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Monday, 11 March 2013


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i have thought this many a time, especially considering that a 2GB SD card (Link) costs about what a roll of negative film does and holds more photos by far.

I suppose that cards are cheap enough that you could treat them like film and store them after use instead of reusing them. I bet it would be film shooters who would be more likely to do test. :)
How archival would such a scheme be?

I don't think your idea of holding on to used cards is absurd on its face. We used to pay ~$20 to buy and develop 36 images. Paying less for a 100+ image card is still way cheaper.

The bug question is the storage retention of cards in a box. If it doesn't work, it's a total waste.

Mike, the idea of using memory cards as an archiving medium has occured to me a number of times. Of course, up to now, it probably was too expensive for most of us.

But after my wife and I returned from a trip to Europe in 2007, I downloaded some 450 images onto my iMac's hard drive, burned back-up copies to both CDs and DVDs... and flipped the little overwrite protection switch on my memory cards and gently packed them away as well.

I have since migrated the hard-drive images over to my latest iMac; the discs and cards remain packed away in a chest inside our climate-controlled home. I have wondered how well those discs and cards are holding up.

And that's the main question I have about using memory cards for archiving: Is the medium stable enough for long-term storage? To me, that would be a minimum of five years but more like 10-20. What say ye?

"...do you suppose the day will ever come when we'll use flash cards just once..."

Yes. I could see that happening if and when write-once-read-many cards become plentiful and cheap, although I'm not sure how I feel about the introduction of more disposable electronic devices in our landfills. Years ago, the average casual snapshooter discarded the negatives shortly after they received their prints from the drug store. I don't see any reason why they would treat cheap w-o-r-m cards any differently than those negatives today.

On keeping full memory cards:

I have an acquaintance who shoots all the time with very high end Canon gear. For example he has a EOS 800mm lens. I asked him what he liked to photograph and he said everything, especially wildlife. I asked him what he next did with his shots? Did he print them, put them on a website? He said he did nothing. He stores the memory cards in a sock drawer, like rolls of exposed but undeveloped film canisters. He does nothing! Hey, it's the act of taking the photograph that brings him pleasure. I suggested that he would be better off shooting without memory cards in the camera in the first place. That would be the photographers version of a fisherman catching and releasing I guess.

So yes, in the future, more people will keep the now very cheap card full, even though the sorting and library systems like Lightroom make ever so much more sense.

I've thought about using flash cards as an archive. It would be much cheaper than what we once spent on film. Let's see, 500 images on a 16GB card, that's ~15 rolls of film at around $15 each for the film and the processing (that's *really* cheap) so $225 for film versus twelve bucks for the same 500 images on a card.

Are cards more stable than hard drives over a long period of time? I certainly would trust them more than I do DVDs.

I'll tell you one thing about cards. They're too darn small!

I miss using compact flash cards which were just small enough. Now, with almost every camera using SD cards, I'm constantly misplacing them. (And good luck labeling a shoot on an SD card!)

Yup, cards are ridiculously cheap. Before heading to Patagonia last month, I bought two 64gb cards for $38 each!

I like the idea of saving memory cards instead of reusing them. It would not be more expensive than saving B&W 120 film of which I have hundred of rolls of.
The question is how archival are cards. My negatives that are over 30 years old are perfect and I have seen other negatives such as Edward Weston's pepper #30 that are much older and print as well as when first used.
Can we expect memory cards to last as long?
Cheers, Jim

I have actually been doing exactly that with my 2 gig cards for the last year.

I don't know about "absurd". At these prices, it's already cheaper as storage than film ever was (I think). Tougher in some ways, more volatile in others. And it might relieve us of having to upgrade our backup drives as often as we do.

Eventual interface obsolescence is a concern, but I think they're so prevalent now that there would be a reasonably comfortable transition of adapters and/or re-archiving devices when the time comes. There have already been several generations of SD and, as far as I know, the readers are fully backward-compatible.

Biggest problem for me would be labeling the little things.

I stopped reusing SD cards for my personal photography. At around $15 for a Sandisk, 16 GB level 10 card, it's a cheap back up. Plus, since I know I'm not erasing the files I am much more selective about what I download to the hard drives. Much cheaper than film ever was.

Mike, How long will the flash cards last without fading away? Which happens to the recordable Cds and Dvds. I prefer archiving to an external harddrive but even that technology will disappear in time.

Actually, if you put the price of a memory card on one side of the scale and the price of a twin pack of your favorite film on the other, it's not absurd at all.
And perhaps flash cards have a better life expectancy than hard drives (the spinning ones), too. So when HDDesaster strikes, you turn to your neat stack of CF/SD cards with an appreciating smile.
Perhaps the only thing working against this strategy is the always imminent decommissioning of any (now thought of) standard tech in computing. I recently found a stack of 3,5" floppies ... No appreciating smile on my part there.

Regarding archiving:

Actually, I use SD cards to do just that. I shot events, mostly JPEG, so a 2GB or 4GB card was enough for the night. At the end of the day, I backed it up on a hard drive (where I work on photos), let Time Machine back up on an archive drive, and the 'originals' sit in a plastic case in an anti-static bag.

Too late on the flash card thing, already doing it! There was a sale at Office Depot the other day and class 4, 16 gig San Disc SD cards were on sale for $8.99 apiece! Class 4 is plenty if you're not shooting video, and even then, they're probably OK depending on the length of shot. For that price, and even up to about a buck a gig, I can certainly not bother to clear them out to disc, just toss them in the file folder. Additionally, since I am both a Mac and PC user, and actually prefer PC's for many things, most PC laptops come with an SD slot right in the side of the computer! You don't even have to plug the camera in, or use a USB stick converter! Wish my Mac's had that feature!

FYI, always check the Office joints, like Depot and Max, they many times beat B&H on SD card prices, and used to beat them on CF prices before they quit carrying most of them, AND, they're in your neighborhood! No mailing or waiting. Like I said, I got two San Disc SDHC 16 gig class 4 cards, for a total price with tax for about $19.00!

Too late on the flash card thing, already doing it! There was a sale at Office Depot the other day and class 4, 16 gig San Disc SD cards were on sale for $8.99 apiece! Class 4 is plenty if you're not shooting video, and even then, they're probably OK depending on the length of shot. For that price, and even up to about a buck a gig, I can certainly not bother to clear them out to disc, just toss them in the file folder. Additionally, since I am both a Mac and PC user, and actually prefer PC's for many things, most PC laptops come with an SD slot right in the side of the computer! You don't even have to plug the camera in, or use a USB stick converter! Wish my Mac's had that feature!

FYI, always check the Office joints, like Depot and Max, they many times beat B&H on SD card prices, and used to beat them on CF prices before they quit carrying most of them, AND, they're in your neighborhood! No mailing or waiting. Like I said, I got two San Disc SDHC 16 gig class 4 cards, for a total price with tax for about $19.00!

I have been saving memory cards (as if they were negatives) for 3-4 years, but only for what I consider to be important images - big vacations, graduations and the like. I can't imagine not doing it - memory cards are relatively cheap*, don't really take up any space and are easy to label & keep as an extra back up. Plus, most cards today will seem unbearably small (capacity) or slow in a couple of years so they have limited lifespans anyways. (*Imo, certainly cheaper than multiple external hard drives + cloud storage, etc.)

Re: archiving flash cards
It sounds like a reasonable assumption as these just get cheaper all the time. But on second thought, the reason you archived your negatives is that you needed to go back to the original if you ever wanted to reprint a picture. A digital copy is an exact duplicate of the original digital file, so provided you are making adequate backups of the original raw files, the copies are just as good as the original and there will be no need to search through a file cabinet to find the original card. It is much easier to find a backup copy on disk, especially if you have used a program like Lightroom to index your archive.

Will we ever use memory cards once? I doubt it. I think it is far more likely that memory cards will be used for transient buffering to facilitate moving images into cloud storage. Just like email, music, movies and the like.

On SD cards I am very close to using them once, then archiving. At least for some of my favorite or most important sessions. I can routinely find name-brand cards for less than $1 a gig and an 8-gig card will hold a typical session. That is less than I used to pay for film and developing for a 24-exposure roll.

I already keep the cards on file until the photos are finished and archived, at least on anything important

When I posted about this on one of the popular forums a resident expert jumped in to say cards can possibly begin to lose data in 10 years or so. Even if he is right, what do we have in digital that is more reliable? Or easier?

“Do you suppose the day will ever come when we'll use flash cards just once and just keep the full ones as a way to archive the files?”

I'm not sure whatever happened to these, but see SanDisk announces Shoot and Store, the World's first "consumable" Flash Memory cards for Digital Cameras:

“LAS VEGAS, NV, Feb. 11, 2004 - SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK) today announced a new line of inexpensive flash memory cards designed to allow users to save their pictures indefinitely without using a computer for downloading, thus giving millions of consumers a major incentive to switch from film to digital photography and providing them with a durable, permanent way to store a lifetime of images. …

“For the first time, SanDisk believes that it is both economical and efficient to use the same card for capturing and storing digital ‘negatives.’ This solves one of the most vexing problems of digital photography and allows people without computer skills-or without the time to download their images-to use a digital camera.”

"...do you suppose the day will ever come when we'll use flash cards just once and just keep the full ones as a way to archive the files?"

I knew of "oldies" doing this a year or so ago.

Makes sense if you own a compact camera for fotos of your grandchildren, and don't want all the expense and bother of becoming computer literate - view them on someone's PC, and take them into a shop to get prints of the best ones.

The problems with using storage media, especially flash cards, as permanent media for long periods of time are two fold:

1) Catastrophic failure, rendering every image on the card unusable. The more archived images on the device, the greater the loss.

2) Advancing technology moving past the technology of the cards, making it impossible to read any data off of the cards even if the card is still usable. Same end state as (1) above.

So my answer for now is "no". I would rather have old-fashioned physical media lying around that slowly degrades over time and that can be recovered with (ironically) digital tools, rather than any of today's digital storage methods, at least right now. Further in the future, who knows?

It's in the nature of digital photography to shoot more and keep less. It's in the nature of flash memory to be malleable (randomly erasable and rewritable)—unlike a strip of exposed film.

I'm not talking about a careless approach to photography where you stop looking, stop thinking, and just shoot tons of crap images in the hopes of getting the occasional happy accident. Even when working slowly and deliberately, you can take more chances, try small variations, bracket the exposure and the focus, etc. I, for one, have no interest in keeping every single frame I've shot, once I've sorted through a day's material.

If polaroids, say, could have been erased, put back in the camera and reused to shoot a new image, do you suppose people would have kept every frame as they first came out? Nonsense! They would have shot much more, been able to experiment/retry/refine.

Let's imagine, as I suppose you're asking, a day comes when memory cards are so inexpensive that you can get them for essentially nothing—regardless of the environmental impact of such a conceit. (I believe there also exist write-only memory cards.) On a purely organizational point of view, it simply isn't practical to have to manage tons of little cards containing a small set of images. And once the images are transferred to the computer, you add metadata and edit the files—that's information that has to be backed up too, that is missing from the contents of the original memory cards.

I can't imagine this being a good idea, even if it was economically plausible.

Flash Cards forever. And then you drop them all and you didn't label them. Or your label writing is so bad because they're so SMALL you can never figure out exactly what you wrote. Yea SDHC forever.

"Download the card, and then, instead of erasing it and reusing it, label the card and store it." How long do flash cards last before they start to lose data? Unlike negatives, the only surely safe digital backup is either a hard copy or a digital backup that's regularly replaced and refreshed.

In answer to the idle question, my wife has been doing that for several years. It's worked for her because she can always get another card from me. 8-)

16GB card, say 2 thousand images, equal to 55-36 exposure rolls of film, for $12.00, seems a no brainer, though it does raise the knotty question of card archiveabilty. (sp?)

I passed the first time with the speed obsession on my mind and snagged a pair of the Lexar 600x cards. I didn't pass this time!

Using memory cards like film negatives? I don't see myself doing that because I have ongoing metadata/cataloging/editing/updating requirements where keeping my image collection(s) online rather than "near online" as these cards would be makes far more sense. That said, I know many amateur photographers who are clueless about downloading files and reformatting cards, so they are doing just what you describe. There are apparently even plastic album pages available for "smart card" storage!!!


> Do you suppose the day will ever come when
> we'll use flash cards just once and just keep
> the full ones as a way to archive the files?

Probably not, because that archive would be very inconvenient to access. You'd have to dig through your box full of flash cards to find the right one, then put it in a card reader, and only then can you look at the picture you were looking for. Compare that to having all your pictures on a single hard drive.

And if you are thinking those archival flash cards are a good backup, there are more reliable and convenient ways of keeping backups.

While negatives (especially B&W) last for a long, long time (decades at least and centuries under perfect conditions), the dirty little secret of flash memory is that most of it has a data retention time of 10 years under good circumstances. After that time, bit rot sets in in a significant way.

The trend to wards higher and higher density in flash memory also translates to lower reliability for various reasons, so "bigger" cards will probably do a lot worse. So my prediction is that as the costs come down, making archiving attractive, reliability will have the opposite effect.

It's a testament to the guys (and gals) writing the controller firmware (which handles many of the issues the hardware raises) that flash cards appear pretty reliable in normal short-term use ... but I digress.

It you want to archive your images, copy them from hard drive to hard drive, making sure to check that you get a perfect copy every time ...

Dear Mike,

That's an interesting question about storing flash photos.

From the economics side, you're already there, have been for some time. Flash cards routinely run less than a buck a gigabyte. and a gigabyte will hold about 50 high quality files. Fifty photos for a buck? Compare that to the cost of film+processing -- an order of magnitude better.

What I can't find a GOOD answer to is the question of how long data on a flash card lasts. There's an oft-quoted “10 year” number, but that doesn't trace back to any useful source: it's essentially manufacturer boilerplate for how long they say you should trust the things, and there's no indication at all whether it corresponds to a real upper limit on storage life, or just a safe number to give people. I have read single sources that suggest 60-80 years, but although they are from technically knowledgeable people, they don't provide a link to any kind of study, so I don't know that it's real knowledge or just a wild ass guess.

If the latter is true, then you're up in the range of film. (I'm going to ignore the hero numbers quoted for black and white negatives and Kodachrome, as it is uncommon for photographs in the real world to actually achieve that life. It happens. It ain't the norm.) In which case, why not?

But, that is one hell of a big “if.”

A related question would be whether or not this becomes a common practice. If it doesn't, then it's a self-filling prophecy of the bad kind: you can be positive that in 50 years there will not be readily available hardware nor software to read the current flashcards. If it's a very common practice, then there will be maintenance of methods to read. It's the hardware equivalent of the data file issue: you can be positive that there will be programs around that will be able to read jpeg files for an extremely long time because there are so many trillions upon trillions of images in those forms. psd? Another matter entirely.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

You mentioned one important aspect of digital photography that is not talked about much - archiving. Memory cards may be used for this in the future. There are some archival cards in the works that are supposed to hold up for 100 years. I think they are only 8 GB or something though. Anyway, If anyone wants to become a billionaire, a good way to do it would be to invent a way to store large amounts of data indefinitely and with absolute reliability for not too much cost.

Right now, there really is no good way for an individual to archive digital photos or videos. That is incredible if you think about it.

I know very little about the subject, though. So, if there are readers who know about archiving, I would love to hear their take on it.

The 32GB cards are an even better deal, $34.95 for two, 55¢/GB vs. 78¢.

I'd give a link, but I assume the above link gives Mike a few cents, too. Hope so, as that's what I used.

Just search for the exact same item, but 32 GB.


I don't think it's an absurd idea at least as far as the costs will be concerned. If the cards follow the path of thumb drives they will surly get inexpensive enough.

These have been around a while.


no, i don't thin that keeping the cards full will be the future, the Cloud is the future, once you upload your photos to a cloud service it becomes "immortal" and available every where! more important then the price of SD cards is the improvement of wifi capabilities in cameras, Cloud and wifi are going to be a powerfull combination in the future.

I was actually envisioning a purpose-made new product, non-rewritable and optimized (assuming we have the technology?) for long-term life, complete with a waterproof and label-able case.

Been done. Apparently there's a market because the Japanese police do that for evidence collection.

A multi-terabyte desktop hard drive, at around $100, is probably little better or worse than flash-based solid-state storage for reliable long-term storage (read: by all accounts I've seen, both poor and inadequately studied) and far, far more convenient to access and back up, not to mention an order of magnitude cheaper.

Moreover, the common refrain of "not wanting to put all one's eggs in one basket" seems somewhat shortsighted when exact duplicate copies of said "basket" can be created in a single step for the price of an empty "basket", and the "basket" can be set up to automatically and immediately replicate new content losslessly over the Internet to a comparatively secure remote location, to name just two options for "watching the basket".

Stacks of SD cards (or negatives!) in one place are unlikely to be materially more fire-resistant than a single large hard drive in the same location, after all.

@ Jack - I love the idea of a photographer shooting without a card in the camera. It has a sort of logical end-point quality that a certain type of ideas-based artist would love: they'd go on to display the camera itself in a gallery, with details of all the places it had been and pictures it had taken written out in the incomprehensible language of Conceptual Art.
Of course, it would annoy the hell out of everyone, myself included. But it has a beautiful logic to it.

Us compscis have a term for this: bit rot.


I've always loved that term ... and every time I get to use it :)


I suspect better long-term memory and (perhaps as important) better and easier indexing of files for later retrieval is coming. Your memory card approach has appeal to me aesthetically, though each one might need a 3 x 5 card attached to describe what can be thousands of images.
So far Lightroom has worked pretty well keeping track of things on my traditional hard drive, and now that I have a new computer and have consolidated my images it's pretty easy to dig up a raw original of a jpeg I find floating around. What we could all use is some kind of new memory instead of hard drives and flash storage, both of which mess up on occasion. Still waiting on the uber-redundent DNA memory or whatever else that's supposed to come down the pike. Plus is would help to have vastly increase upload speeds so we could actually put "the cloud" to use.

All this talk of writing data onto some medium and then sticking it in a sock drawer disturbs me. As any good sysadmin will tell you, a backup isn't a backup unless it's verified regularly. If your system relies on one 'master' and one or more 'archive copies' which haven't been checked recently you're playing a dangerous game.

I've put Sandisk Extreme CF cards through the wash and dryer a time or two--and they came through that ordeal without losing a pixel! Try THAT with Kodachrome!

I'd suggest the larger problem with flash memory cards is that they're reusable-- too likely to be accidentally formatted and thus overwrite something else already on them.

I seem to remember someone offering a memory card designed to be used in that way many years ago, as an attempt to make digital photography accessible for people without PCs. Can't recall the details though.

The cloud is a much better method. While cheap SD cards can work and many have been doing this, it stills seriously breaks a fundamental of backups, one location, one card. And while cheap SD cards are cheap, they are also slow. After experiencing 1000X CF cards, I've never going back to cheap slow cards. I now always buy the fastest cards I can and these are not so cheap, but man watch that buffer clear and you're hooked. So for backups today, the BEST solution is a Cloud backup with a trusted vendor and offline traditional hard disk local.

The link to 32 GB Sony Cards at B&H takes you to a page that says this item is discontinued.

No matter what you put your digital pictures on there is one basic thing you need to do to make it archival:

You have to be able to quickly make a copy every year or so.

This is sort of annoying and inconvenient, but I would not trust any storage medium to be permanent without a way to make copies.

Ahh - archiving... I have 8 inch, 5 1/4 inch, 3 1/5 inch floppy disks plus cassette tapes that I used for data on a home-assembled "Microbee" computer - a circa 1980 Australian kit computer. Except for the 3 1/2 inch 'floppies', I can't read any of the data.

But that's nothing. My mother - who was a computer scientist from the early 60's - still has a box of mark-sense cards from the 70's and paper tape from the 60's. All of which is useless.

If you store digitally, upgrade your data with each new generation, or you are lost!

Or just make some good prints and archive them, you can always scan them in the future.

If flash memory is good enough for facebook's long term storage...


Given the design parameters for flash memory cards cheap, fast, most importantly cheap ,
see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-level_cell and the assumption that they only need to hold memory for months at most make me a little leery of long term storage on camera cards.

There is occasionally talk of WORM (write once read many) memory specifically for archival storage but for the last 20 years or more it's been 5 years from market.

Fast, cheap, reliable - pick two or maybe one and a half

SD cards are interesting as archiving option, it does however assumes that USB and a card reader will be available in 10-20 years time. That's a lot harder to accomplish and users have very little control over that.

Flash memory life time when written once is pretty good, once you start writing to it and erasing is the retention time shortens, environmental factors especially heat reduce retention time as well. Older generations of Flash memory used to be 100 years retention after a single read.

Mike, regarding the storing of memory cards instead of reusing them: how about cheaper one-time use cards (in that they can be actually only used once) priced similar to film per roll? Maybe this new type of card could possess archival properties way more robust than memory cards, maybe along the lines of the longevity of b&w film negatives.

Sandisk introduced WORM SD cards at some point (Write Once, Read Many) specifically for uses where you don't want the data to be alterable, such as police investigations.

Here's something about it:

The page linked-to by the 32 GB hyperlink now says "Discontinued Product" :-(

Sadly, I know people who fill up a memory card and keep it, not for archiving, but because they're computer-illiterate. They take the card to CVS for pictures, then put it away. Just like film. In-camera editing probably makes a great deal of sense to those people !

It's in the genesis of this thread, but even beyond the use of memory cards, I have the sense of an assumption of archiving as storing data on something separate that is put aside.

But technologies become obsolete, and the lifetime of data on any modern media is unproven. If you want to keep your data, keep it spinning. Move it from one storage system to another as technology changes and you upgrade. Make multiple and frequent backup copies. The backups are not for archiving, but are kept for a relatively short time so that you can recover when the system crashes or you accidentally delete something important. Store some copies somewhere else. Check periodically that important things have not been deleted. Test your recovery every now and then.

There's a devil in the details; this is but the outline of the idea.

no one commented on the pentax? hello...anyone?

What happens to these Compact Flash and SD cards when we have a major Solar Flare & magnetic storm, or a EMP event?
Will they lose all the data? Will it be scrambled?
1859 there was a major event, caused fires in telegraph offices and messages were going through when the machines were off.
Scientists say that if we have one that powerful today we may lose much of the power grid and a lot of electronic machinery. Will it wipe out the digital memory of the cards? The CPU units in our digital cameras?

The long term solution to archiving images lies in DNA encoding. This is not a dream, but the subject of active research. The basic problems have been solved, and the results published in the leading scientific journals Nature and Science, including photographic images. The life of DNA encoding is thousands of years (think mammoth DNA). Readers for data encoded in DNA are and always will be available, because of its use in medical and forensic routines. The version of DNA being used is synthetic; it is not from living organisms. At present it is too expensive for us photographers, but the price will drop dramatically as the great libraries switch to DNA archiving. Perhaps Google and other cloud storage companies will lead the way. We photographers will be using it within ten years, or twenty at most. Goff

Back ups are vital and having a decent method again is important. I have two back ups of everything on hard drives and also on DVD twice with one set of each off site. Every year I move the data on all the hard drives having a spare (nearly all 500Gb) one gets formatted starting with the first and then the data from the next drive is copied over after checking folder by folder that they are the same as the ones hanging off the computer. Then that hard drive is erased and the next disk is done and so on. I do a complete DVD back up every other year and of the current year every month. Once set one is done it is swapped with the off site set and I set to work on those hard drives. I have had two hard drives fail with the same data set on them, I was thankful I had another spare and the DVD's as a last chance back up.
Now I would consider SD cards as a backup and I have considered it, each would have a number and first and last photo date on it. The number could then be referenced in a word doc so you look up what card has certain files. Though I would be more tempted to buy high capacity USB sticks and use them as you then do not need a card reader. Though I think the falling price of solid state cards makes this a redundant path. My internet connection is poor or I would get cloud storage.

I save my shot cards in little manila coin envelopes that I can ID by date/subject/etc. I also use a silver sharpie to write a code ID on the card itself.
That said, I have had a couple card failures - expensive, brand-name cards that just stopped working. One had been mailed back to me w/o adequate protection and may have been "stamped" by the PO. Another $65 card failed after initial download of files. Upon inspection, it seems a tiny sliver of plastic that served as one of the dividers between the card's metal contacts broke off.
Of course, I have cards that have survived washing machine/dryer torture etc, but I don't fully trust the robustness of sd cards, even the more expensive, name brand ones. As a result I do most of my shooting , stills & video, on a less expensive but more reliable (so far) brand. Also make sure not to purchase counterfeit cards which apparently run rampant on -line.

Lots of interesting thoughts and information in these comments about memory cards as out-of-camera storage. Good reasoning for buying enough cards to use once and store versus the costs of using film. Sort of like buying that "gotta have it" lens, software or printer with the money not spent on film. Completely like justifying spending on new cameras (repeatedly) over this last decade or so with all that free money not spent on film.
Well, money not spent on film is certainly available to redirect. It's just not limitless. We can only rely on it for photographic funding to the extent it was there in the first place. The new camera every 2-4 years probably eats up the no-film savings in many cases. Your milage will most certainly vary but the tank will run dry.
Gad, what a Buzzkill I am.

You should think of flash memory much like car tires. They all wear out or become unsafe over enough time with or without use - the best ones take longer to do it and fail gracefully. The cheap garbage suddenly blows out and rolls your vehicle.

Camera/Cellphone/Tablet flash cards are a very poor choice for long term archival. Storage density per $, longevity and speed are a "pick any two of the three" situation for solid state storage devices - except the manufacturers of the consumer flash cards (which are all MLC vs SLC based) have already picked two for you: density and speed.

Think of all memory technologies as transient. If you can get 15 years on any one media without having to make a copy to the next, you've done very well and are frankly pushing your luck.

Read up a bit on the technologies underlying low cost, high density flash memory and you won't be at *all* eager to treat it as archival. Are you aware that many of them can experience degradation even from repeated *reading*? They can.

I work in the computer storage industry. Anything I care about lives on multiple devices with an offsite copy.


Has anyone determined whether or not these cards are actually archival grade in the first place? Electronics die, even electronics sitting unused and unpowered.

As to Mikes assertion that "being a common practice" will "ensure readers are available"... that simply doesn't square with reality. The inability to read older formats is a serious problem for commercial archivists, and has been for over a decade now. And when you look at the consumer side of the house, the picture isn't much prettier.

Storage formats die, or become so expensive they might as well be dead. This is reality.

Carson has it right - there's only one scheme for digital data preservation, keep it spinning, keep it upgraded, keep it distributed.

@keith. Too much dragoon on the mind.

The idea of single-use archival memory cards has actually been around for a while, with at least one product having already come and gone from the market (ca. 2004):


'The page linked-to by the 32 GB hyperlink now says "Discontinued Product" :-('

Looks like TOP continues to have a vast retail effect. {:~]

Sorry you missed it, Mike. I hope others besides me got in on the deal.


The makers of flash chips and flash-based storage devices generally specify that they will retain data for 10 years.

That's no archive.

All I can say is: "I wish I had $8800 to blow on a camera."

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