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Transfer dSLR photos to your phone without a computer

Here are the fastest ways to get the photos you take on your camera onto your phone.

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Taylor Martin/CNET

For most people, the barely discernible disparity in quality of photos between smartphone and point-and-shoot has removed the need for a dedicated camera.

But for professional photographers or those who need that extra bit of quality, be it depth of field or low-light photography, a dedicated shooter is the way to go.

When using a dedicated camera, however, you run into a question of how to get those high-quality images off the camera and directly onto your phone. Here are the best ways to do just that.

Wireless

Most newer cameras come with wireless transfer capabilities, typically using a local Wi-Fi connection. When enabled, the camera will emit a wireless network. Connect to that network using your phone and the companion application, and you can remotely control or change settings on the camera and you can download any of the images or videos you've take directly to your phone.

The Panasonic Lumix GH4 I use has this ability, and it works with both Android and iOS devices. Any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled GoPro will have the same capabilities, and many dSLRs and point and shoot cameras are capable of this, as well.

Wireless SD cards

That said, not all cameras have wireless transfer abilities. It's with these cameras that companies like Eyefi, which makes SD cards with Wi-Fi capabilities, flourish. Effectively, an Eyefi SD card enables wireless photo transfers on any camera that uses an SD card for storage.

As novel as they are, though, there are some drawbacks. Primarily, they cost several times the price of similar capacity SD cards without Wi-Fi. A 32GB SD card from Sandisk with fast read and write speeds, can be found online for around $12; according to Eyefi, its 32GB mobiPRO is $99.99, £58.33 or AU$112.99. On top of that, Wi-Fi cards will cause some pretty significant battery drain on your camera and the largest capacity currently available is 32GB.

When wireless isn't an option

In most cases, as old fashioned as it may seem, a wired adapter is going to be the most reliable solution. You don't have to worry about the reliability of the connection, plus read and write speeds are typically much higher, meaning they have less of an effect on your phone's battery.

Android

For Android devices, you will need a USB On the Go (OTG) adapter -- a USB Type-C or Micro-USB to USB adapter which can be found online for cheap. You will also need a USB connector for your camera or an SD to USB adapter.

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Taylor Martin/CNET

To transfer photos from the camera to your Android device:

  • Plug the cable into the Android device.
  • Attach either the camera or the SD card adapter to the adapter.
  • On the Android device, pull down the notification shade, tap on the notification that says Touch for more options (exact wording may vary, depending on the phone). In the pop-up window, choose Photo transfer (PTP).
  • Pull down the notification shade one more time and tap Explore.

You should now be able to view all images saved on the SD card and transfer them to the local storage on the Android device.

iPhone

The process for transferring photos to an iPhone or iPad from a camera is very similar, only you will need a different adapter.

If you're using the camera to connect with the camera directly, you can save yourself some cash by buying the old Lightning to USB Camera Adapter from Apple for $29, £25, AU$45.

To use it, plug it into the Lightning port on your iOS device, put the camera into USB mode, and using the included data cable for the camera (typically a USB to Mini-USB or Micro-USB), plug the camera into the Lightning to USB adapter. The Photos app will launch, showing all the images and videos on the camera and from there, you can import and delete the camera contents.

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Taylor Martin/CNET

Alternatively, you can use an SD card reader to import the photos and videos directly from the SD card. To do this, however, you will need the original Lightning to USB Camera Adapter and a powered USB hub or the newer Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter, which retails for $39, £29, AU$59. To import photos using an SD card reader:

  • First, plug the Lightning to USB or Lightning to USB 3 adapter in to the iPhone or iPad.
    • If you're using the Lightning to USB adapter, attach a powered USB hub to the adapter and connect it to a power source.
    • If you're using the Lightning to USB 3 connection, connect the adapter to a power source using the Lightning port.
  • Next, unlock the iOS device and attach the SD card adapter to the Lightning to USB 3 adapter or powered USB hub.
  • After a few seconds, the Photos app will appear, displaying the content on the SD card. You can then import or delete photos.

Regardless of which method you use, after you import the photos using iOS, you can choose to delete the photos you've imported from the camera to free up space or keep them.

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