iMac struggling to transfer D800 images via card reader

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by allan_jamieson|2, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. I've got a few computers but the one that I use for working with D800 images is an iMac 27 inch screen about three years old with 4GB Ram. I can input images from SD cards straight through the side slot built into the Mac but for CF cards I use a separate card reader and this is where I am struggling.
    First thing, transferring images is very, very slow whether it is from SD or CF card. I've tried twice in the last few days to transfer images from a 32GB San Disk CF card even leaving the Mac on for twelve hours overnight and the transfer had failed when I checked in the morning. I had to force quit iPhoto, which I normally use to import and sort out the ones that I want to keep from there. Tried again last night, same as before the images were transferring taking about 8-10 seconds per raw image to transfer. I sat and watched it for a while and it seemed to be working okay until about 2/3 of the way through. Then I noticed that the icon showing the D800 card was no longer present on the left of the iPhoto screen and that the transfer had jammed again. I force quit iPhoto once again and intend to have another try tonight, maybe importing in smaller sections according to what day the images were taken.
    Just wondering if the issue is software with iPhoto or some issue with the card itself. The card was bought new when I got my D800 in May. The strange thing about this CF card compared to its equivalent SD cards also by San Disk is that the CF card always seems able to take a lot more images on it, maybe 600 to 700, whereas the 32GB SD cards are usually about 400 raw images per card. I had assumed that the actual storage capacity would be the same with each format. I only bought one CF card and have three virtually identical San Disk 32GB SD cards in addition. I only set the camera to use the CF card first as image transfer seemed fractionally faster than the SD cards but I think in future I will use the SD card slot as the main one. Without another CF card to compare it with, it does leave me wondering whether there is something wrong with the card that I have.
  2. Something is definitely wrong here. The fact that it is both SD and CF cards, and either via the side-slot or a separate reader, points to a software issue.
    However, I don't get the SD, CF capacity difference. Were they both formatted 'in camera'??
    Sounds like iPhoto can't handle your 32GB cards.
    I drive a small PC netbook running XP2 and via a USB 2 reader, get to do a full 16GB CF (RAW+JPEG Fine) in about 15 mins using the normal Windows downloader, so about 1GB per minute.
  3. Firstly, I'm not sure why you're using iPhoto to transfer image files. Surely you can just drag the images off the CF card and straight into a folder on your computer? This should be a little faster than letting some image viewer software interpose itself in the transfer process.
    Secondly I'd suspect the card reader or its driver software. If the card works perfectly OK in the camera, then it's unlikely to be an issue with the card. If the reader is an old USB 1.1 device then its transfer speed will naturally be very slow. Check that it's at least USB 2.0 capable and that the connecting cable is a good quality Hi-Speed USB certified one. Poor quality cables can slow the transfer speed or even cause erratic download faults.
  4. I'm not very familiar with the Mac world, so maybe it does not apply to iProducts.... but many many USB cardreaders I have encountered are just horribly slow. I used to have one that took 2 hrs to transfer 2GB - so if yours is anything like that, I can imagine the joy with D800 files... In short, it's worth getting a good quality card reader that supports UDMA CF cards.
    My current card reader is the USB2 version of this one; obviously nowadays, you'd be better off buying this newer USB3 version. It works really fine and fast, it's small and portable enough too.
  5. As said, check to make sure that the card reader is USB 2, not USB 1. In any case, this sounds like the reader + cable are the problem.
    You might want to get a new card reader anyhow. Workable versions are available very cheaply from China on eBay. I doubt if your older iMac will support USB 3 at full speed. My fastest card reader is still a Firewire (IEEE 1394).
    Upping your RAM might improve overall system performance too, but that's not your problem here.
  6. I can input images from SD cards straight through the side slot built into the Mac but for CF cards I use a separate card reader and this is where I am struggling.
    First thing, transferring images is very, very slow whether it is from SD or CF card​
    Allan, could you clarify the second bit of quote as it kinda implies you have a multi-slot reader and that infact downloading 32GB SD cards via the SD slot is speedy?
    If the same SD card is quick via the machine SD slot and slow with the reader, well it must the reader and/or cable that's bad!
    If the SD card is v.slow either via the Slot or Reader then there's nothing wrong with the CF card.
    Still don't like the apparent capacity difference between equally sized SD & CF cards...:-(
  7. Allen,
    Is your Mac OS up to date and have you installed the updates that support D800 raw? Did you try a tethered download in order to exclude the Mac as the source of the problems you have? Try to download Nikon Transfer v1 and see how that works. Transfer v2 is crashing all the time. However I do not know if transfer works with the D800.
    If all else fails, you can trade in your D800 against a EM that is gathering dust here. It may not work with the Mac either, but it is very compact....
  8. It sounds like its not just slow, but failing. It's not because the Mac is 4 years old and the cards are 32gb or because its
    iPhoto - those can all handle each other, unless your copy of OSX is too old for D800 raw files - in which case the error
    will have to do with incompatible or unreadable files but not a hardware error. Do you have enough hard drive space? Is
    the hard drive healthy? Is the RAM healthy? A lot of random-seeming glitches are caused by RAM that needs to be
    replaced. If you're having hardware errors, take it in for tech support.
  9. I'm a Mac consultant and in my experience, although not with a D800, iPhoto should not be a problem for importing photos, I find it to be very efficient at storing, organizing and light editing of photos. If you're up to doing some trouble shooting and don't mind an very involved procedure, here's how I trouble shoot a Mac:
    1. Check for system updates and do any that show.
    2. Zap the PRAM by restarting the computer and immediately hold down the command (Apple), option, P and R keys and wait for three start up bongs while holding the keys. I use my left thumb for the command and option, left index for the R and right hand to choose Restart, then immediately hold the P with my right index finger.
    3. After the third bong, let go of the keys and immediately hold down the command and S keys. When you see the command line operations, white text on a black background like old computers, let go of the keys. A lot of text will fill the screen, wait for it to finish. Tap the return/enter key.
    4. Type fsck -yf (be sure to use a space before the dash) and the return/enter key, which will activate a file check operation. It will take a few minutes to complete.
    5. When it's done, type reboot.
    6. Go to your utilities folder (in the Applications folder) and launch Disk Utility. When it opens, choose your hard drive on the left, then click Repair Disc Persmissions. This will take a few minutes. Quit Disk Utility when it's done.
    I have two Delkin Combat CF 600x cards, a D300s and a Firewire 800 card reader on my MacBook Pro, it's very fast, transferring 500-600 in about 3-4 minutes.
  10. 1) Don't use iPhoto. Just drag your photos to a folder.

    2) Use a Firewire 800 card reader for superior transfer speed.
  11. Get a firewire 800 CF card reader. I got one when I found that copying 32 GB of files for my D800 was going to take 30 to 45 minutes on the USB 2.0 card reader.
    iMac only supports USB 2.0 at the best, so a firewire 800 based reader will give you the best speed.
  12. See Brad, Rodeo and Lorne above. Also, it would be useful to at least double your ram to 8, 16 would be better. D800 files are pretty big.
  13. Thanks for the replies, I will try the technical zapping and checking stuff plus look into getting a faster card reader too. A bit more Ram would probably be a good idea too, I will check how much that my iMac can take and try to max it out, memory prices are generally less than they were a few years ago when I bought it. Overall the iMac has coped fairly well with playing around with D800 images, I don't see any need to change to the new iMac models just yet, it is handy to have the built in DVD drive for burning discs.
  14. Only 4 GB of RAM is a BIG problem to begin with as Photoshop CS5 on my iMac takes up over 2GB just for the app.

    I am using a very old 24" 3GB iMac and just got a Canon 5D MkIII, and its full res 22Mpxl RAW files can be over 30MB each and it comes to a grinding halt when digesting/processing/off loading from cards. I do use a FW400 CF card reader and that helps some.
    Max out your RAM, hopefully to 16 or 32GB.
  15. Before I purchase my D800 and did some testing of my computer using a rented D800. I summarized my experience on my blog at The relevant section is at the bottom. My iMac is a new one than yours but that would not account for the performance of your machine.
  16. Allen: I use a late 2009 27" 2.66ghz i5 quadcore iMac and regularly shoot with High resolution (22 to 39 MP) cameras and a typical shoot will range from 200- 2000 raw files. Your iMac can take up to16GB RAM. I get RAM from

    If you are storing your images on the internal hard disk drive you may want to look at how full it is. HDD's work most
    efficiently when they are kept as clean as possible and for that reason you should store your image fileson a different disk
    than the one your OS and applications are installed on. I keep my archives on an external storage device. Look at Drobo
    or a RAID 5 or RAID 10 set up.

    You can also really accelerate the performance of your iMac by having the internal optical disk drive replaced by an SOlid
    State Drive (SSD) and use that as your boot/OS/applications drive and using the existing internal HDD for projects you
    are currently working on and maybe your iTunes library. Installing ia 240GB SSD ( specifically a Mercury Electra 3G also
    from in my iMac about six months ago and it was like strapping a rocket to it.

    Also check out Lloyd Chambers' blog for some excellent tips.

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