There are, I understand, two means of downloading files from the D800: from the camera direct via the supplied USB cable, or via a card reader. My query is whether using a card reader risks damaging the card by frequently moving it between the camera and the reader. That may be an imaginary fear, but can anyone who has experience of both comment, please?
I've been using card readers for the past 10 years and never had a problem with it. In the other hand USB ports and cables are far more fragile and "sensitive", specially with pulls and bents. A cable is cheap to replace, but a camera built-in port is not. Besides you can get a small and lightweight card reader like this one: http://www.kingston.com/en/flash/readers#fcr-hs3 for less than 30$.
Wiring the camera to the computer leaves the camera susceptible to falls caused by something like a pet or curious child grabbing the cord, or even just brushing the cord. One fall can cause very expensive damage.
It's been my experience that a card reader is far faster than hooking the camera to the computer.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye." Miss Piggy
Use a card reader. The connector on the camera is no where as durable as a card reader. At worst the camera card door becomes a little loose with constant opening and closing. I never never use anything but a reader for my D4.
I initially used the cable but switched to a card reader as soon as I realised that the reader is substantially quicker. Get one using USB3 if your PC supports it.
I use SanDisk Extreme Pro SD and CF cards and after 18 months of regular use with my D800 I've had no problems at all...apart from occasionally leaving the house with a card still in the reader - thank heaven for 2-card cameras!
Like others, I tried the cable at first but switched to a card reader. I am very careful inserting the cards into the reader, and again back into the camera to minimize the risk of damage. So far no problems, and it is much faster.
One time I forgot to take a card out of the reader and put it back into the camera; grabbed up my camera to go out for a walk with just the camera (no camera bag with my spare cards); and then realized my mistake. However, my other D800 card, which I use for overflow, was installed and had more than enough room for the day, so it turned out to be a non-issue - other than being a little embarrassed at yet another "senior moment." Now when I take a card out of the camera to download images, I leave the card access door on the D800 open until both cards are back in place. That way if I pick up the camera and the door is open, I know I am missing at least one, if not both, cards.
So, the card reader is the way to go, but be sure to put the card back in the camera when your done. I'm not sure what to do about those senior moments!!!
Agree with you concerning the lack of "stoutness" in the card door, Geoff. In fact, doors seem to be a problem for Nikon, as many have also reported having battery doors fall off as well. But the card reader is the way to go, especially if you have a USB3 port in your computer and a USB3 compliant card reader. My next computer will have both -- I'm getting too old to wait for 32GB downloads via USB1!
I'm already with you guys on the door durability. When I have the card out of the camera, I am careful to put the camera on a clear spot on my desk where nothing will hit it.
I am one of those who had my battery door drop off several times, until I put a piece of electrical tape on it. No problem since, but this doesn't speak too well of Nikon's design on their doors. So I really am very paranoid about the card door getting damaged leaving it open.
I like the ribbon idea - good suggestion Geoff. Thanks. Along that same thought, I do have some bright yellow gaffer tape that could be used in a similar way. It doesn't leave a residue and can be moved a few times without losing too much stickiness. Maybe just a small piece that stays stuck on the card reader and moves to the camera door when I have a card out would do it. I'll have to play around with it a little and see what works.
I asked this question about 18 months ago and the overwhelming response was "card reader". I switched from using USB cable to card reader and the first thing I noticed was a fantastic increase in transfer rate. Since then I've only used either the built in HDSC card reader in my laptop, the integrated HDSC and/or CF reader in my desktop and the portable HDSC/CF reader for my laptop. Compare speeds and convenience and I think you'll go the card reader route.
One interesting sidelight on this. Last night I was downloading 6.5 GB of files from a flash card (Lexar 32GB 1000X) and noticed quickly that the process was going extremely slowly -- 1 MB/sec! That would have taken about "2 days at f8" -- so I stopped the process, withdrew the card and reinserted it in the card reader on my ASUS PC. This time it took off like a scalded rat. I still am hamstrung by USB1 connectivity, so I will get better in the future. But if you see a card reader downloading a card much, much slower than you are used to, stop, remove the card and start over. I'm 69 and don't have all night to wait!
I come across this question fairly regularly. The read speed from a USB3 card reader is fast as long as your PC matches it with a USB3 port of its own. The D800 comes with USB3 but even so I still use a card reader, as an aside tethering the D800 with USB3 is a lot better than USB2.
Anyway I am wandering of the point here. Given the fact that in general a card reader is faster than a camera connection, and most people have to change cards anyway it really is a no brainer, especially when you can then download pictures off the first card while continuing to use the camera. Removing the card from the camera also protects that set of images from corruption from the camera as well. I have found this does happen in wet humid countries.
I had been sitting on the fence on this issue, due probably to laziness, and the unsupported belief there was no substantive difference in speed between the camera and USB cable to laptop versus memory card in reader to laptop. This thread finally lit the fire under me so I devised a relatively simple and I think straightforward test to measure copy speeds via the 2 methods:
Test 1 and Test 2 measure the SD card
Test 1: Copy 100 jpg images from the D800 using the Nikon supplied USB 3.0 cable connected to my Surface RT via the sole USB 2.0 port. The 100 images, numbered 3901 through 4000, are located on a SanDisk Extreme Pro 32GB SD card in the D800. Files were copied using Windows File Explorer in Desktop mode to the internal drive of the Surface RT. Time to copy: 3 mins. 10 secs.
Test 2: The SD card was removed from the D800 and inserted in a Transcend USB 3.0 card reader and connected to the Surface RT USB 2.0 port using the Transcend cable. All other parameters from Test 1 apply. Time to copy: 58 secs.
Test 3 and Test 4 measure the CF card
Test 3: Copy 100 NEF images from the D800 using the Nikon supplied USB 3.0 cable connected to my Surface RT via the USB 2.0 port. The 100 images, numbered 3901 through 4000, are located on a SanDisk Extreme Pro 32GB CF card in the D800. All other parameters from Test 1 apply. Time to copy: 8 mins. 42 secs.
Test 4: The CF card was removed from the D800 and inserted in a Transcend USB 3.0 card reader and connected to the Surface RT USB 2.0 port using the Transcend cable. All other parameters from Test 1 apply. Time to copy: 4 mins. 10 secs.
Clearly, copying to a Surface via a USB 2.0 port isn't optimum but it's all I had for the test. In any case, the actual attained speed isn't the point. The point is the methodology here demonstrates the difference in copying speeds between leaving the memory card in the camera or taking it out and using a card reader or inserting directly into a computer.
Hope this helps anyone else sitting on the fence. I think my test logic is sound. If not, let me know. And of course, your mileage may vary.
Normally using the SD card as the primary card in the camera because my desktop and laptop computers have SD card readers built in. I use a CF card as my "back-up" in the camera.
On the frequent occasions that I forget to put the SD card back in the camera - the CF card is there to help. This way I don't have to carry a card reader and the CF card never leaves the camera - so the pins can't get bent.