Photo Import with the Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter

A few weeks ago I bought this cable to connect my phone to my camera. So after a few uses it seems like a good time for a quick review. The bottom line is that it works, and other than a few camera related quirks it’s a good value at $30. As a bonus it can even be used to transfer photos from one iPhone to another.

The cable

Artisinal data transfer, every byte imported by hand.
Artisinal data transfer, every byte imported by hand.

Without the little camera symbol on the big end, it’d be hard to guess exactly what this cable does. There’s another version that connects a SD card to a camera. I prefer this one for a couple of reasons. To use it I don’t have to pull the card from my camera, and with a USB cable it’ll connect to cameras that use a non-SD memory card. Also since it’s a wired connection, there no chance of interference or a flaky wifi connection .

When I went to the Apple Store to buy it, the guy that helped me made sure it worked with my iPhone 5. He wasn’t sure since it was an older 32-bit model. With a quick test we verified that having the latest iPhone 9.3.1 software let the cable work. I think the cable will work with 9.2 or later, but don’t quote me.

Usage

There’s not a lot to using the cable. I’ve found it works best if the camera’s off when plugging everything in.

Ready to connect.
Ready to connect.

Then unlock the iPhone and turn on the camera. After a few seconds the import screen pops up.

The first import screen showing all photos in the camera.
The first import screen showing all photos in the camera.

One thing to note, it shows all the pictures in the camera. This means if you shot Raw+JPG (either to the same card, or to two cards) it will show two thumbnails of each picture. If this is the case and I only want the JPG to transfer, I’ve been choosing the second of the pair and it seems to give me the JPG. This could be because the JPG has a slightly later timestamp, since the Raw is saved first then the JPG is made from the Raw. Regardless, it works for me.

Once the thumbnails are loaded, just tap the ones to import. A blue checkmark keeps track for you. When you’re happy with the selection, tap Import in the top right corner.

Selections are shown with the blue checkmark.
Selections are shown with the blue checkmark.

Now you’ll get a confirmation screen that give the option to import just your selections or everything. Make your choice and wait while the pictures download.

Ready to import, just wating on a tap.
Ready to import, just wating on a tap.

When the import is finished, you’ll be asked if you want to delete the photos from the camera. On this screen I’m always going to choose Keep. Deleting images directly from the card could cause formatting problems with your card(s) and I’d rather wait until the whole card is downloaded later to reformat.

Danger! This could delete pictures from your camera.
Danger! This could delete pictures from your camera.

And we’re almost done! Once the cables are disconnected the iPhone will show us what we’ve just imported. The Last Import album sticks around too. This makes it easy to find the imported pictures especially if you’ve used the built-in camera in the mean time.

The Camera Roll's last import page.
The Camera Roll’s last import page.

The Lightning to USB Camera Adapter cable is one of those little things can really save the day.

It's a cool piece of kit.
It’s a cool piece of kit.

iPhone to iPhone

If you plug a Lightning to USB charging cable into the camera adapter and connect each end to iPhones, you’ll get the import screen and can transfer photos from one to the other.

This might seem silly, but if there’s no internet you can still move photos when you otherwise couldn’t.

I hope you enjoyed this and find it useful. If you’d like to support the creation of more tutorials like this please donate with either PayPal or credit/debit card. Thank you.

4 thoughts on “Photo Import with the Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter

  1. To use it I don’t have to pull the card from my camera, and with a USB cable it’ll connect to cameras that use a non-SD memory card.

    I use the SD-Lightning instead of USB for several reasons.

    * I don’t have to carry yet-another-cable.
    * The only cameras that don’t user SD cards are $3000-6000 professional cameras that use compact-flash. With extremely few exceptions SD-cards are standard in all modern cameras.
    * My camera does not have to be on during the transfer hence saving battery life especially went out in the field.

    NOTE: It’s interested that you suggesting payment for your tutorials. I have been writing technical tutorials for many years but never thought to charge. Maybe it’s time I do. Thoughts on that?

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    1. For most people you’re right. I have my 7Dm2 set to put JPGs on the SD card and raw on the CF card, so if I need access to the raw, I have to read the CF card via a cable. As for battery life, I’m usually only pulling a few photos to use for email/social media. It’s really no worse than using the rear LCD screen.

      Plus there’s two more reasons, with an iPhone charge cable or micro-USB I can transfer photos from another iPhone or Android phone, like I mentioned. Also, even with a microSD to SD adapter, GoPro video won’t transfer due to how they name the files. The USB Lightning is the only way to get the footage in the field.

      I’m glad they make both so that we have this choice.

      (I’m not charging, just pointing out my donation links that I have in the sidebar.)

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  2. > The USB Lightning is the only way to get the footage in the field.

    I think we have different shooting needs.

    I shoot RAW+JPG on a 32GB SD card. That’s about 1000 images 16MB images. If I had the Canon I would have larger image but no more useful images (unless I am shooting for a magazine cover or a billboard I don’t need the MP). If I had a 48MP camera — again, I see no need for it — I could shoot about 200 RAM+JPG images on a 64GB SD card.

    For transferring to an iPhone for social sharing I don’t need 50MP. None of the sharing services use anything beyond 2MP. So I really only need the lowers resolution JPG.

    If you are out in the field for several hours like I am, either walking around a place like New York City or Philadelphia or being out in the woods of New Jersey and Pennsylvania for 4-5 hours you need to keep the battery fresh. I can whip out the memory card, swap in a spare (I always have two card and two batteries), and be back to shooting while the images download to my iPhone.

    I’d rather have the camera free and ready than tied up download images via a cable. With the USB-Lightning the camera is occupied the entire time.

    I don’t obsess about my photography gear. At least not anymore. For me, it’s all about getting the shot. About creating art. I don’t really care how expensive my equipment is, because none of that matters to the craft.

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