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Canon M30: Storage with a screen

If you're looking for a portable storage solution that doesn't involve a fistful of memory cards and allows you to preview images on a whopping screen, the Canon M30 could be for you

With Toshiba betting 100GB and Sony raising the ante to 120GB in the CES camcorder casino, it ocurred to us that some camcorders now have more memory than, say, a MacBook. But storage is still an issue with cameras -- and non-hard drive camcorders -- expecially as image and video resolution climbs into the 12-megapixel and high-definition brackets. So what's a snapper to do? Invest in a fistful of memory cards, perhaps, or a portable storage device such as the 30GB Canon M30.

The M30 is a chunky brick of a thing until you pick it up. It looks like a camera without a lens, with the screen and controls echoing the usual camera layout. The one-touch backup button even channels the feel of a shutter release button, with its placement on the top at the left.

Despite the hefty size, it's lighter than it looks, which makes sense as it's basically just a hard drive with knobs on. It plays back video as well as showing off your still images, supporting raw, MPEG, MP3 and WAV files among others. The back is dominated by a gargantuan 94mm (3.7-inch) TFT screen. Holy cow!

The enormous display gives you a chance to appraise your pictures in more detail than the viewfinder or a typical 64mm screen will allow. This puts the M30 one up on storage devices such as the Vosonic VP2160 or ezPnP DigiMagic range, which support more memory card formats, but only have status LCDs and don't preview pictures.

Canon SLR users will find the M30 fits into their camera system seamlessly, as it utilises the same batteries as the EOS SLR range. Handy. The M30 boasts CompactFlash and SD card slots, so users of cameras made by manufacturers such as Sony and Olympus may be put off by the lack of support for proprietary memory card formats. There is a USB connection, but it's designed for connecting the device to a computer.

The Canon M30 or its 80GB bigger brother -- sensibly named the M80 -- are available now for about £300 and £400. Considering Vosonic offer smaller 120GB devices for less than £100, or a 160GB model with a screen and FM radio for £300, that sounds expensive, but Canon users in particular may well be seduced by that enormous screen. -Richard Trenholm