How many gigabytes do you need?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by olli, Apr 26, 2011.

  1. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    olli
    Recently Lexar, maker of memory products, announced the first 128GB SD card. When I saw this I couldn't help thinking about my first computer in the early 1990's with its 100MB hard drive.

    Lexar's new card is currently retailing for no less than <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2F128GB-Sdxc-Card-133X-C10%2Fdp%2FB004SAMZW4%2F&tag=seriocompa00-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325">$249 on Amazon</a>http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=seriocompa00-20&l=ur2&o=1" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />. While this may put it beyond the reach of most of us, there are still plenty of other high capacity cards out there. There are plenty of 64GB cards available and 32GB cards are now commonplace and selling in some cases for less than $50.

    The question is, do we really need this much memory? In their press release Lexar say that they are aiming their new high capacity cards at photographers 'shooting continuous, rapid-fire images and extended lengths of 1080p high-definition (HD) video'. That's something of a niche market.

    But even for us less demanding shooters there may be a growing need for bigger cards. Shoot RAW and JPEG, as I do, with increasingly high MP cameras and cards can fill up surprisingly quickly. My first SD card had a capacity of 1GB. My next cards were 4GB and my current cards are 8GB.

    With Sony currently sporting 16MP, Panasonic 18MP and with rumours of Samsung delivering an 18MP sensor in the next generation of NX cameras and Sony claimed to to aiming for 24MP, higher capacity cards might come to be viewed as a necessity rather than a luxury. This without even considering the implications of HD video shooting.

    Personally I can envisage going to 16GB to cope with bigger files but do I really need to be able to hold more files? One of the arguments against higher capacity cards to hold more images is that if the card goes wrong you stand to lose more of your potentially irreplaceable images. I'm not overly concerned by this argument. Buy from a reliable manufacturer and cards will rarely fail. Even when they do there are many software solutions available that can recover most of your data.

    My bigger concern is that high capacity cards could - and almost certainly would - make me lazy. If I still have lots of space on my card, I might be tempted to put off the task of transferring, checking, organising and tagging my images. So instead of having to deal with 100 images at a time I might end up working with 500 images and I know I'm not going to do as thorough a job.

    How big are files going to get? Sony's full frame DSLR's with their 24MP sensors generate close to 50MB of data for each image when shooting at full resolution and saving as both RAW and JPEG. Even at that a 16GB card will hold around 320 images. I think that's big enough for me for now. Since most 16GB cards are priced at somewhere between $20-$30 they are a lot easier on the pocket too.

    Did someone mention card speed? That's a post for another time.

    <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UTF8&keywords=16GB%20SD%20card&tag=seriocompa00-20&index=electronics&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325">16GB SD Cards</a>[img]http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=seriocompa00-20&l=ur2&o=1" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /> at Amazon
     
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  2. ZDP-189

    ZDP-189 Twitter: <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/ZDP189">@Z

    64
    Apr 18, 2011
    These are for video. I'd not need/want more than 32GB for still images and the larger sizes are not compatible with most of my cameras.
     
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  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend Subscribing Member

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    Real Name:
    you should be able to figure it out...
    "Need" is a funny term. It changes I guess with technology. I've never bought anything larger than a 16gb card. On most of my cameras, I can get zillions of jpegs and over a thousand raw shots on a 16gb card. But with more megapixels, the cards hold fewer and fewer shots. The GH2 and X100 will only hold about 800 raw shots on a 16 gig card. Certainly enough for the heaviest day of shooting but it could be an issue over an extended trip where you're doing a lot of shooting. I usually carry a few extra cards on a long trip, but if the more megapixel trend continues (a safe assumption), I can see a day when 32 gig cards will make a lot of sense. And eventually, who knows? As you noted, my first Mac+ had a 20 megabyte hard drive and I don't even remember how much the hard drive cost - and it was big - same footprint as the Mac and a few inches tall. I think that was in 1986, so 25 years ago (the computers I had before that didn't have hard drives, just floppies!). Now you can't even fart anything as small as 20mb with the smallest micro SD cards holding at least a couple of GIGAbytes. I don't have any reason to believe that in another 25 years today's storage sizes will seem just as antiquated.

    -Ray
     
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  4. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    I believe it's better to have several smaller cards than one really capacious one. I prefer two 8GB cards to one 16 GB, two 16 GB cards to one 32 GB etc. In that case, if one card fails, you don't lose all your shots.
     
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  5. dixeyk

    dixeyk Guest

    If I shoot RAW I like at least 8GB Class 10 cards an I agree with stratokaster have multiple cards on hand. Even high quality 8GB SD cards are cheap and small so its not a big deal to have a a few in you hag or pocket (keep them in their cases).
     
  6. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    olli
    I'd be curious to know how many people have had terminal failures with cards and which brands. All of my current cards are either Sandisk or Transcend and I've never had any of those fail on me. I did have an old 1GB card from a brand I can't remember but which wasn't one of the well known names which died on me but I was able to recover everything except the one image I was taking at the time it failed using free software.

    Sandisk are so confident about the durability of their products that they have videos on their youtube channel of cards being frozen in ice, dumped in a swimming pool, and jumped on by kids. By a known brand and your camera is probably more likely to fail than your card.
     
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  7. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend Subscribing Member

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    Real Name:
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I haven't had a card failure. Yet. I'm sure if it ever happens I'll start carrying pockets full of 2gb cards so I never lose more than a relatively handful of shots at a time. But I've had very good luck so far, both with cameras, and other electronics that use SD card storage. With cameras, I've heard horror stories from folks who don't re-format their cards once they upload a batch of shots to the computer and just keep using the "erase" function on individual shots or groups of shots. Every time I upload, I reformat the card in the camera. And I've never lost any data from a card failure...

    -Ray
     
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  8. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    olli
    I'm the same - I always reformat in camera once I've downloaded and backed up the images. Otherwise it's user error rather than card failure.
     
  9. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Pavel
    I had two failures - by the way, both cards (16 GB Class 10) were made by Transcend. I don't buy anything made by Transcend since then.
     
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  10. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    olli
    Interesting. I have two Transcend 8GB cards, two Transcend portable hard drives and a Transcend thumb drive - never had a problem. Maybe it was that specific card or batch.
     
  11. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    Nic
    I recently had an old 2Gb Sandisk Ultra CF card that decided to stop working, which is the first issue I've ever had with the brand. The card actually first displayed the error AFTER formatting. Despite that, the Sandisk Ultras and Extremes are still the only cards that I use in both SD and CF formats.
     
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  12. Duane Pandorf

    Duane Pandorf SC Top Veteran

    868
    Apr 25, 2011
    Western NC
    Timely article

    Thanks for writing on this subject as I'm about to buy my first real serious compact camera.

    I've decided to buy two 8 gig class 10 Sandisk cards. The 16 gig card would probably be plenty for my needs but I wanted two in case I did have a problem with one. I may buy a third one.
     
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  13. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    olli
    You're welcome. glad to help.
     
  14. deirdre

    deirdre SC Top Veteran

    652
    Sep 26, 2010
    I got through 12 days in Europe with:

    * one 8-gig card for the GF1.
    * two 8-gig cards for the Leica.

    I use 8-gig cards because I can import them onto my 16-gig iPad.

    I filled one of the two Leica ones. I can't see a need for 128-gig cards, personally.
     
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  15. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Two-month long trips

    I'm fortunate enough to be able to take long trips; the last one was two months. With a 14MP camera and RAW that can add up. I got my Panasonic G2 when it came out (replacing a dead six-year old camera).

    I estimated that I might need 120GB on the trip. I keep it below that by editing on the trip (which I couldn't do with my old camera as the viewfinders were too small). I also back up on a NEXTO device. I had hoped not to have to erase the cards on the trip, but if I did I had one copy on the NEXTO. I also used medium quality JPG to gain a 15 percent space savings. I wanted jpeg in case I wanted to use them on the trip.

    I did have a couple of cards fail in years gone by. One was an off brand and the other was not (can't remember the brands as it was a while ago). I now use Sandisk, Lexar, and Transcend based on what I've read at various sites.

    I agree with the eggs in one basket problem of large cards, but on the trip I gain the advantage of having fewer cards to manage and less switching to do in the field in varying conditions. My trips aren't first class and included a 28-day trek in Nepal. I do use the 8GB when not on long trips.
     
  16. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    Jack
    I had a 16 gig Class 10 card from A-Data. It was cheap at the time when I bought it ($40). Failed after about 40 photos taken. Lost all the photos. Couldn't get A-Data to respond to my complaints.

    Nowadays, I stay away from any obscure brands. I also typically use 8 gig cards so that I won't lose as many photos if the SD card malfunctions.

    I'd think at 128 gig card would be great for laptop/netbook users with small hard drives. If I ever get a Macbook Air, I'd certainly make good use out of a 128 gig SD card.
     
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  17. Duane Pandorf

    Duane Pandorf SC Top Veteran

    868
    Apr 25, 2011
    Western NC
    I'm thinking once the price comes down the large size cards would be great for backing up photo libraries. Could you imagine having a terabyte of backup data in a couple SD cards?
     
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  18. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro S.C. Charter Member

    Jul 8, 2010
    Exactly. Card size is the current limitation in how much video a camera can capture. And video resolution will only increase in time. Some video cameras are beginning to come with large, built-in flash memory (256+ GBs). The next gen of pro DSLRs is expected to be able to dump files direct to large capacity hard drives (see next paragraph...).

    BTW I read an interesting comment today in regards to pro DSLRs and video, and why video is late coming to them. Of course, there are technical constraints, partly a result of the expectations of "pro" DSLR video being higher than consumer levels. But also because of video rights management. A lot of pros shoot at things like sports events where broadcasters have exclusive rights to video capture. Integrating "pro" level video into pro DSLRs creates interesting legal issues. But so far, cameras like the Canon 5D are being tolerated.

    Nonetheless, for stills a 4 GB card is usually sufficient for me, but all of my SD cards are 8 GBs. The problem that is creeping up on me is not SD card size but hard drive size on my laptop! And I refuse to have a laptop that requires an umbilical and separate HD because that defeats the purpose of portability and simplicity.
     
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  19. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran S.C. Charter Member

    610
    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    When I'm on a job, I prefer to shoot full, uncompressed raw on my 5D Mark II. At 21mp, the file sizes are huge. I usually use 8GB Sandisk UDMA cards, but this still yields only around 300 images or less, depending on ISO and the level of detail in the image. If I am away for a while I need to transfer my data very regularly. I'd like the comfort of knowing that I always have more space on a card at any given time, even if I have spares.

    I recently got a 16GB card along with my Ricoh GXR. It gives me about 1700 raw images at 18MB each. It is certainly enough for a few days or even a week of travel, as long as I am not shooting all day and night as I sometimes do.

    When I went to Japan for three weeks, I came back with around 200GB (yes, two hundred gigabytes) of raw images and video. I took between 650 and 700 photos per day. I transferred data every night using my Nexto CF storage device, which worked perfectly. It would be nice to not have to carry an extra gadget with me when traveling. When these cards become more affordable, it will be easy to go away for weeks and weeks and never need to touch a computer or storage device.
     
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