Jobo Giga Vu Pro
Review Date: June 9th 2005
Ease of Use
The word that springs to mind when you first pick up the Jobo Giga Vu Pro is "rugged". From its rubber protective case to the understated silver and black styling, this is a utilitarian device rather than a fashionable one. Constructed entirely from a hard-wearing plastic, the Jobo Giga Vu Pro's overall design is centered around the massive 3.8 inch wide LCD screen, around which all of the controls are located. Although exactly the same in size, the 320x240 pixel resolution QVGA LCD screen on the Giga Vu Pro is not as good as the 640x480 VGA screen on the Epson P-2000 - it's as simple as that. As well as the resolution difference, the Epson device uses industry-leading Photo Fine LCD technology that displays 262,000 colors. Side-by-side, the Jobo Giga Vu Pro can't compete with the Epson P-2000, but that isn't to say that its large screen is not worth having. Seeing your images on such a big LCD screen really makes them come alive, making the Jobo Giga Vu Pro suitable for reviewing your photos whilst out in the field and for showing them off to friends and family when you get home. Importantly the screen doesn't seem to be prone to scratches - the review sample that I received from Jobo did not have a single scratch or mark. As with the Epson P-2000, the Jobo Giga Vu Pro is not the most compact portable storage device on the market, measuring 145 x 107 x 38 mm and weighing 420 grams.
You turn the Jobo Giga Vu Pro on by pressing the Power button on the top right corner of the device and are then greeted by a minimalist splash screen graphic before being taken to the Home screen (shown below). It does take about 5 seconds for the Giga Vu Pro to power on. The Home screen is the control centre of the Jobo Giga Vu Pro, displaying a battery level indicator at the top left (which can helpfully be changed from a percentage to the estimated time remaining), disk space at the top right, Giga Vu Pro logo in the middle and 5 options at the bottom - Photos, Music, Movies, Backup and Device - which are accessed by the 5 soft-keys along the bottom of the device.
Photos and Backup are the two options that are of most interest to photographers. Copying the contents of a memory card onto the Jobo Giga Vu Pro is fairly straight-forward. When you insert a Compact Flash card or Microdrive in the slot on top of the unit (which has to be powered on), the Giga Vu Pro automatically opens a menu with five different options. The first two options, "Full Memory Card Backup" and "Copy Supported Photo Files Only", are the ones to choose, but which specific one should you go for? The first copies all files that are on the card, regardless of whether or not they are supported by the Jobo Giga Vu Pro, and the directory structure is kept intact. The second option, as the name suggests, only copies supported image files, such as JPEGs and RAW files from certain cameras - everything else on the memory card is ignored. Furthermore, the choice that you make has implications for how the Jobo Giga Vu Pro handles the files that you are copying across. The user manual states that "Backups will only support a very limited number of features. For example you can only display thumbnails and filenames. You can not zoom, view histograms, channels etc. And of course you can not rotate or delete pictures or files because otherwise it would not be a backup." This is an important distinction that initially proved confusing, as I opted for a full backup and was then left wondering why I couldn't zoom in etc on my images. As I knew that my memory cards only contained Canon EOS 10D RAW files with accompanying thumbnail JPEGs (both supported by the Giga Vu Pro), I subsequently chose the supported photo files option when copying a card. This distinction is at best confusing and at worse quite problematic - what do you do if you have a mixture of supported and unsupported files on one card, for example JPEGs and Tiffs? I'm also not sure why Jobo decided to split the Copy process in this way - I guess there must be some technical reason, but why couldn't they just offer a single Copy option which copies across both supported and unsupported files, and which provides full zooming, histogram capabilities etc for the files that it does support?
|Jobo Giga Vu Pro LCD Screen||4-way Joystick|
Once you have copied the contents of your memory card onto the Jobo Giga Vu Pro, your images are accessed either via the Photos option (if you chose "Copy Supported Photo Files Only") or the Backups option (if you chose "Full Memory Card Backup") on the Home screen. A list of albums is displayed and 5 new options are shown along the bottom of the screen. Selecting a particular album using the joystick opens a new screen with options for displaying the images in the folder - view pictures, thumbnails, file list and so on. The 5 options at the bottom of the screen, accessed by the softkeys, change depending on what exactly you are looking at, a clever and very flexible system.
The other three options on the Home screen are Music, Movies - fairly self-explanatory and which work in a similar way to the Photos and Backup options - and Device, which contains a menu of settings for controlling exactly how the Jobo Giga Vu Pro functions. You can setup a USB connection to your computer, check the internal hard disk for errors, configure WiFI setting and so on. Device settings contains a sub-menu with options for Language, LCD Brightness and Power Off time, amongst others.
The external controls of the Jobo Giga Vu Pro are generally as well-designed and simple to understand as the menu system, with a couple of exceptions. The joypad and softkeys are the controls that you will use most often. The joystick, located in the top-left of the device, falls under your left thumb when holding the Jobo Giga Vu Pro and is easy to use. Jobo have added a ring of raised dots around the surface to make it more tactile, and it has a fairly responsive clicking action when you push it down to make a selection. As I've said above, the softkeys along the bottom of the device are a great way to interact with the device, providing options that are directly related to the current task. Another very clever touch is the small green LCD in the Settings button on the right of the device, which lights up whenever a context sensitive menu is available. You simply press the Settings button to open the menu, which gives you further options for the current operation. The Home and Back buttons do exactly what you expect them to do - open the Home screen, and go back to the previous screen.
Along the top of the Jobo Giga Vu Pro are the A/V Out and Audio Out ports, memory card slot and Power button. There is a single memory card slot which allows you to insert either Compact Flash or MicroDrive. You need to purchase a CF adapter in order to use other card formats with the Jobo Giga Vu Pro (obviously adding to the overall cost). A very nice design feature is that the memory cards go all of the way into the Jobo Giga Vu Pro without sticking out of the slot. This means that you can insert your memory card, start copying the data, put the Jobo Giga Vu Pro into your bag and forget about it while the data is being copied, without having to worry if the card will be knocked out of position. If you're in the middle of a busy shoot, this could could be an important factor in being able to efficiently carry on with your work. Unlike the Epson P-2000, however, the Giga Vu Pro doesn't have a Hold button to lock the controls of the device, which means that the copy process could be interrupted if the wrong button is accidentally pressed (such as the Power button or Stop softkey option).
|Softkeys||Home / Back / Settings Buttons|
The A/V Out and Audio Out ports look identical to each other and are not labeled in any way, which forces you to check the user manual and then remember which one is which. Similarly there are two USB ports on the right of the Jobo Giga Vu Pro, a USB 2.0 port for connecting the device to your computer, and a slower USB 1.1 port for connecting to a PictBridge printer. Neither are labeled and both look identical to each other. The final external control is the AC adapter connector (again not labeled) on the left of the device, used for recharging the internal battery via the supplied AC adapter. The Jobo Giga Vu Pro is powered by a 2200mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery (which can't be removed). I would estimate that I used the Jobo Giga Vu Pro for about 2.5 hours for copying and viewing before it needed to be recharged, less than the Epson P-2000 which lasted for around 3 hours. Obviously you cannot carry a spare battery with you, unlike the battery in the Epson P-2000 which can be taken out and swapped for another one.
I decided to test how many 512Mbs worth of data I could transfer onto the Jobo Giga Vu Pro before it ran out of power. On my much older Vosonic X'S Drive, I can only transfer the data from around 8 cards before the battery dies. On the Epson P-2000, I copied 25 cards of data before the battery icon started showing that it was becoming depleted. On the Jobo Giga Vu Pro, I copied 21 cards of data before the battery was exhausted. This is equivalent to 10.5 Gbs of data! It took 6 minutes 52 seconds to copy the contents of a full 512Mb 24x speed PQI compact flash card (87 Canon EOS 10D RAW files, 510Mb total data) using the "Full Memory Card Backup" option, slower than the Epson P-2000 by over 2 minutes. This gives a transfer rate of 1.18Mb/Sec (488Mb transferred in 412 secs).
Transferring date from the Jobo Giga Vu Pro to your computer is slightly more complex than most portable storage devices. You have to select the "USB connect to PC" option from the Device menu first, then plug the USB cable into the upper USB connector and into a USB 2 port on your computer. The Jobo Giga Vu Pro appears on your PC or MAC as a new hard drive with the name "gigavu". You can then copy files onto your computer or vice-versa using the usual copying methods that your computer offers. The Jobo Giga Vu Pro has a high-speed USB 2 connection, which in the real world translated into a fast transfer time of 36 seconds for a full 512Mb 24x speed PQI compact flash card (87 Canon EOS 10D RAW files, 488Mb total data).
The Jobo Giga Vu Pro will display JPEGs from any digital camera. Of greater interest to photographers who use digital SLRs is that the Jobo Giga Vu Pro will also display full screen previews of RAW files from certain cameras and allow you to magnify them. This make the Jobo Giga Vu Pro one of the few portable storage devices capable of both storing RAW files and allowing you to view them and is great news for the DLSR owner who uses the RAW format. The version of firmware on the Jobo Giga Vu Pro that I reviewed was v1.05 (released May 2005) - this firmware supports RAW files from over 70 different cameras. All new versions of the Giga Vu Pro will ship with the new firmware, whilst existing owners can upgrade their devices for free. The latest firmware can be downloaded here: http://www.jobo.com. If your camera is not supported, then you can still transfer your RAW images onto the Jobo Giga Vu Pro, but you won't be able to see a preview version of them (just a small generic thumbnail icon instead). Note that RAW file playback is more limited than JPEG files. You cannot, for example, use RAW files in slide shows, rotate them, add keywords or use the Dust Detection feature. You can zoom in to a 1:1 ratio (Max), which only took around 2 seconds for my Canon EOS 10D RAW files (around 6Mb in size).
|Power Button||USB Ports|
Jobo promote the Giga Vu Pro as a laptop replacement for professional photographers. Subsequently they have added a number of features which the competition, notably the Epson P-2000, don't offer. WiFi support, Levels display, Channels display, a touch screen for entering information and PictBridge compatibility are the main features.
I don't have a WiFi network so I didn't test this feature - you need to purchase a WiFi Compact Flash adapter which allows you to transfer information to and from the Giga Vu Pro via a wireless network. The Levels feature is exactly the same as the Levels option in Adobe Photoshop and other imaging software. For a specific image in the Photos folder (not the Backups folder), you can view a histogram showing the overall image exposure - you can even view the Red, Green and Blue channels individually. The Channels feature renders the a photo as a black and white image, and again you can see Red, Green and Blue channel versions. Jobo have further extended this feature (which they really should have named "Black and White") by allowing you to define your own mix of the Red, Green and Blue channels to produce a black and white image. Levels and Channels work with both RAW and JPEG files.
View Dust is a feature that detects dust spots in an image (of a blue sky, for example), which can be used to give you feedback about the success of sensor cleaning attempts. You can also rotate images clockwise and anti-clockwise if you wish. The Jobo Giga Vu Pro, like many digital cameras, can be connected to any PictBridge-enabled printer - this is a substantial improvement on the Epson P-2000, which can only connect to certain Epson printers. Finally the Giga Vu Pro has a touchscreen for easy entering of information, such as renaming albums and pictures, and adding comments and keywords (JPEG files with EXIF information only). Sadly the touchscreen only works for these functions - it is not operational all the time. Also note that keywords are stored in text files, rather than as IPTC data in the file itself, although the User Manual sates that "The format used is compatible with Adobe Photoshop".
All of these advanced features are welcome, but I think you need to carefully consider if you will regularly use them or not, and how the Jobo Giga Vu Pro fits into your own personal workflow. I can imagine that the WiFi support would be very useful, but personally I didn't use the other features, beyond testing them out for the purposes of this review. I'm most interested in quickly and safely downloading my digital images onto a portable storage device and being able to check in the field that they have copied across successfully (if time allows). Having such a large LCD screen is a great benefit for showing off your photos to other people, but I just didn't use it for editing or captioning, preferring to use a laptop or my home computer instead.
From a usability point of view the Jobo Giga Vu Pro is a well-built device that is quite easy to use, although it has one or two quirks, notably the way in which memory cards are copied. The Jobo Giga Vu Pro provides fairly quick transfer from memory cards, average battery life and the invaluable ability to actually view your images and verify them, all in a relatively compact package, plus a number of "advanced" photographic features that you may or may not find interesting.