Jim Doty - Photo Blog

Photography: Photos, News, and Tips
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Just what you need for Christmas, a 12 GB (gigabyte) compact flash card from Pretec. Estimated price in U.S. dollars (drum roll please): $14,900. That's right, just shy of fifteen thousand dollars. It is supposed to be available by the end of the year, maybe in time to go in your Christmas stocking.

What would you do with such a thing? Stick it in your digital camera and take pictures forever!

Does this make sense? Not for me. Ignoring the sticker shock, I wouldn't want that many images on one memory card. Too risky.

I use mostly 1 GB flash cards. In a serious shooting situation I might fill one or two cards in a day. At the end of the day I download the card/s to a computer, do a quick preliminary edit, delete the bad shots, and burn the rest to CD-R discs. Only when the files have been burned to disc do I re-format the flash card and use it again (more on the reasons for this some other day).

At a recent conference I aeraged a gigabyte of photos per day for 10 days. You can see some of them in the "World Conference" albums here (scroll down to the 10 albums posted in late March-April, 2004). Every night I would download my card/s, edit, and burn two sets of discs, one for me and another for the conference PR department. I would drop off their disc the next day.

With a 12 gigabyte memory card, I could have captured the whole conference on one card, but it would not have saved me from the nightly download, they wanted pictures every day to post online.

And bad things happen to good memory cards. They can eventually fail, get lost, be physically damaged, dropped down the face of a cliff while you are switching cards while photographing bighorn sheep, stolen, or any one of a number of other mishaps. The loss, damage, or failure of a memory card is just like losing a bunch of rolls of exposed film, the bigger the card, the more pictures you lose.

I have not had a lost, damaged, stolen, or failed memory card yet, but I know it will happen some day. For me, the choice is a compromise between the convenience of carrying less cards and the risk of what happens if a card is lost or damaged and the images unrecoverable.

In Colorado last fall, I filled a 1 GB card with photos almost every day. If something happened to one of my cards, I would have lost a a day's worth of photos. That would be truly sad. If I used a 12 GB card and lost it, I would lose a whole weeks worth of photos. If it was a great week, that would be truly awful (at least in photographic terms).

I went on the trip of a lifetime to Alaska and photographed the whole venture on film. If I had been using my current digital camera I could have shot the same number of photos on one 12 GB flash card with room left over. It would be simple and save lots of space, but what if something happened to that card?

I can think of one good use for a card that big, in a USB card reader you could carry around a collection of your most treasured files, ready to plug into any computer anywhere.

Then again, for $14,900, you could buy a laptop for your treasured files, or several laptops, or a car to carry your laptop, or lots of camera gear, or several trips to Alaska, or . . .

Happy Safe Shooting!


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