If there’s one thing casual photographers are guilty of, it’s leaving their images on a memory card. Sure, memory card capacities are so large that you may never have to offload them, but they end up becoming digital graveyards for your photos and videos. Canon has created a new device, called the Connect Station, that’s designed to put all that content on the big screen, and share it. The company debuted the new product at the 2015 International CES Show.
First previewed at Photokina in 2014 (codenamed Cross Media Station), the ($300) is essentially a network-attached storage (NAS) device, a 1TB portable hard drive connected to a home network that lets you archive, display, and share images and videos taken with a digital camera and camcorder.
Updated on February 14, 2017: Canon issued a firmware update that adds support for non-Canon cameras, improves smartphone compatibility, and allows for playback of videos that have been edited on a computer, making the device a bit more flexible.
Updated on July 14, 2016: Canon released a new mobile app for the CS100 that allows users to view and back-up images from their phones or tablets. This article, originally published on January 5, 2015, has been updated to reflect the changes.
The idea for such a product isn’t new, as there are other similar media storage and sharing drives available (in fact, Canon had a prototype of it five years ago, although that early version used different technologies). But the CS100, with near-field communication (NFC) and Wi-Fi built in, was designed to help Canon camera and camcorder owners get content off their media cards and give them a viewing experience they can enjoy.
The CS100 is a standalone product that doesn’t require a computer to function, although it does need to be connected to a TV to view content and menus; it supports Full HD displays via HDMI. To add content, you can transfer photos and videos wirelessly from Wi-Fi-enabled Canon cameras and camcorders (NFC helps to facilitate the pairing and download processes quickly); directly off an SD or Compact Flash card through the built-in card reader; or from a compatible camera or flash drive through the USB port. Although it uses the 802.11n Wi-Fi protocol, it’s much faster to insert a memory card. The CS100 also has a mobile app (iOS and Android) that supports viewing and transferring of photos on smartphones and tablets.
The CS100’s onscreen display has an Apple TV-like menu system that you navigate through with the included remote control. As it is storing content, the CS100 automatically organizes photos and videos, and weeds out duplicates. What’s unique about the CS100 is it supports unprocessed RAW images from Canon’s advanced compacts and DSLRs, in addition to JPEG, MP4, MOV, and AVCHD file formats.
If the CS100 is connected to the Internet (Wi-Fi only), you can upload and download content to and from the device from smartphones, tablets, or computers (via a Web browser). You can also share content with other authorized CS100s via Canon’s Image Gateway online service. Image Gateway also lets you share content from a CS100 to social networking sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Dropbox, as well as through email. Wi-Fi can also be used to connect to certain Canon Pixma and Selphy printers to print images.
With the Connect Station app, you can browse on TV the images stored on the phone, as well as upload and download images to/from the Connect Station with the drag-and-drop method (the phone or tablet must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the Connect Station). Canon says the Connect Station can save more than 1,000 images at one time, and it will remember what you’ve already downloaded. However, the Connect Station does not support video file transfers, nor Canon RAW (CR2) files.
A terabyte might seem like a lot, but content like images and videos – especially RAW ones – can take up space in no time. The hard drive isn’t expandable, however, nor will there be higher capacity versions at launch. But you can back up the content to another hard drive via USB, to make room.
The CS100 aims to please those looking for an easy solution to save and share content from their Canon cameras, like grandparents. But at $300, it’s priced a bit high. And unlike media-centric devices like Apple TV, features are limited and there are no additional functionalities like Netflix streaming.