Saturday, April 30, 2016

Look after those SD cards

SD cards have become ubiquitous with digital cameras and microSD cards with smart phones. They are relatively cheap and generally robust. However they can be damaged and can very occasionally fail. My experience up till last week was that failure does happen but was very unlikely. I had one bad experience several years ago where a card came apart in my camera and jammed the card socket. With patients, a magnifying glass, a torch and the tweezers from a swiss army knife I did get all the pieces of plastic and gold foil contacts out of the card slot and no damaged was done. Luckily!

Example corrupt RAW fileAnother card last year just gave errors on two test photos when I loaded them. Picasa loaded in the photos ok but Lightroom reported corrupt RAW files. Surprising the paired jpegs were fine. At first I suspected the camera but I took some more photos using an older SD card and no problems. This was a cheaper brand card and I could see no obvious damage. I just  reformatted the card in my camera, and it worked fine. But I did buy a replacement card the next day. It is serving out its retirement in a relative’s photo frame and apparently enjoying life and behaving.

Problem with Write Protection Lock sliderTwo days in a row this week I had two cards develop problems with the little plastic slider on the side that provides write protection. I don’t normally touch this slider. The first problem was I managed to push the slider up inside the card and on top the contacts. I felt the card being blocked when I inserted into into the card reader. I could read the photos the card stuck again as I tried to removed it from the reader. I carefully applied more pressure and the card came out. Close inspection showed the slider had moved and was jammed (see picture above). The SD was immediately thrown out. Unfortunately the next day, same camera another same brand SD card, read the photos ok but when I put it back in the camera it reported the write protection lock was on and when I checked the card the write protect tab was missing. I carefully checked both the camera slot and card reader but that little bit of plastic was totally missing. Another card for the bin. Three new cards from a different manufacturer purchased.

By this stage I was worried either the camera or the card reader was damaging the cards. So an intensive investigation of cards and cameras and card readers followed, including testing the write protection sliders. No problems found and I breathed a long sigh of relief.

So What might have causes the failures?

Then I realised I had changed how I was using the cards on my recent trips. I was using a new card each day and not clearing it off. After being loaded I would put it back in an elasticized pocket in the camera bag. There were only three such pockets and six cards so there was doubling up and I remember a few cards slipped out and floated around in a mesh compartment which also house a few other accessories. I now suspect that is where the little plastic slide switches got damaged.

So I have gone back to my old practice of re-using the same card in the same camera and clearing off the photos after they are loaded. Only a singe SD card is stored in each pocket, as spares in the field. Old Style SD Card PackAny other spare cards are kept in those older little slide boxes, that SD cards used to come in before that where just bubble packed. They are robust but kept back at base with my backup USB drive, not floating around in my camera bag.

Before I try the rotating card process again I’m need to find a suitable protective wallet for the cards and take better care of them.

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