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I have a Canon camera that has USB-C port supporting both connection to computer and charging. Furthermore, the SD card and battery are removable and can be used externally.

Which is a better strategy for durability: Remove the card and battery, or connect to computer and charger via USB-C?

The battery attachment mechanism of Canon seems to be rather durable. The contacts are large, and the plastic part that keeps the battery attached seems to be rather durable as well.

The SD card attachment mechanism seems to be somewhat less durable than the battery attachment mechanism, because everything is smaller in SD cards than in batteries. However, I'm not sure if the SD card attachment mechanism is less or more durable than the USB-C connector. The SD card mechanism is of the type that to remove the card, you press the card down and it automatically springs up.

USB-C should be rated to 10 000 cycles, but I have had micro-USB port in a phone that is rated to 10 000 cycles too fail after less than 1000 cycles.

Does anyone have real world experience of battery attachment, SD card attachment or USB-C port failures?

I'm not primarily interested in performance. I'm also only interested in the camera side USB port; the USB-A to USB-C cable is continuously connected to my USB hub, and in the unlikely case I have to remove it, the damage happens to the cheap USB hub and not to the expensive computer.

Related, although not completely the same: Is it better to transfer photos by removing the memory card or by directly using a data cable?, where one answer mentioned potential damage to card slot but didn't mention potential damage to USB connector. The other answer doesn't discuss batteries at all, probably because interchangeable lens cameras didn't support charging via USB until recently.

I'm asking here, not at SuperUser, because I believe professional photographers subject their equipment to such harsh use, which a random SuperUser community member won't do. Also, camera batteries may be out of scope of SuperUser.

  • "I believe professional photographers subject their equipment to such harsh use" – While photographers use equipment more frequently they are more likely to know how to handle it "properly". Non-photographers are more likely to misuse equipment (drop it, dunk it in a river, serve it alcohol, whatever) because they're less likely to know how to use it appropriately. – xiota Jul 10 at 1:46
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Not a definitive answer, but I'm a fan of using the USB connection first.

My thinking is that if the USB port suffers mechanical failure, you'll still be able to charge and export files externally, but if the battery or card compartment breaks, you're without a functioning camera.

To put it another way :

Durability [external] = Durability [card slot + battery compartment]

Durability [USB] = Durability [USB port] + Durability [external]

  • That's actually a very valid consideration. Indeed, you are absolutely correct! – juhist Jul 7 at 9:54
  • As @Hueco suggests, the most fragile thing in the camera is likely the rubber cover of the ports. And once it is broken, ports will be very exposed to damage (water, dirt...)), so you may end up with a half-functional camera faster this way. Like Hueco, my two Canon cameras still have working camera and SD card slots. – xenoid Jul 7 at 14:17
  • Except that the USB connection in most Canon cameras is integrated into the main board, so a bad USB connector means a main board replacement... – Michael C Jul 9 at 23:38
  • @MichaelC - True - if you fix it. Unless it's causing other problems, that's the point I'd start doing things externally. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Jul 10 at 8:24
  • It usually shorts out other things on the motherboard. – Michael C Jul 11 at 6:12
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My experience is with Canon cameras (5D, XXD series). The ports are accessed via a rubber gasket on the side that sits well enough to create a good seal around the ports but is also only held on by the same rubber. It's a rather tight junction - which is good, one doesn't want it flopping around. But, at the same time, leaves me feeling like opening it 100% causes it undue stress.

The battery door, on the other hand, is actually designed to come off to make room for battery grips.

There's always a risk that a CF card slot winds up with a bent pin if one is sloppy, but that risk goes away with SD cards.

So, in the case of these cameras, the risk of using a USB cable means constant opening/closing on this rubber gasket vs using a battery door that is designed to come off anyway and ejecting an SD card/CF card.

I only open that gasket when I need to use a cabled shutter release, so it doesn't see much stress. But, I've been popping a battery and card in and out of a 20D since 2006 without issue to either the battery door or card pins. I imagine that if I'd been using the USB this whole time, that I would have broken the gasket off (and subsequently lost it) a long time ago.

So, for me, I'd say that you are better off using the parts that are designed for constant use - the battery door and the card ejector.

3

What to do is pretty much up to you and your preferences. If you are careful, either approach can work until you feel it is time to replace the camera for other reasons.

Unless a camera can be charged only by USB, I prefer to swap batteries and cards.

  • I have used the battery door and card slots on my cameras nearly every day for years. The greatest risk of damage occurs when the camera is set down with the compartment door open. Then if the camera is knocked or dropped, the door can break. As long as it is not left open, there is minimal risk of damage. Have extra batteries and cards so you can close the door immediately after swapping.

  • Based on experience with phones and other devices, USB slots are not very durable. Having something sticking out of a device for prolonged periods provides leverage and opportunity for damage. The particularly careless can break a slot on day one, while careful users may never break it.

1

I'm asking here, not at SuperUser, because I believe professional photographers subject their equipment to such harsh use...

Most "pros" are still doing whatever they got in the habit of doing long before "pro" level cameras allowed charging batteries in camera.

Canon's battery interface is robust enough that I've never heard of anyone having issues with it. The two large contacts you see are for charging and data communication. The actual positive and negative contacts are recessed in two very narrow slots for most Canon batteries. There are two "blades" in the battery compartment or battery grip that slide onto the narrow slots. The springs that maintain good contact are in the battery's slots. If they were to be damaged, replacing the battery would solve the issue.

Charging the batteries with an external charger also allows the camera to be used with another battery while one is being recharged.

As for transferring the photo files, most "pros" use card readers because typically top notch card readers are faster than using a USB cable attached to the camera. This is less the case since cameras started using USB3 connections, but the fastest card readers are still faster than USB. Personally, I use USB from the camera so that I can automatically rename the files to my naming scheme using EOS Utility. That also allows me the opportunity to see quick previews as the images are transferred.

One thing to be aware of is that most Canon cameras have the USB port integrated on the camera's main board. If the USB connector is damaged it means a main board replacement is required to fix it. Older Canon DSLRs also integrate the memory card connections on the main board, but newer ones tend to use a modular connection so that the memory card module can be replaced without requiring a new main board.

If you are mainly concerned about durability, using card readers and external battery chargers is the way to go. Those methods do not put any stress on the USB connector, which seems to be the weakest link compared to the battery and SD/CF card interfaces in Canon's higher end cameras.

Although it is anecdotal, I've seen Roger Cicala at lensrentals.com mention the USB/mainboard issue more than memory card slot issues for Canon cameras on his blog entries about recurrent repairs they do at lensrentals. I don't recall ever hearing him say anything about battery connector issues in Canon cameras.

  • Good point about being able to use the camera with another card/battery during download/charging. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Jul 10 at 8:31
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Have had bad experiences with SD push-to-eject mechanisms in general, breaking and leaving the card stuck.

Having said that, I may give you 2 alternatives that you might consider: wireless SD cards and magnetic USB cables.

  • For the Wireless SD card there is the Toshiba FlashAir card. I don't have much of experience with it or any of them.
  • For the magnetic cable, I have used the Volta cable. The "2.0" version supposedly supports data transfer according their FAQ (last question as writing).
    I have used the version 1 and those are enough; there are many cheap versions on Amazon, but Volta seems to have proven durable (although not perfect).

The magnetic cable may be your best alternative (if you consider it) as you would just leave the magnet tip inserted, plus it may be safer for your camera for accidental cable pulls.
(I'm not being paid nor sponsored by either company).

  • ...or then I could just use Wi-Fi to connect to the computer, but when shooting RAW+JPG and taking many pictures, Wi-Fi is just too slow. I don't believe magnetic cable is a good idea, since I can't close the rubber cover with the tip attached, and the rubber cover is necessary for weatherproofing. Furthermore, bending the tip would bend the USB-C connector in the camera. In hard use, I'm 100% certain I would bend the tip. – juhist Jul 8 at 15:26
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    Leaving the magnetic USB connector end hooked to the camera would mean leaving the rubber cover off the USB port, which would compromise the camera's dust/moisture resistance. – Michael C Jul 10 at 0:20

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