WHY YOU SHOULD NOT DELETE IMAGES ON YOUR MEMORY CARD USING YOUR CAMERA

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ARE YOU USING YOUR MEMORY CARD CORRECTLY?  Jeff Cable, the former Director of Marketing at Lexar, wrote a great post about the use of a memory card that is well worth repeating here:

Most people look at a memory card as a piece of plastic or metal, and they don’t think much about them. But inside those covers, there is a LOT of intelligence. There is flash memory, a controller and much more. The quality of that memory and controller often determines the speed and quality of your card.

Your memory card has something called a File Allocation Table, otherwise known as a FAT Table. Think of your memory card a a book and the FAT Table as a Table of Contents. When you format a memory card, you are not actually erasing the card, you are just clearing the FAT Table.  In other words, you have removed the Table of Contents, but the chapters of the book remain and all the images will remain on your card until you shoot more and overwrite them. This is why you can use a program like Lexar’s Image Rescue, SanDisk’s Rescue Pro or other data recovery software to recover images from a card even after it is formatted (but before you shoot more and overwrite).

And now for the tips that I am going to write in the order of importance:

  1. DO NOT erase images from your memory card in your camera! Clarification: What I mean by this is: Do not go through your photos and delete them one by one using your camera. I see people (including professional photographers) doing this all the time and it is a REALLY bad idea. Your camera is awesome at taking photos, but it is not very smart at managing the data on your memory card. Deleting individual images from the card using your camera is a great way to scramble the FAT Table. DON’T DO IT!  Memory cards have gotten so inexpensive and large, that you should not have to delete images to save space. Just pop in a new card and keep shooting. Once you have downloaded to your computer, and backed up the images THEN format your card to use it again.
  2. Format your memory cards in your camera, not on your computer. I have seen countless web sites that tell people to format their memory cards on your computer. This is just bad information! You want to format the cards in the camera. And you should do this on the camera you are shooting with. I am currently shooting with the the Canon 1Dx Mark II, Canon 1Dx, Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 5D Mark III, and I format the card in the camera I am using. You are reading this correctly…I do not format in one Canon camera and move it to another. Will they work? Yes, they will. But it could cause issues down the road. Speaking of this, it is not a good idea to pull a memory card out of one camera and putting it into another without formatting. I have seen people shooting with a Canon camera, pull the card out and start shooting using it in a Nikon camera. They like to be formatted a certain way and each manufacturer does it their own way.
  3. Speaking of formatting, it is a good idea to format your cards after each shoot. Once you have downloaded your card and have the images IN MORE THAN ONE PLACE, you should format that card before it’s next use. It keep things cleaner on the card.
  4. Use a good card reader! Memory card readers have intelligent controllers inside them, just like the cards! I have seen more cards corrupted in a reader than in a camera.
  5. Don’t pull a memory card out of your camera or card reader when data is being written or read. If data is being transferred to/from the card and that process is interrupted, it is quite possible that you will lose some or all of your photos.
  6. If you have two card slots in your camera, write your images redundantly to both cards to have peace of mind. This way, if one card gets corrupted, you can most likely get the images off the other card.
  7. Purchase name brand memory cards. Make sure that you do not use one of those cards made by a no-name company just to save a few dollars. Remember, you are trusting your images to the card!  Is it worth saving a little, only to find later that your images were corrupted?

These are a few simple tips that could save you from a disastrous situation. There is so much technology packed into these devices, but they are so small and unassuming that it is easy to take them for granted.

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