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Memory Cards – Get what you pay for!

sdcfextiv-16gb45.jpgHave you ever had a memory card fail on you? You’ve spent some time photographing an occassion, you’ve done your best and you’re excited about getting the images onto your screen and checking them out. You plug in your memory card and import your photos only to find half of them corrupt! or, even worse there are NO images on the memory card!

I asked the guys over at DigitalRev.com to help me out with a test that I wanted to run – we took two memory cards, a more expensive “well known” brand and a more budget “lesser known” branded CF card and ran them up in real world conditions along side each other to see how they performed.

First, I took the aData card along with me to a night at the Jazz Cafe to photograph a soul singer for Blues&Soul magazine. I wanted to get the job done and couldn’t afford to have any issues, so I figured that with this new card I’d have no trouble. I popped the card into my camera before the gig and formatted it a couple of times, took a few shots and formatted it again. I photographed the gig, checking my display from time to time to see that the images were recording OK and that my focus was as on as a 3″ screen will tell me. Arriving home, I imported the images into Lightroom from the new memory card that I was using and this is what I found…


You can see above that the selected image is missing some information. This is sometimes caused by the card not being able to take all the data that you’re pushing to it from your camera and spitting some onto the floor (basically) This most likely happened when I reeled off a whole lot of shots during one very active part of their performance and the card just wasn’t up to the task.

There's Lemons...So, let’s compare the two cards that I was shooting with; The card that caused the failure above was an aData “speedy” 16GB card, It is priced as a budget card at £49.55 and every other time that I’ve used it since this incident it has performed just fine, but I will not use it “when it matters” I shoot with a Canon 5DMk2 and I pretty much always shoot in full resolution RAW a lot of the time in burst mode, so that’s around 3 – 4 images per second (more like 2 -3 in RAW) at about 23MB per file, so a good solid amount of data charging through your camera and onto the CF card. The other card that I was using for this little speed test was the SanDisk Extreme IV 16GB. It’s rated at “45MBps” I used the SanDisk last night when photographing an American R&B singer, Ginuwine, a fast paced concert full of squealing teenagers, and am very happy to report that the SanDisk happily stood and delivered.

I ran basic “full load” test with my 5DMk2 whereby I placed the camera into burst mode in the RAW setting and held the shutter release down until the card could take no more, the aData lasted a whole 12 images while the SanDisk ate it up and kept going and going and.. going! If you want to know how fast your card is or how many images you will fit on it, there’s a handy table over here

This little test doens’t mean that if you’ve purchased an aData card that you’ve got a lemon, it just means that if you use a cheap memory card when it matters, there is more chance that something will go horribly wrong! It is true, you do get what you pay for…

Luckily on this occassion, I didn’t like any images form my  CF card failure inducing burst during Nate’s performance, so no bother.

One other aspect of this test that you should take into account is that with bigger memory cards coming down in price, you’re going to buy them and put more images on the one card, or if you will “more eggs in one basket” I will always only shoot one concert (three songs, no flash!) and then upload, and format my cards.

Big thanks to the guys at DigitalRev for helping us out with the testing for this mini review.

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(aka #gtvone) is the customer support manager for dPS, and lead blogger in our Cameras and Gear Blog. He’s a Melbourne based photographer, www.gtvone.com and please feel free to follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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