With time sensitive projects like professional bike races, every minute counts. You need to get a first image or two to your team clients so that they can update their websites as quickly as possible. So as soon as the presentations are done – the race begins (for me at least).
The biggest time lag is dumping data down from the cameras to my laptop. In the past I've tried a few USB 2.0 card readers, but had found that using a USB connection directly to the cameras worked something on the guesstimate of 3-4x faster than USB 2.0. I'll admit I've not tried any of the UDMA compatible card readers – with the functionality of my cable from camera method, I didn't think I get that great a gain in transfer speed with a UDMA compliant adapter.
That was all well and good till I purchased my new laptop last year – it had a USB 3.0 port. It wasn't long before USB 3.0 compatible external drives arrived on the scene, and the faster push of images from my laptop to my archival drive was great to have, but that wasn't my critical need. I needed data off the cards ASAP.
I'd kept my eyes peeled on the interwebs for card reader products but none were to be found till the PRETEC P240 USB 3.0 Multi Card Reader appeared in my search results. I hopped onto www.MyDigitalDiscount.com and saw it said "arriving 27 April", I figured I may as well jump in the queue so I ordered one – pretty cheap at $22.99. When I got my confirmation email, it had my order date as the ship date… I hopped back on-line the next AM and it now showed they have them in stock. I ordered on a Monday, it arrived via priority mail on Wednesday. It was time to test.
The PRETEC P240:
The PRETEC is pretty basic. Just a small black box with 4 card slots on one side (SDHC/MMC/SDXC, MSXC/MSHG, microSD/microSDHC and M2), the CF I/II slot on the other; it also has a USB 3.0 port on one end. It comes with a short "connector" which conveniently tucks into an indention on the bottom of the device for more compact storage. You can also use (if plugging in with the connector may block usage of other USB ports or be too low on your device) any USB 3.0 to USB cable. I utilized the connector that came with the device. The build quality feels basic – not flimsy, but not super solid either; but with no moving parts inside, and at a $23 price point, what do you really need/expect?
Testing Methodology and Equipment:
My current laptop is a Lenovo ThinkPad W510, it has an Intel Core i7 CPU – quad 1.6 GHz processor, 10 GB of ram, and a Segate SATA 7200 rpm 320-GB hard drive. I'm running Windows 7 64-bit as the operating system. Not the most earth shattering spec, but it does the trick for me. For the data to move around I used 350 raw images from one of last years races, which totaled 7.43 GB. I copied them onto the CF card tested into a typical directory structure for a camera: DCIM\EOS1D\IMG_####.CR2 (not sure this matters, but figured I'd keep it "real").
I tested two different cards. The one I ran the full gamut of tests on was an ADATA 533x 16 GB CF card. Tho not labeled with "UDMA" specifically on the card or packaging, I did some research before buying this and found that it is indeed UDMA compliant, and I think these tests bear that out. The second card tested was a LEXAR Professional UDMA 300x 8 GB CF card. I tested this second card mainly to see how the rated speeds of these two cards compared; once I saw how it did on the PRETEC, I didn't want to repeat the other transfer methods.
I tested four different copying methods: USB Cable from my Canon 5D Mark II to the laptop; the PRETEC P240; a Kodak 6 in 1 reader (USB 2.0 and *not* UDMA compliant), and an old Digital Concepts CF reader (USB 1.0?). I'm pretty sure the "Kodak" and "Digital Concepts" are just branded generic readers that I've seen with different logos on them. May not be the best comparison against these 2.0 and 1.0 readers, but I figure I'm in the ballpark. I hadn't been using either one for years since the camera to pc process was working so well for me.
The copy procedure was pretty straight forward, open the cf card in one window, open a destination directory in the other, select all then drag over to the new folder and release. I started a stopwatch at the release of the mouse button and then stopped the time when the copying dialog box closed. I only did one pass for each setup as I'm not looking for statistical accuracy here – I figured ballpark numbers would translate pretty well between the methods – and with the differences I saw after running the sequence once, I didn't think any races were close enough to merit a second set of testing.
|ADATA 533x UDMA||LEXAR 300x UDMA|
|Time:||Data Rate*||Time:||Data Rate*|
|PRETEC P240||2 min 6 sec:||62-85 mb/sec||3 min 50 sec:||32-45 mb/sec|
|Canon 5D2||7 min 47 sec:||not displayed**||not||tested|
|Kodak 6 in 1||est 1 hour***:||2.25 mb/sec||not||tested|
|Digital Concepts||est 2+ hours***:||0.92 mb/sec||not||tested|
* Data Rate observed in "more details" panel during file transfer. The range of numbers I saw from time to time.
** The 5D2 shows as an attached device, not as a "drive"; so Windows 7 does not show data rate numbers
*** Stopped as observed "Data Rate" was so low. Estimate is the time remaining that was displayed by the transfer progress window
I had only been able to find one other review of the PRETEC P240 before I bought mine and that user had found no gain in speed over their USB 2.0 device. They also didn't comment on what speed card they had, what their computer hardware was, etc. Besides, with the cheap price, I figured it was pretty low risk – and I could always return it.
I was very happy to see that with a fast card and my hardware that I would see noticiable gains in transfer speed of images so I could get my post processing into gear in almost 1/4 the time it has taken in the past. I was pretty used to 40 – 60 minutes of data transfer, that could be cut to 10 – 15… Can't complain about that sort of process improvement for a measly $22.99 plus shipping.
I may go ahead and test the transfer time of the 300x card via the 5D2 to see where the "card speed" threshold is using the camera as a transfer device. I may also test transfer via camera and PRETEC at the same time. I only have 1 USB 3.0 port on my laptop, so having two devices copying at the same time could speed the process – a USB 3.0 hub and a second PRETEC may be the best bet. If/when I do more testing, I'll update this post.
As always – let me know if you have any questions – either comment below or use the "contact" link in the header.
Thanks for reading!
two press room photos copyright and courtesy of KQCooper