Today’s post comes courtesy of a comment posted to Twitter from a friend (who shall remain nameless) asking about whether a particular camera was compatible with their computer.

Being the eternal geek, I jumped right in (figured the water was warm), and suggested that it shouldn’t matter because they are using a card reader…right?  As it turns out, they were not, instead tethering the camera to the computer to transfer files.  While this method is needed for instant viewing (see the tethering via Lightroom post using Canon here and Nikon here), it’s not recommended for transferring of your photos and video off a card that is in your camera.  I tried to find a post on this to point the person to and realized that, son-of-a-gun, I had never really discussed this in detail.  So… here we go! 🙂

There are a number of reasons why it is a good idea to use a card reader and not connect your camera to your computer for transferring images and video:

  1. Data loss/corruption – The chances for losing data is so much higher because you are relying on the computer detecting the camera, and the proprietary interface between that and the computer (with drivers and software and all that jazz).
  2. Battery drain – Unless you have an AC adapter, using your camera to transfer pictures to your computer can be a serious drain on batteries…even with rechargeable batteries.  And, if you are transferring images to your computer and your camera batteries happen to die, guess what can happen…(see #1 above)!
  3. Software installation – When connecting your camera to your computer, often times you will need to install software in order for the computer to recognize the camera.  Easy enough sure, but do you really want to bog down your computer with unnecessary software?  What if that software is written to preload whenever the computer turns on?  Now computer performance is decreased, you have less space for other things.  Sure, hard drives are increasing in size and decreasing in cost all the time, but consider whether you will ever use the software for anything other than image transfer.  If yes, then absolutely, use it.  But if not – why bother?  From an IT perspective, if there is a way to do something without installing software, that is always preferred to adding another layer because adding that layer adds a breaking point (or point of failure), and it’s just another item that needs maintenance and updates.  After all, let’s face it.  Software is not as cleanly written as it used to be…
  4. Transfer speeds – Seriously.  Many don’t realize it, but data transfers happen a lot faster when you don’t have a camera sitting between you and the computer.  What may taken upwards of 3-5 minutes with a camera acting as the medium can often take less than 2 minutes with a straight connection to the media card.

So, there you have it, 4 reasons to use a card reader!  Need any more?  Got any of your own?  Think I’m wrong?  Please feel free to contribute your own experiences and share your own thoughts in the comments.  Until tomorrow, happy shooting all!

4 thoughts on “Geek Factor Alert

  1. Using a card reader allows you to keep your camera ready to shoot. That’s not always import. But say your covering your kids birthday party, or you’re going snap happy during a holiday, and you own just two cards. You’ll be ready to capture a moment while one memeory card is being downloaded if you’re using a card reader.

    -Baron

  2. All good points Jason. I’ve found direct transfer from the camera to the computer to take more than 4 times longer then using a card reader. I’m happy to say my Mac is older, and I have a Firewire 400 card reader (ancient technology), and it’s just a little fast! Offloading the 5D Mark II takes a while, and I want to go as fast as possible.

    Oh, and by the way….with the geek factor……You are now in the same club as Scott Kelby. After reading your blog several weeks ago I ended up spending money on a recommended product. The Battery Caddys are super cool, got two for myself, and several to gift to friends!
    .-= Rich C´s last blog ..Playing with product shots =-.

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