Memory Cards/Storage

There are two storage options available in digital cameras. Built-in memory and removable storage.

Built in/Internal Memory.
The built in/internal memory option is usually very limiting as the camera manufacturer will want to keep the cost of the camera down so the amount of memory supplied is usually quite low. However, you will never lose it. Most cameras with built in memory will either come with a cable, USB or Serial, or a docking station. (A device you plug your camera into which then connects to your PC, much like a mobile phone handsfree kit in your car) This then allows you to download (**) the images to your PC.

The best of these methods is the USB option as it is substantially faster than the serial port on your PC. It is also more reliable due to the technology used being newer.

** Downloading is the process of moving the images you have taken from your cameras internal or removable memory to your PC.

Removable Memory.
This is by far the best way to storage images on your camera as you aren´t limited to the space available in the camera but to the number of storage cards you can fit or afford to buy for your camera. Once your memory card is full you can then take it from the camera and insert an empty card and continue taking pictures. The memory will not empty when removed from the camera.

Once you arrive back at your home/office you can then empty the cards onto your PC, via a cable link through the camera, a docking station or via a memory card reader. (This is covered below)

There are quite a lot of different types of removable storage media and I will try to list and describe as many as possible.

Compact FlashCompact Flash Memory.
This is possible the most common and cheapest form of removable storage media and it has the greatest range of sizes available up to 3 Gigabytes of space. Unfortunately as they have a controller on the card they can be slower than other types of memory.

Physically, these cards are about the size of a matchbook (1.4 x 1.7-inch approx.).


Smart MediaSmartMedia Cards
These are a lot simpler than the Compact Flash cards and are therefore a lot quicker. In my experience about 10 times quicker. You take your picture and it´s stored onto the card. As quick as saying it! When buying these cards beware the older versions have incompatibility problems with the newer types of camera. If you´re buying both camera and memory new you shouldn´t have a problem. Physically these cards are about the size of 2 AAA batteries but are only around 3mm thick.

Sony Memory StickSony Memory Stick
If you´re buying a Sony camera it will undoubtedly have this form of memory. It´s unique to Sony and I haven´t seen another manufacturer using this type of memory yet. This maybe a problem if you wish to upgrade and already have a digital camera with lots of removable memory or wish to replace you´re existing Sony camera. This means you´ll have to start purchasing extra memory again. This is also one of the most expensive types of memory. However, this memory type is used in all new Sony products from MP3 players to video camera´s, so the uses isn´t just limited to your Sony camera.

Multimedia CardsMultimedia Cards.
These are fairly new storage devices. They where designed for use in Mobile phones and MP3 players but are becoming increasingly more popular in digital cameras. They are however very light and very small, about the size of a stamp and I would worry about loosing them.

MicrodriveMicrodrives
These are removable hard drives, which fit in to a Compact flash slot in your camera. They are very cheap for the size of storage. A 1 Gigabyte Microdrive is around £135 (Jan 2004). If you are a big user of digital camera they are the only way to go as you can store a massive amount of images on them before they need to be emptied. They are no slower but are slightly physically larger than a Compact flash memory card, called Type II Compact Flash.

I have also recently bought a 1 Gig IBM Microdrive and coupled with a Minolta Dimage 7 takes just 84 images on the maximum image size. However knock the quality down one notch to Fine and the camera will take 522 images on this memory

A word of warning before you order something like this. Check with the camera manufacturer (most will have a helpline number on their website) as to whether you can use one of these drives in your camera. They will not work in all cameras and they do run at a higher temperature than a compact flash card, so you will need to check to see if there is any problems in using a microdrive with your camera.

Check out the links section at the bottom of the page for info about this.

Floppy drive
Yes, some digital cameras use a floppy disk for their storage. However, and this is a big however. The cameras that typically use this system are either very low image resolution, (320×240 pixels, not good for printing) or they will use masses of floppy disks. A typical 1.3 megapixel image is around 350Kbytes in size, this means that after 4 pictures your disk will be full. So 100 Pictures = 25 disks. I am sure we all know how slow copying information off a floppy disk is, and how unreliable they can be as a storage media. Imagine your camera is in your bag going through the X-ray machine at the airport. AAAhhh! Where have my images gone.

Each of these systems above, have good and bad points, but in my opinion the removable option is a better bet as it gives more flexibility in the number of images you can store before you have to empty the images from memory, this also gives your camera more flexibility.

CD-Rom
I have been told (I m very dubious about this) that there will soon be a digital camera which uses CR-RW s to store images but I cannot think of how this can be a practical method as the size, speed and cost of such a system would be prohibitibly expensive for the average user. I can see how it might work for professional photographers but only to back up the images stored on memory in their camera.

CD as a storage media for cameras would make the cameras too bit and bulky.

If any one can point me in the direction of a web page which has one of these cameras on it or something that contains the knowledge then I will read, inwardly digest and put something on here about it!

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