Camera Connection Kit with iPad and iPhone Review
The main accesory I wanted to buy with my iPad was the camera connection kit. Unfortunately this was sold out in New York, so I tried again on launch day in the UK. When the kit sold out in a couple of hours here it was time to place an order through the Apple online store and wait three weeks like everyone else. I’ve now had the kit for two weeks and can give some thoughts on it’s use.
The camera connection kit comprises two small adaptors that plug into the iPad dock connector, providing an SD card slot and a USB socket.
The intended use for these two items is to transfer photo and video content from your digital camera to the iPad for viewing, storage and subsequent transfer to a computer. The first thing I tested when the kit arrived was its ability to import media from my Panasonic LX3 camera. Jpeg and RAW images preview and copy to the ipad correctly, and the camera’s 720p video is also fully supported. This wasn’t a huge surprise as much has already been written about the functionality of the kit, but being able to copy party video’s quickly to the iPad for immediate viewing was one of those ‘wow’ moments for the guests.
In the photo above I tried viewing and importing some photo’s placed onto an SD card from my desktop computer. Any USB or SD device connected to the iPad will generate an error message unless it contains a folder named DCIM, so this was created on the card and the images placed within. The iPad detected the images but would not show a preview for three of them. I’ve seen before than not all Jpeg files are equal, and these were a selection of files downloaded from a range of sources. It’s a shame you can’t view any of the files on the USB/SD device at full screen as this would be a great way to carry around your photo library on a large SDHC card or USB flash drive. More on this later when I cover what can be done with a jailbroken iPad.
The next test was to transfer media from an iPhone 3GS running the iOS4 gold master. The camera connection kit does not work with the 3GS, giving an error message if one of the adaptors is plugged in. I’m puzzled why this does not work as the iPhone is a great device for viewing and storing photo’s. Perhaps this will change with the iPhone 4, if anyone can test this and leave a comment I will update this post.
The iPhone 3GS is shown here connected to the USB adapter via the charge/sync cable. The iPad will update its preview with any new photo’s or video’s as they are taken on the iPhone, but these still need to be selected for transfer.
Software is available in the app store that will transfer images between iDevices and computers over WiFi, so I hope to try this soon. For now though the ability to copy photo and video content from an iPhone to iPad for storage and viewing is very useful. The improved camera in the iPhone 4 could make it the perfect device for travellers to pair with an iPad. If Apple release an improved version of iMovie for the iPad this could be unbeatable, or just use ReelDirector which is available now. The case for buying the 64Gb iPad just got a lot stronger.
I mentioned before that a Jailbroken iPad can do even more with the camera connection kit. A connected SD card or USB flash drive will be mounted even if it doesn’t contain a DCIM folder. This can then be accessed using the iFile application, which includes viewers for a range of filetypes. The screengrab below shows iFile viewing the default mobile account.
iFile is a flexible file browser, with some useful options for showing song titles and application names instead of the default meaningless character strings that the filesystem uses.
Both USB and SD storage is mounted at /var/mnt/mount1, shown here with the contents of a 4Gb SDHC card. Tapping the filename of each file will launch it using the default viewer for that filetype. Tapping the blue and white arrow on the right of each line shows the file attributes.
Plenty of information and control is available in the attributes window.
Tapping Open With shows the available viewers if iFile cannot determine how to open the file.
Video playback for the files is identical to using the Videos application.
iFile supports bookmarks, so I have added a shortcut to /var/mnt/mount1 called USB device in this screenshot. Accessing the connected flash memory is now as simple as launching iFile and selecting the USB device bookmark.
Using iFile really opens up the flexibility of the camera connection kit, meaning photo and video files can be moved from an iPhone through the iPad to a flash memory device. This may work with a USB hard drive, though I expect it would need to be plugged into a powered USB hub first and the hub connected to the iPad.
The bottom line is that the camera connection kit is a very useful addon for the iPad, if expensive at £25 for two small plastic dongles. The kit should really be judged on the capabilities it adds to the iPad, so looking at like that the price is reasonable. Jailbreaking just makes the kit even better so I’m hoping iPad file managers continue to develop and make moving content around even easier.