Retiring CF Cards

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by duncan ireland, Jul 20, 2008.

  1. Having recently placed an order for a D700 I've been considering the pros and cons vs. a D3 (while I wait for it to arrive). One of the big
    trade off's for me is not having that second CF card as a back up should one card fail.

    I'm very thorough when it comes to backing up - but one of the major potential pitfalls that awaits me is the potential for lost images from a
    CF card failing.

    This got me thinking - what's my plan to manage CF card failure? My feeling is that I may stop using my older cards when they get to a
    given age to try to prevent this. With this in mind I'm keen to hear whether anyone here has a schedule for retiring
    CF cards after a certain number of years service and any reports people may know of on anticipated CF card longevity.

    I'd welcome comments/suggestions.

  2. SCL


    They're flash memory cards. Unless you physically abuse them, they should outlive you.
  3. Never erase images on the card. Reformat the card in the camera when it is full and all the backup copies have been
    made. Nothing prevents you from downloading the images in steps as you fill it.

    Do not move the card from camera to camera without reformating.
  4. I guess I don't understand why it is necessary to reformat vs erase. I erase and have for years. Have only lost one card
    for reasons unknown.
  5. Duncan, please read the comments towards the end of this thread.
  6. Thanks for the responses guys

    Elliot, that's the sort of story that really puts the wind up me.

    Here in the UK the D700 price is set at £2000 and you can get a D3 for £500 - £600 more; possibly a small price to pay
    for the sake of a cards worth of lost images. With that in mind I think I've got some serious last minute thinking to do
    before that phone call comes through to ask me if I'm ready to take receipt of my D700.

    Thanks again.

  7. Here my 2, 8, 16, 32 and 64 meg smart media cards still all work ok; I once had a 1/2 meg card. The oldest card that I still have is the 2 meg; bought in 1996; 12 years ago. The 16 and 32 are used in several 1.3 Megapixel Olympus cameras wehn repairing small items; to document how when the tricky parts go back. In USB flash fobs my Lexar 64 megs was about 200 bucks when new; its been thru the washer twice; but still works ok. With modern cameras I have about a dozen SD cards ranging from 1/2 to 4 gigs and all work ok. In CF I have some used with caemras and IDE adapters as a hard drive in some experimental work. In so called failures I have seen friends ruin cards by formating them in a computer; and the extra stuff a few cameras adds in formating gets stripped off. Also I have seen cards found after Katrina that survived slat water; and others that did not. Many times the failure is the duffus effect; folks ruin cards by puloling them out while being written too; or they format over some wedding images. Or commnly the files are still,there; but one requires a recovery program due to some corruption problems. Here I have probably 100 flash cards and USB drives;a even a 32 meg IDE flash drive in laptop format/size.
  8. In five years I have only had one bad card and it was a bad Sandisk from the factory and Sandisk replaced it promptly. In my store I think I have only seen two or three customer's CF cards fail in the past 5 years. It happens so rarely that I can't remember a single specific incident. On the other side of the coin; I see one failed SD card a week. I don't think SD cards are less durable, but there are many, many more SD cards in circulation than CF cards. I still have a 64mb CF card I bought in December 2001. Typical hard drives fail between 3 and 5 years, depending on heat and usage. I feel fairly safe saying that CF cards are more durable than hard drives. What is your plan for hard drive failure? That is a more important question. One day I will be able to buy a 500 GB CF card for $100.00 and replace my external drives. Following Moore's law that should take six generations, or 9 years.
  9. The price of the D3 continues to drop and will continue to do so as the D700 is released. Here in the US, the D3 is approaching $4000 (I saw a used D3 sell for $2500 on ebay about a week ago but the seller did not have high enough feedback or sufficient Paypal protection for my liking). Add a grip, battery, battery holder and charger and the price difference is no longer huge.
  10. Flash memory will wear out. It is usually good for between 10,000 and 1,000,000 write cycles (reading does not cause wear), according to most articles I have read. The memory controller tries to rotate the sector written so the device does not always write to the same sector causing premature wear.
  11. I guess I don't understand why it is necessary to reformat vs erase.
    I've never heard a good explanation for it, most likely it's just an Internet myth.
    Flash cells fail due to repeated writes. If you change one byte on NAND flash, you need to rewrite the whole block. There are usually spare blocks so that the controller can correct small issues. If a block fails, you typically lose one image. If the controller fails, the card is dead. There isn't any foolproof way to protect yourself completely from data failure.
  12. Well, I ended up with a few cards from SanDisk which went bad on me. They were brand new & I took them back to where I bought them. I had a streak of bad luck with three of them - changed size cards & started fanatically reformatting them after always moving them off the card onto my extremal HD. I've not had a problem since. I actually had cards which were near 6 years old with no issues.

    Now I seem to always sell off (recycling) my old cards. I have a friend who's working far smaller files & he needed cards. Just sold him two more & bought a larger card for myself. Worked out perfectly for both of us.

    I always reformat in camera & I always either delete in camera (if I'm sure something's not a keeper at all) & go from there.

    It works well for me. Sticking to this from now on.


    Lil :)
  13. When a card fails, what's usually the first indication?

    Is there an error message? If one sees review images come up on the screen, can one reasonably assume things are working ok?

    What's the best thing to do if you think a card has failed?


  14. As it was explained to me... Flash memory handles files like a hard drive does. As you delete files gaps develop where information was written. At some point the controller in the card tries to fill that gap with something that fits. This leaves little gaps scattered around the card and files randomly placed across the card addresses. I don't think a file will became fragmented like it can on a hard drive but things can get scattered. When you format a card the entire FAT, file allocation table, is erased. The controller then begins writing from the lowest address again. All your files are neatly stacked in order until you start deleting random files and shooting again.
  15. Can't find a reference to Sandisk MTBF numbers for CF cards but I remember that write cycles should be roughly several 100.000 write cycles. Let us assume 300.000 cycles and that I get about 500 RAW images from my 8GByte CF card this would give me 150000000 images for a good card. Not too bad for my age. I will start to worry about something else like dropping a card or getting cards wet or misplacing them :)
  16. Actiually with a solid state disk dive; ie a flash type drive the defragmention doesnt matter as much; since the access time doesnt have a physical rotorary actuator to move. SSD's; ie solid state disk drives don't always draw less power than a regular disc drive; many actually draw more at idle; thus your laptop might actually run less hours on its batterires than an old HDA.
  17. I will only use 2 gig cards! If I lose a card due to failure I won't lose much! After every segment of my shoot, I have my assistant transfer it to ensure proper back-up. I have a laptop with me and I also will not format any of them until I get home and back them up again on one of my 7 external drives. I started this after an 8 gig card failure AFTER the wedding. It cost me way too much as I paid for 4 tux rentals and all the hair make-up for 5 ladies. Plus a 50.00 for the pastor to stand in again as we reenact the formals. v/r Raz
  18. I think it's clear from the other comments that failure is rarely related to the age of the card so I would suggest that retiring cards of a certain age is an unnecessary precaution. If anything, I retire my cards simply because I can get much bigger cards for less money and because I've upgraded to a bigger resolution and need more capacity to get the same number of shots.

    Obviously the choice of whether to "risk" everything on one big card or stick with several smaller capacity cards is a personal one but I would point out that "spreading" across many smaller cards probably INCREASES the risk of failure, since it's more likely that one of 5 cards will fail than just one card.
  19. I will be brief. When I buy cards I buy the best available and over the years have never lost data from one. I do worry about
    the issue when it comes to getting cards with huge capacity, however.

    I buy the best and never greater than 4 gigs.

  20. In memory cards, the internal layout of the data on the card is invisible from the outside. NAND controllers need to do wear leveling (for the reasons I described earlier), which means that in practice the data is completely scattered on the card and there's nothing you can do about it. The file system getting fragmented is a different matter, that is done by the external software using the card. But the problem with fragmentation is performance, not losing data. Deleting all files frees up all the allocation units anyway.

    On a FAT partition, formatting is a very simple operation. One would think that Microsoft, who invented FAT, would do the best software for formatting a FAT partition. What strikes me funny is that this "don't edit pics in camera, format in camera" -view seems to think that formatting in camera is somehow inherently safe, but doesn't trust the writers of the camera software to be able to delete files from a dead simple filesystem without messing it up.
  21. i use microdrives and cf cards and have never had a failure in 4+ yrs of use. of course i do take care of them by formating in the camera before every use and never throwing or dropping the cards.

    as for format vs erase. if someone is erasing and has no problkems, fine. all it takes is one occurrance and they will not do erasing only again. the big differnce is that format not only get rid of the info but builds a new allocation table in the card. if a card goes bad and info cannot be recovered it is the allocation table that is the problem. the table is the thing that tells the card where the data is. erase only dumps the data and tells the table that the space is available. it does not wipe the table and start over.
    there are many possible shortcuts in life. not formating a card but erasing is one that should not be done. it is simply too easy tom the job properly. the fact that you can does not mean that you do.
  22. Since 2001, I have had one SD card go bad and no a single CF card.

    The SD card suddenly could not be recognized by my D80 or any of my card readers. I lost 50-100 wedding images, but it didn't kill me.

    I retire CF cards when I replace them with higher capacity cards. Now that I have been buying 4Gig cards, I don't know that I will continue that way.

    However, my old 512Meg and 1Gig cards still work fine for running images to the lab or giving pics to my parents for their digital frame.

  23. A failed card does not always mean the images on said card are lost forever. If card recovery programs don't work (and
    they do for most accidental formats), cards can be sent away to have the individual cells read at an price that might be
    cheaper than say, going back to India or rehiring tuxedos for the wedding party.

    Pro recovery programs can pick up images on a card that were formatted up to 6 times and are starting to appear at decent
    photo labs these days.

  24. "Flash memory will wear out. It is usually good for between 10,000 and 1,000,000 write cycles (reading does not cause wear), according to most articles I have read. The memory controller tries to rotate the sector written so the device does not always write to the same sector causing premature wear."

    The only way flash memory can "wear out" is if an electronic component dies or the unit is physically damaged. Nothing is mechanically written to a disk. A micro drive is a different animal as it is like a tiny hard drive.
  25. I have not had a failure as of yet. hope it never happens, but just for some infomation two of my Sandisk CF cards have been through the washer and dryer before... my wife never checks any pockets and my kids are constantly in my things. Both cards still work with no errors, all images that were on the cards were there ( they were already backed up!) and no loss of any kind (except my temper) came of this tragic scenario.

    Does anyone still have and use a 256mb card? what did you do with such "old" cards, if your not using them anymore?


  26. I wonder how many times you can insert/remove a CF card from a camera or other device before the electrical contacts on either the
    card or camera wear to the point of not making adequate contact?
  27. [[ What strikes me funny is that this "don't edit pics in camera, format in camera" -view seems to think that formatting in camera is somehow inherently safe, but doesn't trust the writers of the camera software to be able to delete files from a dead simple filesystem without messing it up.]

    I think it's really funny (read: naive) that you think camera manufactures have implemented FAT exactly the way Microsoft says everyone should.

    It's pretty well established that a camera knows more about the file system it is creating on your card than Microsoft does. The reason for formatting in-camera and not just erasing and not just formatting in your computer is specifically because of that fact. There is no way you can tell exactly what the camera is doing on the card because the camera companies don't release that information.

    The number of threads on describing image problems that were fixed by formatting in camera instead of simply erasing or formatting in the PC is large. You should try reading up on them sometimes.
  28. @Brent:
    I even have the old 32MB Card that came with my old Canon G3. :)

    I now keep this to save the settings on my Nikon D300, so if I alter some of the custom settings banks, it is a "piece of cake" to return to my original settings from this old card.


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