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Suppose I take 5000 photos a day. I'm willing to buy a computer without SD card reader and USB-A (only type C). I need to know an estimation of how much time it'd take to transfer those 5000 photos through WiFi. I know it can vary a lot but I want to know if it's a matter of 10 minutes or 2 hours.

I know that some cameras van generate their own connection and you connect your PC to it. This might be faster than transferring through a router. Also, does any camera have support for 5GHz WiFi?

As an alternative, is it easy to find USB-C cables for some known professional cameras?

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    "5000 photos" can be highly compressed, low resolution JPEGs that are 100KB each or high resolution raw files that are 50MB each. The 500X difference in file size would make a significant difference in the transfer time required. – Michael C Aug 4 '18 at 2:18
  • you're right. How much do you think it'd take to transfer those photos if they were 50mb each? I just need an estimation. – Guerlando OCs Aug 4 '18 at 2:30
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    This is a question about non-photographic technology and WiFi transfer speeds that only incidentally references photography. – xiota Aug 4 '18 at 4:42
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    Is it practical to transfer thousands of photos per day via USB? 5000 50MB files is 250GB, its going to take a long time to transfer via any method. And the question of how much storage space it requires. – vclaw Aug 4 '18 at 12:35
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    Why aren't you willing to buy a card reader? And do you realize that if you take a photo every 5.76 seconds for eight hours straight each day, you're going to wear out your camera's shutter in about a month? – Caleb Aug 4 '18 at 15:51
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It depends on a lot of factors you haven't revealed in your question. Among them:

  • How does one define "practical?" For some that would be "nothing less than the fastest possible speed available by all current options." For others it may mean "anything that can do it unattended while I'm asleep for the night."
  • What size are your 5,000 photos? Are they low resolution, highly compressed jpegs that are about 100 KB each? Or are they high resolution raw files that are 50+ MB each? Or somewhere in between?
  • Likewise, what compression codec, if any, is being used for your 4K video? This can have a significant impact on file size per minute of video. How long is the video footage in question?
  • Does requiring use of an AC power adapter to power your camera for the amount of time it would take to transfer a large amount of data affect your idea of suitability? How about tying up the computer you have attached to the camera's WiFi for several hours?

In general, it would be highly impractical to transfer 5,000 images per day or any amount of 4K video over a camera's built-in WiFi capability.¹ There are some cameras with built-in WiFi that only allow still images to be transferred via WiFi and do not allow any high resolution video to be transferred via WiFi.

I've never seen a camera that exceeded the 802.11n standard, which is a theoretical maximum data rate of 450 Mbps or 56 MB/sec. In practice most such connections are slower due to overhead, encryption, error correction that requires two-way communication, etc. Even at ≈300 Mbps, it would take around 1.5 seconds per ≈50MB unencrypted image. That translates to a little over two hours for 5,000 images. If your camera's battery lasts that long.

The impact of encryption can typically be anywhere from 5% to 50% in actual transfer speed, depending on the capabilities of the processors used in each device to encode/decode the encryption. So now we are talking up to a little over four hours for 250 GB.

External USB card readers are cheap and practical. Another alternative to consider is a wireless hard drive with a built in SD card slot. They come in both spinning disk and SSD flavors. This would allow you to access the images as needed using a device with no USB or SD connections. Such a device would presumably also have a limited amount of internal storage space. This would be a problem if you are generating 250-300GB of content per day!

Is it easy to find USB-C cables for some known professional cameras?

That can only be answered on a camera-by-camera basis.

"Flagship" cameras such as the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II (as well as most of the 1-series digital bodies that preceded it) and the Nikon D5 (as well as most of its predecessors) have ethernet ports built in. Some are 10/100 speed, the newest ones are gigabit ports.

Many pro-level bodies have standard female Mini B USB 2.0 connectors (not to be confused with Micro B USB 2.0 revised connectors) or female Micro B USB 3.0 connectors. A few have proprietary connectors.

In the past I've not noticed any references to a "pro-grade" camera that has a Type C USB 3.1/3.2 connector. Many phones, tablets, netbooks, etc. have them. Some lower end consumer grade endoscopes and thermal imaging devices meant to be used with such devices (phones, tablets, etc.) have Type C connectors.

However, a simple google search indicates that (back in 2016) before they were released the Olympus E-M1 Mk II (first shipped in December 2016) and the Panasonic Lumix GH-5 (first shipped March 2017 ) were rumored to have such connectors. The rumors proved to be true in both cases. Both are Micro Four-Thirds format cameras. One can only assume that eventually more pro-grade (e.g. FF and APS-C) cameras will also sport them. It took the camera industry several years after USB 3.0 was common on computers for the connector and the increased speeds it brought to be included on mainstream cameras. Development times of pro level cameras tend to be longer than other digital devices.

¹ On the other hand, although it would be less impractical to transfer 5,000 images per day using either an USB connection or a card reader, it would still be a pain. Handling 5,000 images per day is a chore no matter how you slice it.

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  • Mbps (megabits per second), not mbps (millibits per second) :) but otherwise, excellent post. :) I'd edit it, but Stack thinks edits of fewer than 6 bytes are a waste of its time. – Jim MacKenzie Aug 4 '18 at 13:01
  • The µ is for micro- (i.e. 1/1,000,000th) in the SI system. And thanks for fixing this! – Jim MacKenzie Aug 5 '18 at 3:21
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If your problem is that your computer has only USB-C ports, just get a USB-C to USB adapter or hub.

Transferring 5000 photos via WiFi from any camera capable of recording 4K video will not be practical, regardless of how generous your definition of "practical" may be. It takes a few seconds to move an SD card from a camera to a computer. The task may be annoying, and SD cards are slow when transferring so much data, but WiFi is even slower.

  • Suppose a rate of 1-5 seconds per file, it would take about 1.5 to 7 hours to transfer 5000 images. If you perform this task daily, you can waste two solid days per week just transferring files. If these transfers occur at top speed, WiFi will become useless for any other activity.

  • WiFi is not the most reliable technology. Even if you plan to transfer files while you sleep, it is bound to fail during the transfer at some point. Then you will have to spend up to 14 hours the next day to finish transferring files. This increases the likelihood of failure during transfer which further compounds the problem.

  • Devices that connect to each other directly via WiFi tend to operate slower and less reliably than devices that communicate via a router. Without a router, devices have to handle tasks that routers usually take care of in the background. Without a central "authority" taking care of common tasks, the connection takes longer to establish and drops frequently. You also lose access to the internet during the transfer. (This is particularly aggravating with devices that require a direct WiFi connection to another device to update firmware via the internet. What were the designers thinking?)

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It seems like your real concern is transfer of files to a computer without a USB A port. You ask about USB C cables for cameras, but, generally, people I know tend to pop the card out and put it in a card reader anyway. See Is it better to transfer photos by removing the memory card or by directly using a data cable? for more on this. And given that, there are plenty of USB C card readers. Here's a review of several from last year.

That review notes that photos are transferred at a little under 200MB/s from a fast card — about 5 minutes to copy an entire 64GB SD card (which should fit over 5000 moderate compression JPEG images). This is going to be faster and much more reliable and less of a hassle than current wifi solutions.

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