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by Bart Arondson

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What tools are available out there (hardware and software) to upload CF (and SD) cards fast? I am looking for a unit that can take multiple at a time. After shooting a Wedding, for example, you are often stuck with multiple 16GB and 8GB cards and using cheap (or even "no so cheap") multi-card readers does not seem to be efficient. Are there any solutions out there that take multiple CF cards at once or even ones that you can automate what happens when a CF card is entered (such as automatically uploading to a specified location)?

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Automatic copy depends on your OS. Which OS do you use? –  ceving Sep 4 '11 at 19:42
    
OSX, however I am more concerned with better hardware (readers that take multiple CF cards, etc.). I am a programmer, so solutions like @Nick's below def help but I would really like a "set it and forget it" solution in terms of hardware. –  Brian David Berman Sep 4 '11 at 19:48
    
If you're using with a compatible body, you might consider using a Nikon WT-4A or Canon WFT-E3(A) to transfer your images as you shoot them. –  Blrfl Sep 4 '11 at 20:36
    
@Blrfl - Thanks, however we are using a D700. –  Brian David Berman Sep 4 '11 at 20:59
    
The WT-4A is compatible with the D700. –  Blrfl Sep 4 '11 at 22:23

4 Answers 4

The speed at which you can import the photos is governed by the card type and the cable you use to connect to your computer, so first make sure you have the fastest type of card available. Lexar make a Firewire 800 card reader which is stackable, so you can link two or more together as FW800 allows you to daisy chain devices in series.

If you use a Mac you can use AppleScript to determine which app to open when you insert a particular type of memory card. I can't remember where I got this script from, but here is what I use:

try
do shell script "DISKS=($(diskutil list | grep ^\\/)) 
        for ((index=0 ; index < ${#DISKS[*]} ; index++ )) 
        do 
           (diskutil info ${DISKS[index]} | grep HS-SD) 
        done"
activate application "iPhoto"
end try
try
do shell script "DISKS=($(diskutil list | grep ^\\/)) 
        for ((index=0 ; index < ${#DISKS[*]} ; index++ )) 
        do 
           (diskutil info ${DISKS[index]} | grep Compact) 
        done"
activate application "Adobe Lightroom 3"
end try
try
do shell script "DISKS=($(diskutil list | grep ^\\/)) 
        for ((index=0 ; index < ${#DISKS[*]} ; index++ )) 
        do 
           (diskutil info ${DISKS[index]} | grep KODAK) 
        done"
activate application "iPhoto"
end try
try
do shell script "DISKS=($(diskutil list | grep ^\\/)) 
        for ((index=0 ; index < ${#DISKS[*]} ; index++ )) 
        do 
           (diskutil info ${DISKS[index]} | grep CANON) 
        done"
activate application "Adobe Lightroom 3"
end try

The term after 'grep' would be some way of identifying the device or card type; in this example, 'HS-SD' refers to an SD card 'Compact' to a CompactFlash card, 'KODAK' and 'Canon' to the brand of camera (when the camera is attached directly via USB). You can obviously change your applications as needed.

If you use Windows, then I'm afraid I can't help...

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Don't forget, that the USB channel has bandwidth limitations. USB 2.0 spec High Speed is 480 Mbps (megabits per second). This means that an 8GB card can theoretically transfer in 134 seconds. Firewire 800, can do this in 80 seconds (Firewire 400 in 160 sec).

Now, this is theoretical, because every USB or Firewire device connnected utilizes bandwidth. If you have a mouse on USB, it is using 1.5 Mbps. So more devices, and there is more bandwidth being consumed. USB hubs also have overhead, and some cheap ones behave oddly in switching among requesting devices, so you can run into issues with transfers etc. This is why high bandwidth devices like cameras and iPods don't like hubs too much.

Putting additional cards on will simply slow down the overall transfer speed, as bandwidth is spread across requesting applications. So, you may save time switching cards, but your overall time will be no better; each card will simply get less bandwidth, and slow down.

Given this, your fastest speeds would be had in utilizing both USB and Firewire card readers, and ensuring that few devices are connected as possible. USB and Firewire use different channels and drivers, and likely do not interfere with one another on most machines. There is an upper limit to the bus speed (PCI=133 MBps, thats megaBYTES), but you won't exceed it in FW and USB.

You might find that using the largest possible card would be a better way to optimize this: rather than trying to increase speed of downloading 4 8GB cards, purchase a 32GB card, and download with only a single card. Of course, this doesn't work if you have multiple cameras/shooters.

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2  
The using a single 32GB card sounds like putting all your eggs in one basket. Whilst having multiple cards of the same event means downloading is a pain, it does mean if a single card is lost/breaks that you lose a lot less. –  Phil Sep 5 '11 at 17:16
    
You bet Phil. But most things are tradeoffs: upload time with multiple cards. –  cmason Sep 5 '11 at 20:13

I have one of these and they are great; you can download 4 CF cards at a time: http://www.techchee.com/2008/02/03/delkin-imagerouter-card-reader-connects-multiple-cf-cards/

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I think there are a some external hard drives that have a memory card/usb port for auto-downloading of cards "onsite"...they probably won't be very fast, but if you're downloading from 3+ cards, you can have about 2 card readers connected to a laptop and one connected to this device.

However, i don't think it's worth the cost. You'd be better spending the money in more/better cards, and downloading in post production.

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