There comes a time in every photographer’s career when they realize they need a high-quality external hard drive. External hard drives for DSLRs are essential for photographers. Not only do they protect your photos, but they are also extremely convenient and act as dedicated storage for your photography.
While cloud storage is fine for basic photography purposes, the best storage solution is a dedicated external hard drive. I personally love the cloud for document storage, collaboration, and keeping my laptop organized. However, I store my photos on an external hard drive for a few reasons.
My primary reason for choosing an external hard drive over a cloud solution is the security and reliability. When you use a hard drive, only you can access those photos and you know your photos are safe. You don’t need an internet connection and you can access your photos at any time.
With cloud storage services, you’ll typically pay a monthly storage fee and need internet access to get to your photos, which can be limiting in some situations. There may also be restrictions on file size and your cloud platform may be susceptible to data breaches.
Whether you’re looking for an inexpensive storage solution or a world-class external hard drive, we have everything you need on our list of the five best external hard drives for DSLRs!
1. WD Elements Desktop 10TB (Overall Winner)
Our overall winner has an impressive 10TB of dedicated storage, giving you plenty of storage to keep all of your RAW and edited photos on the same storage device. To put that into perspective, if you shoot RAW with an 18MP camera, you can store over 190,000 photos on 10TB of storage.
My current external hard drive is an older version of the WD Elements lineup and I have had great experiences with it. It’s secure, fast, and reliable, even after years of use. This specific external hard drive can go up to 14TB, but I chose the 10TB because it’s plenty of space for most photographers’ needs and comes in at a competitive price point.
This external hard drive features USB 3.0 connections for incredibly fast write speeds. The interface is also easy to use, which is a major plus.
There are tons of external hard drives out there that are difficult to use, often coming with no dedicated interface at all. If you’re not sure how storage logic works on a desktop or a laptop, these storage devices can be tricky to find and manage when there is no dedicated interface.
If you’re looking for something that has tons of storage without breaking the bank, the WD Elements 10TB external hard drive is the way to go.
Seagate is another trusted external hard drive brand, and the 8TB Desktop Drive is one of the best external hard drives available today. What I really like about this one is that it is automatically compatible with Macs. Simply reformat the drive and you’re good to go!
The interface is really clean and easy to use, featuring a drag and drop function that allows you to quickly move files to the device. The max write speed is a whopping 160 MB/s, making this external hard drive one of the fastest on the market.
It also has both USB 3.0 and 2.0 connector ports, giving you plenty of versatility depending on what device you’re using. This hard drive also comes in a larger 10TB version. I like the 8TB version due to its sleek design and weight. The device is small, leaving you plenty of room on your desk or workspace.
The Samsung Portable SSD T5 is always a very popular external hard drive for DSLRs. While this device only offers up to 2TB of external storage, it’s a beast when it comes to write speeds and overall performance. Since the drive is SSD instead of HDD like other drives on this list, you’re going to get write speeds that are over 500MB/s.
To put that into perspective, let’s say you finish a major shoot and have 50GB of RAW photos to move over. With over 500MB/s, you can transfer those files in under two minutes. With write speeds of 100MB/s or less, it’s closer to 10 minutes. That may not seem like much, but when you’re doing multiple major shoots a month, that time really adds up.
This drive is also extremely compact, making it perfect for photographers on the go. It has optional password protection and enhanced data encryption, keeping your information safe. It also has multiple connector ports to let you connect to a wide range of devices.
If you’re a photographer who likes to take your equipment outdoors, this external drive may just be for you. The ADATA SD700 offers up to 1TB of high-quality SSD storage, giving you impressive speeds and incredibly fast load times. With read and write speeds over 400MB/s, you’ll spend less time waiting on your files to transfer and more time getting the job done.
The casing is rated for IP68 dust- and waterproofing and is actually made of military-grade shockproof materials. This little device can handle virtually anything you throw at it. It runs a USB 3.2 Gen 1, which helps with the insane read and write speeds.
It’s also very compact, making it perfect for photographers who spend a lot of time outdoors. While 1TB is sufficient for many photographers’ needs, I do wish it came in higher storage size options. With so many options out there that offer more storage at a similar price, ADATA will need to make larger storage sizes available in order to keep up with the market.
5. LaCie Rugged Mini 5TB (Budget Winner)
Our budget winner is actually one of the most popular external hard drives for DSLRs, and it’s easy to see why. This rugged hard drive is very affordable while offering 5TB of storage space. Five terabytes is the maximum storage size option for this specific device, which is a perfect storage option for amateur and professional photographers alike.
I really like the LaCie Rugged Mini device because it combines both a large storage size with durability, all at a fantastic price point. While you won’t get write speeds like you would with SSDs, it offers a decent 130MB/s read and write speed.
It’s also very compact, making it perfect for the traveling photographer. The outer case is made from dust- and shock-resistant materials. It’s also rain-resistant, allowing you to take it on all of your photography adventures.
Using Your External Hard Drive for DSLRs
There are tons of external hard drive options out there, some of them much better than others. When you’re choosing an external hard drive, look for overall storage capacity, read and write speeds, and features such as USB 3.0 connections or easy Mac compatibility.
I typically stay away from hard drives with wireless capabilities, and especially wireless-only external hard drives. I don’t want to be caught in a situation where I can’t access my files because I don’t have internet connectivity, and if I’m using an external hard drive, I want it connected directly to my laptop or desktop for the fastest read and write speeds possible.
You might think that storage capacity would be the biggest influence on price. While it certainly does impact the overall price of the hard drive, SSD vs. HDD is going to play just as big of a part. While SSD is a fantastic option for photographers, it can increase the price significantly when you start looking at storage capacity over two to three terabytes.
Whatever you choose, an external hard drive is an excellent addition to your photography toolkit!