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Memory Cards For Digital Cameras

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A memory card is your film, and the bigger the memory card, the more pictures you can fit on it,

  • What type do you need?
  • How large and how fast is the right one?
  • Who makes the best brand for your camera?

These are all questions you have to answer before you start taking pictures with your digital camera.

The main types of digital camera memory cards include

  • SD
  • xD
  • CompactFlash

That list might sound confusing, but it is usually rather easy to tell what type of memory card you need.


SD Memory Card

 Some of the smallest and thinnest memory cards are the Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard memory and so they are usually seen in smaller digital cameras, PDA’s, cell phones, and MP3 players.

The only difference between the two memory types is that Secure Digital cards have a write-protect switch for added data security.


The first digital camera I had used xD Picture cards, they were introduced by Olympus and Fuji in 2002, and are the newest type of memory. Its tiny size of only xD Memory Card0.97” x 0.98” x 0.67” means it can fit into tiny cameras.

The xD Picture Card can also be used in any CompactFlash compatible camera with the available CompactFlash adapter.

Since it was developed and introduced by Olympus and Fuji, most current compact digital cameras from those manufacturers use the xD Picture Card media

Compact Flash

Compact Flash Memory CardOne of the most common types of digital camera memory is CompactFlash. More higher end digital cameras, and digital SLRs, are CompactFlash compatible.

There are two types of CompactFlash, just to confuse you even more. They are both physically different, thus some cameras can’t take both. There are Type I and Type II, and Type II is thicker. So check to make sure that if you buy a Type II that your camera can hold it. Type II CompactFlash is usually a higher capacity card, so if you are buying a 512MB or 1GB card, it is currently most likely that it is a Type II card.

One of the main reasons so many camera makers adopt the CompactFlash standard is that the cards have a controller chip that allows for higher transfer rates. Most cameras can’t take advantage of this, as they need to have large internal buffers. Most digital SLRs can take advantage of this though.

Inexpensive, easy to find, and work in a large variety of digital cameras, CompactFlash is one of the more desirable types of digital camera memory. The only complaint, it is a bit bigger than most other types, and so to save room, it seems like there has been a big shift towards other types of memory.

Anything else to concider?

Well, other than the size of the memory card, and the type, you also need to worry about its speed, and brand. Sometimes camera makers have it set up that you need to use their memory card, be it Olympus for an Olympus camera, to be able to use all of the features inside the camera. Usually this is just a recommendation, and you can use other companies memory cards just fine.

For DSLR cameras, Sticking to brand names, SanDiskKingston, Integral and other big brands is always your best bet. Not saying the memory you could get from a lesser known name won’t run as well, but the speeds of these memory cards may be  less, though  for branded memory cards,you do pay a little more for that piece of mind.

Written by bargainmemorycards

February 20, 2009 at 11:19 pm

What Is ISO

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ISO is actually a common short name for the International Organisation for Standardization.

The ISO setting on your camera is something that has carried over from film. Remember back in the ‘old days’ when you used to go and buy your rolls of film and you would buy film rated at 100, 200 or 400, maybe even 800 or 1600? Well that number refers to the film’s sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive to light the film is. The ISO bit is from the standards for film sensitivity, and the number refers to it’s rating.

So what does sensitivity mean? Well a low sensitivity means that the film has to be exposed to light for a longer period of time than a film with a high sensitivity in order to properly expose the image. With a lower sensitivity you also get a better quality image too which is why you should always try and use the lowest sensitivity you can get away with. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, a little more explanation is required.

You might remember buying film for a sunny holiday and the shop assistant would recommend using a film rated at 100 or 200. If, on the other hand, you were going to be taking pictures indoors, then you might be recommended a higher sensitivity like 400 or maybe 800. If you used ISO100 film and decided to take some pictures indoors, chances are you would need to use the flash, or your pictures would come out quite dark.

This is because the film’s sensitivity is so low that the shutter would need to be open for a long time to let enough light in. Your camera may not have had the features to allow it to keep the shutter open for long enough, which is why you ended up with dark pictures.

This was one of the problems with film. Once you’d loaded it into your camera, you were pretty much stuck with that film sensitivity for 24 or 36 shots.

Bring on digital cameras and you can now change the ISO setting for each shot you take. That is one of the big advantages of digital photography.

So why do you only get choices like 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and maybe 3200 when it’s digital, surely you could set 154 or 958 if you wanted it? It’s only electrical currents and circuits after all, not a piece of film. Well, in theory you could choose any setting you wanted, but imagine how tricky that would be.

There are three settings which combine to give you the exposure, these are Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Each one can be changed individually to allow you to set then to what you think will give you the perfect exposure, or you can let the camera set them for you to what it thinks is the perfect exposure for the conditions it can detect. Already with three different options, each having several settings themselves, the combinations are numerous, so keeping ISO to set values, which people will understand makes it a little less confusing.

Now, I mentioned quality too, and that better quality images are achieved with a lower ISO number. If, again, you go back to film days you may remember the sort of grainy effect some images had. Well this grain effect is what is introduced with a higher sensitivity film. Digital has it’s own grain effect with higher sensitivity and is known as Noise.

Digital noise can be seen a sort of speckley effect in areas of similar colour, like skies or dark shadow areas. It is a subject of much discussion and the camera is often judged on the amount of noise it produces at these higher sensitivities. This is why you should always try and keep your ISO set to the lowest number, and use aperture and shutter speed to get the right exposure. If you can’t do that with aperture or shutter speed, move up to the next ISO setting and try again.

Why is a high ISO setting needed? Well for indoor work, where flash isn’t allowed and the light levels are fairly low. Or you can use it deliberately to get the grainy gritty feel to the image (although I would prefer to add this later on the computer).

It’s well worth experimenting with ISO settings so you can see just how your camera performs at the various levels. Once you have got to grips with how changing Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO effect your image, you’ve pretty much got all the technical fundamentals nailed.

Over at the Digital Photography School Blog there is a nice post on how to choose the right ISO setting which is worth checking out.

Written by bargainmemorycards

February 20, 2009 at 10:38 pm