Q: I believe that Apple used to sell both the USB and SD card iPad Camera Connectors in a single package, but it appears that now for the newer iPads, they’re selling them separately. Is there any reason for this beyond an obvious cash grab? More importantly, I’m wondering if I really need to buy both connectors, or if I do, if there’s another, cheaper option available. My camera uses SD cards, but I’m wondering if there’s an advantage to connecting via USB, such as being able to do some kind of tethering shooting or live preview that might make me want to purchase that one instead of, or in addition to the SD one. Any advice would be a big help.
A: Apple actually still sells the single iPad Camera Connection Kit that includes both a USB adapter and SD card reader, however it’s only for the older Dock Connector based iPads. With the transition to the Lightning connector in the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad, Apple chose to package the Lightning connector versions of these accessories separately as the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader and the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter and price them at the same $29—each—as the original iPad Camera Connection Kit sold for.
There is no valid reason we can see for doing this beyond the “obvious cash grab” but some good news is that for the purpose of connecting digital cameras, at least most users will not need to buy both versions. The USB version only provides basic photo transfer for connecting a camera, and therefore provides the same functionality that you would get by popping your SD card into the SD card camera reader. The only real pros and cons of each one are the obvious: whether you prefer to attach a USB cable between your camera and your iPad or move the SD card back and forth between your camera and SD card reader.
Note that if you already own the original, Dock Connector based iPad Camera Connection Kit, another option is to simply purchase the $35 Apple Lightning to 30-pin Adapter, which will allow you to use both of the Dock Connector Camera adapters with the newer iPads with the Lightning connector. The $35 price of the adapter, however, does not make this a cost-effective solution unless you already own the older iPad Camera Connection Kit and still want to have both the USB and SD card connectivity options available.
Note that the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter can be used with some USB audio and MIDI devices in addition to digital cameras. Although this is officially unsupported, Apple does acknowledge the possibility. Note that USB keyboards, which once did work with the older Dock Connector USB adapter, are simply not supported in iOS 6 at all.
If you do want to have both connections available, unofficial third-party options exist such as the Photojojo Lightning SD Card Reader, which sells for $20 and includes a USB port, SD card reader, and micro-SD card reader. The downside, however, is that this is not an officially Apple-sanctioned accessory, and had some performance issues. Perhaps more importantly, with the tight grip that Apple maintains over the Lightning connector, it is conceivably possible that such unofficial accessories could even be deliberately rendered incompatible by a future iOS update.