Wrong Import Order


Today’s Question: Are high-speed bursts typically written to CF and SD cards out of capture order? I sometimes shoot sports action with a Canon 1D X (using 90 MB/s CF) or people in motion with an Olympus E-M1 (80 MB/s SD). When I convert the raw files — captured at 10 fps — to dng and upload them to Lightroom specifying a numerical sequence, they often sequence out of capture order. For example, in a horse-racing burst the lead horse in frame #20 is clearly farther along the track than in frame #21. Or a person crossing the street will appear to have taken two steps backward from frame #5 to frame #6. What’s going on here?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I’ve only seen this behavior a small number of times, and have not been able to determine whether it is an issue with Lightroom or if it is perhaps an issue with how the images were written to (or read from) the media card. However, you can solve the issue by renaming after (rather than during) import with the sort order set to “Capture Time”.

More Detail: It is altogether possible that the camera is writing the images to the card in the incorrect sequence, especially with burst capture. Cameras generally write each new capture to the camera’s buffer first, and then transfer each image from the buffer to the media card. The images are written in the order they are captured, but I’m sure with high-speed capture it is possible the buffer might write images out of order.

I’ve also seen some indications (which I’ve never been able to verify) that Lightroom sometimes imports photos in the wrong order. This seems to be an inconsistent behavior, and it is also possible that the issue actually lies with the card and not Lightroom.

In any event, you can work around this issue by saving the renaming for after the import rather than during the import. Simply import the photos with the renaming option turned off, and then sort the imported images based on Capture Time. You can then select all of the images, make sure you are in the Library module, and choose Library > Rename Photos from the menu to initiate the file renaming using the same settings you would have otherwise used during import.