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Digital Camera Memory

Is it OK to Use Cheaper Media?

SUMMARY: Should you always purchase brand name media for your digital camera?

Especially in today's troublesome economy, with the high prices of digital cameras, rechargeable batteries, tripods, filters, and other accessories, you might be tempted to save some money by purchasing cheaper, generic digital camera media. And why not? Photos taken with cheaper media should look just the same as those taken with more expensive media, as long as the files get written correctly. Your JPG images will not come out more pixilated, and uncompressed TIFF and RAW files will contain the same information.

However, "saving money" has a few potential downsides:

* Brand name digital camera memory cards may be faster than their generic equivalents. If your digital camera supports the faster write speeds, you can take photos quicker by not waiting as long for your digital camera to store information onto the media. This is especially important if you wish to use drive mode and take multiple images in quick succession, useful for sporting events, wildlife photography, and other situations involving fast-moving subjects.

* Brand name digital camera memory may prove to be more reliable. On some generic memory I have used, even though the media did not outright fail, if you shot multiple photos quickly the memory card could 'hang', causing some photos to be lost. Since the photos were never successfully written to the media, they were unrecoverable.

* Brand name digital camera media may have limited warranties. If the media proves to be defective within a certain period of time after the purchase, it might be possible to get a replacement memory card. Some warranties may provide replacements at no charge; others might require modest shipping and handling charges.

Even with limited warranties, however, any lost photos on the defective media may remain lost. In some instances, media recovery applications may help. While I don't vouch for any particular software package, publishers include DataRescue, Jufsoft, and MediaRECOVER.

* Brand name digital camera memory may be rated to handle better in extreme conditions (hot and cold environments), useful if you plan on mountain climbing or shooting photos at a beach or desert. Of course, in such environments you may deal with other weather-related problems such as faster-draining batteries and condensation forming on the camera lens.

* Even if you want to purchase brand name digital camera memory, you may be tempted to purchase such media from lesser known stores, online outlets, or auction sites. After purchasing items at some establishments (though certainly not all), you might find yourself with counterfeit memory, generic memory repackaged as brand name! Such memory may increase the chances of data corruption, perform slower than advertised, and quite possibly damage the camera as you insert or remove the media. Plus, counterfeit memory lacks any true warranty, even if the fake packaging claims one is offered. As the adage goes, if a price is too good to be true, it just may be.

(Note that if this scam happens to you, you cannot always blame the store for the sale. It may have unknowingly purchased this memory from a fraudulent distributor.)

I am not recommending always buying the most expensive media at the most expensive retailer - the choice is yours. Some of the above potential downsides may not apply to your digital camera or your shooting conditions. You might not require faster shooting, and certainly not all generic memory will corrupt your data. However, for those truly concerned about their photos being written correctly and transferrable to backup media without incidents, paying a few extra bucks may prove to be money well spent.

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The MalekTips website was created in 1998 by Andrew Malek of Envision Programming. The page's goal is to freely disperse computer-related tips, hints, and informative articles. Tips are organized to be easy to find, and are presented clearly, in easy-to-understand language. MalekTips also provides information and links to public-domain, open source, freeware, shareware, and commercial software available for download.