The Pro-Dock 4 from SanDisk Professional allows simultaneous downloading of four or more memory cards, and its Thunderbolt connections save precious time during the process. It’s also a capable dock ideally suited to those whose main computer is a laptop but also for those who prefer a desktop.
As its branding suggests, this is a professional-grade peripheral that will accomplish a host of tasks in the fastest possible way.
I connected it to a MacStudio Ultra, and using a CFExpress card loaded with about 120GB of Canon raw files, I tested downloading to an attached SSD drive. With my previous SanDisk CFexpress card reader, attached via USB-C cable, download time was 3 minutes, 44 seconds. I downloaded the same card using the CFexpress bay in my Pro-Dock 4, and the time to complete the same task was 2 minutes, 43 seconds, fully 28% faster. This kind of time savings will add up quickly for those who import a large number of images, especially across multiple cards.
Adobe Lightroom easily supports simultaneous multi-card imports. In Library, choose Import, and then check Include Subfolders in the Files panel. Hold down command (Mac) or control (Windows) to select each of the desired folders. Proceed as usual with the import process, and all the inserted cards will be read and. There’s more on this later, but you’ll be able to save even more time as the system can do a safe eject of all the cards with one click.
A wedding photographer coming in after a long day of shooting can rest assured that their import process is as streamlined as it can possibly be. Especially, too, when Lightroom can write an additional backup copy by selecting “Make a second copy to.” Keep in mind, though, that the entire import process will be only as fast as the slowest component in the loop. For this reason, I write my initial import without immediate secondary backup to an external SSD that’s connected to the Pro-Dock 4 via Thunderbolt. After removing the cards for safe-keeping, I immediately write backups to additional external RAID and conventional hard drive arrays.
The Pro-Readers may be configured however the user wishes with up to four devices: all the same, all different, or any combination. These readers may also be used on their own outside of the Pro-Dock 4. When used outside of the dock, however, the readers are working at USB-C speeds and not at the significantly faster Thunderbolt speeds when inserted into the Pro-Dock 4. Four drive bays do not limit you to four cards because when the Pro-Reader Multi-card is used, micro SD, SD, and CF cards can be imported simultaneously.
Laptop users will especially enjoy the streamlined connectivity of the Pro-Dock 4. One Thunderbolt connection will provide charging and downstream connection for a monitor (via Display Port), other Thunderbolt devices, Ethernet, audio, and the two USB-Type A and two USB Type-C ports on the front of the Pro-Dock 4.
Setup is straightforward and intuitive. Be certain, though, that any connecting cable other than the one supplied with the unit is Thunderbolt 3 rated. Not every USB Type C-connection cable is Thunderbolt 3-speed rated. Just something to keep in mind, here and with all Thunderbolt-speed peripherals.
An optional utility is available to install on the computer to which the Pro-Dock 4 is attached. The utility app provides technical information such as fan speed and internal temperature, but its most useful feature is providing one-click safe ejection of all the memory cards installed at once. This function can also safely remove all connected peripherals when the device is being used as a docking station. This can also be done using the small button on the front of the device marked with three dots.
The SanDisk Professional Pro-Dock 4 is built well, rugged and heavy. As such, it’s more suited for use in a stationary spot rather than on location. It’s about 7.2x6.1x4.5 inches and weighs in at a sturdy 5.1 pounds. It may be one of the only card readers that you don’t have to hold on to while inserting and removing the cards. The thick aluminum body is finished in a modern gray color.
The Pro-Dock 4 is priced at $499.95. The Pro-Readers are priced by format. The Multi 3-in-1 reader is $79.99, the CFast reader is $89.99, the CFexpress version is $99.99, and the RED Mini-Mag is $199.99. The readers work without the dock, if desired. A USB Type-C cable is included with each reader, though it’s not needed when the reader is inserted in the Pro-Dock 4.
Busy professional photographers and videographers will love this unit for its speed, rugged build, and top performance as reduced file download times boost their productivity. Whether the $800-plus cost of the dock and readers is justifiable will have to be determined by each user. At a minimum, the adage “You get what you pay for” applies to this well-designed and -engineered unit. For those who subscribe to Time is money, there is no doubt that this system warrants serious consideration.
Russell Caron and his wife, Liz, are wedding photographers who own and operate Caron & Co. Photography in coastal Maine.