Camera Connect Pro
by Rick Smith (May 8, 2000)
ActionTec's Camera Connect Pro gives you the ability to copy files from your Compact Flash or SmartMedia cards to your hard disk drive, without using a serial port or USB port connected to your camera. It is also compatible with Windows 95, 98 and NT 4.0.
The ActionTec reader weighs 13.7 ounces (389 grams) and comes with an integrated (so you can't lose it) 58 inch cable that connects directly to your parallel port. A shorter, secondary wire (also integrated) connects between your keyboard cable and socket to provide power for the device, eliminating the need for yet another power adapter that sometimes weighs more than the device it is powering.
Although your keyboard port must be within 15 inches of your parallel port, I am unaware of any current model desktop or laptops that would have trouble, other than some older Compaqs that have front mounted keyboard connectors. If you have one of these, simply get a keyboard extender cable or a parallel extender cable. Even if an extra cable is needed, this is still better than an AC power "brick", common in many peripheral devices. ActionTec's clever design allows you to connect the Camera Connect Pro to computers that use either AT (large size) keyboard connector or PS/2 (small size) keyboard connectors, without carrying any extra parts or adapters (which tend to be the first things that get lost on a trip).
Installation requires only connecting the two cables and installing the software via a floppy diskette. Restarting Windows 98 took me longer than the simple software install. The only unusual aspect I found to the install process was the short, two-line, rather vague, license agreement -- "All utility programs and drivers belong to ActionTec Electronics, Inc. Any duplicating of part or all files is inhibited."
The required files copied just fine into the directory of my choosing, but the most important result of the install was that the Camera Connect Pro worked properly - on the FIRST try. I have tested it with Windows 98, and in the next installment of this review I will try to install it on a Windows 95 and a Windows NT 4.0 system. If the software installs as easily on these OSes, as it did on Windows 98, this product is a definite winner. Being able to quickly read either major media type, without having to change operating systems, or connect to another computer, is a real advantage to any digital photographer.
The product worked as expected on large capacity SanDisk Compact Flash (40 mb and 96 mb) media and Calluna drives, along with SmartMedia cards. Transfer rate was very good and ALL the files were transferred within a few minutes. Then came the bad news - it didn't work with my 32 mb Smart Media cards. This problem is also shared by the Iomega Clik! Mobile drive as well - the mobile Clik! copies any Compact Flash media up to 40 mb, but doesn't work with 32mb Smart Media. This is also another reason why I prefer CompactFlash over SmartMedia. While SmartMedia may be thinner, Compact Flash has greater sheer capacity and tends to be more compatible with more devices.
After a quick trip to the ActionTec web site, to see if there was a solution, I downloaded a 764K version 1.2. This downloaded fixes this "32mb Smart Media problem", so I wonder why it wasn't included in the box, since the update is over six months old. While I installed it on top of the existing version, and it works very well, ActionTec recommends uninstalling the old version first.
It's great to find a product that works well, is priced right ($84.95) and gets the job done. I highly recommend it.
Lightweight (13.7 ounces) No power "brick" required, so it will work "in the field", running completely on laptop's battery power. Easy controls (3 slots and 2 LEDs) Supports CompactFlash, SmartMedia and full length PCMCIA flash memory - It even supports the Calluna Move IT hard drive. Uses parallel port for greater compatibility Supports multiple operating systems (Windows 95, 98 and NT 4.0) Works with either AT or PS/2 keyboard styles
Only one media type can be accessed at a time. (Can't copy between media types without using intermediary storage.) Doesn't support PCMCIA RAM cards used in some PDA devices
Update (August 2001):
I have now used this device for well over a year. While other devices may be faster (USB) this device has been a rock steady, highly reliable method to transfer data from Compact Flash, SmartMedia and Calluna drives. I have had absolutely NO problems with it and took it on the road with the desktop computer I brought to PC Expo 2001.
© 2000 Rick Smith All rights reserved.