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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Memory Card Sizes

Is Bigger Better? • Windows Or Mac, One More Time • Full-Frame Dust • Preserving RAW Files

Is Bigger Better? Memory Card Sizes

I’ve been shooting with a 10.2-megapixel digital SLR for a few months. I have two 4 GB CompactFlash cards. As I go on safari, I’ve considered getting a couple of 8 GB cards so I won’t have to change and download so often when doing a lot of shooting. Now I’m hearing the 8 GB cards aren’t as good. If this is a fact, what’s the problem?
O. Larsen, Norway

I’ve experienced no difference in reliability of 4 GB and 8 GB cards from reputable manufacturers (SanDisk, Lexar and Delkin are three that I use), except that the 8 GB cards are slightly slower in writing the data. If you’re shooting fast and furious action, you might notice the lag on the larger cards. But there are other reasons you may want to stick with 4 GB cards when you’re in a remote field location.

Only one factor, the size of the image file, determines how many images you can store on a particular-sized card. Most likely, a 4 GB card will take your 10.2-megapixel camera through a full day of shooting (equivalent to 10 rolls of 36-exposure film), even if you’re shooting in RAW. So if you don’t want to download your work every night in the field, several 4 GB cards would suffice. Several 8 GB cards could possibly carry you through the entire safari.

In all my years of shooting digital and teaching digital photographers in the field, I’ve only experienced CF card failure twice. More often, I’ve seen the cards slip through the slats on a bridge or between the crevices in rocks. But here’s the question: If failure or loss happens to you, do you want to lose one day’s work or the entire week? The answer to this question argues for the 4 GB cards. I’d recommend you carry at least four cards in case you lose or lend one or can’t download your images for a time. Still, I never enter a multiple-day shoot without a backup hard drive, and I faithfully download and review the day’s captures every night when possible—not only to protect the images, but also to determine what I might want to do differently or more thoroughly the next day.

Windows Or Mac, One More Time

I’m trying to become the best (digital) fine-art photographer I can be. I presently use a Windows machine. My photo applications are Photoshop CS3, Lightroom and DxO v.4 running under Windows XP. My photo files will often get rather large (300 MB to 900 MB) in processing and typically go to my printer flattened in the 150 MB to 250 MB range. My computer is beginning to require repairs, and I’m spending more time on the machine than doing photography. I’m trying to investigate both Windows and Mac options although the Macs look like they will cost twice as much and take me to the workstation level, which I’m not sure makes economical or technical sense (and then I have new software to buy). If I stay with a Windows-based machine, I’d probably graduate to a 64-bit version of Vista so I could go beyond the present 3.5 GB RAM limit of XP.
T. Mann
Via the Internet

The configuration you’re now using was likely optimal at the time you purchased it. If it’s giving you trouble now and you want to move up, you’re at a point where you can choose between a faster Windows-based machine or a Mac. At all my lectures, I tell people which computer system is the best one to choose—it’s the one the people around you are using and that you can get support for.

Considering that you’ve been working on Windows, most likely you’d want to stay there. An upgraded desktop system, using an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor running Vista, would give you optimum speed. A large internal hard drive (in the 500 GB range) would be recommended. Your software could be moved onto your new machine. You don’t mention your monitor, but I find it to be one of the most important factors in working on images. Large is better, two is best. Be sure to choose monitors that are easily calibrated.

If you make the choice to switch to Mac, a Mac Pro system with a pair of quad-core or dual-core Intel Xeon processors would be the ultimate, not to mention using their wonderful monitors up to 30 inches in size.

While I sympathize with your comment about spending more time on the computer than in taking photographs, I think it’s a small price to pay for the increased control we now have over the processing of our images. That iconic photographer from the pre-digital era, Ansel Adams, spent more time in the darkroom working on each image than he did capturing it in the field. He called the capture "the score" and the print "the performance." So I guess your computer is your instrument.

> Visit www.geolepp.com.

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