XQD card reader vs. USB3 tether?

adamhiram

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I recently picked up a D500, which means switching over to XQD cards. I've always used the built-in SD card reader on my primary workstation (Mac), so now it looks like I'll need to pickup an external XQD card reader.

So here's my question - I can already import into Lightroom CC using a direct USB3 tether to my camera. Is there any speed benefit to getting an external USB3 card reader, if the data is still going over the same USB3 connection? What about using a Thunderbolt connection to that same card reader if available?
 
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adamhiram

adamhiram

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I ended up getting up a Lexar Workflow XR2 USB3 card reader (Amazon.com: Lexar Professional Workflow XR2 XQD 2.0 USB 3.0 Reader - LRWXR2TBNA: Computers & Accessories) and ran some quick tests. I used a small data set consisting of 92 photos from a recent shoot (RAW+JPEG, approx 7GB), and imported them into Lightroom CC from each source. Not the most scientific study, but the difference was still pretty noticeable. Here were the results:
  • USB3 tether: 62s
  • USB3 card reader: 43s
  • Conclusion: Lexar card reader is about 30% faster over the same USB3 connection.
I found this pretty interesting, considering data is going over the same pipe, so I’m guessing the bottleneck is probably the I/O controller or software in the D500.

Some other considerations:
  • For home use, the convenience is about the same, so I will gladly take the increased speed. I’d rather not have the extra wires, but since I have an iMac with all the ports on the back, I need a wired card reader rather than a one-piece device. I miss having the built-in SD reader though.
  • For travel, it’s a toss-up. Carrying a USB3 cable is not ideal, but the reader takes up even more space and still requires its own proprietary cable. This is where a one-piece non-cabled reader would come in handy (Amazon.com: Lexar Professional XQD 2.0 USB 3.0 Reader - LRWXQDRBNA: Computers & Accessories).
 

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