The iPod photo and Camera Connector

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camera connectorThe iPod photo Camera Connector is one slick little device. There were lots of complaints when the iPod photo came out about it's inability to download a camera on the go. Those complaints have to be silenced now.... except for the folks than need to do massive downloads and maybe for the folks that will complain that it costs $29.

The Camera Connector is the small device that plugs into the docking port on an iPod photo (it won't work on non-photo iPods). It provides a USB port that can be used with a USB capable camera to download the photos from the camera to either clear it out to make room for more photos or to back up the camera.

The Camera Connector will work with most USB cameras. For the requirements and a way to see what you camera capability is see Supported Devices.

It has worked with my three cameras with no troubles at all.

  1. Sony TRV-33 Camcorder (memory functions only)
  2. Cannon PowerShot S1 IS
  3. Nikon CoolPix 2200

The Camera Connector also works with SOME media card adaptors just as if they were a camera. This means that you can be downloading one card while shooting on another card. There are also some adaptors that it doesn't work with. This looks like a cut-and-try situation.

Because the adaptors don't have to have their own power source they will drain the iPod's battery during the download. Also since the iPod disk will probably be spinning the whole time, I would expect that the iPod battery could take a big hit, especially with USB 1.1 adaptors where the download will take awhile. A faster USB 2.0 media reader would probably result in a smaller hit to the iPod battery but I don't have one to test.

In my tests, it has worked with:

The camera connector has NOT worked with these readers. It declares that the reader is an "unsupported device."

Others have reported that these readers DO NOT WORK

But these DO work

There doesn't seem to be a pattern, some of these devices work, some do not. It looks like one just has to cut-and-try.

When the Camera Connector is plugged into the iPod, the iPod starts looking for a supported camera. When the camera USB cable is plugged into the Camera Connector, the camera is recognized (or not) and the screen provides two options, Import and Erase. Clicking Import causes the pictures in the camera to be downloaded to the iPod's hard disk. The download isn't blindingly fast, it took about 6 minutes to download 150 2 megapixel images from the CoolPix 2200. Overall, the download speed feels about half as fast as Image Capture with the same camera and my 1.25 GHz Powerbook.

If the same contents are downloaded again, the new download is placed in a new folder so that subsequent downloads do not overwrite previous downloads. If you don't erase the contents of camera between downloads, then you'll get multiple copies of some of your pictures. Image Capture is a little more intelligent. If you add some photos to a card and download the card again, Image Capture skips by the stuff is already copied and only copies the new stuff. However, with Image Capture, you have to carry a computer around. There is no free lunch.

The images are stored in a DCIM folder on the iPod so that the iPod will look like a camera when it is plugged into the computer. If Image Capture is set up to recognize the iPod as a camera, Image Capture will then grab the photos from the iPod (and optionally delete them from the iPod if desired) just as if the iPod were a camera.

While the images are still on the iPod, they can be viewed on the iPod. However, to include them in a slide show, the must be downloaded to a computer and re-uploaded to the iPod by iTunes.

I've run some real tests to determine download speed and it is clear that the iPod/Camera Connector/Camera/media combo is pretty slow. I used a load of mixed pictures and movie files totalling 667 MB. The same content was downloaded from a Lexar 1 GB "4X" CF card and a Hitachi 4 GB Microdrive. The contents were downloaded from a camera to the iPod through the Camera Connector, via Image Capture and USB from the camera and a media reader, and to the iPod via a Finder copy and a media reader. None of it went very fast. I couldn't get the Microdrive to work at all in any of the media readers through the camera connector.

Camera Connector File Copy Tests
Data Source Media Reader Transmission Media Destination Media Data Destination Time (min) Rate (Mbyte/sec) Notes
Microdrive Canon S1 IS USB cable Camera Connector iPod 23 0.49 This is pretty slow, about 1/3 of the theoretical USB 1.1 rate
Microdrive Canon S1 IS USB Cable Image Capture PB internal disk 19:45 0.56 The Canon is a little faster going directly to a computer and Image Capture
Flash Card Canon S1 IS USB cable Camera Connector iPod 24 0.46 The Lexar CF Card is about the same as the Microdrive in the Canon
Flash Card Canon S1 IS USB cable Image Capture PB internal disk 21 0.53 Again, about the same as the Microdrive, maybe a tad slower
Microdrive Hitachi PC Card Adaptor PowerBook PC Card Port Image Capture PB internal disk 8:301 1.31 Faster than in the Canon
Flash Card Hitachi PC Card Adaptor PowerBook PC Card Port Image Capture PB internal disk 81 1.39 The Lexar CF card was a tad faster in the PC card adaptor
Microdrive Media Gear USB 1.1 Media Reader USB 2.0 port Image Capture PB internal disk 13:20 0.83 Faster than the Canon using Image Capture
Flash Card Media Gear USB 1.1 Media Reader USB 2.0 port Image Capture PB internal disk 13:30 0.82 Same as the Microdrive
Microdrive Media Gear USB 1.1 Media Reader Finder USB 1.1 Hub iPod 16:15 0.73 A little slower than using the internal disk
Microdrive Media Gear USB 1.1 Media Reader Finder USB 2.0 iPod 14:15 0.78 A little better than USB 1.1 but not as fast as the internal disk
Microdrive Media Gear USB 1.1 Media Reader Image Capture USB 1.1 iPod 26:302 0.42 this went really slow, see Note 2
Lexar Flash Card Media Gear USB 1.1 Media Reader Image Capture USB 1.1 iPod 26:452 0.41 this went really slow, see Note 2


  1. Even though the PC Card adaptor is faster than the USB 1.1 media readers or the camera, the computer behaves strangely when it is in use with either the Microdrive or the Flash Card. System CPU utilization goes to 95+% the whole time that the PC Card Adaptor is being read or written. During this time, overall system response sucks. It is not at all clear to me why this is happening and it may be seriously masking the actual read/write performance of the media. This does not happen when the media is used in a regular USB media reader. This seems to happen most severly when a large media device is inserted into the PC card adaptor and it happens with at least two different types of PC card adaptor.

  2. Using Image Capture to copy between two slow disks is really slow. Image Capture appears to read one, then copy to the other. This is fine when one of the disks is really fast like an internal hard disk. But when BOTH are USB 1.1 speed devices, it really hurts.

Downloading a full Microdrive via the Camera connector straight from this camera would take about 2 hours. All during that time, the iPod disk is spinning. This nails the iPod battery pretty hard. Further the Microdrive is spinning in the camera too, nailing it's battery. Unless some way is found to dump a disk full more quickly, this device may not provide much utility in the field for a heavy duty photographer.

However, overall, this is a very good device within its limitations. It is very small and light so that it is easy to carry, acceptably fast for casual photographers and appears to have good camera compatibility. Usage is a snap. This is a must have for anybody with an iPod photo.

Contour Design Showcase

The iPod photo is an expensive device. I have been reluctant to carry it around with me due to the risk of damage or loss. The belt holster that came with it is not very effective. It does hold the thing, but you must remove it from the holster to see the display or to change a setting. All that sliding in and out of the case was actually starting to scratch it. Further the risk of dropping it during handling is unacceptably high. Further, the belt clip holds it vertically. When clipped to a belt, it digs into the thigh or torso while sitting which is pretty uncomfortable. This pretty much negated the utility of the iPod photo as a portable device.

ipod photo and caseThere are only a few cases that are designed to hold the iPod photo and until I ran across the Contour Designs Showcase none got close to meeting my requirements. This one is virtually perfect.

I needed these things:

The Showcase met all of these criteria except for clearance for the Camera Connector and that was easily fixed. List price is $32.95 (available for less) so that the price was at the top end of a "reasonable" range. However, since most cases are horribly overpriced, the Showcase cost less that some of them and not much more than all of them. It is also has better design and materials quality than any of the other cases.

The case is sized for the thickest 4G iPod, the 60 GB iPod photo. However, it will fit all of the other 4G iPods with the use of one or more of the foam pads included with the case.

ipod photo and caseThe main reason for the case is to prevent dropping and, if dropped, to provide some protection. I haven't (and won't, at least on purpose) test the protection aspects. To prevent dropping I needed a sturdy and secure clip. This one meets the need. It won't pull off a standard belt by accident and secures to a belt reliably. The clip is molded from heavy plastic and appears to be quite strong. Further, the clip has a spring loaded latch that allows the case to be removed from the belt clip but it will still remain securely attached to the clip unless purposely unlatched.

The screen is covered with a thick clear plastic shield that does not distort the screen image. The click wheel is exposed through a large hole in the faceplate, but is recessed to still provide some protection against all but jabbing hazards.

When clipped to a belt, it is easy to operate the pause button and volume control by feel, I don't have to look at it. I probably pause the thing 20 times a day at work so I need to get at the pause button quickly and without bother.

The opening for the dock connector easily clears the cable connector but does not quite clear the Camera Connector. A minute of careful grinding with a Dremel tool widened the opening enough to allow a Camera Connector to fit as well.

Overall, this is the perfect case for me. I can now use the iPod photo at work with about the same ease and comfort as an iPod shuffle.

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© 2005-2007 George Schreyer
Created 21 Apr 2005
Last Updated September 1, 2007