Memory cards are the “film” for your digital camera. Quality is important. You don’t want to have a card failure and lose your important photos. A reliable brand is important.
Recently I received an email from a photographer who bought an alternate brand memory card. It would not even format. The photographer bought it because it was cheaper than the name brand cards. Unfortunately, it was a “special deal, no refund” type of offer.
Worse are the stories of photographers who had a memory card die and they lost all of the photos on the card. Even the best retrieval software couldn’t get the photos back.
When I first went digital I had the same thing happen toward the beginning of a commercial photo shoot. Fortunately I was still on location. I pulled out another memory card and re-did all of the photos I lost on the bad card. So I learned my lesson early on. A cheap, off-brand card is no bargain.
Stick to top of the line cards, even if the cost more. I highly recommend two brands.
The Very Short List:
There are other good brands but these two are very popular with working professionals due to their high reliability. I have had other brands fail but I’ve never had a Lexar or SanDisk memory card fail. Be sure you get the right kind of card (CF, SD, and others) for your camera.
How Much Memory?
One very important piece of advice. Eventually, memory cards do fail, even from the best manufacturers. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. And I get emails from people who have had a memory card failure.
So it is an excellent idea to have several cards with less memory rather than one card with a huge amount of memory. Four cards with 8 GB of memory are better than one 64 GB card. When I do a major photo shoot, I split it up between two different memory cards. If one card fails, I haven’t lost the whole shoot. The same goes for a photo trip. It is not unusual for me to fill up 8 or 10 memory cards on a trip. If I have a memory card failure, I will lose 1/8 to 1/10 of the trip, not the whole trip. The saddest emails I get are from people who lost all of their photos from a special trip because they were all on one big memory card that failed.
Memory Card Storage
My favorite memory card storage is the Pixel Pocket Rocket by Think Tank. They have different models which vary with the number of card slots, the kind of memory card (CF, SD), or even a mixture of two kinds of cards. There is a slot with a clear window for your business card. The Pixel Pocket Rocket has an attachment ribbon with a clip so you can clip the Pixel Pocket Rocket to a camera bag, backpack, or belt loop if you keep it in your pocket.
If you shoot with two different cameras you should never use the same memory card in both cameras (see the articles linked below to learn why). You need separate memory cards for each camera. So I have a blue Pixel Pocket Rocket for the memory cards that go in one camera, and a red Pixel Pocket Rocket for the other camera. To help keep things straight I have SanDisk cards in the blue case and Lexar cards in the red case.
Cards that have been downloaded and backed up to external hard drives are brand lable up. After I fill up a memory card I put it back in the Pixel Pocket Rocket with the white, name and phone number side up. That way I can tell at a glance which cards are filled with photos and which cards are ready to use. More memory card suggestions are in the two article linked below.
Label Your Cards with a Permanent Marker
My name, web site (which has my email address) and my mobile phone number are on the back of all my cards. If I lose a card and someone finds it, they can track me down. If you don’t have a web site you could write your email address on the card.
I found a memory card in Rocky Mountain National Park which has photos of several important family events, but there is nothing on the card to help me find the owner.
Memory Cards and Lost Photos
Warning! Fake Memory Cards at Amazon – How to find real memory cards at Amazon and avoid the fake ones.
This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest of the series is here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.