Can I fix my Smartmedia card?

Started May 18, 2008 | Discussions
Barry Watzman Regular Member • Posts: 193
Can I fix my Smartmedia card?

I have a smartmedia card that is damaged. My Fuji 1300 says "Card Error" and won't do ANYTHING with it. But the card works in my PC ... I can store files on it.

I've done a lot of reading and web searches on fixing such damaged Smartmedia cards. I understand that the card has a damaged "CIS" data structure, and that's all that's wrong with it, and that the appropriate software and SOME card readers can be used to "fix" these cards.

But my attempts to do so, even after doing as much reading on this subject as I could find, have so far not been successful.

The card reader that I have is an old Microtech CameraMate, which comes with software that creates/installs smprep. I opened the card reader and it has an SCM chip ... which I think is one of the ones that can fix these cards (not sure of that, but I think so). I've downloaded a bunch of patched smprep files and tried them, but to no avail. They look they will do the job ... one of them says that the CIS is damaged, asks if I want to fix it, and then says something like "proceeding with CIS repair". But the card still doesn't work in the camera (Fuji Finepix 1300 ... ancient, 1MP), but it is recognized by any card reader in my PC and it I can store files on it, format it (in the PC) .... etc. (e.g. I am pretty sure that the card is not physically damaged ... but that the CIS, which the camera needs, is damaged).

There are guys on E-Bay who sell SmartMedia repair services for cards with this type of problem, but my objective here is as much to develop the ability to repair the card as to get the card repaired.

Anyone know enough about this to be able to give me any assistance?

Thanks,
Barry Watzman
Watzman@neo.rr.com

Michael Meissner
Michael Meissner Forum Pro • Posts: 26,844
Re: Can I fix my Smartmedia card?

Barry Watzman wrote:

I have a smartmedia card that is damaged. My Fuji 1300 says "Card
Error" and won't do ANYTHING with it. But the card works in my PC
... I can store files on it.

I've done a lot of reading and web searches on fixing such damaged
Smartmedia cards. I understand that the card has a damaged "CIS"
data structure, and that's all that's wrong with it, and that the
appropriate software and SOME card readers can be used to "fix" these
cards.

But my attempts to do so, even after doing as much reading on this
subject as I could find, have so far not been successful.

The card reader that I have is an old Microtech CameraMate, which
comes with software that creates/installs smprep. I opened the card
reader and it has an SCM chip ... which I think is one of the ones
that can fix these cards (not sure of that, but I think so). I've
downloaded a bunch of patched smprep files and tried them, but to no
avail. They look they will do the job ... one of them says that the
CIS is damaged, asks if I want to fix it, and then says something
like "proceeding with CIS repair". But the card still doesn't work
in the camera (Fuji Finepix 1300 ... ancient, 1MP), but it is
recognized by any card reader in my PC and it I can store files on
it, format it (in the PC) .... etc. (e.g. I am pretty sure that the
card is not physically damaged ... but that the CIS, which the camera
needs, is damaged).

SMprep stopped working when Windows XP Service Pack 2 was sent out. I suspect you need to find a Windows 2000 or Windows XP that has not been updated to run SMprep (possibly Windows 98SE2 will work, but IIRC, there were some serious USB bugs in that release that may have prevented SMprep from working)..

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OP Barry Watzman Regular Member • Posts: 193
Re: Can I fix my Smartmedia card?

All of my work was done on an old laptop running 98SE. And USB on 98SE and this Toshiba laptop works fine and the card reader works for all purposes, so the computer is talking to the card reader just fine. So that isn't part of what's going on here.

Jim T Veteran Member • Posts: 4,291
Re: Can I fix my Smartmedia card?

Something you might want to try is to turn the camera on and wait for the error message, leave the camera on, open the card access door and pump the card in and out a couple dozen times.

Another thning you could try is to clean the contacts in the camera. use a piece of regular copy paper and cut a strip the width of the SM card fold the paper in half and put the SM card in the fold and gently put it into the card slot and gently pump the card in and out. If the card has dirt on it, repeat with a new piece of paper until it comes out clean.

Another option is to use another brand of camera that uses SM camera and format the card.

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OP Barry Watzman Regular Member • Posts: 193
Re: Can I fix my Smartmedia card?

This is not a contact problem, and there is a door over the card slot and the camera turns off ... completely ... when you open that door. It is an absolute fact that some cameras can format the card and in the process fix this problem, but this camera isn't one of them and I don't have access to any other smartmedia camera (nor do I even know the model number of one that, with certainty, could fix this problem). [Actually, the suggestion usually given in these cases is "try an old, early Fuji ...." well, this IS an old, early Fuji, but this one doesn't do it.]

Expert Photo Recovery Regular Member • Posts: 170
Re: This does not look like a CIS issue...

Hi,

I understand why this seems similar to a CIS issue, but that's not it IMHO.

Barry Watzman wrote:

I have a smartmedia card that is damaged. My Fuji 1300 says "Card
Error" and won't do ANYTHING with it. But the card works in my PC
... I can store files on it.

[...]

The card reader that I have is an old Microtech CameraMate

I have used that card reader in the distant past, and it won't (by default) allow access to a Smartmedia card which has an invalid CIS.

Therefore the fact that you can write to your card using that card reader attached to your PC, is a strong indication that your issue is not a corrupt CIS on the card. I'm sorry that I can't identify what the issue is remotely - but for the reason above, there is evidence that this isn't caused by an invalid CIS.

Assuming you have the 2 appropriate patched smprep files for your card reader, if you wanted to prove my theory for yourself (and I'm not recommending you to do this - I'm just letting you know how you could prove it - you WILL LOSE EVERYTHING on the card) - you could run the "1st" smprep.exe file, choosing "full format". That writes an invalid CIS to the card and totally erases the rest of the card, before writing an empty FAT etc. Then remove & re-insert the card and see if the card reader recognises it.

From back when I was developing our Smartmedia reader/writer hardware and testing different card readers with invalid CIS, a card with invalid CIS will not be recognised in normal SCM-based card readers like that Microtech one.

To put a valid CIS on the card (depending on who patched the smprep files, this is also typically with the panoramic header enabled) you run the "2nd" smprep file (again choosing "full format"). Again, this TOTALLY erases the card, as well as writing the valid CIS, followed by an empty FAT.

There are risks with doing the above procedure, and as I said, I am not recommending it. I'm just explaining how you can create an invalid CIS, to then confirm the card reader's behaviour with that invalid CIS.

Did that "problem" SM card used to be recognised by that camera, or has it never been recognised by that camera? Do you have other SM cards of the same capacity as the "problem card", which are recognised by that camera?

Hope the above info is some help,

-- hide signature --

Sam

Jim T Veteran Member • Posts: 4,291
Re: Can I fix my Smartmedia card?

But did you actually try?

Barry Watzman wrote:

This is not a contact problem, and there is a door over the card slot
and the camera turns off ... completely ... when you open that door.
It is an absolute fact that some cameras can format the card and in
the process fix this problem, but this camera isn't one of them and I
don't have access to any other smartmedia camera (nor do I even know
the model number of one that, with certainty, could fix this
problem). [Actually, the suggestion usually given in these cases is
"try an old, early Fuji ...." well, this IS an old, early Fuji, but
this one doesn't do it.]

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OP Barry Watzman Regular Member • Posts: 193
Re: This does not look like a CIS issue...

The card in question is a 32MB card, it has nothing of value on it (it's been reformatted now many times), it is the only 32MB card that I have (I have other cards, but not another 32MB card) and the card used to work with the camera, but at some point I did something (in a card reader attached to my PC) that made it not work in the camera. But it works in all of my card readers (and I have a lot of them) for storing and reading files ... just not in the Fuji Finepix 1300 camera (which it did work in).

Expert Photo Recovery Regular Member • Posts: 170
Re: This does not look like a CIS issue...

Hi,

Barry Watzman wrote:

the card used to work with the camera

So that tells us that there isn't any fundamental incompatibility, between that capacity of card (or even that specific card, at least in the past) and the camera.

but at some point I did something (in a card reader attached
to my PC) that made it not work in the camera.

And some card readers can certainly affect Smartmedia formatting in ways that will have that effect (including, but not limited to, overwriting the CIS).

But it works in all of my card readers (and I have a lot of them) for
storing and reading files

So for these reasons below, a simple corrupt CIS doesn't fit with the behavior that you see, IMHO:

  • you have already re-written the CIS (without improvement) by running the 2 patched smprep files that you mentioned. Although that is assuming that the Fuji camera isn't rejecting the changed CIS, which those patched smprep files will have applied.

  • the card works in many card readers. Some of them may not check the CIS (they should, according to the Smartmedia specs, but not all do), but as I said, my experience in the past with the specific Microtech card reader you mentioned, is that it does check the CIS - at least to some extent.

I'm assuming that several other Smartmedia cards do still work correctly in that camera (thereby pointing us away from having concerns about the camera). In that case, the only conclusion I can come to is that some other part of the Smartmedia specs (there are several formatting requirements that cards must meet, not just related to the CIS), is being interpreted / checked more rigidly by the camera, than by the USB card readers - and that 32MB card now doesn't meet one of more of those requirements. Hence it is being rejected by the camera, but accepted by the card readers. However, the most common formatting issues (e.g. partition table requirements) should be fixed by smprep - that's the whole point of that program!

It's a big problem for troubleshooting this type of issue remotely, that the limited firmware space in cameras (compared to PCs) doesn't allow them to give better error messages, to pinpoint their exact reason for rejection of media cards Examining the cards in a block reader may allow the cause to be found (e.g. unusual formatting), but that's not something you can do without extra hardware.

If I was in your situation, I would run the original, unpatched, smprep file which came with the card reader one time (just because the patched smprep files are of unknown origin and hence unknown content). However if the card is still not accepted by the camera afterwards, and other cards are accepted, then there is nothing more I can suggest you can do, without having the ability to examine the Smartmedia card contents in more detail.

Perhaps other forum members will have more ideas.

Good luck,
--
Sam

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