Apple’s official camera connector kit was created to help photographers transfer photos and/or videos from a camera to the iPad, but it really does much more than this. The kit comes in two parts – a USB connector, and an SD card reader. So, in theory, you can connect your camera via a USB cable, or, (if it uses SD cards), via the SD card reader.
Much of what follows is already well known in technology circles, but when I showed this accessory to a group of teachers recently, they had no idea of what else it could do. You see, it has long been known that there are a number of peripherals that you can connect to the iPad via the USB camera connector. Here are some examples of ones that have been proven to work:
- USB Keyboards – Not all will work, but many will, and the ability to work on a full-sized keyboard, as opposed to the iPad’s onscreen keyboard, can be a major boon for some students with motor control difficulties, or those that may want to avoid hand fatigue when they write extended pieces of writing on the iPad.
- USB Microphones – The iPad has a great built-in microphone, but when videoing, it does not always have the reach that you might want it to. So, things like a Snowball mic, and a long USB cable, can be a great way of extending the reach of the iPad’s audio recording abilities, and can even improve the quality of recorded audio too.
- USB Headsets – This is probably less useful, but many believe that the audio you get from a USB headset is superior to anything that you might get from a 3.5mm audio jack. Personally, I think there is more to it than that, but it is still nice to have the option if you have a USB headset you are particularly fond of.
- USB MIDI Equipment – Several USB MIDI devices can be connected to the iPad via USB and can be used in audio recording apps like Garageband. This could greatly expand the types of activities a music teacher may want to attempt in the classroom. A list of some compatible USB MIDI devices can be found here.
- Other iOS Devices – Ever needed to transfer photos or videos from one iPad to another? A quick and easy way is to use the USB camera connector. The iPhone has a great camera, and so does the new iPod Touch, but editing video or images on that small screen is not ideal. Why not transfer them to the iPad instead!
Will all USB devices work? No. Only those that draw a very small amount of power, or some that are powered by a separate mains power supply. Also, a USB mouse will not work as there is no ability to use a mouse within the iOS ecosystem, and similarly a USB flash drive will also not be of any use here either. However, there are numerous devices that do work, so experimentation is not a bad thing. If you get a warning that the device is incompatible, don’t worry. That is normal, and may or may not be truthful!
If you have anything up to the 3rd generation iPad, you can get a camera connector kit (as pictured above) for $29 from Apple, or other authorized retailers. If you have an iPad Mini or a 4th generation iPad, you will notice that Apple decided to sell the Lightning equivalents separately, so they are $29 each, but you may only want the USB version. Most cameras in the last 4 years or so will have no trouble connecting via USB, and you can experiment with what else might work in your own time.
Feel free to leave a comment with any success that you have had connecting USB peripherals to the iPad.