9 Things Photographers Need to Know About Memory Cards

In Gear by Jim Harmer136 Comments

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Photographers are gearheads.  We love to know what the latest-and-greatest technology is and what piece of gear will produce optimal results.  I admit it.  I love the technology side of photography and I enjoy pixel peeping even when I know it doesn't really help my photos.  Surprisingly, however, I am frequently shocked at how clueless photographers are about memory cards.

Memory Card Tip #1:  Do not listen to the MANY photography instructors who teach that brand doesn't matter, or that Sandisk and Lexar are both the same.  That is simply incorrect.  The truth is that there are loads of very relevant differences between the two.  For example, Sandisk has had several exclusives with Nikon in which they create a memory card that is able to access the full processing power of the camera.  Nikon and Sandisk worked together on a memory card for the D90 and recently did so again with the Nikon D7000.  Lexar also has some useful advantages over Sandisk, but that's for another post.

Memory Card Tip #2: I constantly hear professional photographers teach that photographers need to get a super-fast memory card only for shooting video.  While it is true that HD video produces large files, digital RAW files produce more data in a shorter period of time when photographers shoot a quick burst of multiple RAW files.  Fast memory cards are even more vital to still photographers who shoot bursts than HDSLR users.

Memory Card Tip #3: Never “erase all images” on your card.  Always format the card.  DSLRs provide both an “Erase all images” option and a “format card” option.  Choose the format card option in order to prevent a host of different errors that can arise by simply erasing all images.  Formatting the card will re-organize the folder structure and prevent database errors.

Memory Card Tip #4: While we're discussing how to erase all images, never erase any of the images by using the computer.  This will taint your database and can cause even more errors than “Erase all images.”  If you persist in erasing images by using the computer, you Canon shooters will face the famed ERR-99 (side note: that is a general error that is not specific to memory card problems, but memory card problems are one of the things that can draw the error).

Memory Card Tip #5: Because I properly format my memory cards and never edit the contents of the card from the computer, I rarely have technical issues with memory cards.  However, I have broken several memory cards by not storing them properly or ripping them out of the card reader.  This is particularly true with SD memory cards, which have delicate little pieces of plastic on the underside which can easily be bent or broken off if misused.  Treat 'em like a baby.

Memory Card Tip #6: According to Lexar, using high-capacity memory cards uses more battery life from your camera.  The reduction in battery use is slight, but I think  it's a handy bit of knowledge.

Memory Card Tip #7: Both Lexar and Sandisk professional-level cards come with a free program that can help you recover the images on your card if you accidentally delete them.  If you delete something accidentally, STOP SHOOTING, bring the card home, run the card through the program, and you'll probably get the shot back–even if you formatted the card.  I have not tried Sandisk's program for memory cards, but I give high marks to Lexar's Image Rescue Software.

Memory Card Tip #8: If you are unsuccessful at recovering images on a corrupted Lexar memory card, you can actually send the card to Lexar at NO COST and they will have a technician perform professional data recovery on the card, put the images on a DVD, and mail you a new card and the images.  Now THAT is impressive service!  As far as I know, Sandisk doesn't offer this level of customer support.  I checked their website for information and couldn't find anything comparable.  Does anyone knowledge about this?

Memory Card Tip #9: Okay, I admit that this one is only marginally connected to memory cards.  It is just a recommendation that you subscribe to a blog written by Jeff Cable.  He's one of the head marketing guys at Lexar and always has interesting things to share on his blog.  Here's the link: http://jeffcable.blogspot.com/

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About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. Jim travels the world to shoot with readers of Improve Photography in his series of free photography workshops. See his portfolio here.


  1. Memory Card Tip #6a: As well as reducing battery drain, having more small capacity cards rather than less large capacity cards means that a) if something goes wrong, you will lose less shots, and b) you can change cards as the shoot changes (different model, different innings at the game, etc). This makes it easier to keyword when you import.

    Good Light!

    1. I shoot with Olympus camera bodied, And I find that a memory card of 16gb is ample for still picture shooting. I haven’t had any problems with SanDisk Extreme Pro . They are inexpensive and with my cameras, they write relatively fast. Especailly when I’m shooting shelter dogs for the PSPCA. I shoot in RAW and import using Lightroom. I always format a card before I start shooting. It’s part of my workflow.

  2. Author

    @Jim (the other Jim….) Good point about keywording on import. I always just select the different photos using click-shift-click and then keyword specific sets, but that is a handy thought. Thanks for sharing.

  3. One thing I’d say about cards, if you’re thinking of buying a 32GB card, don’t…get two 16GB cards instead.
    If you lose one you’ll have another, and if they contained images and you lost a card/camera you won’t lose all your images.

    1. so weird that you advised this because I almost got the 32gb but purchased the 16gb . thus far I love it!

  4. When I shoot weddings I shoot with 4GB cards. It does mean changing the cards more often, but if something goes wrong, then I lose less.

    I do have a question for you… At what intervals should cards be replaced? I have been shooting with the same 12 4GB cards for two years and have not noticed any drop off in speed or anything… But do they have a life expectancy?

  5. Great post. I appreciate the info about the collaboration between Nikon and Sandisk, do you know if anything like that has happened with Canon? I also want to ask what Richard Cole asked about the life expectancy of CF cards, but wonder if it is frequency or volume rather than time that wears down a memory card. I’ve had a Lexar for a couple years and use it quite a bit, something like 1000 images per weekend and want to know if it’s going to last another 10,000 images at least.

  6. Another tip: always keep your cellphone out of range from your memory cards and do certainly store it in the same pocket while travelling. Or at least: turn your phone off.

  7. Hey – someone just passed this on to me. Thanks for the shout out here. 🙂 This is a really good article. Someone just asked about the life of a memory card. The answer is this…Every memory card does have a theoretical limitation to how many times it can be reformatted (less so on cheaper cards which use a lower quality of Flash Memory), but the number is huge. Unless you format your card 10 times a day, it should last a lifetime. And…of course…if you have a Lexar Professional card, it has a lifetime warranty and can be replaced if anything does go wrong. 🙂

    1. Jeff, this is great to know and definitely will change what I buy. Right now, I purchase a few each of different brands, but with customer service like that, I am willing to switch.

      Thanks for the info.

    1. Did I miss the part where this states this was sponsored by Lexar? You forgot to mention the issues Lexar had working with Canon cameras… The Lexar/Sandisk debate will rage as long as the Canon/Nikon debate will… if you’re going to tell us 9 things… be unbiased… at least a little maybe…

      1. Author

        @Jeff Mulvihill, Jr. Did you read the article? I mentioned both Lexar AND Sandisk several times in the article, and I even linked to an article from last week where I gave some strong reasons why Sandisk is BETTER than Lexar in some situations. I think I’ve fairly given information about both brands lately. In fact, the memory card in my camera right now is a Sandisk. There are benefits to both brands.

  8. Hi thanks for the tips they are ivaluable, I certainly noticed no bias towards any particular company, I use sandisk my self and have never had to replace one in over ten years, yes I use lots of 4gb cards its just common sense in my eyes, on deleting, I import all my photos onto my computer, once I have stored those images on my external and internal hard drives then I re formatt my card, it was a Pro photographer that gave me that tip again many years ago,
    once again thankyou for this the tips and I have put you in my favourites list.

  9. One thing I did not read was HOW LONG are cards good for? I recently heard to only download images from a card about 8-10 times & then you should get rid of it. I was told if you are a pro, you should discard cards every 3-4 months. Is this TRUE?

  10. SanDisk has a lifetime warranty on their cards. I had a card suddenly stop working; no reason why…no damage…nothing. I contacted SanDisk and they issued me an RMA to send the card back for a brand new replacement. It is an amazing program.

  11. I am so posting a link to this article on my web page. I teach photography workshops and I am always shocked that almost none of the students format the cards, they erase only. The only thing I would add here is to NOT use cheap card readers. I have student after student and a few friends who buy cheap card readers which then destroy their cards. I only use the cable to upload to my computer, slower but safer.

  12. Tip #7a: Before inserting the memory card with deleted images into your card reader make certain that ReadyBoost (Windows Vista and Windows 7) is turned OFF!! If not, the computer may load the “unused” space with ReadyBoost and you won’t have any chance at all in recovery.

    It’s also a good idea to turn it off when transferring images to the computer, it works against itself and slows the transfer rate tremendously.

    I leave ReadyBoost off most of the time unless I have a spare empty card and I’m really in a time crunch.

  13. you’re definitely right about point #1.. i always use SanDisk and i never ever lost my data again.

  14. Not something that will affect many people…but don’t put an Eye-Fi card in a Leica M9…as it can damage the SD card slot.

    As alluded to above…my tip would be use a recognised brand and instead of buying one large capacity card, buy two smaller (but equivalent total capacity) cards. If one fails or you lose one…then not all your images are lost.

  15. I know this was posted a few months ago but I was just tuned on to your site which I find very informative and usually repost your articles. My question was how you feel about delkin, I have mostly all Delkin cards they have a life time warranty, and really good customer service. I don’t work for Delkin in any way shape or form. However from personal experience, I had 2 of there combat flash cards 32G get destroyed by an old card reader (which wasn’t mine) I called Delkin they gave me a reference number sent me a UPS ticket I sent them the cards. They also offer a free service to get your images off your CF cards add them onto a dvd, and send them back to you. It took about a month from start to finish but it had to do with a person losing their job, however the Delkin employee I spoke to kept in touch with me and kept me up to date about everything. I feel you should check Delkin out.

  16. how can i get pictures that are in my computer and not on my memory cards on my memory card so i can bring it to my local walmart and make copies


  17. “I have not tried Sandisk’s program for memory cards,”
    I have use Sndisk’s “Rescue” program, and will say it was stellar! Bringing me back the pictures I had recently deleted, and needed back, and pictures on the disk from as far back as 8 months before. Nice for a free included program! Thanks for this great article. I’m going to be linking to your articles in my Photo group.

  18. I wish I would of read this before… I just bought a new SD card and it isn’t any of the ones mentioned above. I have never reformatted my cards and delete with the computer because it’s faster… my bad! You have reformed me!! (and probably saved me from future trouble 🙂 Thanks so much, Jim, for all your time, effort and excellent posts and articles. You Rock!!

  19. Excellent article! You hit things I have asked photography teachers who were either unable to answer or gave me a different answer than you provided. One Question: Do you have any input about PNY brand memory cards? I just shot about 32 GB worth of photos on my PNY memory cards from a recent trip and was curious of any tips or feedback on this brand.

    1. Author

      @Abby – I have used PNY cards before, as well as several other off-brands. I have rarely experienced problems with any memory cards, but I trust my photography to Lexar and Sandisk. They have the best reputation in the industry and really stand behind their products.

  20. I have been clearing my cards by computer for years. My current cards have been downloaded from and cleared hundreds of times. I have never had a card fail. My current cards are SanDisk Extreme 16gb 60mb/s

  21. Thanks so much for these. I’ve especially wondered about #2 after a frustrating experience last spring, but when I asked an experienced photographer and a pro if a faster card might have helped, they both said no. 🙁

  22. I am new to your site and since yesterday when I stumbled on to it, I have been on it, every spare second that I have. I have a question based on this article. I have a Nikon and I am confused on what you are tying to say… Obviously I agree that going with the Sandisk sounds better due to the fact that they team up together… However, the Lexar seems as though it might be a better card and also has some extra advantages.. Would you say to stick with the card that teams up with my camera or would you say that I can chose either one? If I can chose either one for my camera (Nikon)~ If you had a Nikon, which card would you chose?

  23. I am curious – does it matter where you buy your card? I had to buy a card in Switzerland (at the Matterhorn, no less). (I live in Kansas – This was actually our fourth trip to Europe, but this time I suddenly wanted to photograph *everything*.) My card/camera worked fine for a week or so, then I got the dreaded ERR 99, and haven’t been able to figure out the issue. Just wondered if the Europe-purchased card could have triggered something, even though the problem didn’t begin immediately. It was a Sandisk, btw.

  24. I just recently accidentally deleted 1 photo from a Lexar Platinum II 100x 8GB SDHC card, the card had a total of 293 images in raw format taken with my Canon 60D. When I got back from the photo shoot I downloaded the trial version of Lexar’s Image Rescue. Read the directions and knew the trial was only good for a single image recovery which was fine. Not only did the software not work the image that was accidentally deleted did not even show up but multiple images from the last time I used the card showed up this was after a format (I always format my cards in camera before each shoot. So my experience with Image Rescue produced nothing. Obviously I did not buy the full version that they sell when the trial version failed miserably.

    Other than that the cards themselves are fine and I actually do trust them and will continue using them I’m sure. In 5 years this is the first time I have ever needed to recover a deleted image and will not make that mistake again, it’s just to bad their software didn’t live up to it’s name.

  25. Going back to 2007
    I had a corrupt Lexar memory card.
    I sent the card to all sorts of “recovery experts”, none of whom could recover my lost/corrupt images.I was desperate.
    I happened to be on a Lexar stand at a photo exhibition where I was told that they will recover the images for me for free.
    I sent them my corrupt memory card and after a few weeks I received a CD containing all my lost images.
    Congratulations Lexar well done a great service!

    1. just tried to get Lexar to recover images from a corrupted card — no dice. They told me to send it to a third party data recovery company. They would not help me.

  26. So which is better: having a 64G SD card or 16 4G cards? I noticed that a 64G card is quite expensive, but a 32G card is cheaper than two 16G cards, a 16G card cheaper than two 8G cards, etc. Having more cards seems less risky though. Thanks.

  27. Big family Thanksgiving with lots of little ones. Two cameras broke 🙁 I was getting ready to order a Nikon Coolpix S410 camera… We’re not huge picture takers! Just holidays and DH owns a commercial construction company and takes pics during the ‘building’ phase. Question is, will the SanDisk 4GB ‘fit’ with the Nikon camera? Thanks! And GREAT SITE!!!

    1. As a P.S.,,,don’t get rid of the cards you have, just be cognizant of the fact you could someday for some reason, corrupt a card. Reformat it and give it a try on some unimportant test shots. If it works OK then you should be good to go. If it happens twice, trash it and get one of the more recognizable major brands. There’s a reason they are popular and others say they are As Good As …….

  28. I have been deleting via the computer too! Great to know there is a better way! My question is now that I have been doing it wrong for about a year, do I need to buy new cards to ensure that I am starting out with non-corrupted cards?

  29. Hi you mentioned about Lexar and Sandisk. Any idea on Kingston? Cause i am using Kingston with my Nikon D3100. And i would like to know how comparable it is to the 2 brands as stated above.

  30. I first ran across the Sandisk Extremes at work long before I had a digital camera. Their history is why I went with them when I did get a DSLR and certainly haven’t regretted it. Also from work history, my cards don’t get erased but rather formatted every time to go the extra step in getting rid of the existing directory. For those who don’t understand, the data is still on the card after you erase it. All you’re really doing in most cases is removing the ability to read the directory. It’s about the same as ripping out the Table of Contents in a technical book. You can’t find the data if you don’t know where to look. (this is also why my own PC hard drives never go into the recycle bin in one piece and the disks sit on a rather large magnet for a day.) (paranoid? we’ve all seen the stories of someones data reappearing after they sent the equipment to a recycler. There are specific programs written to recover your lost data but sometimes the slime of the earth uses it for other purposes)

    The habit of using a few smaller memory cards rather than one large one is insurance against damage or loss. If you are taking shots of the family picnic and you lose the card it’s no big deal. Even those of us who are not professionals still have some photos that for one reason or another are very important to us. Using multiple smaller cards is just playing the odds that we’ll get to keep more if something does happen. Also, as the cards get larger the smaller ones get cheaper so there’s a bonus. And a last note, buy your memory from a reputable dealer. There’s lots of junk out there that has been re-labelled. If the price is too good to be true it probably is. I have a lot of photos that to me are worth more than ten to fifteen dollars I’d save with the cheapo’s.

  31. I was wondering if a memory card could make a dslr camera quit working, not being able to turn it on? I always reformat my card. I’ve tried a new battery and that didn’t work. TIA

  32. I guess the old adage of “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” could apply to memory cards. I am still shooting with a Nikon D50 and the max limit card it will take is a 2 GB. I have four San Disk cards that I rotate around.

  33. I recently purchased a brand new Sandisk Extreme card through B&H. In the middle of a session, I received an error. The card was apparently corrupt. I attempted to use Sandisk’s recovery program with no luck. The card wasn’t even accessible. Although Sandisk DOES have a warranty, they DO NOT provide any type of service or reimbursement for recovery. I had to send it off which cost $275 out of pocket. They did accept fault for the corrupted card, but they were very quick to tell me there was nothing they could do to help except send me another card. (Which I didn’t accept.)

    Just some food for thought. 🙂

  34. @ Sgesssel: I would stay away from deleting pictures while in a session. If you are deleting pictures, you are leaving a fragment behind. That fragment can corrupt pictures you took before the one you deleted. I had a bad experience with my camera having corrupt files all the time (I always went ahead and deleted the “uglies” as well as went through the pictures a lot.) MY advice would be to take the pictures and leave them alone while in a session, family gathering, etc. (also because you waste time going through tem when you can spend time with family or catch the shots you would have missed because you are looking down, not around) Once you get home and load your pictureson your computer, then you can transfer the ones you want to your files. Then, simply store your card. I always reformat my card once I head out and taking the camera. (I never remember if I had formatted before, so I just do it when I am going to use it)

  35. Wow thanks for the advice! I have never reformatted the card and always erase in computer! I would have had no idea about these issues, thanks so much!

  36. Wow! What an amazing site! I’m a fairly new photographer, currently using a canon rebel t1i with various lenses but was curious if an “off brand” memory card might be the reason I am getting “busy” readings within my camera when shooting numerous pics at quick pace. Sometimes it will say “busy” and not allow me to shoot, missing out in a great shot! I thought something was wrong with my camera, but could it be the memory card? It was less than half full and has happened more than once. It was supposedly the one especially for DSLR cameras (not certain if that means the higher speed or what) but thats my main concern. Not being limited there. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Amy,
      I have the same camera and the same problem, but only if I use my Sigma lens. While the lens is sold as compatible with Canon, it seems to be the couse of the “BUSY” issue, as I can duplicate the situation with the stock Canon lens and not get the BUSY. Very frustrating.

    2. There’s no such thing as an “off brand” card. There are, however, more reputable brands than another. PNY and Sandisk are older, more familiar brands that have been in business with flash memory since the beginning. Transcend, Kingston, etc. are less reputable and have a more frequent tendency to corrupt or go bad. I’m rather confused about the love for this article regarding Lexar, as every retail company I’ve worked for we’ve have a myriad of customer complaints….

      I digress. You may need to consider picking up a faster speed card. Class 10 with a UHS-1 rating generally gives you 35-95 megabytes per second as an average write speed. Also, from what I’ve come to understand is that as your card becomes fuller, the card slows down slightly due to the camera trying to find the available space in a more confined area.

      Hope that helps

  37. And Its ok if you accidentally run a memory card through a wash cycle. Your images wont be skrewed up. And the card will still be usable.

  38. Your article spread more incorrect information than it aims to correct.

    “This will taint your database ..”

    Thanks for the laugh!

  39. Regarding # 5 , the manufacturer will replace the card free….see address on blister pack when purchaseded.

  40. Memory Card Tip #1 Those instructors say that because they know that all memory cards come from the same 2 factories regardless of branding.

  41. Regarding Tip 3:

    I always delete from the computer first. What I do is transfer the pictures to external hard drives per each groups topic in different picture folders. Once that group is transferred I then delete those pictures working my way until all pictures have been transferred. The problem is when the empty SD card is reinserted into the camera, the camera still believes the SD card has pictures though none show up. In other words, deleting from the computer is not a complete delete. The SD card still acts like the memory has been used even though it has no pictures. I then have to format the SD card to gain the full usage of the card.

    As far as SD card size. Even though there are very good reasons to use many smaller cards; I choose to use 32 Gig SD cards. I need that size to give me the time needed to video tape anything I want when I want for as long as I want. Like long shows and parades at Disney World. It takes about the same amount of time to transfer 32 gigs as it does 8, 4 gigs cards. Plus if I used cards that small I would have to use 3 or 4 for some shows and parades. I prefer continuous uninterrupted playback.

  42. I will remember these things which is really helpful. I was about to buy a sdxc card but now just changed my mind. I will buy 2 32 gb sdhc than 64 gb.
    Really helpful post. Thanks

  43. I’m a beginner photgrapher and I by mistake permanently deleted around 300 pictured pictured of my friends and we all really want them. I have a pny 16 gb sd card. How can I get them back

    1. Great Article! That is good advice, especially about data recovery if you accidentally erase or format. I have seen it happen to a ‘pro’ wedding photographer – wish he understood that they could be recovered.

  44. So you mentioned a good bit about Lexar/Nikon what about Canon? Is there a memory card that was collaborated on specifically for Canon?

  45. Info is a little outdated. There’s faster cards on the market at the moment but unless you have a d7000 (like me) it’s game over.

  46. Nice summary!
    I’m not really sure about the #2 though. Modern day buffers in cameras mean that the speed of the card has almost become a nonissue. The only time I’ve ever had my DSLR slow down due to a slower recording speed of the card was around 0 degrees Celsius and when taking over 30 pictures in a row (panoramic HDR). No real issue though. I shoot over 5000 pictures per month during weddings and never have issues. The only time the speed becomes an issue though is the other way around: having your computer read in pictures as quickly as possible (in order to quickly put together a slideshow of a wedding during the evening of a wedding).

  47. Wow! Thanks! Some of these I was doing without even knowing it was the right thing to do! (i.e. formatting cards. My brother always said never do that, but I always did) Thank you!

  48. I have a corrupted lexar memory card where I haven’t been able to recover the images and was wondering how to send it to lexar

  49. I have a SanDisk and I’m not sire whathappened but when I put the card in my computer it says I have to format it first but I was told it would delete the pictures. Can you help?

  50. Hi there I’m not to sure why this is happening I put my memory card in to my camera and some of the pics come up with a question mark on them when I no there was a pic there!!! How do I get the pic back help please. Thanks

  51. Just curious, I am new to all of this memory card stuff ( I never had problems until now)…so I have been using the same card for a few years and have never reformatted it. I have deleted images both from the computer and from my camera (Canon Rebel T2i), I have never had an error message pop up. My biggest concern is that it is a 32gb card but will only record 5-20 seconds of video (which drives me crazy). IF i format the card now, will it ruin the card or will it help to be able to record longer videos?

    1. You most likely have a 32mb card and not a 32gb card. MB’s are 1000th of the size of a GB, so can only record video for a very short period of time. Hope i could help.

  52. In terms of corruption do you have any recommendations. I just got a Lexar Professional 600x card and about 10% of the images I take with that card are corrupted. I assume it’s a faulty card and I’m planning on contacting Lexar.

    Do you know if one card has a better reputation in terms of corruption? This is the most important factor for me after a baseline level of performance (HD video recording). There’s nothing worse than losing your data after the fact. Yes you can recover by sending it in, but that’s not something I want to have to rely on.

  53. I’ve always used Erase All, not Reformat, on 3 different canon cameras, and have never had a problem as a result.

    Another tool for recovering photos is the Exif Card Untrasher (might only be for Macs). I found it when I realized I had erased, and then shot hundreds more photos, over a large set of photos that for some reason I hadn’t offloaded first. Worked like a charm.

    One more tip on handling cards: Once I accidentally grabbed a card by its contacts after taking it out of the camera. When I put it into the card reader, it gave me an error and said that it needed to be reformatted. All I can figure is that the moisture and/or static in my fingers shorted it out. I did reformat and it continued to work fine after that.

  54. Erase All is for when you take the time to go through and choose “protect” on the few files you want to keep and then wipe out the rest. It won’t erase the protected files.

  55. I’m curious about the potential for errors caused by “erase all” and manipulating images on the card with your PC. I frequently delete images from my card on my PC and have never encountered a problem. What is this database that is mentioned repeatedly? The only database I can think of is the Master File Table of the disk partition, but deleting files (through any method) shouldn’t corrupt that unless the disk is faulty. The recommendation to format (which doesn’t touch the images, but rather recreates the MFT) leads me to believe that the errors are indeed caused by MFT corruption.

  56. I realize that this is probably far too late to tell you, but the reason your camera does that is in all likelyhood because your SD card is too slow, something like class 4, or 6 will not work for HD video.. Ideally you would always buy class 10 cards, they really don’t cost much more, and are considerably faster, which is great for both stills and video+transfer of said stills & video to your computer later on.

  57. Sorry, but “#4 never delete photos with a Computer” is just the half of the story.

    What if you swap Cards, for your Cam it is like you deleted the Images on your Card, Folders are the same with the same name in the most cases but there are just no more images in there…

    Even If you delete the photos with your PC the Camera-Database will see:

    -> oh there is a Index to a file I no more have on my card

    and just shows you “no images on this card”

    If the Database can’t do this there is something wrong with the programming or Card-Readers should be read only…

    And the second is, MTP (Media-Transfer-Protocoll) what all cameras use to connect to PC’s is able to modify the Database of the Kamera if you delete an image this way. If the cam doesn’t support this the deleting will not be available, like on my Sony RX100M2.

    So far, shooting for years by D3100, D7000, D800 some other compacts I never had any issue by deleting the images and I just format the card once in a year.

  58. After you reformatted… did you lose all the images on the card? I am having the same problem with a SanDisk 8GB. It is finicky. It would not work for weeks and then it worked.. No error message.. I made the mistake of picking it up and going to do a job using it… It took all the photos fine.. But when i tried to download them to my computer, the card was not recognized.. i put it back into my camera and the error message “reformat card” came up. I just hope the images can be recovered. Hope you can help.

    1. @zizwe, I just had this happen to me this week! I asked several of my friends what to do to get my pix and finally someone told me to use a USB cord to transfer my pix to my computer and it worked!!! I can’t say for sure it will work for you but it worked for me!
      Hope that helps!

  59. As a photographer, it is important to use the right memory cards for camera which has a good storage and performance features. I think that photographers should use a super fast speed memory card to shoot videos and photos. Knowledgeable tips here.

  60. Is deleting images actually bad for the card? Or is it just just bad to not format your card. Because I always delete images after I put them on my computer because it makes everything simpler. I can see only the pictures that I will be totally losing when I press the format button. This reduces the chance of accidentally formatting my card while there is something good on it. But did I damage the card by deleting stuff before I formatted?

  61. Also, how can I tell the speed of an SD card? I have a 16gb card that says 30MB/s and a 32gb memory card that doesn’t seem to say how fast it is.

    1. There will be a small number 1-10 in a circle next to the size of the card. 10 is the highest and best. I’ve bought 4s in a pinch and they work fine as long as I’m not shooting in RAW or burst.
      The largest numbers on your card will be the size. the 1-10 in a circle will be only a few millimeters high, and the circle is incomplete. Almost like when a Mac is thinking and it has the spinny gear

  62. What is reformatting ? How would I reformat my card? That is a 100% new thing to me.

    1. There may be other ways, but in the menu of your camera, usually under tools, there will be a “Format” option.

  63. Thanks for listing all these tips on memory cards. Very useful!

    However, I have read somewhere in Google, in a quite appreciable website as far as I remember, that deleting images straight from the camera is wrong, not the opposite. Which is true and why?



  64. Solid state memory has a limit number of write cycles, meaning every card will need to be replaced due to usage eventually. They also suffer from write performance over time as the camera needs “figure out” how to write to non-damaged portions of the memory.

    This is an issue with all forms of solid state memory, from sd cards through to computer SSD hard drives. This is why most pro level computers have a SSD for the operating system and a normal spinning hard drive for the data.

  65. You can also corrupt your disk by not going through the step of “safely removing your disk” from the reader or computer. I lost 3 photo shoots by simply pulling the disk out of the slot. It was a SanDisk and the images were so corrupted that I had to reschedule the sessions.

  66. I’d recommend looking up the write speed of the camera first, then go and purchase a card which satisfies the speed (check separately). If a DSLR (eg. my Canon 600D) is only capable of writing around 24 mb/s, there is no reason for buying a 90 mb/s card (apart from reading out the files with a computer obviously).

    Also there is a handy program called “testdisk” which is open source and able to recover data from corrupted cards. It worked brilliantly for me on older hard disks, but the command line interface might not be everyone’s favorite.

  67. Accidentally deleted data from SD card or memory card, you may try Kernel for Digital Media Recovery Software. It is efficient to recover all lost deleted data.

  68. Any smart people out there tell me the easiest way to remove photos from an iPhone 4s and storing them for easy access? Thanks

  69. Great article! Lots of things can go wrong with SD cards or CF cards… especially if you are using a card that is not fast enough for how fast your camera is capable of shooting. Then there are times where cards just fail…. that is super scary for someone like me, where photography is my livelihood.

    I’ve been a wedding photographer for 4 years on a professional level, and over the years I have had a few memory cards fail. I always used the Lexar Recovery program (even though I use Sandisk cards) and I can’t tell you how many hundreds of images I’ve recovered like that. It always worked…. until one day.

    I shot a wedding this past June and after dinner and the speeches we took the couple out for some extra little portraits during golden hour. I was shooting on a card for speeches and our golden hour portrait time and the dance, etc. When I got home my card was only half readable by Lightroom, and by my computer (although I could see the images greyed out… they weren’t in a recognized format).

    I tried several recovery programs on my own. All of the recovery programs failed to retrieve the lost memory card data. I took the card to a professional recovery store in town, and they were unable to retrieve the card.

    I looked around on the internet for days and found a place in Germany (I live on the West Coast of Canada), who had rave reviews for repairing and recovering images from memory cards that no one else could recover. So I sent the corrupt, unrecoverable sd card to Germany….

    Four days later I got an email from this company Recoverfab, showing me the files they were able to recover from my disk, and it was all of the golden hour portraits and the dance!!! I am so glad I didn’t just throw away the card and inform my clients. Recoverfab uploaded all the RAW full sized files online and I was able to download them straight to my computer.

    If you haven’t been able to recover a very important memory card and recovery software has failed, I HIGHLY suggest contacting Recoverfab in Germany. They have amazing customer service and have some sort of magical skills. Here’s the link: http://recoverfab.com/

  70. Deletion of photos from Camera can happen due to varied reason. If you have got into such situation then make use of Remo Recover to get them back in few simple steps.

  71. I’m a Canon person and I use Adobe Photoshop Elements to move pictures from my camera into a folder on my computer and it prompts me to delete them after they are moved. I have not had a problem doing this so far. I also don’t edit on the card. I wait until they are on the computer.

  72. I have accidentally washed a SanDisk card once. And still recovered images from a wedding(one last download, thankfully). Our dog also chewed on a SanDisk card (6 yrs ago), and we were still able to use it several times afterwards. But I do use both Lexar (cf cards) and SanDisk(SD cards), and have had no issues with either one! And I am a Nikon d800 user.

  73. Hello I have bought another memory card it is an lexar multi use for my canon t5 rebel dslr and EVERYTIME I put it in it says “card cannot be accessed reinsert or change the card or format card with the camera” but Everytime I try to format the card it won’t even do anhthing

  74. I ran a SanDisk through the washing machine a few years ago. It’s still working perfectly today.

  75. My camera and my truck radio uses the same 2g,9pin sd card. How can I determine what to buy online. Thanks,Jackie.

  76. Paid advertisement from Lexar and Sandisk.
    I have been using a 6yr old memorex SD card with disregard of anything the article mentioned and I have not had any issues.

  77. I had a Sandisk which got stuck in the locked position and not only did Sandisk replace it for free but also offer to recover the images on the card if I need them to. Having had already downloaded them to my computer that wasn’t a problem. So in light of tip number eight Sandisk will do a recovery for you. I will always stand by Sandisk’s customer service they will stand by their product.

  78. The numbers and letters on the memory cards mean a lot too. I can’t tell you what they mean. All I did was review them, bought the right cards and ended my lesson there.

  79. I have bought Sandisk CF cards in the past but this year, although I read after that cards could last for 10’s of thousand formats, but I had 3 CF cards go bad on me, they worked ok in the camera, then when put them in the card reader I got a message that said this card needs formatting before use! I put it back in the camera and the same thing happened, the camera wanted to format the card. I then spent £50 on a recovery program as the ‘trials’ had finished a couple of years ago and reclaimed my photos. The program also offered cleaning the card but that didn’t help and the problem kept occurring.
    The only thing I can think of is where I have taken the card out of the camera without switching off the camera first or not ejecting from the card reader if I had a problem downloading. So now I always make sure the camera is switched off and check the ‘finder’ page on the Mac to see that the card isn’t still mounted.

  80. If you delete photos from your memory card in your camera does it leave a space or do the next pictures taken move into the space

  81. Hi

    It was intersting to read your tips for memory card use.
    I have had trouble lately with my photos not being in order.
    Last night I found out that some have a _ in front of the number and some do not. This must be what mixes them up but I do not know how to correct this problem.
    Do you know?

  82. I have a Nikon D90 and have used *just one* 8 gb Patriot SD (6) card with it, since I got the camera in the fall of 2010.

    At the time I got it, I bought one memory card- PATRIOT BRAND.

    The user reviews for the Patriot card were very high and favorable, at the time I bought it off Amazon at a very fair price.

    I have my camera set to shoot each image simultaneously as RAW & JPEG.

    Like others on here, I have been downloading to the pc via cable cord from camera to pc, and just deleting what images were duds while just downloading the good images, * but also leaving the good ones intact on my camera*.

    I leave much on the camera card, because I seem to always be working with enough room and it also feels safer the more places I have those images backed up to.

    ( I back up to the cloud- my hard drive- blu ray -memory cards-usb sticks…uh yes, a tad neurotic about that kind of thing)

    ****This means, that since the fall of 2010, I have not re-formatted the card yet. ***********

    Thus far, I have not seemed to noticed any sequential numbering disorder with my images .
    ( Or at least, none that I have become aware of)

    I also use a Sandisk SD 8GB (6) in my Nikon L22 . Haven’t re-formatted that one either and got it in the fall of 2010 as well.

    While Lexar and Sandisk are among the most reputable cards, I honestly have NOT had a problem using PATRIOT brand.

    I am sure there are some real junk brands out there and maybe people should ask themselves about quality, when cards with a decent size seem to be dirt cheap in price. 🙁

    TThat being said, I learned something from this article about the need- or the wisdom – in reformatting( though I have not had an issue so far with having *not* done so).

    The debate on card quality or which is best?
    Sometimes it is a subjective thing among the better brands.

    As for enhanced speed with a faster card?

    You can only go with what your manufacturer recommends for your camera as the high end of a speed on a card.

    If you have a limit on horse power- you have a limit on horse power and you kind of have to accept that even if faster cards do exist.

  83. I really appreciated the tips. I am a novice and already made a mistake and now the wiser after the tips. That you!!

  84. Replace them annually as a rule. We are tough on these little guys. In and out and in and out of our cameras, computers, printers,a thousand times. They can corrupt easier as they get older. Annual replacement as a general rule…

  85. Hi, I’m currently shopping for memory cards for my Cannon Rebel T3i and I was wondering what your recommendations are.

  86. So I have a Lexar and I deleted the content on my computer. Is that where I went wrong? Because every time I delete files on the computer the storage is still depleting.

  87. More a questions than a comment.

    Anyone have insight or are knowledgeable about Eye Fi mobi Pro memory Cards?

    Also, is it better to download to your Computer from your Camera directly with the USB cable or a higher quality USB 2.0 or 3.0 portable Card reader?

  88. If I need to copy photos onto my computer, can I cut them or just copy, then delete them by formatting the card- in camera??
    Because you said not to delete them with the computer…

    Thanks for the help, in advance…

  89. Thanks for the insight about not deleting your images on your card. As you say, you should format the card because this will help prevent you from erasing all of your images. Should you buy a certain type of SD card to do this, or should all cards provide you with this option?


  91. I like to store my memory cards from my camera on my Google drive but also keep a folder of the cards used. I put a new one into my camera when I travel. I am finding it hard to find and purchase a good folder or container to store my memory cards in – is there any product on the market that holds memory cards . I do not want one that holds about 10 per container I would like a container or folder that holds many in one folder/container.

  92. formatting a card several times causes any damages to card or quality of video recorded.

  93. but i can’t find the “format card” option on my camera, nikon coolpix p510. but i was able to do it before but now it was lost. i don’t know what to do.

  94. I had a card that had some problems….I have reformatted it I’m worried to use it again.. Is it safe would you reuse it

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