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These days all pro-photographers find it necessary to lug their laptops around for every shoot. The reason for this is that SLR cameras come with quite a few shortcomings, like a small screen size through which it gets tough to get the right idea of how the end result has turned out, or incapability to zoom into photographs taken in RAW format. Besides that, there's also a need to unload the memory cards into the computer's hard drive so it can be used for more shots. All this is great, and a laptop would definitely be a necessity for post processing, archiving etc., but considering that during shoots, the laptop is only used for storage and viewing, it's a lot to carry for such a small task.
Enter the Epson P-5000, the newest of Epson's Multimedia Storage Viewers, to the rescue. Its 80GB hard drive based storage space serves as an excellent storage space for storing pictures during shoots, and not running out of memory cards. It's 4 inch VGA resolution screen (640x480 pixels), gives you an accurate feedback of how clear the stored images have turned out, and even helps locate those rogue blur-spots that go unnoticed on the camera's review screen.
It has two memory card slots, one for CF cards and the other for SD. Surprisingly, there's noting for Memory sticks, but considering that Memory Sticks are more popular with Sony's consumer cameras than D-SLRs, it's forgivable for them to skip that one format.
The unit itself is not that big, when compared to the space you'll be saving by not carrying a laptop, but when compared to other PMP's, this one's a big momma at 150x88.7x33.1mm in size and 430 grams in weight.
Going back to the display, the TFT screen is extremely well lit to the extent that you can get a pretty decent idea what your pictures look like even in broad daylight (as long as you can avoid the reflections), which makes it great for outdoor shoots as well. All this is great, but the part I especially loved about it was that you have an option to calibrate the screen to Adobe RGB colors or sRGB, which is what most photographers use, so you won't really miss your perfectly calibrated laptop screen.
The image clarity and colors that the P-5000's screen displayed was definitely the best I've come across in any handheld device. Every little detail of the images were perfectly visible at full zoom levels.
One problem I had with the P-5000 was regarding its screen's aspect ratio. Considering that this is a utility aimed at professional photographers and the fact that almost all D-SLRs shoot at a 6:4 aspect ratio; the screen on the P-5000 has an aspect ratio of 4:3, giving all images shot by an SLR black bands in fit-to-screen view. It's not such a big deal, but it's something I would have preferred.
As an image viewer, there's no doubt that the Epson P-5000 is as good as it can get as of now. It offers just about all the functions that you would require in the middle of any shoot, and even has a few slick functions like displaying the images' Exif data and histogram, or one-touch level adjustment. Little features like these, and of course the 80GB storage space, make the device perfect for any amateur or pro-photographer on the move.
That aside, the P-5000 also has other functions that make it an overall portable entertainment device, namely video and audio playback. As a video player, it can handle most commonly used formats such as MPEG1/2, MPEG4, DivX, Quicktime Motion JPEG and WMV. If you have a file in any of these formats, simply drag and drop it into the videos folder and you're good to go. However, the player does not support AC3 audio so make sure to re-encode DivX files before using them on this player.
Using the AV cable provided, you can output the video (and audio) to a TV set, which works pretty well on standard CRTs.
Audio, on the whole wasn't very loud but still loud enough to minimize external sound (with headphones), at full volume. There are 7 equalizer presets to choose from, namely Normal, Jazz, Classical, Rock, Pop, Live, Full Bass, along with a custom 5-band graphic equalizer.
The Li-Ion battery lasts for around 5 hours of average usage, which is pretty good, considering the previous versions use to max out at 2 and a half hours.
With all the good things mentioned above, I think its time I pointed out the negatives too. Though I understand, that the P-5000 is an image viewer before everything else, it does have a function to playback movies. But unfortunately the dimensions of the P-5000 are a bit too huge to hold in your hand throughout the duration of a film without causing a strain on your wrist. What I'm saying is that Epson should have given the ability to lean the player back with a help of a stand (as in most PMPs), which would make it ideal.
Secondly the player just isn't fast enough. Though by default, the menus are simple and easy to navigate, the speed at which you get to move through options are not fast enough. Zooming in and out of images too can get cumbersome pretty soon, with the long delays. Even the startup and shutdown times go to over 4 seconds.
Now here's the thing. It's great to have a Multimedia Storage Viewers as a temporary solution till you get your hands on your laptop, and having memory card readers on those viewers is also a brilliant idea. But an MRP of Rs. 50,000 for a unit like the P-5000 makes absolutely no sense to me. Most other PMP's with that much storage space and impressive specs will usually cost you under Rs. 30,000.
If you're the kind of photographer who will probably recover the cost of this unit in a couple of photo shoots, then it'll be a great companion to you. For the rest of us, the laptops don't seem that bulky anymore.