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Digital Camera Tips:Memory cards

4-What MUST Know To Get The Right Digital Camera

Memory Cards

Once you buy a digital camera, the next questions usually are," What size memory card do I need?" followed right along with," What type of digital camera memory card is best?

These days, digital memory cards come in many sizes, from a miniscule 8 megs to multiple gigabytes. But how much of a difference does it make? Is there a best size?

The truth is, it doesn't make much difference to your camera, but it does to you.

You could lose a great shot if you press the shutter and find out your memory card is full! If you don't have another card handy, you'll either have to delete some of the shots you already took, or pack up your camera for the day. Either way, you lose out.

If you have several smaller memory cards that keep filling up, you'll have to stop and change them every 10 or 20 shots, and that can really be an inconvenience. Then again, you don't need a 1-gigabyte card that you'll never fill up, especially if you have a 1 or 2-megapixel camera.

So the answer to what size digital camera memory card you need is...

Enough for your picture-taking needs, taking into consideration the size of your card and the amount of compression and resolution you prefer to use.

What size should that be? Well, if you have a a 2-megapixel camera, 128MB is usually enough. For a 3 or 4-megapixel camera, a 128MB or 256MB memory card is usually plenty. For a 5-megapixel camera, start with a 256MB memory card. And for an 8-megapixel camera, a one gig memory card or more is almost mandatory.

The new multiple gigabyte memory cards hold tons. But most people don't really need a 4GB memory card unless they're travelling for weeks (and many cameras don't support them).

Here's a rough guideline of how many pictures a flash memory card can hold:

- A 128MB flash memory card can store about 21-41 large, uncompressed images or up to 100 small, compressed images

- A 256MB card will store about twice that.

- A 1GB card has room for nearly 4 times as much as a 256MB card, and should provide enough space for a several week long trip.

- A 4GB card has tons of room and is usually used in digital cameras with the capacity to take huge files. Don't rush out and buy one without checking compatiblity first, 4GB cards are not compatible with many cameras.

And remember, you can get additional memory cards. If you fill one up, just take it out and replace it with another. You might even like having a couple of different sizes, so you can choose the size according to the amount of pictures you're going to be taking that day.

There are several other ingenious permanent storage methods discussed in "Master Your Digital Camera In Four Easy Steps:"

Is one type of digital memory card better than the others?

The truth is, most digital memory cards are quite good. The most common in the U.S. is the Compact Flash memory card. It's small, durable, and holds a lot. I use Compact Flash and love it! But other types of memory cards are also quite popular,
such as SmartMedia (SM), Secure Digital (SD memory card), MultiMedia (MM), and the Memory Stick.

While some are more durable than others, you need to use the type that fits into your camera. Each camera manufacturer creates camera models that will work with only one type of memory card. You can't use a Compact Flash card one day, and switch to a SD card the next day in the same camera. You'd
have to purchase a different camera to use a different memory card.

Some cards work with several different electronic appliances. You might be able to use the same card in your digital camera, your laptop, and your mp3 player.

For example, the Sony Memory Stick is interchangeable with some of Sony's digital cameras and many of Sony's electronic products. But that doesn't mean that it's better or worse than any of the other Flash memory devices — it's just more
convenient for Sony owners. Other storage cards are beginning to cross brand lines as well.

Should You Purchase A Digital Camera Based On The Memory Card
It Uses?

While there are some advantages and disadvantages to Flash memory cards, unless you have a very specific requirement, they all do the job.

About the only caution I would have is getting a camera that uses floppy disks. Floppys aren't nearly as durable as Flash memory cards or CDs. And although they are making floppys that hold more these days, their capacity still can't be compared
to Flash memory cards.

There are some memory cards that are super durable — you can drop them 10 floors, freeze them, heat them — and they survive it all. But most of us aren't that hard on our memory cards. Standard memory cards are durable enough for average use —just keep them out of extreme heat.

I would say it's better to get a camera that has the
megapixels and the features you need... and whatever memory card that goes with it will be fine, whether it's a Compact Flash, a SmartMedia card, a Memory Stick, a SecureDigital or MultiMedia card or something else. Don't make the memory card
the primary deciding factor in choosing your camera.

Some cameras record directly onto a CD — and that works well, too. But... CD's are definitely larger than memory cards and require bulkier cameras. They also record slower than Flash memory. So if you want a smaller, faster camera, you might want to choose a camera with Flash memory. But CDs do work
great for storage and are very durable.

"Digital film" doesn't need to be developed, but you do have to get the pictures out of the memory card and onto your screen or printed. You may be wondering if that's easy or difficult. And how you can be sure you don't print a picture that's too big for your resolution... or if the colors will come out right.

Once you download your images from your memory card to your computer, you can view them online, print them, email them to family and friends, or let a photo lab develop them. But before you print them, make sure you have the colors right —and that starts with correct white balance.

You'll find more detailed information on memory cards in" Master Your Digital Camera in Four Easy Steps:"

Next, we'll look at why white balance has so much to do with taking and printing good digital pictures. Look for my email tomorrow.

Rufina James

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