Three Reasons You Should Be Using a Card Reader

Card Reader from B&H Photo

One of the most surprising things I learned about during our recent trip to Brainerd, MN was that many photographers are tethering their cameras to their computers for transferring photos over for processing.  While tethering via cable is always an option, there are many risks to doing so, and during our talk, we took a few minutes to share some reasons why it’s better to use a card reader than to import from your camera.  Since there were so many people that seemed to appreciate the insights, I thought I’d take some time to share some of those insights here:

  1. Speed – Card readers have nothing else to do other than transfer data onto and off of a card to a computer.  No camera firmware is required, no menus need to be loaded, and no power is needed.  It’s a simple plug-and-play process for practically any computer and you can increase your transfer speeds significantly by taking this route over camera direct transfers.  Seriously…with the super fast UDMA cards out there today, you can really see a decrease in transfer times, which gets you on with other things even that much quicker.
  2. Reliability – Because cameras are such advanced devices that have so many working parts and components, the process of connecting them to a computer does take a certain toll and if the cable is frayed, or a connection is lost, or even power is lost, you can risk losing and/or corrupting your images during the transfer process.  Eliminate the risk of losing those precious memories you’ve created and use a card reader!
  3. Conserving Battery drain – In Minnesota it was cold!  We were in negative temperatures for a good portion of our stay, and with lower temps comes decreased battery time.  If we had to deal with draining our camera batteries to transfer images to a laptop or desktop computer, they likely would not have lasted.  It’s important here to remember that plugging a camera into a USB port isn’t like plugging in a phone or other devices.  Plugging in doesn’t charge the batter, it discharges the battery!  Something to keep in mind when conserving your battery life.

So, what kind should you get?  The answer here (as always) starts with “It depends…”  What kind of camera and card are you using? Do you have multiple cameras and multiple card format types?  Cards range in size and format from SD, CF, to Memory Sticks, and other proprietary sizes and shares.  Formats also include the new UDMA which increases write/read transfer rates, and varying capacities from extended capacity (XC) and other older ones which may require specific types of readers.  Check these considerations before making a purchase.  My suggestion though is to get a reader that can read both standard capacity cards as well as the XC formatted ones.  These can be found for as little as $5 through sites like and Amazon, but the better quality ones are available through camera retailers like B&H Photo, Adorama, and Sammy’s.

There are, of course, other reasons to use a card reader over a camera for data – and I could go on with a quite extensive list here, but would really like to hear from others:  what are your reasons for using a particular transfer setup?  Do you have a reader preference?  Or are you using the camera to tether?  Sound off in the comments with your own ideas and suggestions!

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3 comments for “Three Reasons You Should Be Using a Card Reader

  1. March 2, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    For us, it’s nice not to have to introduce more mess (ie the cameras) into our computer space. The cameras stay separated, and it’s one less thing to think about.

  2. March 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    As a professional in the world of Aerial Photography at I don’t know how I could function without a cardreader.

  3. March 3, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Can’t think of the last time I downloaded directly from the camera….

    Oh, except when I’m shooting tethered. 🙂 Otherwise, card reader.

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