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Formatting Memory Cards

Joel4JC
Occasional Contributor

Here are a few questions regarding Memory Cards (both CF and SD) that I've had for a number of years. 

 

1. I've been told that you should format your memory cards rather than just erasing the images, provides better performance and there is a less chance of failure. Ture of False?

 

2. I've been told that if you have two or more cameras, and they are the same model camera, you should format the memory cards in the camera they will be used in and only use them in their respective cameras, provides better performance and there is a less chance of failure. True of False?

 

3. I've been told to never used a memory card formatted in one model camera in a different model camera although the manufacturer is the same. True or False?

 

4. I've been told that SD cards should be low level formatted frequently. True of False?

 

I'm truly interested in your thoughts based on experience and/or actual technical data. If there is an in-depth article/reading material that touch on these questions, please point me in that direction.

 

Thanks,

 

Joel

 

 

 

 

12 REPLIES 12

kvbarkley
Honored Contributor

1: True. It can mark bad sectors and de-fragment the card.

 

2. Technically False, though true in practice. Why move a freshly formatted card to a new camera?

 

3. Technically False, but true in practice. Why take a chance?

 

4. What is frequently? As long as you practice 1, you are OK here.

Joel4JC
Occasional Contributor
"2. Technically False, though true in practice. Why move a freshly formatted card to a new camera?"

In my case, I use two 5D Mark III to cover an event and all my cards are preformatted and could end up in either camera, unless I keep them separate and labeled, which I don't! So I am glad your answer is "Technically False". Thanks!

"1. I've been told that you should format your memory cards rather than just erasing the images, provides better performance and there is a less chance of failure. Ture of False?

 

2. I've been told that if you have two or more cameras, and they are the same model camera, you should format the memory cards in the camera they will be used in and only use them in their respective cameras, provides better performance and there is a less chance of failure. True of False?

 

3. I've been told to never used a memory card formatted in one model camera in a different model camera although the manufacturer is the same. True or False?

 

4. I've been told that SD cards should be low level formatted frequently. True of False?"

 

I am going to tell you what I have observed over the decades of photographic work. I don't subscribe to the notions of the ole inner web if it flys into controversy to what I personally experience.

 

1. My routine is to format my CF or SD cards before each major shoot.  Otherwise I erase as I see fit with out worry or concern.

2.Nonsense, I have never seen this to be true. I don't know why you would take the CF card out of one camera and put it in the another but it would work. No effect on performance.

3. Again nonsense but why would you do it?

4. I usually low level format a brand new SD card, you can't low level format a CF card, but I don't really concern myself after that.  Normal format seems to work but if the low level box is checked so be it. Its a so what.

 

Further, I see no problem formatting with a Windows computer. It has always worked just fine. No issues.  I don't recommend or know if that is true with a Mac since they are so screwy.  I suggest no doing it. I, also suggest, you use many memory cards and not just one or a few.  I like the 16GB size and I change them often. If I do a wedding for instance, my minimum for one camera is four 16GB CF cards.  And, I  normally use two camera so I have the wedding on 8 CF cards.  Plus my second shooter has 4 CF cards in her camera.

If a CF cards shows one bit or any issue I discard it. In my experience my CF cards have been robust and rarely fail. I have some that are years old and show no signs of failing.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Joel4JC
Occasional Contributor

"If I do a wedding for instance, my minimum for one camera is four 16GB CF cards.  And, I  normally use two camera so I have the wedding on 8 CF cards.  Plus my second shooter has 4 CF cards in her camera."

 

I do the same, except I'm using 32GB CF and SD cards, as well as, my second shooter. We change them at random, we don't wait til they get full. However, I do have a question; Do you back up your memory cards to a portable hard drive at the wedding? I'm kinda on the fence about this, since the 5D has two card slots, I figure it is already backed up.

" Do you back up your memory cards to a portable hard drive at the wedding?"

 

As a normal rule I don't.  But I have done several weddings where the circumstances dictated a laptop. When I tether to a laptop they get stored on the laptop as well as the two slots in the 1 series and 4 individual CF cards. I transfer to my business computer as soon as I get back. If you are a pro making money doing weddings for hire you need a camera that has two memory card slots.  If you don't you better have a plan.

When I said I never lost a wedding, that didn't mean I never lost a shot or two. It happens even with the strictest of planning.

 

When I do portraits and yearbook, etc., I always use my 17" laptop and tether to it with Lightroom.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

wq9nsc
Respected Contributor

For your wedding shooting with redundant recording to two cards I wouldn't bother with a backup to a portable drive at the event.  The odds of both cards failing (or you losing both cards) is very small and you would have to weigh that against the possibility of making mistakes while trying to hurriedly make a backup during a short down time OR getting distracted and having the portable drive and cards walk away while you aren't paying attention during a transfer.  I read on another forum about a photographer who was hurriedly transferring photos from his camera to a server and without thinking he chose his last used menu item on his second camera and instead of switching to communications he formatted the card instead.  Bad things happen when you try to do something important during a short down time during a long event.

 

There are no guarantees but coming out of years of risk management consulting I would secure both cards when they come out of the camera and not do anything else with them until you are safely back at your own office.

 

Changing cards often and having a second camera in use is good insurance against unusual system glitches.  A colleague who ran a product failure analysis firm told me several years ago about an event photographer who lost most of his material due to a camera failure that trashed both cards simultaneously and very little data was recoverable.  Dual cards are good protection against the more common card failure but when things really go wrong, splitting the event between several groups of cards reduces the potential for large loss.  You can drive the probability of image loss down to a very low level but you quickly reach the point where the cost of further decreasing risk increases at an extremely high rate and it isn't necessary (and certainly not practical) to drive risk to extremely low levels.

 

If you are doing a multi-day event away from your own turf, treat it differently and backup the files to another source and preferably a cloud at the end of each day.  A good friend lost days worth of images, both the cards and the backup drive, from his hotel room near the end of a long trip.

 

Rodger

EOS 1DX M3, 1DX M2, 1DX, 5DS R, 1D M2, EOS 650 (film), many lenses, XF400 video

"... all my cards are preformatted and could end up in either camera, unless I keep them separate and labeled,..."

 

You keep them is a wallet?  So do I but when they go in the camera, they get formatted.  This is a practice I strongly suggest you do to. Why not?  I don't think it is because it wouldn't work because it would. It is mostly piece of mind knowing that you just put a properly formatted CF card in the camera.

 

Telling a new bride you unfortunately lost her photos is something you don't want to experience. I nerve have and I don't ever anticipate ever doing so but i have some buds that have. I understand it isn't any fun.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Joel4JC
Occasional Contributor

"...but when they go in the camera, they get formatted.... It is mostly piece of mind knowing that you just put a properly formatted CF card in the camera."

 

Excellent advice, I never thought about formatting the cards as I put them in at a wedding, it only takes a few seconds. I am definitely going to add this to my workflow.

 

Thanks for the advice!

"Thanks for the advice!"

 

You are welcome and go get'em tiger!  Smiley Happy

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!