The same can't always be said for direct connection of your camera to your computer—for many, you need to use drivers that come on the CD that's packaged with your camera. Also, the hardwired connection between your computer and the camera can lead to precarious "temporary placement" of your camera. I've seen cameras balanced on top of scanners, monitors and computers, where one slip could damage the camera or the connector on the camera.
In addition, a card reader is simple and always connected to your computer. You don't need to search for cords—just pull out your memory card and plug it in.
Now, to answer a couple of the card reader criticisms. I've run across (and thrown out) several cheap card readers that were very frustrating to use. The problem seems to be the guides that ensure that the contacts on the card line up with the contacts on the reader. Eventually, the guides wear out or become misaligned, making the whole setup difficult to use. If possible, spend a little money and get a sturdy reader.
Another issue is learning how to eject the card from the reader. While it's easy to remove the card physically, first you have to let the computer know that you want to remove it. If you eject the card without letting the computer know, you'll probably get an error. If you do this while downloading your images, you might end up with corrupt files on your computer. (It won't corrupt the files on the memory card.)
If you use Windows, let the computer know you're removing the card by clicking on the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the tray at the right of the Taskbar, then selecting the appropriate device. On Macs, you need to drag the card icon from the desktop to the trash. Once the computer has disconnected the card, you can eject the card from the reader.
In short, use a reader. The only time I have a camera hooked up to my computer is when I'm shooting tethered in a studio or if I need to use the camera software to upgrade the firmware (even the firmware upgrade can usually be done via the memory card and reader).
October 2006 HelpLineDPMag Published in HelpLine
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