Make your own video camera hard disk recorder with e-films’ e-HDR

The e-HDR is designed to work with Sony EX-series of cameras to allow you to record directly to either a hard disk drive or a solid state drive. It offers up to 84GB of recording (a limit set by the camera, not the enclosure), or a little over 5 hours of uninterrupted recording. I tested the e-HDR with a Toshiba hard disk.The e-films e-HDR recorder is an enclosure that accepts any 2″5 disk drive. My test unit had to be sent from Australia to Europe and it arrived in a durable, cloth-covered hard case. Inside the case were an Expresscard/34 with Mini-USB interface, one Mini-USB to Mini-USB cable of 150cm (I later found out there was supposed to be another short one included—unfortunately, when customs and excise open the packaging, you never know what has fallen out)—one high speed enclosure with Mini-USB and e-SATA interfaces, a cable with Mini-USB connector at one side and a double standard USB-A plug at the other (in order to provide power and data).

Other accessories included a bright red e-SATA cable, an AC Adapter (auto-switching 110-240v to 5v—but only with AUS plugs), and one artificial leather belt bag with lanyard. The e-films store also mentions the possibility to power the e-HDR from an optional Dolgin Power EX-V adapter which adapts a BPU-30 battery to 5v, but I doubt if you can buy the adapter from e-films.
The e-HDR is an enclosure made of what looks like one metal sheet. The two open sides have clear plastic covers. Inside the enclosure fits an electronic component with a SATA interface that accepts any 2″5 disk drive. At one side of the component there is some foamy structure that is meant to act as a shock bumper. There is an excellent manual on the site that explains how to “assemble” your recorder, but “assembly” is a top-heavy description for something that takes about three minutes to complete successfully. Once the screws are back in place, the black enclosure is ready for business.

I first tested the e-HDR connecting it to the Power Mac using every cable delivered with it. Much to my surprise the USB double cable that is supposed to deliver power as well as data did not work well. Another equivalent USB cable that I still had from testing another portable disk drive worked fine. The eSATA connection worked even better because it’s faster.
The disk inside determines power consumption and, ultimately, performanceI then tested the e-HDR with a camera. This worked well, although my unit appeared to be consuming more power than seemed reasonable—however, I wouldn’t be surprised it was the Toshiba disk that was responsible for drawing that much power. e-films doesn’t list Toshiba as a disk drive they support/certify, perhaps with a reason.

Personally, I think your best bet with a disk recorder like the e-HDR is a Solid State Disk anyway. The belt case does keep the e-HDR relativey safe, but it is very hard to tell what would happen if you accidentally bumped the drive hard into something—sure, the metal case would not give in, but would a regular hard drive survive a hard shock? Especially when the drive was doing a seek or a read operation at the time, I very much doubt it.
My impressions after a couple of weeks using the e-HDR are mixed. The USB double-duty cable that I ended up with was flawed. This could be bad luck, as the unit worked fine with another cable that I had lying around from earlier tests.

The better side of the e-HDR that I got to see is that of a very fast eSATA drive that has really sexy looks. It also attracted some (praising) comments from other camera men that I mixed with for the purpose of this test. When I explained to them how inexpensive the e-HDR was and how easy to assemble, they were really interested. Unfortunately, over here in Europe only a few knew about the e-HDR and no-one had ever seen one in action.