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Camera In

Apple's iPad Connection Kit ($29) is essential gear for anybody with any nonzero interest in taking pictures. You get two postage-stamp little interfaces that can snap into your iPad's dock port: one is a standard USB port, one is a standard SD card slot.

In theory, any card or camera that you plug into your iPad via one of these connectors will launch the Photos app and allow you to slurp some, or all, of those stored photos and videos into your iPad. From there, any iPad app can go to town on 'em.

I'll talk about this in more detail in the "Photos" chapter of this book. Here and now, in the chapter where I'm trying to convince you that certain accessories are Well Worth Your Consideration, I gleefully tell you that the iPad is a hugely useful photo accessory when you're traveling. If you have a small memory card, you can copy your photos to your iPad and then erase the card. If you have a lot of card storage, you can back up the best shots, in case your card gets lost, stolen, or damaged. Do you really want to live the rest of your life knowing that you could have backed up that photo of you with George Lucas before you dropped your camera off the side of a boat?

My usual return-flight pastime at the end of a trip is deleting photos. When I get home and I dock my iPad, my desktop photo app sees the iPad as a photo source and offers to slurp up the 50 photos I didn't delete.

The Camera Connection Kit is a true "must have" accessory. It opens up a whole new roomful of Cool on the iPad...and given that it delivers the ability to email and post the photos and videos I take, it's another reason why I can leave my notebook at home when I travel.

But there are two important notes about the Kit. One is a bummer, and one is pretty cool.

  • The Bummer: the iPad is strict about the power requirements of anything that you plug into its dock connector. Many memory cards exceed the standard power consumption standards of the card standard; the iPad will refuse to connect to it. You can't even connect a card reader to the USB iPad Camera Adapter; the iPad will tell you it draws too much power. You won't have problems connecting a camera via the USB adapter; the camera will be powered by its own battery. You probably won't have any problems with a premium-brand memory card in the card adapter...but you won't know for sure until you test it out with that specific card.
  • The good news: the iPad sees this USB-port-looking thing and treats it like it's a USB port.

Okay! Yes, you understand where I'm going with this. It is exciting, isn't it?

Let's not lose our heads. This doesn't mean that you can plug a USB hard drive into your iPad and read its files. This is an "accidental" feature that's undocumented and unsupported by Apple. USB keyboards work fine, as do USB speakers and microphones. Nothing else.

But! It still means that if you want to use the iPad and GarageBand as a mobile recording setup, you can plug in a high-quality USB mic (or even a studio-quality one, via an XLR to USB adapter) and it'll work with any iPad audio app. That's cool enough, isn't it?

(Yes.)

The same power restrictions apply, however: the keyboards and audio gear will need to provide their own sources of power. No problem...just plug them into a powered USB hub and then plug the hub into the iPad USB power adapter. iPad apps will be able to see the device just fine.

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