Especially from Switchers, one of the more frequent complains about Macs is their lack of built-in memory card readers. Mac users who wish to transfer photos from their camera to their Mac either need to use the USB cable that comes with the camera, or else use a camera card reader. I like to take photos when I travel, and I admit, sometimes I wish my MacBook Pro had a built-in SD card reader, especially when I am on the road for more than a couple of days.

Most people simply use the USB cable that comes with the digital camera to connect it to their Mac. Most cameras (including Canon) use a simple mini-USB to USB cable for this (a handful of brands such as Olympus use a propriety cable – annoying). In case you’ve lost yours, or need a spare, you can see a couple of mini-USB to USB cables that we recommend here:

Keyspan mini USB 5 pin to USB retractable cable, $9.99

Cables to Go USB to mini USB Cable 3 foot – $14.99

It is often preferable to use an external card reader, especially in a desktop situation where the card reader is more or less permanently attached to the computer. This spares you from digging around, looking for the cable. Some people don’t like to use a cable, fearing damage to the camera from a flimsy connection or even a power surge (which is far-fetched). Finally, dedicated card readers typically transfer photos faster that the standard USB cable connection. This is especially relevant for pro-photographers with hundreds of high-resolution photos.

Here are some external card readers that we both use and recommend. All of these are USB 2.0 compatible; we don’t even carry USB 1.1 models. These will all still work with older USB 1.1-equipped Macs, but the transfer rate will be rather slow. Of course, if you’re using a USB 1.1-equipped Mac, you’re probably used to slow transfer speeds.

Flash Drive / Memory Card Combos:

This is actually my favorite option while traveling. These are small flash drives with one or two gigabytes of built-in memory as well a slot where an SD card can be inserted. The entire device is plugged into a Mac’s USB port. These devices are great because you can use them as basic flash drives (for saving and transferring documents, music, photos and other data), but with the option to read an SD card. What’s really useful is that you can actually back up photos from the SD card to the flash drive when it’s plugged into the computer. My 1GB version has become a standard tool in my computer bag. I even bought extras, so I will still have one when they are inevitably discontinued at some point in the future (as all technology is ultimately discontinued.) See them here:

Kingston Data Traveler USB 1gb with Card Reader – $19.99

Kingston Data Traveler USB 2gb with Card Reader – $29.99

Express Card Reader (For MacBook Pro Users)

Since the MacBook pro has an Express Card slot, you can use a Express Card adapter. Basically you simply slide the adapter card into the MacBook Pro’s Express Card slot, and insert the camera card into the card adapter. These offer fast transfer speeds, as the connection is via a dedicated Express Card bus. Here’s a version by MacAlly. I had one and liked it until I lost it:

MacAlly 5-in-1 Expresscard Adapter MS/SD/MMC/xD – $43.99

Dedicated USB Card Reader:

These are small rectangular devices with up to 19 different slots for the various types of camera cards (SD, Compact Flash, MMC, Memory Stick, xD, etc). They connect to the Mac via a single USB cable. I like the models that have the card reading function along with a built-in USB hub, which gives your Mac three or four additional USB 2.0 ports (one can never have too many USB ports!) The models with build-in USB hub typically have to be plugged into AC power to function at their full speed. Here are two I like:

Kensington USB PocketHub 3 port USB 2.0 Hub with Card reader – $38.99

Kingston 19-in-1 USB 2.0 Reader – $19.99

Finally, consider getting a printer or printer/copier/scanner with a built-in card reader. Most printer/copier/scanners have these built in as a standard feature. These have to be connected to your Mac via a USB cable anyway; you might as well take advantage of that connection. With this option, all you have to do is turn on the printer, pop in the camera card, and transfer your photos to your Mac via iPhoto or Aperture. Beyond transferring photos from the memory card to your Mac, you can also often print directly from the camera card with this option. If you need to get a new printer, consider this option. It’s very convenient, and you don’t end up with the extra clutter of a card reader. Here are three models I like:

Canon Pixma MP470 SE Print Copy Scan USB – $99.99

Epson Stylus Photo RX595 Printer/Copier/Scanner USB – this the model I use – $129.99

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