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Memory Cards for Digital Cameras
Brief guide to CF memory cards and SD memory cards
Here's my quick guide to memory cards for digital cameras. I'll briefly explain the main varieties available and what specifications you need to look out for when buying one.
It's important not to forget about memory cards because they can actually have quite an impact your photography. Unfortunately - perhaps because they're so small and there's no space to write things in full - memory cards are a world of abbreviations and jargon!
But in reality you only need to know a few simple things to always find the best memory cards for your camera.
What are memory cards?
- Memory cards are electronic storage devices used in a range of products, including digital cameras.
- Memory cards for digital cameras store both the photos and the movies you take.
- Manufacturers of memory cards are producing cards with ever higher storage capacities at ever better prices.
What are the main characteristics of memory cards for digital cameras?
- Capacity. The capacity of a memory card is the amount of information (photos and movies) it can store. It's easy to know the capacity because it’s always given in GB.
- Speed. Memory card speed is the time it takes for an image to actually be saved to a card. It's a bit less easy to know what the speed is than the capacity, because it's sometimes shown as MB/second (MBPS) and sometimes as a number followed by 'x'.
Just remember this rule: 100x = 15MBPS. (So a 200x card is the same as a 30MBPS card, for instance).
What are the main types of memory cards for digital cameras?
- SD memory cards are the most popular. They were introduced in 1999 and by 2007 where the most commonly used for point-and-shoot cameras.
- For people who want higher memory card speed and capacity, SD produce a superior version, SDHC (High Capacity).
- There is also another version of SD memory cards for digital cameras, the SDXC. This provides the absolute maximum capacity.
- Tiny SD and SDHC cards are available for other electronic devices like phones.
- CF memory cards were released in the 1990’s and have always been a popular choice for high end DSLR's. I've always tended to use CF cards with my camera.
- CF memory cards for digital cameras can function at greater extremes of temperature than SD cards. So they’re great for landscape photographers, for instance.
- Like SD cards, CF memory cards have a superior version which offers greater capacity and speed. This is called the CFast.
Memory cards for digital cameras
What other varieties of memory cards for digital cameras are there?
- SD and CF cards dominate, but for quite a while Fujifilm and Olympus cameras worked exclusively with cards called xD.
Meanwhile Sony cameras used to only work with their own memory sticks.
All 3 companies now make cameras to work with SD cards, making SD the most popular variety of card all round.
Advice for using memory cards
Using memory cards is pretty self-explanatory, but here are some handy tips:
"It's a golden rule to always have a spare memory card in your bag!"
- You might be wondering how memory card speed ties in with the number of frames/second your camera is capable of shooting.
If you've got a rapid firing camera that can shoot off 8 or 10 frames/second, can slow memory card speed interrupt this process?
Well, cameras with this kind of ability actually have a bit of low capacity, high speed built in memory, called a 'buffer'.
In other words, you don’t need to worry about memory card speed because your camera will rapidly save pictures that were taken in quick succession, before saving them on to the memory card at whatever speed it is capable of saving.
- Many cameras can support both CF memory cards and SD memory cards.
- It's worth getting yourself an external card reader for sending pictures on to a computer.
(This universal card reader is a wonderful and cheap bit of kit.)
At first I thought this seemed a bit extravagant, and so for years just plugged my camera straight into the computer every time. I didn't want more equipment to add to my growing pile!
But actually, every time I did this I just ran down the camera battery a whole lot.
This is both really inconvenient (especially as the battery is usually low after a shoot and often cuts out before you can finish saving to the computer!) and shortens the battery life span. You can get an SD memory card reader, or one for a CF memory card, really cheaply. I couldn’t do without mine now!
- When out shooting, always carry a spare card. This is a golden rule, even if your card is high capacity.
- When you've saved pictures on to your computer, don't just delete them from the card, format it.
- Shop for memory cards for digital cameras online. That’s always where you’ll find the best prices. Amazon and B&H Photo are my personal favourite stomping grounds.
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