Belkin Digital Camera Link for iPod

Last December I wrote a short review of the Belkin Media Reader, qualifying it as an overpriced plastic gadget. Belkin is having a second shot at the concept of linking digital cameras with iPods, with its new Digital Camera Link (I'm not sure of the name, since their web site lists at least four different names for this product, marketing droids please take note).

This new device drops the card reader for the ability to connect to a camera with a USB cable and to a third generation iPod via the dock connector. At $90, it's marginally cheaper than its predecessor. This time Belkin is setting expectations straight about the transfer rate, reading from the FAQ:

The Camera Link, with most cameras, can reach transfer speeds of 750KBps on PC-formatted iPods and 650KBps on Mac-formatted iPods. This results in a transfer time of between 3 and 5 minutes for a full 128MB card. The transfer speed can vary based on the type of digital camera being used. The optional verification process, if used, is roughly 20-30% slower than the data transfer speed due to the data compare process addition.

At worst, this would translate into roughly 50 mn for a 1GB card with verification on. Its predecessor was reported by to be even slower than that (one commenter reported 22MB/mn which is 370KBps). Again from the FAQ I get the feeling that the batteries (in both devices) must be in good shape and that the transfer reliability may not be perfect, two issues reported with the BMR.

At the moment, the compatibility chart lists only 37 cameras and one PDA, Belkin will need to test its device with more products instead of listing most of the popular ones under "untested but believed to work" (mine is listed there.)

I'm looking forward to reading a review of the Digital Camera Link, notably to understand what's in it that is not already in the transfer protocol and the iPod software. The feeling I already had with the BMR and that this new device reinforces, is that the iPod software already contains what's required to talk to a camera, and that what's needed is a USB-to-dock cable. If that's true, $90 for a cable is way too expensive.