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Importing Large Memory Cards to the iPad

iPad with Camera

If you’ve ever used the iPad Camera Connection Kit (CCK), then you know that using memory card readers for importing compact flash cards is dicy, and anything other than an SD card is more work. Often, we resort to using the camera and a USB cable. However, this is not the best solution as it can be slower and will drain the camera battery.

Occasionally, you can find small compact flash readers which don’t use much power. These can be plugged into the USB plug of the CCK. The problem is that these readers are usually slower. Also, with larger and faster CF cards, they may still draw too much power to be of use with the iPad.

The solution I’ve come up with is to use my USB card reader with a USB “power-sharing” or “Y” cable, and a USB battery pack. The battery pack I use is one which has a standard USB connection so that it can be used with any device (and is primarily used for my iPhone). These are fairly common now, especially as reserve power sources for cell phones. While there are many great ones made specially for the iPhone, to be of use here they will need to be able to provide power though a USB cable, and not just the dock connector.

The USB cable is another matter, and depending on your card reader there are two different options:

  1. If your card reader has a detachable cable, hopefully, it has mini- or micro-USB because this will make things simplest. What you need is a cable usually referred to as a “power-sharing” or “Y” cable. This will have a male mini-USB (or micro-) connection at one end, and a standard male USB plug at the other. However, different from a normal cable, it will have a second USB at the end which will simply provide additional power, and no data transfer. These cables are commonly supplied with portable hard drives so that they’re compatible with computers whose USB ports don’t provide enough power. Here’s a common example on Amazon.
  2. If you card reader does not have a removable USB cable, the strategy is basically the same, and you still need a power-sharing cable, but this time is needs to be a female-to-male power-sharing cable. Though these aren’t as common, they’re still pretty cheap on Amazon, like this one.

So, how does it work?

Well, the picture makes it pretty simple: The card reader gets plugged in with the power-sharing cable. The main end goes in the iPad Camera Connection Kit and the second USB plug goes in your battery pack. Put the memory card in the reader and you should be good to go!

Some Notes:

  • I’ve tested this with 2, 4, 8 and 16GB CF cards from both Lexar and SanDisk. They’re all UDMA cards (300x and 400x). I once tried using a friend’s 32GB 1000x CF I was borrowing that couldn’t wouldn’t be read by the iPad. I don’t know if this was due to my card reader, or the iPad as I didn’t have a chance to test in my computer.
  • The card reader I have is a Moshi Cardette Ultra, and my battery pack is an Energizer like this one. They make larger ones too.
  • This is the USB cable I use. If you were looking to buy a reader specifically for the iPad, I would recommend looking for one that has a detachable cord, like the Lexar USB card reader, since there’s a good chance you already have the proper USB cable from a hard drive or phone.

While a little bit of work, using a good card reader definitely has made working with photos on the iPad much better!

Originally Posted:  Jun 03, 2012 at 07:34 am