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What Card Reader do you Recommend?

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  • I've been told to use a card reader by Brian or Damien, why?
  • Why are card readers recommended?
  • I've always used my camera to transfer images and am now being told to use a Card Reader. Why?
  • What brand of Card Reader do you recommend?

 

This is another common topic that comes up from time to time and seems to get more push-back than other topics. My guess is this stems from a person's habit and when they are told that it isn't the best way to do things, they will often question it or downright start a flame-war in threads. I feel that this push-back boils down to the fact that most people do not like change or to be told they are doing things wrong.

"GASP!?!?!?!!" How dare we suggest changing your Workflow for the better?!?!!!

When either Damien, myself or one of the Admins suggest using a card reader, we are often met with the response of, "Why?!? I've always hooked up my camera to my computer to transfer images for the last ____ years with no problems!?!" This is turn is usually followed by, "OK, what brand of Card Reader do you recommend?" Well, this article should hopefully answer all of these questions. I plan on having two parts, one, to answer the question of why you should use a card reader and what brand do I recommend. Part Two, will cover on what Macintosh Users should do.

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So let's begin. Why should  you use a card reader in the first place?

 

  1. Speed. This is the easiest benefit to mention, time is money, and this is the fastest way to transfer images to your computer is to use a Card Reader. Period. Even though your camera might have a USB 3.0 port, the CPU in the camera or the chips responsible for transferring data may not be the fastest option. This is especially true with today's modern cameras, which are usually 24MP or more. Raw files are typically larger now than ever before; to give you an example, my Nikon D850 produces Raw files that are around 100MB...each. So my reality is 64GB and 128GB cards, instead of an 8GB / 16GB card setup. In addition, today's modern cards are FAST, in both terms of write-speeds but often read-speeds, even on the lower-end models. Your camera may not take full advantage of these modern read/write times (especially read-times) which means you'll wait around longer to transfer your images to your computer.

    A Card Reader on the other-hand, doesn't suffer the usual fate of Manufacture's cutting corners to save money, they just work at the speeds they should; they only have to worry about themselves and not the .30 cent saving for each body produced. Why worry about savings? That's because the majority of the time, a certain type of interface is Patented and Copyrighted, which causes licensing fees and royalties paid to the owner of the Patents and Copyrights. That's why often you will see a certain thing being used across multiple brands, it's usually Royalty-Free. Just think, if an Airline can save $480,000 by eliminating 2 olives from each jar annually in fuel savings, just think what a .30 cent saving can do multiplied by millions of camera bodies! (or whatever.) 
     
  2. Power Issues. Let's face it, your camera is powered by a battery, and with Lithium-Ion Batteries, which are the most common-type of batteries used, from Cameras to Cars, are known to lose power abruptly, without warning, and this in turn will shut your device off. Anyone with a Smartphone that had a battery at 18% suddenly drop to 0% can vouch for this. :)What happens when you are in the middle of a data transfer and this were to happen? The chances of something corrupting have dramatically increased. Of course, this wouldn't happen all the time, but let's take Murphy's Law into consideration: "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong..." When you hook your camera up to your computer, it usually uses MORE power to maintain connectivity than if you just used the camera out-right as a camera. So your batteries just drain faster, it's inevitable for this to happen.

    Imagine you are transferring images from some important event, like a Wedding? Or images from a Photo-shoot with "Nana at the Nursing Home" who won't be around much longer? What happens to you and your business, along with your reputation, if they go "Poof" just because your camera died all of a sudden during a data-dump? I'm sure someone reading this article, "But that's NEVER happened to me in five years!!!" (or whatever.) My response: I was also in this "Camp," I NEVER had a battery die on me unexpectedly, I've ALWAYS used fully charged batteries at the start of a gig..." Well guess what? It happened to me. I had a fully charged battery, was about to photograph something extremely important and my camera died within 30 seconds of turning it on. Fortunately, I had about 2 min to spare and was able to swap batteries and keep going, but that always taught me to NEVER assume anything. To put it another way, saying you've never had a camera die on you unexpectedly is like saying you have never gotten a speeding ticket or have been in a car accident, even though you routinely speed and blow through intersections as the traffic lights are changing. I say it's only a matter of time, a WHEN instead of an IF...
     
  3. Connectivity Issues. Frankly, it is a Royal Pain in the ASS to get your camera talking to your computer correctly. ESPECIALLY IF YOU OWN A MACINTOSH COMPUTER. The MacOS is based on an old operating system from the 1970's, called UNIX. (Pronounced You-Knicks). This OS is very stable and just flat-out works. The downside, is that newer devices, like external hard drives, CD-ROMS, (Now DVD/Blue-Ray Drives) and cameras did not exist when this OS was first written. Over the years they have made work-arounds possible, but they aren't fool-proof. Just ask any Mac user who hooks up a camera to their Mac and wonder why it doesn't appear in the list of devices. 

    This is often caused by a camera setting that isn't turned on, or even a camera driver issue that just doesn't play well with the MacOS.
     
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    Simply Put: LIFE IS SO MUCH EASIER WHEN YOU USE A CARD READER WHEN IT COMES TO A MAC.


    With a card reader being used on a Mac, it treats the CF / SD / XQD / CFExpress Card / Reader as an external hard drive. All you need to do is turn something on in the MacOS (more on this below) and navigate to where your images are stored on the card. It's really quite simple.

    Windows on the other hand, seems to have an easier time, but I feel that this is due to Microsoft's Operating System being more modern and its "Open Environment" Policy, as opposed to Apples "Closed Environment." There are just more drivers, and experience with a Windows OS and hooking a camera up to it. That being said, Windows isn't immune to the same pitfalls as the MacOS is when hooking up a camera, there is just a less of a chance of things not working.
     
  4. Wear-and-Tear. As with anything being man-made, things wear out or degrade over time. Plugging and unplugging a USB Cable introduces a whole other set of potential problems developing with your camera. Often today's electronics usually have Eco-Friendly Solder, which means it doesn't contain Lead, which is a good thing for the Earth, but not a great thing for electronics. Plugging and Unplugging a cable into a port that is mounted to a small motherboard, which Eco-Friendly Solder can cause the port to develop something called "Cold Solder Joints." This creates a faulty connection which can only be resolved by sending your camera into the Manufacture (or Authorized Repair Facility) to have the motherboard replaced. This in turn causes shipping, labor, parts, and possible tax charges, which usually result in a few hundred dollars for a repair. From my perspective, it's much easier to buy a new Card Reader for $30 and replace the bad one, instead of blowing $400+ to have my camera repaired.

    The other wear-and-tear component, is the card slot itself. Now, this affects CF cards more-so than SD / XQD / CFExpress style as CF card slots have physical tiny pins, that over time, can bend out of position. Often this results in creating damage to the CF Card and can cause damage to other cameras as well. For example, I knew of a Wedding Photographer who shot with two Canon 5D Mark II bodies. He had a bad CF Slot in Camera 1 and didn't know it. The camera wouldn't take pictures so he popped out the CF Card from Camera 1 and inserted it into Camera 2, his backup. Well it turns out that Camera 1 had a bent pin and shorted out the CF Card. When he put the damaged CF Card from Camera 1 into Camera 2...it fried the electronics on Camera 2. Imagine being a Wedding Photographer, who was about to start photographing the Ceremony with the Bride walking down the aisle and have TWO camera bodies die on you in a matter of seconds?!?!! Fortunately, he had a 2nd shooter and used their backup body to finish the Gig with a different CF Card.

    Of course, technology is improving and I'm very excited to see the XQD Format and CFExpress Type B format take foot-hold in the industry. Not only are these cards A LOT more durable and faster, they don't have physical pins in the slots to bend, which could cause catastrophic failure along the way. That said, there are still many cameras in use today that still have CF Slots.
     
  5. Cross-Compatibility & Reliability. When you use a Card Reader, it doesn't matter what camera you use, which makes things more universal, it just works. Now I'm sure many people that will come across this article and say that they only shoot with one camera body, and that's fine. I'm talking about the other side who have multiple bodies or shoot with someone that uses a completely different brand. Even if you use the same brand, Camera A may not be able to read Camera B's cards, or vice-versa. Again, the Card Reader does not care, it's all "Data" as far as it's concerned all that matters is that the Card Reader is designed to use the Card that is being inserted.
     
  6. Data / Image Recovery. If you ever accidentally format a card or worse yet, have some sort of error message appear when shooting, you will more than likely want to try some form of data recovery to get those images back. This is SO MUCH EASIER TO ACCOMPLISH when using a Card Reader; because in a sense, your Card Reader & Card become a pseudo HD, well...at least as your computer is concerned. Trying to recover images while your card is in your camera, makes things unnecessarily difficult. If you are put in this very stressful situation of lost images for clients, why bother adding to the stress? Just use a card reader to eliminate some of that stress.

    When we use a Card Reader, camera's USB Port wear-and-tear, battery life, speed and compatibility issues all go away. From my perspective, EVERYONE SHOULD BE USING A CARD-READER. They aren't that expensive and are useful.


Here are a few Card Readers that I recommend:
(Prices as of March 15, 2020)

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Now for Part 2....

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OK, you've convinced me. I have a Mac and will buy a Card Reader. Which one and what do I do to get it to work?


OK, first, purchase one of the card readers that I linked to above. For the majority of today's modern computers, it will be the Sandisk Reader or the Sony XQD Reader. One of those two readers should cover just about everyone reading this article. If a computer needs a Traditional Card Reader with a USB 3.0 port, the Lexar model should work fine. Second, there are a few simple steps that need to be enabled so that the Card Reader appears on the Mac Desktop when Flash Media is installed. The added benefit is that this will also turn on the ability to see External Hard Drives as well as DVDs on the Mac Desktop. This process should take no more than a few Minutes and I'm surprised it isn't on by default already. Well, I know the reason why, I just won't bore you with the details and Apple's (Steve Jobs') way of thinking.

Without further ado...
 

  • Open the Finder. The easiest way is to click the Smiley Face on your DockBar:

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 3.31.00 PM.png
 

  • Then head to the Finder Menu (Next to the Apple Menu) and select Preferences:

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 3.32.35 PM.png

  • Once there put check-marks next to these items and change the bottom to "Macintosh HD" if you want:

Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 3.33.29 PM.png

  • Finally, Click the Red Circle in the Upper Left Corner to save the new changes and close the Preferences box. Now when you insert an External HD or Camera Memory Card into a Card Reader, they will appear on the Mac Desktop. For example:
     

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 1.42.06 PM.png
 

  • To access my images, I simply double-click on the Nikon D850 Icon and navigate to where the camera stores the images:
     

Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 1.45.24 PM.png

Then it's a simple matter of creating a folder on my Hard Drive of choice and then performing a COPY AND PASTE on my image files. It is IMPERATIVE THAT YOU ALWAYS Copy-and-Paste and never-ever perform a Move / Cut-and-Paste.

Why?

If something were to go wrong during the Data Transfer, with a Copy-and-Paste Method, you can simply either click Cancel or try Copying again. Unfortunately, you will not have that option with a Move or Cut-and-Paste! Your images could go "Poof!" Without you realizing and then we are thinking about performing data-recovery to get those images back; with a Cut-and-Paste Method, you are not only copying but deleting the source-file as it does the Data Transfer. Save yourself the potential stress and frustration and always "Copy & Paste." Life is too short as it is. :)

 

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 Have a question or concern?  Please post a new question in one of the Main Hardware Forums in "Ask Brian."

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