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Can I ask you a dumb question?

March 6, 2010

People often come up to me and say "Can I ask you a dumb question?" The questions are never dumb at all. Sometimes they are quite hard. Maybe I'm dumb, but we won't go there.

This week I've had several customers ask questions about their camera memory cards and it surprised me that they didn't know some things that are pretty basic. So this week I thought I would try to clear up a few mysteries about digital camera memory.

First, what is a camera memory card? It is a little electronic card that fits in your camera and stores the digital pictures you take until you decide what you want to do with them.

The cards come in different styles and sizes. The style or type of card you need is dependent on your camera. Most popular consumer-level cameras take SD cards. SD stands for secure digital. Other types of cards are XD and memory stick, but SD, in my opinion, is the most reliable.

The size card is up to you. The most popular sizes today are between 1 and 8 gigabytes. Think of it as an electronic roll of film but better. Instead of holding 12, 24 or 36 shots, it will hold many more pictures - often several hundred depending on what size card and type of camera you have.

Also, with film, you had to buy different speed film for different lighting conditions. You don't have to worry about that anymore; the camera makes those decisions for you.

The next thing you need to know is that the card is reusable. You don't have to buy a new card every time it gets full. The idea of the camera card is to use it as a temporary place to keep your pictures until you get back to your computer or photo lab to make permanent copies of them.

You are supposed to download your pictures to your home computer and then burn a CD or DVD of your images and store them away in a safe place for future use, or you can bring your camera to me at Foto 1 and we will do it for you.

If you don't take these steps to protect your pictures, you run a serious risk of losing that tiny card with all your precious memories on it or you run the risk of your computer crashing and again all your images are gone.

It's not a matter of if your computer crashes, it's a matter of when. The hard drive that stores the images inside your computer is made of moving parts and over time anything with moving parts is going to wear out.

I hope this helps you out with your not-so-dumb questions about camera cards. I really appreciate the questions; it keeps me in topics for this column.

(Brent Kepner is the owner and photographer at Foto 1 Pro Photo in Elkins. He is a master photographer as well as a certified professional photographer.)



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