With digital cameras it helps to play your cards right! SD cards, Compact Flash, xD-Picture Cards and all the flavours of Memory Stick … all have similar structures, so it’s wise to follow some guidelines in their use (read part 1 of this exploration of Memory Cards here).
To make sure you take my advice on board, here’s some real life cases of disaster, pain and crisis. It can happen to the best of us.
Early 2004 NASA sent a pair of Mars Exploration Rovers to Mars. The vehicles carried digital cameras to take pictures for transmission back to Earth; the planetary wanderers were equipped with three types of memory: 128 MB of RAM as well as 256 MB of flash RAM plus programmable memory (EPROM).
After 18 days on Mars one of them faltered and stopped sending the images and other data earthwards, continually re-booting its computer. The cause of the breakdown was not widely promoted.
When Rover crashed it suddenly acted erratically and refused to transmit science and engineering data. After studying telemetry from Rover, troubleshooters identified a problem with the computer’s use of flash RAM. The culprits? Flash memory and software.
Rover’s project manager glumly commented at the time that “Flash RAM is just like the memory in a digital camera. It can also be read to and written from easily”, adding that it has non-volatile characteristics: the stored information remains even if the vehicle is powered down.
Rover was placed in ‘cripple mode.’ It was necessary to step around the flash memory and directly access the RAM. This avoided any issues with the flash memory itself.
When an explosion was set to bring down an old bridge on the Mississippi River, a newspaper photographer was so close his digital pro level camera was blown to bits. But, to the photographer’s amazement, the SanDisk 256 MB CompactFlash card was unscathed, except for a few nicks, even though it had been blasted from the camera chamber. Inserting it into a card reader, the image on the card recorded the last second of the camera’s existence and could be used.
One blogger told a story about his purchase of a 512 MB Olympus xD-Picture Card on eBay. The card seemed to be OK but trouble loomed when he tried to load the card into his Kodak LS755 camera. When inserted, the camera requested the card be formatted, with which he complied: “The thing is, it keeps asking me to format and the camera does not recognise the card over and over again.” Stepping down to his local camera store he tried to load the card into another Kodak LS755. Same problem.
Reason: Kodak has never made cameras that accept the xD-Picture Card. Once the correct card was tried — an SD — the problem went away!
Tips For Healthy Memory Cards
It helps to follow these tips to maintain a card’s health and preserve your precious images.
- Always reformat the card in your camera each time, after you have downloaded the images to your computer.
- Deleting the images on your card while it is in your computer after downloading is not the same thing as reformatting the card in the camera.
- Never load nor remove a card into/from the camera during the image transfer process.
- Never force a card into a camera.
- Always handle your memory card by its edges. Don’t touch the card’s contact points. Keep them away from dust and moisture. Don’t bend or twist it.
- Always turn off the camera’s power before you load the card or withdraw it.
- When using a card reader always move the icon of the card to the trash, then wait a few moment before removing the card from the reader.
- Always keep your camera batteries fully charged. If power fails while data is being written to the card both card and data may be damaged.
- Keep away from any high static charges, strong magnetic charges and extreme heart and cold — and be very careful when handling cards in dry, low humidity zones.
- Before editing the images, always transfer them to the hard drive.
Help! I’ve lost my Pictures from My Memory Card!
Here’s some data recovery programs that may save your bacon when the unthinkable happens!
Some of these programs are simple image rescue utilities, while others are more in the nature of image erase programs. All are Win/Mac compatible.
- PHOTORECOVERY. There’s a demo version at www.lc-tech.com/photorecovery.htm or purchase at US$39.95. Windows 2000 or higher.
- SanDisk RescuePro at www.lc-tech.com/rescuepro.htm Trial version. Price: US$40. Windows and Mac OSX.
- File Rescue Plus at http://download.cnet.com/File-Rescue-Plus/3000-2248_4-10192710.html – Free demo. Price: US$29.95. Windows Vista, XP etc.
- PhotoRescue at www.datarescue.com/photorescue – Trial version. Price: US$29. Windows and Mac OSX.
- ImageRecall 2 at www.imagerecall.com — demo version or US$39.95. Windows.
- MediaRECOVER at www.mediarecover.com – Demo version. Price: US$29.95. Windows and Mac OSX.