SD cards are important, without them there is no way for the camera to work – you can press the shutter button but no image is recorded. It is important to get compatible, optimized cards for best camera speed and performance, and also take care of the card so it does not get damaged too easily. Some of the tips I am sharing in this blog entry are applicable to any memory cards used on any camera bodies. However, since I am a monogamist Olympus shooter, I will be speaking from my experience shooting with OM-D cameras using specifically SD cards only.
TIP 1: DO NOT USE SLOW CARDS
Olympus OM-D cameras (as well as any new, modern, not too low tiered camera) are extremely fast – the camera can capture up to 60 frames per second in full RAW file using silent shutter, and 15 frames per second in mechanical shutter. Olympus E-M1X, E-M1 Mark II and E-M5 Mark III support UHS-II (ultra high speed II) SD cards up to 250MB/s read and write, allowing the camera buffer to clear almost instantaneously, even when shooting in high burst mode. Refer to the video comparison between a UHS-1 slow SD card and a high speed UHS-II card. The speed difference is night and day. Be sure to check the maximum speed that your camera can support, there is no point buying UHS-II card for an older camera that does not support the speed, say an Olympus E-M5 original. Nevertheless, a faster card enables the camera to perform optimally, not just for faster burst sequential shooting but also general shot to shot response and overall smoothness of camera operation. Why get one of the fastest cameras in the market if you are doing to cripple it with a slow SD card?
TIP 2: BUY MORE SPARES
SD card is not expensive. Photography can be an expensive hobby, and there are ways to save some precious cash but you definitely should not cheap out on SD cards. SD card is such a thin, small, fragile piece of plastic that can break easily by usual wear and tear. For someone as clumsy as myself (I am not the worst I believe) a little mishandling can destroy the SD card unintentionally. It is wise to have more back up than necessary. Also, it is common to hear SD cards being corrupted for no apparent reason, and if you have enough spares, you have less to worry about.
TIP 3: FORMAT OR ERASE ALL?
All cameras generally have two options to delete the images – erase all or format card. Formatting a card will wipe the entire card empty, leaving it fresh and at a clean slate. On the other hand, erase all option will only delete the image and video files specifically, and leaving any other non-related files, if stored inside the card, intact. We will explore why this is important in TIP 4. For common practice, if you use the same SD card for the same device consistently, without switching the card to other devices, it is safe to perform erase all. However, if you always use one SD card in multiple devices, especially using different brand and model cameras, the different devices will write different file formats and folders into the same card, increasing risk of bugs, corrupted files and ultimately card failure. Therefore, if you switch SD cards often between devices, it is advisable to format the card each and every time you insert into a new device to prevent corruption or file clashes.
TIP 4: LEAVE CONTACT INFORMATION INSIDE
If you choose the erase all option, this tip is applicable. I am sure you have heard of many wonderful stories about lost gear and how the camera and precious SD cards with important images found their way back to the owner, thanks to the good Samaritans. In case of gear being lost, it is a lot easier to track the owner if contact information is provided, and one way to do that is to insert a text file into the SD card with name and contact details (if you are uncomfortable with leaving your address or phone number for privacy reasons, I am sure a PO Box or email would suffice). This could save the other party some serious CSI grunt work to find you.
TIP 5: PROTECT YOUR SD CARDS
SD cards are fragile little things, so protection is crucial. Do not use a hard case that is too rigid even from the inside, I have friends who use both metal and plastic hard cases that crushed the SD cards stored inside due to too much pressure applied. Also, do not opt for soft pouches or carrying cases that offer no protection at all, the SD cards can be easily bent and broken (refer to video). I would recommend a hard case from the outside with good soft padding for impact absorption from the inside to prevent crushing under pressure.
TIP 6: STORE SPARE SD CARDS IN WALLET
We cannot prevent ourselves from forgetting, it has happened to me, to my professional photographer friends and the best of us – we are only human. It is not about trying not to forget, that is a bad way to prepare for an emergency, instead we should find a viable, fail proof alternative solution. I propose carrying an SD card inside your wallet at all times, as your wallet is something that you carry with you everywhere. Also, there are wallet designs with slots to store SD cards, it is commonly available (at least here in departmental stores of KL, Malaysia).
TIP 7: LEAVE SD CARD DOOR OPEN
I must thank Tobias and some other blog readers who suggested this – leaving the SD card door on the camera open when the card is taken out is a good move. When we see the door is still open, we are reminded that the SD card is not inserted, hence minimizing the chance of not bringing SD cards out. A simple, and useful hack indeed.
Do you have other tips on SD cards to share? I am sure you do, and I would love to hear them!
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