It is good to have your photos at least on two media simultaneously and minimise the time when they are only on one. At home it is easy to have the required copies for good backup solution, for example working files on your PC, backups on USB drive, and second off-site backup on cloud. However, when on the road you may need to rely only on one memory card before you get a chance to back up the photos. Luckily there is a way to back up the photos to your phone if you do not have a laptop or dedicated backup device with you.
If you have a camera with two memory card slots, like Olympus E-M1 mark II, you can set up second card to contain copy of the first one, or store RAW on card 1 and backup JPEG on card 2 as I do. However, if you do not have dual memory card slots, or even if you do, it may be good to back up the photos on the go. With laptop things are easy but what about with phone or tablet? Luckily at least Android makes it easy as well.
Connecting USB memory to Android device
In order to connect external memory to Android device, so called USB OTG (on-the-go) cable is needed. This allows to connect a flash drive, external hard drive, camera, or whatever USB device that shows up as a mass memory storage. Or in fact, also some non-storage USB devices such as mice and keyboards (Android supports these surprisingly well!). Bear in mind though that if you use an external hard drive, separate power source may be required.
I have this short USB-C OTG cable for my OnePlus 3 phone. These cost few pounds/euros/dollars on eBay or Amazon. The second cable is a standard USB-C cable. I advise keeping cables short to avoid problems.
These may depend on the device but at least on my OnePlus 3 I need to turn on OTG storage option which turns off automatically after it has been unused for a while. Without this the phone does not recognise anything.
Connect the phone and the camera with the cables and turn the camera on. Choose Storage USB mode on the camera. The phone should now recognise plugged USB devices.
For some reason my phone recognises one of the two cards fine but not the card 2. I have no idea if this is a feature of Android that it can only recognise one device at a time or something else. Anyway, it is not a problem in my way of using the two cards.
Browsing And Copying Files
Now I can browse the memory card like any storage and copy the contents to my phone.
Notes And Tips
- If you really want to do a proper backup while on the road, the next step is then to send the photos from your phone to a cloud or your NAS, at least if you are on a more important holiday or photoshoot.
- Android creates some of its own folders (Android, LOST.DIR, and System Volume) on the memory card when accessing it. Although it is very unlikely that Android could somehow corrupt the memory card when writing there, it is good to keep in mind if you are extremely careful for such things. Obivously I take no responsibility for that! I have only tried that this works but have not used it extensively.
- Camera does not care about these folders as it only uses its own folders.
- If you back up whole card to your phone and send the photos to the cloud, you can just format the card in camera again to get rid of all extra folders and files (along with all photos!).
- My OnePlus 3 phone can use OTG cable with stock file manager but also with external file manager apps, the first time it just asks for permission. However, I remember that at least some of my older phones could not work with OTG cables without rooting or other tricks. Check your phone before you travel and rely on this (or even before buying a cable)!
- If you do not want to connect your camera directly to a phone, you can also use a small memory card reader.