After announcing two new cameras at IBC, the A7sII and the FS5 , Sony wasn’t done yet with gear announcements. At IBC, Sony also released an interesting but crucial piece of gear- a rugged, portable HDD RAID drive.
Sony chooses to call this the PSZ RA series. It is available in two versions, 4 TeraByte and 6 TeraBytes capacities.
As cameras get more powerful and have more resolution, be it still cameras such at the Canon 5DS and SR models or Sony’s A7rII, and with 4K production now picking up at a fast rate, a high capacity, stable solution for transferring and storing data reliably has become necessary for working professionals. It’s good to see Sony providing products on all levels and building and entire ecosystem for 4K products, from cameras to display screens and from fast recording cards to storage devices such as this.
Portability, data safety and fast transfer, are the 3 things that define this product from Sony.
A 4TB demo piece was graciously provided to us by Sony India for testing these 3 aspects.
First, the design and portability.
The drive comes packaged in a carton for added protection.
While the drive sits in the middle, the Thunderbolt, USB3 and power cable sit on the side and come supplied with the package.
Drive pictured above, without the protective plastic for easy viewing.
The drive has a convenient handle on the top for easy carrying and has two Thunderbolt 2 ports on the back , one USB3 port, power port (19.5 Volts) as well as a convenient set of bright LEDs for displaying power, access and RAID configuration.
The drive weighs about 2.9kgs and has dimensions of 6.25 inches x 4 inches x 9.5inches (Width x Height x Depth)
Drive pictured on top of a 15inch MacBook Pro for size reference.
As far as data safety is concerned, the hard disk drive features two 3.5 inch 7,200 RPM drives in a hard case reinforced with dampers inside the case. The shell is further protected by rubber on the outside.
Sony claims the drive can handle vibrations and shocks from impact upto 50G/11 milliseconds (50 times the force of gravity) when the drive is not operating. While the drive is in use, it would be able to withstand shock upto 20G/11 milliseconds. (Facts based on tests conducted by Sony and as provided by Sony in the press release and on the product package. Sony does not guarantee data safety at all times.) This makes it well suited for use both in the filed, or in desktop studio use.
Enhancing on the data safety aspect, Sony provides two configurations of RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) built into this disk. Simply explained RAID is a way of storing the data in multiple places on different hard drives to enhance speed (when accessing data) and improving chances of data rescue if and when a drive fails. RAID can be configured in many different ways, but with this hard drive, it comes in two configurations – RAID 0 and RAID 1.
RAID 0- is called striping. Data is stored in “strips” across two hard disks. To use a simple example, lets says a total of 100 files will be made into strips of 1-50 and stored on Hard Disk 1 and 51-100 will be stored on Hard Disk 2. Thus the drive functions faster when accessing and retrieving files, as the work done by the drive is technically halved. However, the downside is, if a drive fails, there is very little chance of rescuing data completely.
RAID 1- also called as mirroring. This makes a clone between two hard drives. Data automatically gets copied onto two disks. The second hard drive is an exact “carbon copy” of the other. While this reduces the speed of the hard drives marginally, the chances of rescuing data on drive failure is much higher.
The drive come preconfigured in RAID-0 mode, straight out of the box.
For users who already have a RAID system in their office/studio and would like to use this drive in that system, or build a bigger RAID system of their own using this hard disk drive, Sony also provides a JBOD (Just a Bunch OF Disks) as a configuration on this drive to help you with that.
Sony also provides the Memory Media Utility application for easy managing your media (Free software download here-www.sony.net/mmu/) Users can use this application to format their drive, check remaining capacity and to see and change the file system or the RAID mode. The application will also alerts them when the drive needs to be replaced.
In terms of speed and performance, the drive delivers a fast transfer speed of 440MB/s (in RAID 0 Mode). This is the highest data transfer as compared to other drives in this class. 440MB/s enables this drive to even handle volume data such as the HDCAM SR codec found on Sony’s F65 line of cameras (that also has a data rate of 440MB/s.)
Sony claims that this drive can transfer 1TB files in 50 mins. We did some empirical test of our own.
We found that 64GB of 4K footage (one full XQD card, shot on on the FS7 at full resolution of 4090×2160 at 60P, XAVC-I codec at 100Mbps) took just abut 3mins to transfer. (We used an Apple 15inch retina MacBook Pro, i7 2.3GHz, 16GB ram)
While scanning the footage from one end to another, the drive does not skip, the footage plays back smoothly and does not result in the editing software hanging or crashing. Issue of hanging and crashing are very common with slower hard drives when previewing/ editing 4K footage, especially high bit rate codecs such as XAVC-I.
Needless to say, this drive is fast.
Via the two thunderbolt ports, you have the ability to daisy chain 6 of these units together or connect, multiple smaller hard drives together.
Seen above with the PSZ HB-2T from Sony (Read our How-To on Archiving on a budget)
In conclusion, its refreshing to see all the pieces of the 4K puzzle complete. All the building blocks are now there from cameras and recording devices to field storage and editing systems. High resolution and high data rate images need high quality and reliable and safe storage devices. More over, features such as RAID in such small form factors are very necessary for professionals, both still and video. Truly, the compactness of this device is the key factor, RAID hard drives have been available before, but they were too big and bulky for filed use. This hard drive provides ease of use to in the filed and at the editing table, be it still images or video. Moreover, 4K production now get as simple as HD production.
The Hard Drive will be made available in India by end of October- early November and would be priced at around Rupees 25,000/- to Rupees 30,000/-
Special thanks to Sony India and to AVIT Digital,National Distributor for Sony India for providing the sample product for testing.
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