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Chapter 2. Camera Accessories and Add-ons > Digital film cards and card readers

Digital film cards and card readers

The myriad of digital image file storage options available for digital camera users today can be overwhelming. In many cases, the type of removable media you prefer determines the brand of camera you buy. As storage capacities increase and the designs of media types diversify, it's important to keep up to date on the latest in storage technology. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of storage technology helps ensure that your choice meets your needs. Here are some of the common storage technologies:

  • CompactFlash® Type I. The first storage option we'll discuss, CF Type I media, is one of the most popular types of storage media on the market. This familiar format has a maximum storage capacity in the gigabtyes, with many other capacity increments available. The biggest benefit of CompactFlash cards is their flexibility. These cards can be used with any camera that has a CF Type I slot, regardless of the capacity or brand of the card. CompactFlash cards also can be easily used in other media-related devices, such as MP3 players and PDAs. The price range for CompactFlash cards varies tremendously. More standard cards in the 32 MB to 256 MB range are reasonably priced (under $100), while the higher capacity cards carry a premium price in the $400 to $500 range.

  • SmartMedia. Next up is SmartMedia, which is popular with many camera manufacturers. SmartMedia cards are smaller than credit cards and are just about as thin. Their small size, as shown in Figure A, belies their storage capabilities, with maximum configurations weighing in at 128 MB. The diminutive size of the card is due to the card controller's placement on the camera, unlike CompactFlash cards, which have the controller on the card itself. The makeup of the SmartMedia card makes for smaller media, but then slightly larger card slots are needed in the body of the camera to accommodate the controller.

    A. The diminutive size of the SmartMedia format is its biggest benefit.

  • xD Picture Card. The smallest type of storage media for digital cameras is xD Picture Card, which is about as big as the fingernail on your thumb. Developed by Fuji and Olympus to upgrade the limited SmartMedia format, xD is only used on cameras by those manufacturers. With a storage potential of 8 GB, this might be the storage type to watch.

  • Memory Stick®. The Memory Stick format, invented by Sony, is currently used only in Sony brand products. This storage format looks like a purple stick of gum and is compatible with other Sony digital products, such as digital camcorders and photo printers. There are many megabyte configurations of Memory Sticks, with the largest capacity at 1 GB.

  • CD-R. One of the more interesting storage innovations is the use of CD-R technology. Also developed by Sony, this storage method allows a 3.5-inch disk to be burned directly in the camera. The 156 MB storage capacity of the inexpensive disks is impressive, but this option is currently only available on select Sony cameras.

  • CompactFlash Type II. This format is a thicker version of the standard CompactFlash Type I card and uses a specialty slot that can usually read both Type I and Type II formats. The massive storage capacity, ranging from 256 MB to 4 GB, should supply you with free space for quite a while. Hopefully, as the prices of cameras come down, so will the price of these cards. This format had some reliability issues early on, but with many of these problems now solved you can expect to see these cards used in many other cameras.

  • Secure Digital. The Secure Digital (SD) format was designed for use with a variety of devices, such as cameras, PDAs, MP3 players, and cellular phones. At about the size of a postage stamp, this format was also made to fit in small places. Another advantage of the SD format is fast write times and low battery consumption, definite selling points for most digital photographers.



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