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Which Memory?

Typical storage capacities of a memory card with a 6 Megapixel camera

Card size
Maximum number of 6 Megapixel images
16 Mb
32 Mb
64 Mb
128 Mb
256 Mb
512 Mb
1 Gb
2 Gb

Digital cameras store their captured images in electronic form on memory chips instead of film. In nearly all cases, this memory is in the form of a removable card. There are about a many different physical sizes and formats of cards and different types of camera and/or manufacturers tend to favour one type or another. Your camera is likely to only take one type. Buy the correct one!

Card Type Description and typical uses
Compact Flash (CF) Chunky square card - commonly used in SLR cameras
IBM Microdrive (MD) Same size as CF but contains a tiny spinning disk
Smart Media (SM) Thin floppy card - popular with early cameras 
Secure Digital (SD) Rigid postage stamp sized card - probably the most popular
XD Thumb-nail size version of the SD
Multi-Media (MM) Physically compatible with the SD, but with slower memory
Memory Stick (MS) Sony's own-brand of memory only used with Sony products

Memory size
With the exception of the IBM Microdrive which is only available with 1Gb capacity, all the cards listed above come in a variety of memory capacities, which will dictate how many photos can be stored before the disk needs emptying.

Nearly all cameras come with a 'trial' memory disk, typically 8 or 16Mb in size. This is enough to let you try out the camera, but don't expect to be able to take more than half-a-dozen shots before the card is full at maximum resolution. Buy the largest card (or preferably cards) you can afford - typically 128Mb, 256Mb, 512Mb, 1Gb, 2Gb or 3Gb. Not all card formats are available in all memory sizes.

Although some cameras can be connected directly to a computer to transfer or even print images, it is usually quicker and easier to use a memory card reader. Come computers and laptops come with card readers built-in, otherwise an inexpensive USB card reader can be added to any computer. The 'universal' card readers claim to be able to read any card format.

Memory cards are reasonably robust, but do vary in quality, speed at which they can record data and do not last forever.

24 May, 2006

© Nigel Sadler 1995-2008

anti-spam email: nigel at herriott-sadler dot co dot uk
Location: Forest Row, East Sussex, England

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