Thursday, July 06, 2006

iPod Photo Connector and Pentax DSLRs

There are a large number of Pentax DSLR owners who are iPod users out there, many of them with at least the iPod Photo, if not an iPod Nano, or the latest iPod Video. If you're one of them, Mac or Windows, maybe you're transferring your iPhoto or Adobe Album/Elements Library to your iPod regularly as a photo wallet. But are you using your iPod as a backup for your CF or SD cards while you travel? Are you transferring your JPEGs to your iPod first for those impromptu TV slideshows, instead of doing it from your camera or waiting to do it with iPhoto? If you're not using it as a backup for your DSLR, you probably haven't gotten your hands on the Apple iPod Photo Connector, which is a cheap $29.95 for all that sweet goodness of portable satisfaction.

There are plenty of personal media players and portable hard drives that can serve as back up for your JPEGS and RAW files while you travel (Archos, Epson, etc.) but none are as popular as the iPod. Luckily, the iPod Photo Connector is friendly with Pentax DSLRs such as the *ist cameras and even the K100D. Unfortunately, Pentax is never listed on the Apple website camera compatibility charts, even though they do support many Pentax cameras. So, I'm saying it here: the *ist D, DS, and DL all conform to the specs required by the Apple iPod Photo Connector.

Things to know about the iPod Photo Connector:

Your iPod: You have to make sure that your iPod is set for access as a hard drive (HD mode under iPod options in iTunes) for it to work. And it will only work with iPod models that have a color display (make sure you also have the latest iPod Photo software updates).

USB connection: You use either your Pentax USB camera cable to plug the camera into the connector, or you plug in a USB card reader that has your camera's CF or SD card inserted.

Batteries: Make sure your iPod is fully charged before you start. Use a compatible card reader if you can, to avoid draining your camera. If you're transferring directly from the camera make sure that it's got plenty of power, too, because you don't want either running out of steam if you're transferring lots of pictures. Generally, you've got about an hour before the iPod has used itself up on what is a herculean task for that little drive.

Transfer Speeds: If you're using a high speed CF or SD card and a USB 2.0 connection, expect the images to move at about 100MB a minute. If you're using a slower card or a media card reader (or USB cable) that is only rated USB 1.1, expect the speeds to be a lot slower, like about 25MB a minute. In some cases, the speeds might default to USB 1.1 just to annoy you, and some Nikon D70 users say that after 80 JPEGs, the iPod might stall the transfer even with lots of battery power left, but I've not seen this personally. Keeping these things in mind, it might be worthwhile to consider backing up your card every 250MB or so, to keep things fast and easy, and do it when you're not in a rush to delete the card and use your camera, like at night.

DCIM Folder: The iPod will transfer the image contents of the card's DCIM folder to it's HD contents. This includes RAW .PEF files, too. But it may not work if you've set your Pentax camera to sort its photos by dated folders (the *ist DL2 and K100D can do this); I haven't been able to verify this problem, so if you know, please chime in. Once the folder contents are copied, whether you ever look at the photos on your iPod or not, the contents of your card have been backed up. Because there's now a DCIM folder on the iPod, your photo importing software (iPhoto, Aperture, Adobe Elements, Picasa, etc.) on your computer should now recognize the iPod as a photo source like a memory card.

Rolls: Just like in iPhoto, every import session is considered a "Roll" in the iPod Photo's menus until you decide later to change its name or move the photos around in iPhoto. However, only JPEGs will be visible in the roll if you want to see them on your iPod, and Raw files will be grayed out, because the iPod can't process them (well, one day a future model might). If you don't like the way the iPod sorts things into rolls for when you archive the pictures later, just copy the contents off the iPod HD before you sync with iTunes, and you'll be set to modify things.

Deleting and Tagging Photos: If you do review your JPEGs on the iPod, you can delete pictures or set their star rating, which will help you sort them later in iPhoto or Adobe Album/Elements.

Raw files: As I said, RAW .PEF files aren't viewable, but they're backed up. When you import from the iPod with your .PEF aware photo software, they'll move just like you were reading your memory card. Alternately, you can get them off the iPod by copying the DCIM folder off the iPod HD before you import or sync with iTunes. If you're using iPhoto with Mac OS X 10.4.7, when you next sync with iTunes, the RAW photos from the *ist DL and *ist D will have JPEGs generated (more on that, and *ist DS compatibility here), and the Raw files will be moved into your iPhoto Library.

On the whole, it's more efficient and less expensive than the Belkin Media Reader that was available only for earlier iPods. You give up some control about how the files are transferred into new folders on your iPod, but you gain the ability to view pictures right away and even tag them with ratings. Love it or hate it, considering all the special accessories that are available, the iPod is a nice tool to have on a trip.

Links: Apple iPod Photo Connector, iPod Software updates, Apple's Resources for the Camera Connector, Belkin Media Reader at DP Review

Note: The above photos are from Apple's website, but I superimposed a DS photo from Pentax in the top image, just so you know that Apple and Pentax never made that graphic and I'm to blame.

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