Best memory card reader for photographers: 6 top options tested and rated

Transferring photos from your camera isn't every photographer's favourite job, so in this group test aim to find the best memory card reader based on speed and usability.

Connecting your camera directly to your computer to transfer images is fine when you've only got a few photos on your memory card.

However, when you've been on holiday and filled up a few cards, a card reader really is the best - and quickest - way to get all of your photos onto your computer.

With the large file sizes that many digital cameras are capable of generating these days, the faster your card reader, the sooner you'll have all your shots on the memory card downloaded, and the sooner you can start editing your photographs.

Here, we assess the speed and usability of six of the best memory card readers, ranging in price from £15 to well over £30.

SEE MORE: Best memory cards for cameras - 9 top models tested and rated

Best memory card reader: 01 Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader

Best memory card reader for photographers 6 top options tested and rated

£35, $50 www.lexar.com
The pop-up design of this reader helps keep its card slots protected when not in use.

Performance is a mixed bag, though: loaded with a fast UHS-1 SDHC card, we achieved respectable read and write speeds of 79MB and 74MB per second respectively, when transferring large video files.

UDMA 7 Compact Flash video read and write speeds were also healthy at 115MB and 60MB per second.

However, reading images from our CF card consistently resulted in a painful sub-3MB-per-second speed when other readers were unfazed. This is also the least versatile device here, and falls short on value.

Verdict
Pros: Fast with SD. Clever pop-up design
Cons: Flummoxed when reading images from CF
We say: Looks the part, but performance is underwhelming

Score: 3/5

[interaction id="551c28c97fdf079b4e1d440d"]

SEE MORE: Best tripod for travel - 8 top options tested and rated

Best memory card reader: 02 Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader RDF8

Best memory card reader 02 Transcend USB 3 0 Card Reader RDF8

£15, $16 www.transcend-info.com
If you'd rather splash your cash on your camera than a card reader, then try this one. It won't break the bank, yet it'll handle Micro SD and Memory Stick cards, in addition to the usual SD and CF.

The cheapest reader on test, it's also one of the smallest, and it's no slouch. SD scores proved consistently high, whether transferring multiple image files or large single videos.

CF speeds were mostly a match for pricier rival readers, although the Transcend's 118MB-per-second video read rate was more average and couldn't quite cut it with the 130MB-per-second or higher performance of the front-runners.

Verdict
Pros: Versatility and speed for a bargain price
Cons: Just edged out by the fastest readers
We say: Not quite the fastest reader, but the best value

Score: 5/5

SEE MORE: Best budget camera - 6 top options under £350 / $450

Best memory card reader: 03 Kingston USB 3.0 Media Reader

Best memory card reader 03 Kingston USB 3 0 Media Reader

£22, $30 www.kingston.com
Kingston's offering is the only reader that gave Lexar's uber-expensive Professional Workflow a run for its money in the speed stakes, maxing out just 4MB per second slower at an impressive 130MB per second when reading video files from a CF card.

It also blitzed our remaining CF benchmarks and continued to set sensational SD speeds, topping the video file rankings with 88MB-per- second read and 76MB-per-second write rates.

It turned in a sterling performance with smaller image files, too. Factor its support for other card formats and this card reader is a winner.

Verdict
Pros: Blistering performance for a reasonable price
Cons: SD cards are occasionally tricky to insert
We say: Kingston's reader gives great bang for your buck

Score: 5/5

READ MORE

7 daily exercises that will make you a better photographer
52 photography projects: one idea to try every week in 2015
Download 26 of our most popular photography cheat sheets
10 common landscape photography mistakes every photographer makes
DSLR Tips: the best settings for preserving detail in any situation