Most digital cameras use one of three types of memory cards: SD (Secure Digital), Memory Stick and CompactFlash. Older cameras may work with minor types. Of the three, SD cards are found in most cameras. Memory Stick is a Sony product, and is meant specifically for the company’s cameras and other devices. CompactFlash cards are for digital cameras exclusively, especially pro-level DSLRs.
Each digital camera only accepts a specific variation of a memory card. For example, the SD card is available as a miniSD or microSD. Sony also has alternative versions of the Memory Stick Pro Duo. New Sony cameras will accept earlier Memory Sticks, but cameras must be compatible with the newer Pro versions to use them.
Many digital cameras are designed with only one card slot. Sony has given its cameras two memory slots, one designated for an SD card and the other Sony’s Memory Stick. Two or more slots are often found on the most expensive DSLRs.
Since a memory card is a storage device, the exact type you use in your camera may also be able to store data from your computer. The insider tip here is that just because two different devices can accept the same kind of card for storage purposes doesn’t mean data can be transferred between your camera and computer, for example. If it is important to you to be able to insert the card from your camera into your computer and access your images or into an HDTV to view pictures with the family, then you must check the operational details of the two devices. Your camera may record images in a file format that your computer or TV can’t read.
Since memory cards are so small (the size of postage stamp and smaller), it may seem they that would be more vulnerable to physical or data damage. Surprisingly, a tiny memory card can withstand more rough handling than a hard drive or CD/DVD media. Nothing is spinning inside a memory card like a hard drive does. Memory cards are built with a much more rugged exterior than a CD/DVD, which can be damaged with a very minor scratch.
Speed is an important consideration when choosing a memory card. One with a faster minimum write rate reduces the time a photograph is recorded, so you can take the next one sooner, or more of them during an interval of time. Your camera is also manufactured with a limit on how fast it can record data.
Since memory cards come in different capacities (the amount of data they can store), these values will determine the number of pictures that will fit. This number is also dependent on the kind of camera you are using and the characteristics of the data. For example, fewer high-resolution photos will fit on any card than low-resolution photos. Because a RAW file includes all the data of a digital image, it takes more space than a JPEG, which is only part of the complete data.
Information about the exact memory card(s) your camera will accept is in the camera’s manual. Although camera manufacturers are nice enough to include memory cards with many of their cameras, these cards typically have very little capacity. It’s better to buy separate higher capacity cards. As a consumer, be aware that the market is filled with inferior, even counterfeit, cards. The price might dazzle you, but you won’t like what you receive for your money. Buy the proven memory card products and from reputable sources.
One of the reasons pros use CompactFlash cards in their high-end DSLRs is that these cards are particularly tough and relatively unaffected by the extreme environments where pros work. CompactFlash cards will “live” through a 10-foot drop and operate in brutal cold or tropical heat.
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