Posted Friday, April 01, 2005

A Few Thoughts on the iPod Camera Connector

Over at Playlist, Chris Breen, the hardest working iPod user in show business, has reviewed Apple's iPod Camera Connector, the $29 gizmo that enables iPod photo to import and display photos directly from a camera.

And he doth pronounce it good, if power hungry: Because the iPod photo can’t display RAW images with the help of the iPod Camera Connector and extended use of the device drains an iPod’s battery in short order, this adapter may not be the perfect tool for demanding digital photographers in the field. For the rest of us, however, it’s an extremely handy gadget that delivers on the iPod photo’s potential.

I'm not surprised by iPod photo's inability to display raw images (sorry, I just won't capitalize that non-acronym). Very few digital wallets display raw files because every camera manufacturer uses its own priorietary raw format, often even varying the format from one model to the next. This silliness won't go away unless and until camera manufacturers adopt a standard digital negative format such as that proposed by Adobe.

I'm more troubled by the Camera Connector's sluggish transfer speed and its thirst for battery power. In Chris Breen's tests, transferring 253MB of photos took almost 13 minutes. That's way too slow. And remember, that's 13 minutes of having to leave your camera turned on in one of its most power-hungry modes, so it means less shooting time once the photos are transferred.

I can transfer the same amount of data to my Archos Gmini-400 in a couple of minutes. And the reason: no USB bottleneck. Remove the card from the camera, plug it into the Gmini-400's Compact Flash slot, press a couple of buttons, and the transfer takes place.

The Missing Dock
What the iPod photo needs is a media reader/dock combination: a dock containing a Compact Flash slot. You'd transfer your photos using the dock, which could also be charging and powering the iPod photo at the same time. A simple adapter could accommodate other memory card formats, as it does on my Archos wallet.

I love the iPod photo: its screen is gorgeous, and the ability to carry slide shows in your pocket is a wonderful thing—even if Apple now charges extra for the cable and dock you need to actually view them on a TV set. But as a digital wallet—as a waystation for photos that you'd like to store until you get back to your Mac—it seems like iPod photo still hasn't quite reached its promise.