It wasn't that long ago that Mac users had to jump through several flaming Windows hoops to recover photos from an errant CompactFlash card. What a difference a few months make. There are now three Mac applications that purport to restore lost photos: Data Rescue's Photo Rescue (OS X), Andrew Toth's Salvage (OS 8.6 and later) and now Lexar Media's Image Rescue (OS X), announced this week at Photokina 2002 in Cologne, Germany.
Lexar Media Image Rescue 1.1, running under Mac OS X 10.2
Identical in functionality to its Windows counterpart, Image Rescue 1.1 for OS X will recover photos from Lexar's own CompactFlash media, even from cards that won't mount on the Mac desktop. Image Rescue uses a single recovery method: it scans for contiguous files, photos whose bits have been laid down sequentially to the card. This recovery method, while simple, is also extremely powerful; as long as you format your card in the camera before reuse, photos will be written to the card mostly or entirely contiguously.
Those who never format, sometimes put the card back in the camera with a selection of photos from previous assignments still on it or use the card to transfer non-photo files from computer to computer, won't be shown much love by Image Rescue. The program's recovery method hinges on being able to locate contiguously-ordered files.
Image Rescue works exclusively with Lexar-brand CompactFlash cards, and only those marked USB-enabled. It works exclusively with the company's USB Jumpshot reader, which is bundled in the box with Image Rescue. It's designed to recover, says Lexar's Director of Applications Engineering Dan Le, regular JPEG and TIFF, plus popular digital SLR RAW formats too, including:
- Nikon: Compressed and uncompressed NEF
- Canon: TIF, CRW
- Kodak: TIF, DCR
Note: certain other camera RAW formats are supported too, though I've not listed them above.
In addition to photo recovery, the program will also:
- Test for hardware errors. Image Rescue's Card Test routine will scan the card for bad sectors; if found, this points to a potentially serious problem with the CompactFlash card, since flash memory should never reveal bad sectors to host software like Image Rescue.
- Apply a true DOS format. The Format function writes out a true, DOS-compatible file system to the card. Not all cameras seem to do this in my testing, but Image Rescue's format function preps the card identically to DOS itself.
- Overwrite the entire card with zeros. In a perfect world, this shouldn't be necessary. But, a dozen times a year or more I encounter photographers whose cards aren't functioning normally, where laying down zeros over the entire media, including in the key file system areas, allows the card to be recognized and formatted again. I don't know why this happens, but I've seen it enough to consider this an essential function. Image Rescue's Secure Erase does just this, and it's a good way to prep for reuse a card that has been misbehaving.
Image Rescue is an excellent addition to the software arsenal of any photographer using Lexar Media CompactFlash cards. It's not perfect: recovery from higher capacity cards would be significantly quicker if the company's FireWire CompactFlash card reader were supported, or the JumpShot cable were USB 2.0, not the pokey USB 1.1. Plus, recovery of contiguous files is most effective only if the photographer formats cards regularly. Data Rescue's Photo Rescue, by comparison, offers several recovery methods, in addition to contiguous file recovery (though even in that program, its contiguous file scan usually yields the most photos).
Looked at as a suite of helpful CompactFlash utilities, presented in a user-friendly interface, Image Rescue is hard to beat, however. At an expected street price of only US$40, Lexar card owners would be to well-advised to buy both Image Rescue and the US$29 Photo Rescue. On deadline, in the middle of nowhere, or even in the confines of the photo studio, it's good to have multiple butt-saving options.
Image Rescue for OS X, as well as Windows 98SE/2000/ME/XP, is slated to ship mid-October. It will be available from pro photography outlets and from Lexar's online store. Included will be a USB Jumpshot cable, Mac/Windows program CD and QuickStart guide. Lexar has no plans to offer a downloadable version of Image Rescue for those who own a JumpShot cable already, says Lexar's Director of Product Marketing Dave Klenske. The program will also be bundled with Lexar's upcoming Write Acceleration 24X Pro Series Compactflash cards.
Previously, Image Rescue was only available to pro photo dealers, for use in recovering customer cards, and only on Windows. Dealers will be able to continue offering this service.