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Choosing a Safe Flash Card for Your Camera

With So Many Flash cards on the market it can be confusing to find the right one for your camera. Here's a few tips to help you on your way.


If you depend on your camera card, you need to make sure to use high-quality memory. Flash cards are not all the same, and a cheap unit can end up costing you hundreds of dollars by failing prematurely. When you shop for a camera card, keep these tips in mind to find dependable, reliable media.

Choosing the Right Format

If your camera supports multiple formats, opt for higher access speeds, as high-speed cards often provide higher quality flash chips.

For example, SDHC cards are superior to normal SD cards and tend to offer better reliability. Some devices only support a single card format, however, so you should check your camera's manual before making a purchase.

Differences Between Major Manufacturers

Memory card manufacturing techniques vary, and in order to choose a reliable card, you need to look for a reputable manufacturer. Major brands like Samsung, Fujitsu, Sony and SanDisk provide reliable camera cards with built-in features to ensure the highest possible number of write cycles before failure. In our experience, all major flash media brands offer similar durability.

Avoid generic cards, as they typically do not have features to protect against memory wear and other common camera card issues. Generic cards might also have low-quality connectors, which can wear out quickly.

Checking the Numbers

The best numbers to check when evaluating camera cards are the write/erase cycles and the mean time before failure (MTBF). While most manufacturers provide both of these numbers with their product documentation, they may not put this information on product packaging. You will need to look these numbers up online before buying.

Write/erase cycles refer to the number of times that a camera card can be overwritten before its cells begin to wear out, causing instability and data loss. Newer flash media cards can support 10,000 or more write/erase cycles. While you will probably never reach this erase limit before other components of your camera card begin to degrade, a high limit indicates better construction.

Some manufacturers also provide a separate MTBF rating or an operating lifespan. This can be useful for making a long-term storage plan; for instance, you should replace cards with a three-year MTBF some time in year two of regular usage. However, operating life spans can be misleading, and you should never assume that your flash card will last for a certain number of years before failing. Always assume that your media could fail and use an appropriate backup strategy.

Buy the Size That You Need

There is no correlation between flash card size and durability, so buy a card that matches your needs.

Beware of high-capacity camera cards with small price tags. As mentioned earlier, generic camera cards are less dependable than devices made by well-known manufacturers. The old adage "you get what you paid for" certainly applies when purchasing digital memory, and dependable high-capacity cards are worth the extra investment. If you will not use much space, opt for a lower capacity unit with a higher per-gigabyte price rather than a large-capacity generic card.

Always back up important photos as soon as you have a chance. Try to avoid keeping your data on a single device, and if you need to edit your pictures, move them off of your camera card before accessing them with your computer. Good data habits will help you avoid costly data loss and extend the operating life of your camera cards considerably.

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