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I can download the pictures from the camera using the data cable or I can unplug the card and plug into my PC's card reader. Both work and I couldn't notice big differences in speed or reliability.

What's your take on this?

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3  
I hope this won't be closed as subjective & argumentative. –  Eimantas Aug 7 '11 at 18:47
    
Regarding the 'plug-out/plug-in the card' method I'm a bit worried about the life of the slot's contacts and the card's life too... –  Andrei Rinea Aug 7 '11 at 18:53
    
Possible duplicate of photo.stackexchange.com/questions/3345, although as asked that question only covers speed and not other potential issues. –  mattdm Aug 7 '11 at 19:06
    
You will probably get the best download speeds when you use a dedicated card reader built into your computer. With a cable the download can only be as fast as the USB port will allow which may be slower then a high-end card download speeds. In my case it makes a significant difference to plug it dirrectly into a computer. –  Jakub Aug 8 '11 at 13:37

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Reasons to use the memory card:

  1. A good card reader will be faster than your camera's data cable (a cheap card reader - not so much)

  2. When you use the camera data cable you also use the batteries, I had an old camera that really drained the batteries when using the data connection (a set of batteries lasted a few days of shooting or about 30 minutes of data connection) - I expect most cameras are better but I haven't used the data cable since.

  3. For SD cards - most laptops have a built in card readers, lots of printers also have card readers, the USB reader that's always connected to my desktop computer right now cost me about $5 - why bother connecting the data cable when I already have a card reader connected.

  4. For CF cards - I've heard (my camera only has an SD card) a good card reader will be so much faster than the camera you'll never ask this question again (a new generation reader from one of the leading memory card brands - not my $5 one).

Reasons to use the camera data cable:

  1. If you don't already have a built in card reader it's one less thing to carry

  2. You could potentially damage the camera's card slot (but I've used my old high end point and shoot so much the lens fell off and the card slot didn't show any damage - so I don't think this is real).

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Good answer! Can I suggest adding "hassle" for reasons to use data cable? i.e., it can be fiddly to remove the card from the camera and replace it afterwards. –  Reid Aug 7 '11 at 20:13
    
@Reid - isn't it just as fiddly connecting the data cable? on my camera (Canon 550D) the tiny mini-usb connector is one of 4 black-on-black connectors behind a rubber cover and the card is behind a solid plastic door I can operate with one hand in the dark (but then I have to turn on the lights to find the card reader's slot that is not as well designed) –  Nir Aug 7 '11 at 20:24
    
I was wondering if anyone had a memory card slot failure in regard to the electrical contacts or mechanical spring or whatever... –  Andrei Rinea Aug 8 '11 at 7:02
    
I came across a camera (think it was one of the older Canon point'n'shoots that wouldn't allow me to access the card directly - I had to have the card in the camera and connect the data cable to that. Personally I just connect the cable to the camera and download that way, but it does mean that while I'm downloading I can't take photos! –  Danny Edmunds Aug 8 '11 at 10:00
    
@Andrei Rinea - I did a quick Google search and I've found nothing - since just about every electrical device today has a memory card slot (except Apple devices obviously, the iPhone is completely perfect in every way and never needs a memory card) I would guess that even id there was a 0.1% chance of failure the internet would be full of stories –  Nir Aug 8 '11 at 11:00

When using my D100 I've almost always used the data cable but I'm never in a rush. When I started out with the camera I bought a CompactFlash card reader or two but none of them ever worked very well for me, possibly becasue they were low quality items.

For my wife's Coolpix I use the SD card in the SD slot of my laptop which works very fast, but I have left the card in the laptop a couple of times which is a bit embarrassing...

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I forgot the card in the laptop as well. The easy thing to do to avoid this is to leave the card door open on the camera so when you take it, this will remind you about the missing card. –  Andrei Rinea Jan 4 '12 at 9:06

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