« It's Not Two Dogs in a Boat | Main | Random Excellence: Colin Steel »

Friday, 03 August 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

scared the hell out of me for second

They are getting much harder to find now but the best image quality is obtained from memory cards with sprocket holes. They are worth the search as trying to add the sprocket holes later in your home darkroom is a lot of work. Trust me.

Tip #6. In an emergency, if you've forgotten to bring a computer, you can still develop the images on the memory card in a glass of beer at 20deg. C for 18 minutes, with agitation every 2 minutes. After development, fix the images with a can of soda then rinse in demineralised water.

Lamberto forgot about using a lead lined bag as an alternative for your memory cards. And be sure to get one of those extra heavy ones if you own a newer DSLR which can shoot at very high ISO's.

Sage advice from a seasoned veteran. I would add a couple more things. Be certain not to buy expired memory cards. Never but memory cards in a tropical country unless they are double sealed against moisture.

Awaiting a comment by Ctein on the matter of bit rot...

You had me going there. Now that you mention it, I believe I know this Lamberto guy or his twin.

He's the guy who used to store his rechargables in the freezer. He also has 30 2GB cards (don't put all your eggs in one basket, right?).

You joke, and you do it well, but of course flash memory is generally quoted as having a 5-10 year retention period; wait longer than that, and your data may indeed have faded.

This is a different phenomenon from memory wearing out, which happens from too many erase/write cycles. A flash memory unit that has failed to retain data may still be perfectly usable after a format.


Lastly, don't lose it. Friend of mine lost a 16GB card with thousands of images from his trip to the South Pacific. He grumbling comment to me was "Dammit, I knew I should have just shot film!"

As my wife found out, Sandisk Sd cards can be washed in the laundry and still work. Not advised but they are waterproof it says so on their website.

Drill a hole on the top left edge of your camera and stick a bent paper clip into it. After putting your memory card into the camera and securely closing the cover, watch the clip rotate as you take the first few shots.

You made me laugh so hard I wet my pants. Are you happy now?

The good old days!

It took me a while to find the satire alert notice. I was scratching my head for a minute there. I am quite sure someone will take this seriously... you know... the kind of person who never saw those old fashioned cameras with that special long magnetic tape that came out of the spool.

Tip #6: Never buy cards that take more than 24 exposures. Do not be tempted by cards that take 36 or more. That way, should a card get scratched or exposed to light, your losses are minimized.

Don't forget to mark the dates on the cards and to bring twice as many cards as you think you need-the extra bulk is worth it!

Glad I'm shooting with film *phew*

From what I've read lately, I understand that colour memory cards may not be around for much longer.

SanDisk is convinced:
"All SanDisk products including memory cards, flash drives and MP3 players are NOT affected by X-ray machines."

But Kingston is more cautious:
"5. Pack Flash storage devices into carry-on luggage if possible.
6. Avoid U.S. Postal Service radiation scanning of mailed packages."

Also be sure to develop* a system for marking those cards which you have already used so you don't inadvertently reuse them and thus double expose some of your precious images. I suggest a pair of pliers to bend over the corner of the card.

* You see what I did there?

Dear Anton,

Nah, this week I'm on about subscriber rot.

Though, come to think of it, putting them in airtight wraps and freezing them will minimize that.


pax / Ctein

If you agitate the card too much, the zeroes, being round, will fall out before the ones. This will cause your highlights to block up.

Also be careful when you transmit files. As above, the zeroes go through fine but the ones get stuck (they're pointy). They sometimes get caught in the Ethernet.

Dear Ken and Beau,

I know you guys are joking, but there is some real useful advice in there.

Having twice as many memory cards as you imagine you'll ever need is even smarter than having twice as much film with you as you'll ever need. Plus, those little bitty cards have a bad habit of going walkies in your camera bag at inopportune moments. Having extras is a good idea.

And dating (or at least labeling) them is a good way of making sure that you don't overwrite your most recent photographs, and it also evens out wear and tear on the cards.

There is also a big problem with counterfeit memory cards that can have a myriad of faults. The least is that their read/right rates are far below spec. The worst is that the chips in them may very well have been rejected for having bad cells, either because they don't write correctly or because they "fade" too quickly. I would never buy memory cards in obscure tropical countries.

pax / Ctein

is it posible that you could buy a bulk roll of memory and cut your own cards? - seems like this might be a frugal way to go to cut your costs.

The following things actually happened, as I stood witness to them:

- User not understand why her software (on 5.25" floppies) had been ruined by being placed in a ring binder, with the assistance of a hole punch.

- User not understanding why her (3.5") floppies didn't work with a label over the unattractive metal part.

- The world's most convoluted network design, required by the customer because he had been assured that the data would bottleneck in sharp corners of the wiring, so specified no bends in the wire a with less than 1' radius.

can assure you that w/o the sarcasm tag, someone would be repeating these as gospel on some photography forum right now.

I'm finding it really hard these days to get hold of tungsten balanced SD memory cards, everybody just seems to sell the daylight balanced version. Any tips?

C'mon, Mike. We don't have time for this BS. Help us to move ahead with photography and forget the satire.

Ahhh, sweat memories.
Still, you forgot to mention the re-loading of the meory cards with empty bytes!

It's not so important at the moment, but when buying new ones, be sure to specify 128-bit memory cards so you can still use them when you move to a faster camera. But, I recently was in Best Buy and the clerk told me that the cards I was buying were 128 bit, but when I got them home I found out they were only 8-bit, and then Best Buy wouldn't take them back because they'd been used (like I only put them in the camera!!!) I'll tell you what, though: I scorched their butt on Yelp!

Physically larger memory devices will give you much better image quality.

For example, the images you can obtain using tiny MicroSD cards will be noisy and soft if you enlarge much past 4x6, whereas 8" floppy discs will provide noiseless and sharp enlargements to mural-size and larger. You do, however, pay a penalty in size and weight; a microSD camera will fit in a pocket and can take several exposures before changing the card making it ideal for family snapshots, whereas an 8" floppy camera must be moved around on a small utility cart and can take only one image per disc.

For most people, the SD card is a good compromise, but some professionals may prefer to use the larger compact flash or PCMCIA formats when working in a studio.

Even though prices for memory have come down in recent years, I still buy only their plastic-sandwich 'shells', and bulk load my own memory.

Now where did put that new batch of shells?!?

Predictive dark-keeping image stability testing using the Arrhenius method (accelerated fading at high temperatures, extrapolated to predict the rate of fading at lower temperatures) shows that even after several decades of storage at room temperature and 50% relative humidity, properly recorded memory cards will show less than 10 percent pixel density loss. Of course, actual image and support stability depend upon the recording conditions, storage conditions, and other factors beyond the control of the manufacturer. Since byte order may change over time, memory cards will not be replaced for, or otherwise warranted against, any change in byte order.

What I really miss about film is the smell. Easing off the plastic lid from that canister for the first time was such a delight. There was so much promise associated with that sweet perfume and so often followed by the cruel reality.

So, to join in the spirit of the satire... Always save the plastic canister from your memory card; it will prove useful for storing your Amidol.

(PS: Not the clear 'Fuji' ones—Amidol degrades on exposure to light!)

Tip #10. Remeber to rip off the label from the memory card packaging and stick it on the camera LCD to remind you which memory card is loaded in the camera. There is nothing worse than shooting with a 1GB CF card when you you think a 32GB SD card is loaded.

Tip #11. When uploading the images from the memory card to camera remeber make sure the computer and card reader are in a dark room. You can use your laptop in chaning bag if a dark room is not availible. In either case don't forget to turn off the display.

Okay Father Guido, will do.

Read this right after shooting a roll of Tri-x with my F3. Now being enlightened to the fact that new technologies have not progressed at all I've decided to keep shooting my B&W film. ;> (Was wondering why all those fingerprints kept appearing on my digital files.)

And be sure to catalog and store your exposed memory cards. You never know when you may need a second print.

And Paddy, that reminds me: always remember to keep your color memory cards separate from your black & white memory cards. The results are very different.

I still have some Kodachrome memory cards in my freezer - think they are OK to use?

Reminds me of Tina Fey parodying Sarah Palin.

Shameless plug for this list of tips I had from my childhood:


So, I tweeted a link to this post, and it got auto-gatewayed into Faceb ook, and it came out like this: http://www.tbray.org/tmp/joyful_what.png


As for me, I prefer old-school ultra large format, developed for 15 minutes with 5400 rpm agitation.


Won't be long before we can't buy memory cards or the cost will be too high. Who's switching to film when digital dies?

Love this blog! This is my first "Live" satire alert. Read some from the archives.

I must admit I was taken in till the "X-ray" and "pilferage" part. Which doesn't make it any better since that's the last item just before the alert. Shudda caught on by #2 (microwave). Oh, well...

Do remember that it is possible to bulk load fresh new electrons into a used memory card. This can be a tricky process, and should not be attempted in a wet environment.

For those who are technically challenged, my small company does perform this service for a small fee -- that's www.electronloader.scam

As others mentioned, long storage time does in fact affect the flash memory reliability. So does too many cycles of writing. Similarly, X-ray can indeed induce bit-flips. Heat also has an impact on flash memory reliability. Finally, if you put a card in a cheap knock off camera, the voltage regulation could be off and can harm the flash as well.

Flash devices are a fickle bunch. They are supposed to have 10K to 100K Reas/Write cycle in average before starting to show faults, but I have worked with cheaper devices (caveat, my experience is with embedded flash memory on microcontroller chips) where they would start to fail as early as 100 write cycles.

To summarize, ignore these tips at your own peril!

Excellent advice.

Additional tip: This technique works just as well for toilet paper.

I've had several rolls in cold storage for years (got a good deal on the stuff in 1996) and they are every bit as good as new: bright, fresh, crispy.

Plus, they're already paid for!

Bonus tip: Do NOT try this with your hamster when you go on vacation. Instead, leave little Herbie with a friend or relative, OK?

I speak from experience.

Processing for memory cards isn't what is used to be. Quality's gone to the dogs.

Damn, I got all the way thru the first one before it hit me. I think I'm loosing it.

You could also try older style, small memory cards to give a nostalgic look to your pictures.

"I still have some Kodachrome memory cards in my freezer - think they are OK to use?"

Alas, unreadable file types.


Alternatively ignore all of this advice, store the cards in direct sunlight in high humidity and enjoy the highly trendy colour warping results. Resolution and colour accuracy are so yesterday...

"scared the hell out of me for second"

Lol, me too :).

I've realized that a static charge can fog the image if you shoot a digital file while grounded. Now I jump into the air and release the shutter. It also keeps me from having to use the blur filter in Photoshop as much. Alternatively you could wrap your memory card in saran wrap before putting it in.

If you take the card out of the camera in the middle of a shoot to use a different type, remember to scratch the number of images on it so you know where to start again when you reinsert it

The freezer? Come on give me a break. Where did that maligned piece of advice come from?

Tip #4 is misleading. Everybody knows memory cards should be handled using tweezers made of non-ferrous metals. Gold-plated tweezers are best, followed by 99,99999999999999999% oxygen-free copper ones. Also, their construction should comply to Fibonacci's golden ratio in order to avoid all electromagnetic interference. (Performing an Aztec ritual of fertility before removing the card from the camera helps preventing the files from getting corrupted, too; alternatively, if you're not familiar with Aztec culture, you can perform a tribal dance around your tripod, using the latter as a totem pole. In either case you must follow Mr. Go's advice #3.)

I've read somewhere that DX-coded memory cards could only record pictures at base ISO, a major nuisance with modern, highly capable cameras. However, real pros are said to know a way to circumvent this.

"Everybody knows memory cards should be handled using tweezers made of non-ferrous metals. Gold-plated tweezers are best, followed by 99,99999999999999999% oxygen-free copper ones. Also, their construction should comply to Fibonacci's golden ratio in order to avoid all electromagnetic interference. "

Are you sure you're not confusing photography with high-end audio?


Hi Mike.
You spotted it - I used to be an audiophile before devoting myself to photography. As I delved into photography websites and forums, I was shocked to discover some photographers and audiophiles (or rather whom the late, great John Crabbe called 'audiophools') shared the same amount of misinformed common sense and a kind of fake knowledge that nears superstition - hence the allusion to OFC and golden ratio.
I loved Mr. Go's article because he played with that kind of superstition that's so deeply rooted in the minds of some photographers, and I believe some would have taken it seriously if it weren't for the satire alert.
I also know you are an audiophile, so I knew this comment would ring a bell. Do you happen to remember Townsend Audio and their 'cryogenic' loudspeaker cables? They came to my mind when I read Tip #2!

One of my favorite audio writeups was of a $25,000 amp that featured an "imposing case" that, when opened, was found to have a "surprising" amount of empty space inside. I wish I'd kept that.


The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007