What Are Memory Cards?

Camera Equipment

There is a huge range of camera models out there and compared to those “good old days” of being restricted to film photography, we now have the option to go digital all the way. Instead of having the photo saved as film negatives which can later on be reproduced, photographers, amateurs and professionals alike, can enjoy being able to save and instantly view the photos they have captured. All of this is made possible by memory cards. What are memory cards though? There are a handful of different memory cards for cameras and knowing about them can help you understand just how exactly your photos are stored.

First things first before all the tiny details. A memory card by definition is an electronic data storage device where digital information can be stored. These are used for a lot of different electronic devices like laptop computers, mobile phones, music players, video game consoles, and digital cameras. They are usually re-recordable and are highly convenient because they can store data without the need for power. They’re small, and by that I mean small enough to fit the palm of your hand or the tip of your finger. Memory cards really provide flexibility when it comes to the number of shots you take and how you decide to store and reproduce your photos later on.

Different Kinds of Memory Cards for Cameras

There are two main kinds of memory cards for cameras: SD cards and CompactFlash cards. Initially, there were many different formats like MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, and xD-Picture Card and although these memory cards for cameras all did the same thing, the different formats resulted in a selection process dilemma and ultimately, one ended up being stuck as to what kind of memory card to use.

In the most recent years however, I’ve noticed how only two kinds have emerged as the “winning” formats. How can I tell? Simple, the digital camera bodies are made to accommodate just one or the other. Those two formats are the SD cards and CompactFlash cards. As you may have already noticed, buying a DSLR or even just a point and shoot often has the disappointment of not being able to shoot tons of photos immediately because they don’t always have memory cards as part of the deal. They do, however, have the slots for usually either an SD card or a CompactFlash card and this makes the selection process narrowed down to two candidates.

The choice can be influenced mainly by the kind of camera you buy and which digital storage format it supports. However, there are still different kinds of SD cards and CompactFlash cards, so knowing a bit about them can help you make the best choice. On with the specifics!

Understanding SD Cards

You will be faced with three choices if your camera supports SD or Secure Digital cards. These choices all come with different storage capacities and transfer speeds. Newer camera formats usually have SD slots in them. The three kinds are:

  • Standard format SD – This is the good old classic version of SD cards and can usually be read from and written onto by DSLRs and digital cameras which have SD slots. The lowest storage capacity is at 2 GB.
  • SDHC – SDHC means it has a high-capacity format and the smallest size is at 4 GB. Professional photographers who use the largest photo resolutions their cameras offer can benefit from having a 32 GB SDHC.
  • SDXC – SDXC or extended capacity cards offer faster transfer speeds and can store up to 2 TB of data which makes it great for commercial photography or videography businesses. They are the most expensive kind of SD cards and are usually supported by only the latest kinds of cameras.

Of note, there are also digital cameras which make use of Micro SD cards – those which are small enough to fit your fingertips. These are usually used for mobile phones, but there are also point and shoot cameras which make use of this kind of SD card. SD cards come with wide price ranges, and you can buy one for under £10 or with a starting price of £80 for the more expensive ones.

Getting to Know Compact Flash

CompactFlash cards are usually larger and stronger compared to SD cards which makes them ideal for shooting in outdoor locations. There are even professional CompactFlash cards which are meant to withstand high temperatures and some offer shock protection. Because of this feature, it becomes a suitable candidate for sports and wildlife photography.

CompactFlash cards have a solid-state construction and this is what makes them more rugged. You may be faced with Type I and Type II cards which look very similar, but are differentiated by the thickness.

Type I cards are only 3.3 mm thick while Type II cards are 5.5 mm thick. With CompactFlash storage, device bodies are usually bigger to accommodate their size and this makes them usually unavailable for point and shoot as well as other smaller digital cameras.

Different Memory Cards for Cameras

Say you have two or three different cameras which you all actively use for your photo walks and other snapshots, and add to that is the memory card you use for your camera’s photo storage. How do you transfer files from your memory cards to your laptop?

usb-memory-card-readerSome laptops have a built in slot for memory cards, usually SD cards. But when your laptop doesn’t have it, you will benefit from using a USB card reader. This is a plug-and-play device you can use to connect your memory card to your laptop or computer to transfer or backup files. There are single-type memory card readers while some memory card readers are designed to read different memory card formats. If you’re one of those people who have a handful of devices which make use of memory card storage, you can use a USB memory card reader to access your files using your computer.

It would be a good investment to have a nice USB card reader especially if you have a CompactFlash card since laptops usually do not have slots where you can insert your memory card.

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