The Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD is the latest iteration of a portable back up hard drive that WD started with the Ultra a few years ago, and for me is an absolutely essential piece of kit for any travelling photographer.
So what is it and why is it so useful? Well, essentially it’s a portable solid state hard drive with a slot where an SD card can be plugged in, and with the touch of a button backed up onto the drive with no need for a laptop, so it can be backed up in the field, in the airport, or anywhere. I’ve never really liked travelling with a laptop if I can avoid it as I just prefer not having to carry one with me or leave it in the hotel room or refuge, and I rarely want to do significant editing while I’m on the road. However, having a laptop that you could used to back up the files onto an external HD gave a level of security incase a camera got dropped, or a card corrupted or damaged in some way. When Western Digital launched the My Passport Ultra I was really impressed as it was something I’d been wanted for a long time, an external hard drive that could back up an SD card without the need for a computer or external interface. WD than launched a wireless version which could connect to an iPad or iPhone, and while this was also superb my main problem with both of these drives was that they were HDD with a spinning disc, which makes them pretty vulnerable to drops and banging about in a bag.
The latest version with a solid state drive, which means it has no spinning disc or moving parts inside it making it a tougher, longer lasting and faster, is pretty much perfect for travelling. The fact that it’s a flash drive does make it more expensive than a spinning hard drive but for me it’s worth it as I know it will survive a lot of the bumps my hard drives are often subject to, as well as lasting longer. It also comes in a rubber case, which gives it a little more security, and while I haven’t seriously dropped it yet, it’s been banged around a fair bit since I bought it and functions perfectly well.
The drive comes in different sizes; 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB, and I went for the 500GB version as it’s very rare that I ever shoot anything like that amount of data when I’m travelling, even with the 4k video on my cameras and drone, and shooting full uncompressed RAW images. The back up function is superb and couldn’t be simpler. You simply turn it on, insert the SD card into the slot in the side, then press the SD button and the drive starts to copy the data on the card.
While it’s copying, the 4 blue LEDs on the front flash in sequence, and then when it’s done you just pull the card out. It has SD 3.0 and WD claim up to 65MB/s, and I found when I copied 100GB of data from a 128GB card and it too around 30 minutes. It creates a new folder for each card so files are kept well organized, and so when you get back home it’s easy to connect the disc to your computer via either the USB 3.0 cable or wifi, and then add the disc to Lightroom (you just click on Add Folder and add it to your different discs) and from there import the images to wherever you want to put them.
So as a back up system it’s really useful and reliable, but it also has other functions which I really like. First of all, it creates it’s own WiFi network and comes with a password so it can connect to a tablet or smartphone via the WD My Cloud app. The app has nice functionality which allows you to see and organize everything that’s on the drive. You can view photos (even raw files) and videos on a bigger ipad screen to check for things like focus etc
You can also open RAW files in Adobe Lightroom CC on a mobile device and edit them. Now I much prefer to do serious editing back at home on my laptop, but the mobile version of Lightroom has a fantastic amount of features and it’s fine for quick edits on an image to post on social media while you’re on the road. If you like, you can then save the images into Adobe Creative Cloud and the edits you’ve made on it will still be there when you open the image from Creative Clound in Lightroom CC on your laptop at home. So, if you want it the WD My Passport Wireless SSD does give the ability to edit RAW files while travelling without the need for a laptop.
Another function I really like about the drive is the ability to use the WiFi connection to connect to an iPad and watch movies or videos while travelling. Before I go I’ll copy a couple of movies and documentaries onto the drive, and then while I’m sitting waiting in an airport or hanging around in my room I can connect my iPad to the drive and stream something to watch. Combined with the VLC app, you can watch pretty much any kind of video file, and I'm now no longer confined by the limited storage left on my iPad and can take enough stuff on the SSD so I’ll always have something to watch no matter how long the trip.
Finally, the drive has it’s own inbuilt battery which gives it up to 10 hours of power for backing up the cards or connecting to a tablet or phone. Additionally though, the drive has a USB slot which allows you to charge devices from it’s battery. I’ve found that it will charge an iPad mini or one of the batteries from my Fuji X-T2, which just adds to it’s usefulness in the field.
Overall, I’ve found it to be a fantastic thing to take with me on trips. Just the one touch back up in a sturdy, reliable drive would make it an essential piece of kit for me, but the additional ability to view and edit RAW images, to watch movies and documentaries via streaming and to use as an additional power pack for my phone, tablet and camera batteries are absolutely brilliant and anyone who spends any amount of time travelling and photographing or shooting video should have one in their bag.
You can buy them from the Western Digital website