Care & Feeding of Memory Cards

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Recently when testing the Leica Q I ran into a memory card problem that was ultimately solved using the Leica itself as a card reader and connecting the camera to my computer via a cable and copying the image files to my hard drive. While card failures do occur, in all my years of using both CF and SD cards I’ve only had two such occurrences, I’m pretty sure each time it was caused by user error. So here’s a few tips to avoid this happening to you:

Don’t remove the card when saving or viewing images. This seems as obvious as not sticking wet fingers in a light bulb socket but I’ve had to use Photo Rescue to save images from a neighbor’s—the same neighbor—more than once who had a bad habit of doing this.

Don’t remove memory card when turning your camera on or off. Guilty as charged, your Honor. A corollary is to forcibly eject—without using your computer’s ‘safely remove media’ command or the Mac OS’ Eject command. The error messages you get doing it the wrong way are more than a warning, they are a prediction of future damage.

Do not change your memory card when the camera is on. Oh geez, not me again. Yes I do this too so maybe that’s why the card in the Leica Q bought the farm. While you can skate on all these faux pas a time or two some of these bad habit are ultimately going to bite you in the butt.

Stop—and I mean a full Diana Ross STOP—taking or viewing pictures when battery is low. Please learn from my mistakes.

pelican.card The Photo Stack Exchange reminds us that flash memory has a limited number of write/erase cycles and that electrons sometime get trapped where they’re not wanted and voltage levels shift, eventually causing read or write failure. So sometimes the cards just wear out. With newer, faster and cheaper cards coming along think about adding new cards from time to time and placing the others in some kind of card holder—I use the indestructible Pelican 0915 Memory Card Case —as reserve.

In the photo world there was an expression that certain rolls of film from certain individuals were CEV film—the roll contained images from Christmas, Easter and Vacation. Take the time to reformat which can prevent it from becoming corrupted.

Finally don’t be a cheapskate and purchase memory cards with the Crazy Charlie Flea market brand name. Really good cards from really good companies are worth the pain and misery they help you avoid.

You wouldn’t have such bad habits when shooting film, right? So how did so many of us develop bad card handling habits when shooting with memory cards?