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The 5 Best NAS Devices for Photographers in 2023

As a digital technology expert and photography enthusiast, I‘ve witnessed firsthand the explosive growth of digital photography over the past two decades. According to Statista, the number of digital photos taken worldwide has ballooned from 400 billion in 2011 to a staggering 1.4 trillion in 2020. Every one of those 1,400,000,000,000 pictures needs to be securely stored somewhere.

For professional photographers dealing with immense RAW files and 4K videos, storage requirements are even more demanding. A single 45 megapixel RAW image from a Canon EOS R5 weighs in at around 60MB. Shooting thousands of those on a busy session can quickly gobble up terabytes.

While you can get by for a while juggling external USB hard drives, this approach simply doesn‘t cut it once your photo library swells into the multi-terabyte range. Discrete drives become a tangled mess, you waste time searching for the right cable and port, and you have zero protection if a drive gives up the ghost.

This is where a network attached storage device, or NAS, really shines for photographers seeking a robust, high-capacity, centralized storage solution. As PCMag explains, a NAS is essentially a multi-drive device that connects to your router via Ethernet, allowing any device on your network to access the files. But a NAS also has its own CPU, RAM and software to serve up those files with speed and flexibility.

For photographers, the benefits are clear. You can consolidate all of your photos onto a single device with room to expand. Multi-drive NAS units let you mirror data across drives for redundancy against failures. Many support a variety of RAID modes to balance performance, capacity and data protection. With everything on your network, you can edit photos from your beefy desktop rig, view them on your laptop, or access them remotely.

So which NAS should you trust with your precious pics? Here are my top 5 recommendations for photographers, based on research, testing, and professional experience:

1. Synology DiskStation DS220+

The DS220+ is my overall top pick for most photographers seeking an affordable, full-featured 2-bay NAS. It delivers a compelling blend of solid performance, expandability, and user-friendliness that exemplifies why Synology dominates the prosumer NAS market.

Inside the clean black chassis you‘ll find a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Celeron J4025 processor, 2GB of DDR4-2666 memory (expandable to 6GB), and two drive bays supporting up to 32TB total (2x 16TB). That‘s more than enough horsepower and capacity for most shutterbugs, even those shooting high-res RAW and 4K video.

With link aggregation enabled, you can saturate the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports for read/write speeds around 225 MB/s – swift enough for smooth Lightroom library performance. USB 3.0 ports front and rear allow for fast transfers from external drives and compatibility with various accessories.

But what really sets Synology apart is its superb DiskStation Manager (DSM) operating system. The Linux-based DSM provides a remarkably intuitive, desktop-like interface for configuring storage pools, user accounts, shared folders, and more. But it‘s also a powerful platform for a host of first-party apps and third-party packages.

For example, the Synology Photos app lets you automatically backup photos from your computer, phone or tablet and performs AI-powered object recognition for intelligent searching and sorting by faces, places and subjects. Synology Drive offers Google Drive-style file syncing across devices and collaborative editing. Moments provides social-media-influenced organization and sharing of your memories.

When it comes to data protection, the DS220+ supports the full gamut of RAID types, including the popular Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) which simplifies volume expansion. Built-in snapshot technology lets you restore files or entire folders to previous states.

Price-wise, a diskless DS220+ goes for around $300. Paired with two 6TB Western Digital Red drives ($140 each), you get a robust 12TB mirrored NAS for under $600. For those with greater capacity and performance needs, stepping up to the 4-bay DS920+ ($550) or even rackmount RS1619xs+ ($1,600) may be warranted.

2. QNAP TS-453D

Another extremely capable 4-bay option, the TS-453D from QNAP packs some intriguing features for content creators. The Intel Celeron J4125 quad-core 2.0GHz CPU and 4GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory (upgradeable to 8GB) provide ample power for demanding media workflows, including 4K video transcoding and virtualization.

Two M.2 NVMe SSD slots allow you to add high-speed caching or tiered storage to dramatically accelerate data access and app performance. Paired with the four LAN ports, the TS-453D can deliver read speeds over 680 MB/s and write speeds around 650 MB/s with an all-SSD configuration.

While not quite as user-friendly as DSM, QNAP‘s QTS software is highly capable, with a huge library of apps to extend functionality. Photographers will appreciate QuMagie, an AI-powered facial and object recognition program for organizing and searching massive photo collections. Video producers can take advantage of the real-time 4K transcoding and video editing tools.

With an HDMI 2.0 output and support for PCIe expansion cards, the TS-453D could even pull double-duty as a compact video editing workstation. An Intel AX3000 wireless adapter can be installed to make the NAS a powerful wireless access point. It even supports audio pass-through from the HDMI port to the 3.5mm microphone jack.

3. Asustor Lockerstor 4 (AS6604T)

Built around the same Intel Celeron J4125 found in the QNAP TS-453D, the Asustor AS6604T distinguishes itself with a few unique features. In additional to dual 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports, it boasts 4X the RAM at 8GB (upgradeable to 32GB). This potent combo powers snappy read/write speeds around 283 MB/s.

Asustor‘s slick Linux-based ADM operating system is arguably second only to Synology DSM in overall polish. ADM 4.0 brings a host of upgrades to the already impressive Btrfs file system, enhancing its snapshot and data integrity features to better safeguard your photo collection.

Photographers will appreciate the AS6604T‘s LCD display, allowing you to quickly check device stats and initiate one-touch backups by inserting an external drive. An integrated night light LED at the front helps you locate the right port in dark studios. The included Myarchive software makes it easy to swap extra drives in and out for offsite backup.

With dimensions of 6.6 x 7.3 x 9.1 inches, the AS6604T has a slightly larger footprint than the TS-453D and DS920+, but the gunmetal gray aluminum chassis is undeniably sleek and stylish on a desk. At $649 for the diskless unit, it‘s also a fair bit pricier, but the extra RAM, faster networking and other pro-focused features help justify the added cost for serious enthusiasts.

4. WD My Cloud PR4100

Storage industry stalwart Western Digital offers a compelling 4-bay contender in the My Cloud PR4100. Running WD‘s intuitive My Cloud OS software, it presents a user-friendly interface for managing users, shares, cloud sync and more. Mobile apps allow for on-the-go access to your photos.

The PR4100 is powered by a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Pentium N3710 and 4GB of DDR3L memory. That‘s sufficient for sequential read and write speeds up to 114 MB/s – not blazing, but more than adequate for serving up media files. Two Gigabit Ethernet ports can be aggregated for load balancing and redundancy.

Where the PR4100 shines is its vast app ecosystem, including several third-party options not found on other NAS platforms. Photographers will find Plex, Dropbox, WordPress and Joomla alongside WD‘s capable Acronis True Image backup software. WD‘s My Cloud mobile and web interface also makes it super simple to share galleries and albums with clients.

With a MSRP of $499 for the barebones enclosure, the PR4100 is reasonably priced for a 4-bay NAS. For a turnkey solution, WD offers a 16TB model (4x 4TB) for $899 and a 32TB version (4x 8TB) at $1,399. Those in need of greater capacity can opt for the similar 8-bay PR2100 ($849).

5. Buffalo TeraStation 1200D

For photographers on a budget, the Buffalo TeraStation 1200D offers a lot of bang for the buck. This compact 2-bay unit runs on a basic Realtek RTD1293 CPU and 2GB of DDR4 RAM. It won‘t win any races with its 92 MB/s read and 87 MB/s write speeds, but it‘s perfectly serviceable for incremental photo backups and remote access.

Buffalo‘s TeraStation NAS System (TSN) software covers the fundamentals of RAID management, shared folders, user quotas, and remote replication. A 5GB free Dropbox Sync license allows for automatic syncing of selected folders to the popular cloud storage service. The Amazon S3 app enables scheduled offsite backup to Amazon‘s public cloud.

What sets the TS1200D apart is its bundled NovaBackup (10 licenses), a robust backup utility supporting local, offsite, and cloud-based backup. It can backup unlimited devices to the NAS, including full system image and granular file backups. 11 additional apps are available to extend the TS1200D‘s capabilities.

Priced at just $199 for a barebones unit, the TS1200D is an extremely affordable entry point into NAS for photographers. A 2x 2TB model can be had for around $300, making for a very budget-friendly 2TB mirrored solution. Those needing more space can spring for the 4TB, 6TB or 8TB models.

Buying Advice

With numerous NAS models available at various price points, settling on the optimal one for your needs can seem daunting. Here are a few key considerations to narrow down your options:

  • Capacity: Carefully calculate how much usable storage space you‘ll need, factoring in the number of drive bays and any RAID redundancy. For example, a 4-bay model with 4x 6TB drives in RAID 10 will provide 12TB of usable space. For professionals shooting high-res RAW and 4K videos, erring on the side of greater capacity is wise.

  • Performance: Will you be actively working with the files on your NAS, or is it mainly for backup? If directly editing your Lightroom catalog off the NAS, you‘ll want a higher-end Intel-based model with SSD caching. For backup only, a more modest ARM-based unit with slower HDDs could suffice.

  • Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet is standard on all modern NAS devices, but some offer 2.5/5/10GbE ports for greater bandwidth. Serious videographers may appreciate this for multi-user 4K editing. USB 3.0 ports allow for fast direct connections to your computer.

  • Features: Different NAS software offer varying media-centric capabilities. Synology Photos, Moments, and Drive are standouts for photo/video backup and organization. QNAP‘s QTS and Asustor‘s ADM also offer powerful media management tools. More generic solutions like WD and Buffalo emphasize simplicity.

  • Expansion: For future-proofing your storage, look for a NAS with easy upgrade paths, such as swappable drives, open M.2 slots, and USB/eSATA ports for connecting expansion units. Some NAS support adding more RAM for improved performance.

In general, it‘s best to stick with recognizable storage brands like Synology, QNAP, WD, Seagate, and NETGEAR when it comes to safeguarding your precious photo memories. While cheap generic NAS enclosures can be tempting, spending a bit more on a quality solution from an established vendor could save a lot of headache down the road.

Lastly, don‘t overlook the value of a NAS as an in-studio client portal and remote gallery. With the mobile apps and browser-based interfaces offered by most NAS software, it‘s easier than ever to share select photos and videos with others for review and delivery.


In a world where photographers are capturing more photos at greater resolutions than ever before, investing in a reliable NAS storage solution is a must. Consolidating years of irreplaceable photos onto a high-capacity, network-accessible and remotely-manageable device will prove immensely helpful in organizing, securing and unleashing the full potential of your photo library.

While standalone hard drives may be cheaper upfront, the long-term benefits of a NAS – performance, data integrity, scalability, accessibility – make it well worth the cost of entry. The peace of mind alone of having your entire photo collection professionally backed up and available from anywhere is priceless.

Of course, a NAS should be just one component of your complete backup strategy, complementing other on-site and cloud-based backup methods. But it can serve as the rock-solid foundation, the central truth, of your entire photo archive for years to come.

Whether you opt for my top pick, the well-rounded Synology DS220+, or spring for the creator-focused QNAP TS-453D, you‘ll be taking an important step in preserving your photo legacy. Budget-conscious shooters can get a foot in the door with the wallet-friendly Buffalo TeraStation 1200D.

Ultimately, the best NAS for you depends on your specific needs, but this curated list should give you a strong starting point in your research. With the right NAS in your photography workflow, you‘ll spend less time fussing with storage and backups and more time behind the camera and in the editing chair doing what you love – creating beautiful images.