Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Gadget Bag: Memory Cards
Capacities and speeds continue to improve, giving you more options for still and HD-video shooting
When digital was first catching on, it seemed like there were new memory- card formats coming out almost as fast as new cameras. It was bewildering. In the subsequent shakeout, a few formats have endured and continue to be significant for DSLR shooters—Secure Digital (SD), CompactFlash and Memory Stick.
When you’re choosing a card, it’s not as simple as getting “the best” or “the fastest” because the performance and the compatibility of the card hinge on the camera. For example, when it comes to CompactFlash, newer cameras make use of a fast data transfer protocol called UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access). Older DSLRs used a different protocol called PIO (Programmed I/O). If your DSLR isn’t UDMA capable, don’t pay the extra money for a UDMA card, because the cards will default to the older, slower PIO protocol. SD has similar issues. There are several types of SD cards now, including SD, SDHC and SDXC. The cards are all the same physical size, but they use slightly different internal technologies.
Here’s a brief overview of the different memory-card types available out there and a few select cards from the major manufacturers.
One of the very first memory card formats was the CompactFlash. The name immediately caused confusion among photographers due to the use of the word “flash,” but that subsided as digital cameras began replacing film for most enthusiasts. CompactFlash cards are bulkier than other formats, and their obsolescence was predicted several years ago as their maximum capacities and maximum speeds were estimated to be limited, but apparently someone forgot to relay that information to the card designers who have kept CF charging ahead. Today, you can find a CF card with up to 64 GB of space and with transfer rates up to 90 MB/s.
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