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Posts Tagged ‘memory cards’

I’m constantly surprised at how many people are content to download images to their computers via the camera’s USB connection. Sure, it’s a cheaper alternative to a $30 card reader (since the cables are usually included with every camera purchased), but doing it that way has a couple downsides you should know about.

First and most important, using a camera as the transfer device is S-L-O-W! It takes at least twice as long to download a memory card using the camera compared to a standard USB 2.0 memory card reader. That means a full card that takes 2 minutes to download images will do the same task in only one minute using a card reader. Of course, the higher the capacity of the card (and more images on it), the more time saved.

Second, downloading directly from the camera uses camera power and will run down a camera’s battery quicker. This is a bad thing if you’re out in the field, far away from your battery recharger.

There are many card readers on the market. They range from $20 to over $100. Some even read multiple card formats. I’ve used all kinds and currently use the Lexar CF card reader pictured. The differences between various brands, however, is minimal and a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a faster reader.

So, save yourself some time, purchase a card reader and toss it in your laptop bag. Use it and speed up the boring part of your post-shoot routine.

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Keep this in mind when shopping for memory cards. The brand doesn’t affect the quality of the images captured to the card. The brand of the card, however, can make a difference in the speed at which images are captured to and downloaded from the card. Not having the time or inclination to do speed tests on every memory card out there, Rob Galbraith, noted digital photo guru and acquaintance of mine, has done the work for all of us. Check out his website for a comparison chart of the various cards on the market and see where your card ranks.

I personally use Sandisk Ultras in my camera but also have a couple Ridata cards in my bag that have served me well. I also have a half dozen Lexar cards that have let me down. Like most things in life, you find a brand you trust and like and stick with it. Sure, some cards are better (read FASTER) than other cards. But it’s a difference of microseconds!

Like I’ve said before, it’s the photographer that makes the difference, not the gear. Stop worrying about the speed of your cards and start shooting!

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There are countless articles, blogs and even books devoted to the digital photo workflow. Most deal only with what to do from capture to downloading your images to the computer and then from the computer to the printer. While that workflow is important, it’ll also leave you with a full memory card and a camera set for your LAST assignment, not the next assignment. Since I like to start an assignment with my camera set the same way every time (partly due to latent OCD on my part), I follow this post-assignment workflow:

  1. After making sure the images on your memory card have been safely copied to your hard drive and your backup drive, format your memory card in the camera, not in your card reader.
  2. Charge your camera battery and your backup battery. Might as well charge your flash batteries now while you’re in the mood.
  3. Set your ISO to 200, or whatever ISO setting gives the best quality. For my EOS 1D MkII, it’s 200.
  4. Set exposure compensation to zero. I often set this to a couple stops underexposure if I’m shooting with flash, so it’s important to change it back.
  5. White balance to auto white balance mode (AWB).
  6. Motor drive mode (if you have one) set to continuous. (because I shoot a lot of action)
  7. Exposure mode set to aperture preferred. (because I like to choose my own f-stop, thank you)

While you’ll probably want to modify this list to suit your own gear, the general concept remains the same. Going through this post-shoot routine allows me to start my next assignment confident in knowing my camera has a blank memory card, fresh batteries and is set to my baseline settings — leaving everything ready to go for the next assignment.

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