securing my data while travelling in case my backup hard drive is lost or stolen.

To simplify this task, I decided to try out a 3TB WD My Passport Wireless Pro (more info here). In theory, the WD My Passport Wireless Pro, with a built-in USB port and SD card reader is perfectly suited for this task. However, in practice, it doesn’t quite manage to live up to it’s potential.

In this article, I will take you through my setup of the WD My Passport Wireless Pro for travel photography and travel video and my recommendations on the suitability of using this drive for backups while on the road.

How To Copy Photos and Video To A Portable Hard Drive Without a Laptop

Carrying around a laptop for the sole purpose of downloading photos and video from your camera is a major pain in the ass while traveling.

For this purpose, the WD My Passport Wireless Pro sort of does what I was hoping it would do.

Yes, you can upload the contents of your camera’s SD card directly, without a laptop – log into the My Passport user dashboard, go to the media tab, scroll down to SD Card and enable Import Mode “Copy” and Automatic Import “On”.

My Passport Wireless Pro Travel Photography Setup Auto Copy Media Tab

My Passport Wireless Pro Travel Photography Setup Auto Copy

Now, whenever you plug an SD Card into your My Passport Wireless Pro, it will automatically copy the contents directly to the hard drive – no laptop computer required.

The drive also performs incremental SD card uploads, so as you capture new photos and video to the same SD card, only the new files will be transferred – saving a lot of time sorting through files later.

One caveat is that you can’t control the import file structure and the entire contents of your SD card are copied to the My Passport – the location of your actual photo and video files might not be immediately obvious.

For example – do you know where to look for the actual RAW photo files and XAVC video files in this file structure gong show from Sony?

Sony SD Card File Structure

(Photos are under DCIM > 100MSDCF. Video is under PRIVATE > M4ROOT > CLIP)

If you are using a camera with CF cards, or you’d prefer to simply connect your camera via USB (instead of taking out the SD card and putting it into the My Passport), you can theoretically set up the My Passport Wireless Pro to automatically import from a USB device as well.

However, the My Passport did not recognise my main still camera (Nikon D800) as a USB device – or several other cameras I tested – although it did recognise my Lexar card reader and Sony mirrorless.

(Further, the My Passport got stuck with one of my unrecognised Canon cameras as a non-existent USB device – which locked the file browsing system in the My Cloud app and required rebooting the drive to clear it.)

Backing up SD cards to the My Passport worked as advertised. Backing up CF cards from a camera attached to the USB port did not work for several Nikon and Canon cameras I tested – although it did work with a Sony a6300 and with a Lexar card reader.

This kind of defeats the purpose of having a hard drive with a built-in card reader – if you have to carry around a separate card reader just to upload CF cards – but if you just use SD cards it sure would be nice to leave the laptop at home.

My Passport Wireless Pro Features

Copying Photos and Video From A Travel Hard Drive to Cloud Backup

First, lets make one thing clear – the WD My Passport Wireless Pro is NOT cloud backup. Yes, you can access the device online, via the mobile “My Cloud” app – but your files are physically stored on your individual device – not on the cloud (ie. online and not tied to an individual physical device).

And here is where I am really disappointed with the WD My Passport Wireless Pro – as far as I can tell there is no practical way to upload files from the device directly to your cloud storage provider without the use of a laptop (and even that is more complicated than it should be).

The My Passport drive is designed to get your files onto it, but getting them off (or actually using them) is a whole other story.

You can connect the My Cloud app on your Android or iOS device to three cloud storage services: Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. If you are an iOS user, you also have the option of connecting with Adobe Creative Cloud.

It is possible to manually copy My Passport files to your connected cloud services (no automated backup) – but unless you’re talking just a few small jpegs – that’s not really practical.

The reason is that copying files to and from the My Passport requires the use of a cache on your mobile device. The cache must be smaller than the amount of available free space on your mobile device – so there is simply not enough room to transfer anything significant.

It also takes an excruciatingly long time to transfer files this way (I’ve only got it to work with a small set of jpegs or a few individual RAW files – and there is no way it would work with video).

It would have been infinitely more practical and useful if the My Passport could do this without the need to cache files on a mobile device.

For Dropbox, here is the best work-around that I have figured out – but it involves a laptop:

  1. Connect your My Passport Wireless Pro directly to your laptop using the USB cable – with this connection, it behaves just like a regular portable hard drive.
  2. Set your Dropbox folder (or whatever cloud service you’re using) to be stored on the My Passport (learn how to do that here.)
  3. In the field, copy your photos and video directly to the My Passport using the built in SD card reader or (if it works with your camera) the USB port.
  4. When you’re back to your hotel / campsite, reconnect the My Passport to your laptop with a USB cable, manually copy your previously imported photos and videos to your local Dropbox folder and let Dropbox sync the files you added to the cloud (presuming you have WiFi).

If you’re conclusion is that this workflow is silly since it involves a laptop and could be done with any simple portable hard drive – I agree.

I should also point out that if you’re using Dropbox, you can’t store your Dropbox files on a network device – so the My Passport has to be connected via USB to your laptop. Again, what is the purpose of paying extra for a wireless device if you have to connect it with a wire to use it?

I understand that this is really an issue with Dropbox and not with the WD My Passport Wireless Pro, but for me Dropbox is an integral part of my workflow.

My Passport Wireless Pro Cloud Access

Accessing My Cloud Files From Your Mobile Device

Another area where the My Passport Wireless Pro sounds amazing but doesn’t really work for a professional workflow is accessing your photo and video files from a mobile device.

Yes, you can wirelessly access all your photos, videos and other files stored on your My Passport Wireless Pro directly from your Android or iOS device through the My Cloud app.

However, if you’re a professional and you’re shooting RAW and recording 4k video in a high-end codec – what exactly do you think you’re going to be able to do with those files on your phone/tablet?

Ideally, you’d be able to grab a photo, do a quick edit in Snapseed or Lightroom Mobile and post it to your social media accounts.

But unless you’re capturing jpeg and MP4 copies, access to your RAW and pro video files is of limited use.

You can work around this – Lightroom Mobile can process RAW files – but it can’t access them directly from the My Cloud app. So, you have to save the image you want to work on locally to your mobile device, and then open it with Lightroom Mobile from there.

My Passport Wireless Pro Technical Specifications

Security Settings With the My Passport Wireless Pro

In order to adequately secure your My Passport Wireless Pro, there are 3 or 4 separate logins that you’ll have to keep track of.

First is a WiFi password for connecting the My Passport to your network. This password comes with the device and as far as I can tell, can’t be changed.

Then you’ll need a login for the My Cloud app.

Then there is a separate login required for the device management portal.

And finally, if you want to secure your My Passport in case it or your device is lost or stolen – you can protect access to the My Cloud app with a pin and you can also lock the device so that it cannot be accessed when connected via USB (this allows WiFi access only, which is password protected).

Of course, if you do lock your My Passport to restrict USB access – you will have to unlock it everytime you want to connect it to your laptop (see process for uploading to the could above).

Finally, because the My Passport is a network accessible hard drive – you have to be very careful that if you are on a public, or unsecured network that you don’t choose “Share content on this network” when you connect – because if you do, everything stored on the My Passport will be accessible to everyone else on the same network.

Here is a video that outlines the steps necessary to secure the device:

YouTube video

Compared with the steps necessary to password protect and encrypt a standard portable USB hard drive, the security settings required for the My Passport seem excessive.

Conclusion & Recommendations

I spent the better part of a day screwing around with the My Passport Wireless Pro, trying to find a way to set it up as a viable field backup solution for travel photography – eventually reaching that conclusion that it really wasn’t worth the time and effort.

If you only want to copy images and video from an SD card directly to a hard drive while traveling, without a laptop computer – the WD My Passport Wireless Pro works perfectly.

I had problems copying files from the CF cards from my Nikon and Canon USB connected cameras, but if you have a compatible camera (it worked with my Sony) there is a chance it would work with your camera. You can also carry around a USB card reader for this purpose.

I found the My Cloud app to be buggy and of limited use – especially since I already use Dropbox on my mobile devices.

Finally, if you want to copy data from the My Passport to a cloud service, you will need both a laptop and a wired connection – which entirely defeats the purpose of spending double the money on a wireless hard drive with built a built in SD card reader and USB port.

In the end, I gave up on the My Passport Wireless Pro and sent it back – for now, I’m sticking with a laptop and regular travel hard drive.

How Do You Backup Your Photos And Video While Traveling?

Do you make backup copies to multiple portable hard drives with a laptop?

Do you save your photos and video to multiple CF / SD cards (dual slot recording)?

How do your upload your files to a cloud backup solution?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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6 responses to “Field Backups With the My Passport Wireless Pro – A Review for Travel Photography”

  1. Greg Silver Avatar
    Greg Silver

    I think this device would work best for those who just have desktops and need to backup in the field. If you have a laptop with you then I don’t see it need for a device like this.

    1. albet thoreau Avatar
      albet thoreau

      given the widespread availability of tablets and smartphone, it’s even less usefull: microusb hubs allows the job easily (for example this:
      https://www.amazon.it/Ugreen-Cellulari-Tablets-Tastiera-Lettori/dp/B00LN67RUQ/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1490025118&sr=8-6&keywords=micro+usb+hub). usb 3.0 pendrive reach 256 Gb or more without requiring electric powering. As well SD/micro-sd Card reader.

  2. Liam Avatar
    Liam

    “However, in practice, it doesn’t quite manage to live up to it’s potential.” I think that pretty much sums up why I would never trust any ‘wifi’ solution in the field or even at home, just because something is new or branded with the latest buzz words doesn’t make it a better solution. It only means that manufacturers are scrambling to try and sell you something else… seriously, taking a laptop with you is a pain, most photographers / videographers I know can’t wait to see and start editing their files not to mention shooting tethered in the studio so as to immediately start with the finishing process. My advice is to get one or better yet, two of the Samsung T3 SSDs for on the road work, there fast enough to edit 4K and make moving files around as fast as you could need.

  3. William Stone Avatar
    William Stone

    I recently installed rclone on my 2TB Passport Pro, which allows me to copy files from the device to Amazon Cloud Drive. There are other cloud storage providers rclone can sync with as well. It involves ssh-ing into the Passport Pro, but it works great if you’re comfortable with the console.

  4. Sean Chen Avatar
    Sean Chen

    thanks for nice post. XferMax is another portable backup device when traveling without laptop. CFast/XQD card slot built inside. 140MB/s copying speed. 2 LCD screen allow to preview JPEG and RAW. This comes from same producer of HyperDrive UDMA series.

  5. Jozef Mercier Avatar
    Jozef Mercier

    Instead of using a big laptop, you could easily set up a Raspberry Pi (preferably an RPI4 with at least 2GB of ram) to connect to various Cloud spaces and upload your media automatically. Add a touch screen and some scripts you can launch by tapping on them, or launch at boot or when a suitably fast internet connection is available.
    If you don’t feel comfortable taking on the task of learning how to do that yourself then reach out to the Raspberry Pi community. There are already projects that can do what your WD My Passport device does and I’m sure people will be willing to help out.

    Another way of doing this is going to a FabLab. Plenty of engineers there who might consider this a nice challenge. The advantage of a FabLab is that you can get more technical, propose more difficult features, design your own case, add buttons to trigger certain automated scripts, etcetera. Plus, instead of using a drive with moving parts, you could use an SSD drive, which would make your device lighter and less prone to damage of the drive and data should your device fall.

    I’ve been looking into making such a device myself in the future.