9 Things to Know about Buying and Using Memory Cards



Over the last week I have spent a lot of time sorting out my elderly parents (one reason for no blog post last week). One of the more minor things that I had to do was look at my Dad's camera which is having an intermittent issue where it fails to record a photo properly. Now Dad's camera is elderly but what appeared to fix the issue straight away was formatting the memory card. This might be a temporary solution (ongoing testing being carried out) but it got me thinking about memory cards.

So this week I'm going to write about memory cards - buying and looking after them. I did a search on Amazon and there were close to 133,000 results! So how do you work out what card you need and how do you make sure they keep working for you?

Buying cards:

I'm sure when you bought the camera, the retailer made sure that you bought the right memory card at the same time. But when it needs replacing or if you just need another one, the technology and the 'models' may have changed so here are some thoughts and tips for you.

Which Brand?

  • Buy the reliable brands that are easily available - San Disk, Sony, Lexar, Kingston etc. I tend to buy San Disk as they have always been reliable in my experience and was probably the first brand I was sold.

  • There are cheaper memory cards out there and I should say that the image quality you shoot will never be affected by the card. But the cheaper ones may be slower and less reliable. You get what you pay for!

  • Buy them from a reputable source. There are lots of fake cards on the market so if they appear to be an amazing bargain check it carefully. Many of the manufacturers dictate their prices to the market so cheap ones may not be authentic.

How Big?

  • The capacity of memory cards has steadily increased over the last 10 -15 years with 64GB cards now readily available and at the same time the cards have become more affordable.

  • Cards of 1- 8GB are probably more than enough for most people who shoot occasionally and using a smaller camera.

  • For those shooting with DSLR's or if shooting high resolution RAW files or video you may need to look at the bigger capacity cards of 16GB and above.

  • For me personally, I use smaller capacity cards in order not to have all my images necessarily on one card. If a card goes wrong (see more below) I would rather lose a number of my images rather than all of them. But that is personal preference.

What Speed?

There are 2 measurements of speed on a card's label

  • Write speed (also read speed) eg. 15 MB/sec - which is a measurement of how fast your camera can write the images to the card and how fast they can be downloaded to your computer. This is the maximum speed that can be achieved - a bit like broadband speeds. The read speed will be affected by whether you are using the USB cable, a card reader or a memory card slot on your machine to transfer your photos.

  • Speed class (a newer classification) e.g. Class 4, 6 or 10 This is the minimum speed that your camera can write to the card and is more important if you intend to shoot video on your camera.

How Fast?

This depends on one of 3 things

  • What speed can your camera actually handle? Most manufacturers websites have compatibility guides if the information isn't in your manual. There is no point buying an ultra fast card if your camera isn't compatible with it.

  • What type of photos you like taking. If you regularly shoot action and continuous burst you need a card with a fast write speed. If you shoot RAW files you will find they download quicker with a faster card.

  • Whether you want to shoot videos or not.

Caring for Your Memory Cards

Looking after your memory cards will help prolong their life and keep them operating reliably. They are another bit of electrical equipment and need a bit of TLC to keep them going.

Storage: Keep them dry and clean and wherever possible stored in their box when not in the camera. If you have multiple cards you can buy storage boxes at a relatively low cost. Also helps with not losing them. Avoid extremes of heat and static.

Replace: Aim to replace them regularly. I write the date of purchase on the label of my cards so I can keep any eye on the older ones. The cards are designed to last for many hundred's of thousands of hours but that does depend on how we look after them! I would expect most cards to last for years before needing replacing.

Switch off: Always switch off your camera before removing the card to avoid any corruption occuring.

Format Your Card(s): Do this to your card regularly. Formatting erases the card more effectively than just deleting and resets the card which can fix any corrupted data that may have occured. Formatting is done via your cameras menu - either your Record/Shoot menu (the camera) or the Setup menu (the Spanner) - it does vary from camera to camera. Remember that this will definitely remove all your images on the card so make sure they have been copied to your computer before you do this. This may be enough to fix your card if you start to get problems with it (see below).

Troubleshooting: If your memory card starts to behave erratically, e.g. doesn't save an image, doesn't allow images to be uploaded or you get messages about corrupt data then you card is not happy. Stop using it and try the following.

1. Firstly try formatting the card. This fixes most issues with cards. If you have images on the card that you want and can't transfer you may be able to recover them with the various software that's available. Do this before you format the memory card. Check on your cards manufacturers website as they may recommend a specific software.

2. Test the card's performance after formatting before you use it for something important.

3. Try it in another camera (format it first in the other camera) if you are still having problems. This will help you determine whether its the card or your camera.

4. Check the age of the card - does it need replacing?

If in doubt always use/buy another card rather than lose photos of special moments.

As always, if you have an questions about this blog then please either Contact Me or message me via my Facebook page.

#memorycards #photography #photographybasics #equipment #technology #sarahstephensphotography

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