« LensWork Extended #101 Downloadable Editions | Main | in silence standing by Mark Singles »



Jim Bullard

I'm a fan of having enough cards to carry me until I can download the files to my main computer. Since I do mostly landscapes read/write speed isn't a concern. I buy what I can get for the best price.

Joe Palmiter

I am also interested in backup options that do not require a computer as weight is becoming more of an issue as I get older. For a good article on SD card speeds see http://kb.sandisk.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1996/~/difference-between-speed-class,-uhs-speed-class,-and-speed-ratings

Class really relates to the minimum sustained speed for video streams. You need to look at the write speed of the card for still image performance.

Marco Maroccolo

In travel I bring with me an Hyperdrive where, when back at the hotel at the evening, I copy all my photos of the day; but I don't erase the cards that I've used.

Now, with the D800E, I use the simultaneous recording of the two card bays as backup. But I still always use the Hyperdrive...


I don't have any answers but some suggestions you might want to consider.

Cards: There are just too many options to consider all. I keep it simple and stick to wellknown brands (usually SanDisk) and buy cards with fairly high spec, but not the bleeding edge ones. Currently Class 10 is OK, but many cards have higher speeds. Typical choise today (from SanDisk) would be 32-64GB and Extreme or Extreme Pro.

I've bought enough cards to last any normal vacation with my typical use (2x 16GB, 3x 32GB and some older smaller ones). I don't empty the cards until all files are verified on my home computer. I usually bring a laptop for some light Lightroom use and backup, but have considered a Pad.

My Samsung Galaxy could probably do the backup bit, but of course no Lightroom. It can read SD-cards with a USB connection kit and it can also write to a USB key and possibly an external disk. I havent tried that though and there might be some comaptibility issues with a disk (power, size), but it worked with a 128GB USB key. Anyway, it would be slow work as everything has to be copied into the pad, then back out to the backup device.

My laptop/subnotebook is getting old and weighs 3 pounds. I'm looking for something lighter and preferably faster. A Macbook Air or one of the smallest Ultrabooks would work, but one interesting option is the new Microsoft pads.

The Intel-based one will run standard Windows and should work with LR and image viewers, be able to handle backup and still function as a Pad without keyboard where that's more useful. How well it will work in this mode ramains to be seen (size, weight, battery life), but it's certainly something I'll check out. The ARM-based version is also interesting and could be an ever better (smaller) option, but I'm not sure if Adobe will support LR on ARM-based windows. No reason they shouldn't, but you never know.

Markus Spring

Since the price for standard 16GB SD-cards has gone down so much as to (almost) reach the level of a roll of Kodachrome (incl. development), there is not much reason any more to not use them as such and not reuse thema at least until you have at least two (preferrably verified) copies of the images on other media.

I don't juggle with brands but stick with the one that worked for me in the past (in my case it's Transcend), and Class 10 seems to be the reasonable choice for the moment: New standards won't work in most current cameras, and even if the camera wouldn't need that class for writing, downloading from a Class 10 card is substantially faster than from Class 4 or 6, if you have a good and correctly installed card reader.

Oh yes, and don't rely on freshly bought cards for a trip: at least use them once and fill them to their brim, in order to verify that all memory areas of the cards can be written to and read from.


The short answer is that the different brands do matter - stick with the big names like SanDisk and Lexar. I wish I could give you the long answer, but I can't remember the details. I listened to a podcast a few months ago about just this subject. It was quite technical, but not too technical, and revealed the various engineering compromises that have been made to boost speed and capacity. One of the main areas compromised was in the longevity of the memory - that is, some of the faster/higher capacity (or cheaper cards) seem to have reduced life spans (limited number or read/writes before failure).

The differences in the quality of the implementations of firmware between cameras that deal with the FAT file system was a bit of an eye opener! Definitely always format the card with the camera that is going to use the card.

I'm on vacation this week - I'll try and dig out the podcast I'm referring to next week. Although I suspect you will have your answers by then.


Have you checked out Rob Galbraith's CF/SD/XQD Performance Database?


It may not be the whole answer, but it could be a good place to start.


I use only SanDisk and have never had any failures. Only have their extreme series, since I want the speed. I don't know if they save the photos faster, but they are faster on transferring the photos to the computer.

I rarely have the ability to carry any extra equipment, like computer or other back up. If I have have the ability to add some more food and stay away for some extra days I rather do that.

The cards are that light that I carry as many as I might need and have never run out of space. My problem is rather that I get to much material with me home, and need to be better on composing the photo before i press the shutter, so I don't that many photos to get a good one.

I avoid to look to browse or erase photos in the field, seen it drains the battery very fast. Yes, erasing photos that more battery than viewing.

Sorry, I left the topic.


My strategy is the same:

  • Backing up the memory cards every evening with a dedicated field backup device (Hyperdrive Colorspace UMDA)
  • Keeping the images on the camera's memory cards, never deleting it from the cards until copied and backed up them at home onto local hard disks

The backup device adds new images from the same card rather than creating new folders and copying all images from the card again. This is faster and saves space. Backing up regulary and often (every evening) is important, not only if the memory card is full.

If a card is large enough (CompactFlash), write your e mail address onto it. On an airport I lost such a card. A woman find it, read loud the address and I heard that. On every card's file system root I have a file "address.txt" with my e mail and post address.

Terry McDonald

Wow - I can't believe how memory cards have dropped in price. My original 256KB card in 2002 was over $100, I believe.

My current Lexar 32GB SDHC 400x UHS-I (Class 10) Card is $100 and it holds 400 D800e raw files. I never realized until Markus Spring pointed it out (above) that storing images on SD cards is cheaper than shooting (and processing) film of any kind. OMG!

Once they've been backed up somewhere, is there any sense in ever erasing them? What's their longevity compared with, for example, DVDs or HDDs?

Godfrey DiGiorgi

I bought an Epson P2000 image tank/viewer in 2005 because 40G of storage that way was simply vastly less expensive than the amount of storage card space I could obtain for the same money. Still have it, hardly ever use it anymore.

Nowadays, my workflow is much lighter weight. I can usually rely on making 1500-3000 exposures on my annual 3-week trip, which is the most I need backup and on-the-road storage for in one shot on any regular basis. A set of high quality, fast, reliable 4-5 32G Class 10 SDHC cards to cover that need plus 20% with the least efficient storage of my current cameras costs a stunning $150, max.

My policy today is to capture and never delete files until after I get home and transfer to my computer. In several hundred thousand exposures with who knows how many memory cards (and of what different types) since 2002, I have not yet had a single card failure. So I don't bother with backup in the field any more.

None of my current cameras are particularly demanding on card write capabilities due to sequence capture or video capture, but I tend to buy Class 10 cards for the speed to transfer to the computer or iPad. I usually buy Sandisk Extreme Class 10 SDHC and have have had good luck with them in Panasonic, Olympus, Ricoh, and Leica cameras.

Similar to the above, I don't bother measuring card speeds and camera performance anymore. All of my cameras perform below the current high water mark on sequence capture and write speed, there's little need to worry about it. I'm sure the USB 3.0 readers will out-perform my USB 2.0 reader or in-laptop reader; when I get my next laptop, I'll find out.

My workflow runs like this now:

I capture JPEG+raw (DNG from all my cameras now, other than the ancient E-1) with the JPEGs set to max resolution, minimum compression and the image processing settings matched as closely as possible to produce the same as the defaults I've set up in Lightroom 4.1. I include the iPhone 4S as one of my cameras as even though it only captures JPEGs and video, it does darn well at it and include geo position information.

I use the Camera Connection Kit to transfer whatever I've collected with the iPhone plus a selection of shots from my daily shooting to the iPad 2. This lets me preview what I've been doing, check that none of the equipment has broken, and do metadata annotation on a representative sample of the photos (with PhotoSmith) while the session is still fresh in my mind. I can also do some on-the-road image processing and posting, using a combination of PhotoRAW (for raw conversions), Snapseed and Photogene apps. I can also put images together into a working idea book using the Keynote app.

Once I've returned to my desk, I first upload all the files from the iPad into Lightroom using PhotoSmith's tools to transfer the catalog annotation data. I then upload all the other files from the memory cards into the same catalog, putting them by date into the same date-organized folder structure. Once everything is on the computer in Lightroom, I propagate the metadata annotations through all the sessions and run my master archive backup. Once that's done, I'm ready to begin my select and grade operations, and start processing images.

Like most such descriptions, it sounds much more cumbersome to do this stuff than it really is. ... :-)


Well, now, I did have one unusual experience exactly a year ago that I reported here. I still don't know what happened, but I have been using that same flash-card daily since then, without untoward results.

The whole business is all smoke-and-mirrors magic, anyway, near as I can figure.

Another flash-card picture loss came some years earlier, when I hurriedly switched to a fresh card and only thought I put the 'exposed' card in my pocket when, in fact, it fell on the ground someplace in Texas. 240 images sucked back into the vacuum.

In neither case would any back-up method have prevented the loss.
Nothing is forever, and that includes us and all that we do and make.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)