Epson P-5000 Review

Accessory Reviews Epson


If you look at the $700 Epson P-5000 image tank and think to yourself “That’s what a low-end laptop costs with a larger HD and big screen! Why would I want that?!” then this review isn’t for you. But if you look at your laptop before every shoot and dread having to deal with it, then read on.

There are several key problems with laptops for on-location work:

  • The size requires additional baggage or the use of a larger camera bag
  • The battery life is short
  • They are easy targets for theft, requiring supervision when I’d rather be shooting
  • They require accessories to be fully functional (card readers, external HDs, etc.)
  • They add a lot of weight to an already heavy set of gear

I evaluated my use of laptops and recognized the following primary uses, in order of importance:

  • Downloading cards to back up images
  • Downloading cards to free them up
  • Previewing images
  • Editing (picking the best images) the shoot
  • Showing images to a client

(I don’t mention email/web. The small size and always-on connectivity of smartphones replaced my laptop for these tasks long ago.)

A lot of the negatives go against my desire to become untied from a central location when shooting. The need to watch bags of gear and set up stashes of bags off in a corner somewhere goes against my ethos of being free and mobile when shooting. This makes me much more effective at documenting the event. During the last year I have come to a balance between mobility and the amount of gear I carry, and how I carry it. The only remaining wart was the laptop. I carry 99% of what I need in my ThinkTank belt system, allowing me to be self-sustained anywhere. This means I have no need to go back to bags or cases, no need to worry about leaving too far from a stash of expensive gear. However, the belt system has no way to accommodate a laptop. Even if it did, I would refuse to attach that much weight and bulk. So I began to look for a device that can fulfill my needs on location while making the laptop unnecessary.

I narrowed my search to devices that had large color screens to fulfill the preview need. I also looked for features targeted toward photographers, stuff that I use on my camera and on the laptop; histogram and metadata displays, highlight and shadow warnings, efficient way to edit and organize the images, stuff like that. These criteria quickly narrowed down the field. There were many alternatives that had slightly faster card download speeds or were cheaper with more storage, but there were few units on the market that had a feature set that was targeted to photogs. Most were just general media players that also had card readers and displayed metadata. They were useless to my workflow.

The two units I purchased were the Jobo GIGAVu Evolution and the Epson P-5000, with the intent of returning the one I deemed less useful to me. After one day, it was obvious that the Jobo had to go. That product is a disaster, but that’s a different post. I have now used the Epson for several months and on several shoots, and can comfortably say that it easily takes the place of a laptop in a huge majority of situations while also surpassing a laptop in some interesting ways.

Real-world Use

A device such as this will inherently be designed with a certain feature set in mind. Its form factor makes it next to impossible to make an equivalent general-use device to a personal computer. All of the unnecessary functions are stripped away and the necessary functions are all behind one interface and control set, resulting in a much more streamlined workflow.

During Asylum Steve’s Chicago shoot this past December we used it to back up the files as well as quickly browse the cards to get an idea of what compositions and settings work, if the images are sharp, etc. The device was always with me, so we did this on the fly.

I also use the Epson P-5000 to download cards while I’m shooting weddings. When you stick the card in the download screen pops up. Start the download, stick it back in the belt and keep shooting. At the end of the day I use its star rating capability to very efficiently rate images. The desktop software Epson provides makes sure these ratings carry over to my desktop software, even for RAW files. It even allows you to view images of a certain rating right from the home screen.

Overall I find that the Epson P-5000 meets all of my on-site needs perfectly. Not only that, the nature of the product has made the process of downloading and editing down the images a much smoother experience.

However, there is one major thing I would change. All card backups go into a special section on the drive reserved for backups, and each card goes into a new folder named by date and sequence. I would have preferred the ability to dump the files into a custom folder, or at least get the option to put them into an already existing backup folder. The way it stands right now, I have to make a new folder in the non-backup section of the drive and copy the files from each individual backup folder to get them all into one place. A few extra steps I’d rather not have to take, but by no means a deal-breaker.

Cool Features

One of the main selling points of this unit is the screen which can display up to 88% of the AdobeRGB gamut using a four-color filter instead of the typical three-color RGB filter.

It has mass storage support. One of its two USB ports supports the use of external media, USB disks or hard drives. The port isn’t powered, so hooking up an external HD requires a power adapter. I carry the same portable USB drive I would carry with my laptop and use it as a backup to the P-5000 if I want the extra redundancy.

And probably the least obvious but still cool feature is the user interface. The unit is very user friendly and the button layout makes one-handed use relatively easy, albeit only for right-handed people.

The loupe function is a joy to use. Hit “OK,” position the outline over the area you want to enlarge and hit “OK” again.

Hitting the “Display” button cycles through the four available
information screens:

This is the histogram/EXIF screen:

There’s also a highlight/shadow clipping warning. Highlights flash black, shadows flash white (windows are blown out):

So you get an idea of its size:

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  • Bill says:

    I have the P-4000 and have been quite happy with it especially because I don’t have to lug a PC around with me so I can take it out into the field. Batter life is a little short, and doesn’t support RAW for my specific camera but these things I can lives with.

    My only complaint: they’ve discontinued the product after less than 2 year after I bought it.

  • Superb says:

    I am looking for a photo viewer/storage and this Epson P-5000 strikes my eyes.

    I have a question that welcomes anyone to answer. I like to make a voice comment to the photo. Does P-5000 provide me with voice annotation capability?

    Thanks for your answer.

  • @Bill,

    Typical lifecycles for consumer electronics are right around 2 years. Love it or hate it, that’s simply how it is these days. Then again the P-5000 corrects many of the shortcomings of the P-4000, so many that held off on buying that model likely were persuaded to take the plunge once the improved one hit the shelves.


    The P-5000 nor any of the other Epson units have a microphone. They do however download all files, including audio files if the camera supports recording on its own. One workaround might be to carry a small voice recorder that either functions as a mass storage device or uses SD/CF cards for storage. You could then download the files to the P-5000 and play them back on the unit, though there would be no inherent connection between the audio and the images. You would have to device some sort of system to keep things synced yourself.

  • TomF says:

    BE CAREFUL! Bought a p-5000 two or three months ago to work with raw D2x files — 6GB Hitachi Microdrives. Worked well, as expected.

    Recently bought Canon G-9, and EOS-1DS mark III and the P-5000 instantly useless outside the D2x application. Probably should have re-read the P-5000 spec.., but.

    P-5000 will load raw .cr2 files, but not display them. Getting anything useful in from the 1Ds also produces useless results.

    Contacted epson — told that firmware updates would be out with a fix — about two months ago; checking epson site every couple of weeks, no update.

    Today was insulted by the epson rep-of-the-day telling me something I already know that “p-5000 doesn’t handle these incompatible formats”. It was time to hang up and send the p-5000 back for refund. With the former case ID sitting in front of the rep, she was already aware of the issues.

    Any bright high school kid can design .cr2, etc. raw conversion routines. Having used SanDisk MicroMate to bring .cr2 files into a laptop and writing the conversion code to convert (without mutilation) to .gif took me about one-half day to do the research and coding. Getting that stuff into firmware is a near-childish effort.

    If epson has some patent or other restrictions (Canon — or other — related) they should say so from the outset — blunting any reasonable expectations. How many of your readers have, over a short period, watched for BIOS, other firmware, or software releases that corrected problems similar — or dramatically more complex than that exhibited by the P-5000 debacle?

    Sorry about the long commentary string — if your readers intend to read and directly display raw .cr2 or high-end eos stuff — well, it’s not for me to provide advice other than BE CAREFUL!!

    After a couple of months of patient waiting, my choice is to return the p-5000 for a refund or, failing receiving a refund, other action will be taken.

    Thanks again.

  • ahmed says:

    i have epson p-5000 i need file sestem becuse i formated the hard drive 80 giga

  • Amanda says:

    I know you can zoom in on jpeg images, but can you also zoom in on raw images?

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