Memory card failure?

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ajff Contributing Member • Posts: 528
Memory card failure?

Found it interesting in another thread regarding preferred memory card sizes that many (if not most) use smaller sized cards (16 or 32gb) to minimise the risk of loosing pics due to “memory card failure”.

I’ve  been into digital since 2001 & taken thousands (or 100s of thousands)of pics using memory sticks, compact flash, sd, micro sd without (knock on wood) ever had a single card failure. I even broke a camera by falling into a river once & was still able to recoup the pics from the memory stick...

Is my experience an aberration?

Could it be because I’ve always stuck to the Sony memory sticks & later Sandisk cards or am I just memory stick lucky?(!)

BTW, my std size these past few years are 64g cards in all my cams with a couple of extra 128s for good measure that I take with me on trips (shoot jpg+Raw & they fill up fast- especially on race days or air meets)

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A.J.
Have Fun Taking Pictures!

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Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 18,455
Re: Memory card failure?

I treat memory cards pretty carefully – no carrying them "loose" in pockets unless I've placed them inside plastic protective cases; no accidentally running them through the washer and dryer.  I normally format them in-camera.

Given this, I can't recall any problems – with one exception.

I had ordered two cards, of the same type and size.  Both worked in-camera.  One new card worked reliably in a same-brand 12-in-1 reader that I had often used successfully with other cards.  The other new card didn't.

I had obtained permission to return the "defective" card when I came across an obscure post  saying that the problem with reading cards was due to a bug in the firmware in a certain version of the reader.  I checked, and sure enough, I had that reader.

I ended up keeping the "buggy" memory card, and buying a newer version of the reader.  (I should have gone after the manufacturer to fix or replace it, but I didn't.)

Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 18,455
Re: Memory card failure?

There are ways to lose pictures that don't involve memory card hardware failure.

If you remove a memory card from a camera before the camera is through writing to it, you can lose images, or hose the filesystem, even if you're lucky enough not to damage the card electrically.

E.g., a review of the Canon EOS 300D (the first Digital Rebel) noted that "Opening the CF compartment door shuts camera down, loses any buffered images."

Tourlou Contributing Member • Posts: 991
Re: Memory card failure?

Never lost data, even from one flooded camera.  Flooded with soft lake water that is.

Doug J Forum Pro • Posts: 11,050
Re: Memory card failure?

I haven't had a memory card failure since I went to digital in 2002, and before that with HP palm computers. I've used various name brand cards & sizes purchased from reputable sellers, keep them in protective plastic cases when not in use.

I don't doubt some have had problems, considering the number of cards in use I'm not surprised there are some failures.  Knock on wood, maybe I'm lucky.

Cheers,
Doug

David Pavlich
David Pavlich Veteran Member • Posts: 4,421
Re: Memory card failure?

One card failure (SD) pushed me to the '2 card slot mandatory' column for my camera.  It's rare, but imagine that shot in a million, you get home, run to your processing computer, card in the reader and phhhhttttt.....that shot in a million is gone along with all the other shots.

David

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sybersitizen Forum Pro • Posts: 18,638
Re: Memory card failure?

ajff wrote:

Found it interesting in another thread regarding preferred memory card sizes that many (if not most) use smaller sized cards (16 or 32gb) to minimise the risk of loosing pics due to “memory card failure”.

Or memory card loss, or theft, or user errors that might result in unreadability.

I’ve been into digital since 2001 & taken thousands (or 100s of thousands)of pics using memory sticks, compact flash, sd, micro sd without (knock on wood) ever had a single card failure.

Statistically, that's the norm ... but failures have occurred, and people have different risk tolerances. Some just feel better having their eggs in more than one basket.

trungtran Senior Member • Posts: 1,374
Re: Memory card failure?

Card failure, very hard to occur through normal use. Easy to replicate with products that continuously write to it. Dash cams and Home security cameras. Card is toast.

File corruption - very easy to occur. User error or hardware induced.

Low level formatting the card normally restores it to working condition.

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OpticsEngineer Veteran Member • Posts: 6,847
Re: Memory card failure?

I had a brand new Transcend card fail after a day of use.  Images were all scrambled.

Once I thought to carry a Sandisk card in my wallet as a place to keep it handy on vacation.  It was in with a my credit cards so should have been fairly well protected from bending I thought.  But after a week in my wallet,  when I took it out to use it, it would not work at all.

Another time I had a Sandisk card that was supposed to be 64 GB not record any images beyond 20 GB.

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sybersitizen Forum Pro • Posts: 18,638
Re: Memory card failure?
1

OpticsEngineer wrote:

I had a brand new Transcend card fail after a day of use. Images were all scrambled.

Once I thought to carry a Sandisk card in my wallet as a place to keep it handy on vacation. It was in with a my credit cards so should have been fairly well protected from bending I thought. But after a week in my wallet, when I took it out to use it, it would not work at all.

Another time I had a Sandisk card that was supposed to be 64 GB not record any images beyond 20 GB.

^ That last one was likely a counterfeit card. Depending on where you bought the others - like from eBay or Amazon Marketplace - they could have been counterfeit as well.

Wingsfan
Wingsfan Regular Member • Posts: 471
Re: Memory card failure?

I've only ever had a Samsung 32GB SD card fail.  All my other cards, whether off brand ( which I stopped purchasing years ago), or high end, have been flawless otherwise.

I stopped purchasing high-end cards off of Amazon, years ago ( there was a lot of talk about many of these being forgeries- I have no idea if they were or weren't), and I now purchase them at Best Buy as they match any legitimate price.

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hotdog321
hotdog321 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,902
Re: Memory card failure?
1

Memory cards are incredibly robust. I've been shooting digital professionally since 2002, thousands of assignments, hundreds of thousands of frames, without a single lost image. In the beginning I shot CF cards, but when dual slot cameras came along I shot CF + SD cards.

Even once I "retire" old cards because of increasing camera megapixels and read/write speeds, I use the old cards to store and transfer data between devices.

I always bought quality cards and formatted them in camera before every single assignment. Shrug. I'm sure someone out there has a horror story or two, but quality cards are very reliable.

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 7,134
Re: Memory card failure?

I worry more about loss, theft, and the dreaded "operator error" than about some kind of spontaneous card failure. So I don't like to have more than one project on a single card. If a card fails or I screw up the loss is limited.

In the old days I did have a couple of CF cards fail -- possibly from pulling them while they were still writing, as someone noted above. And I have had two SD cards physically break -- one in the washing machine, one for no apparent reason.

I'm so cautious I don't even like to carry cards with photos in the camera or bag. Especially after a job, I take the cards out and carry them on my person or out of sight in the van -- I figure the camera or bag could be a target for theft but a card case would likely be overlooked.

Gato

OpticsEngineer Veteran Member • Posts: 6,847
Re: Memory card failure?

Thanks for the tip.

The Transcend card I bought the the gift shop in the traffic museum in Munich.  That was a rare event.

All my other cards I either buy at BHPhoto or Target,  The only thing I buy on Amazon is books.

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Barry Twycross Veteran Member • Posts: 3,496
Re: Memory card failure?

The only card failures I've had are when the camera fails to write to the card, that can lose the burst of pictures currently being taken. I've never had a card fail and be unreadable.

When a card does have a write failure like that, I'll look at it suspiciously, take it out and put it back in (which has the effect of cleaning the contacts), and usually there's no more problem. There has been one card which failed more than once in one session. That card was taken out of use as soon as I got back to our room.

I don't rely on cards for long term storage, they're guaranteed to suffer bit rot over long periods (years). I always download the contents as soon as possible. I used to them erase the card and start again, now I let the pictures sit on the card until it's needed again as backup, until the downloaded images get into the regular backup system.

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Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 18,455
Re: Memory card failure?

trungtran wrote:

Card failure, very hard to occur through normal use. Easy to replicate with products that continuously write to it. Dash cams and Home security cameras. Card is toast.

That reminds me – I once did have a CompactFlash card fail, but not in a camera.

I was working on a team that developed firmware for a large router.  The router kept its firmware and its working files on CompactFlash cards.  During development, I was loading new versions of test firmware onto a lab router several times a day.  If I'm not mistaken, on one occasion, a card reached its rewrite/erase tolerances, and gave up the ghost.

This probably involved an early retail CF card (i.e., a low-endurance card), not one of the high-endurance industrial CF cards that we shipped to customers.

JasonTheBirder
JasonTheBirder Senior Member • Posts: 1,188
Re: Memory card failure?

Let's say for illustration purposes, the probability of a single card failing over the typical use case of a photographer was 1/100000. (One in a hundred thousand). Now let's say every photographer uses about twenty cards in their lifetime. Then the probability that a given individual photographer will face at least one card failure is approximately

1 - (99999/100000)^20 = 0.00019998... ~= 1/5000.

If there are a million photographers, that still leaves an expected value of 200 unlucky photographers out there, even though most of them will be oblivious to the problem.

Overrank Senior Member • Posts: 1,449
Re: Memory card failure?
1

ajff wrote:

Found it interesting in another thread regarding preferred memory card sizes that many (if not most) use smaller sized cards (16 or 32gb) to minimise the risk of loosing pics due to “memory card failure”.

I’ve been into digital since 2001 & taken thousands (or 100s of thousands)of pics using memory sticks, compact flash, sd, micro sd without (knock on wood) ever had a single card failure. I even broke a camera by falling into a river once & was still able to recoup the pics from the memory stick...

Is my experience an aberration?

Could it be because I’ve always stuck to the Sony memory sticks & later Sandisk cards or am I just memory stick lucky?(!)

BTW, my std size these past few years are 64g cards in all my cams with a couple of extra 128s for good measure that I take with me on trips (shoot jpg+Raw & they fill up fast- especially on race days or air meets)

I was one of the people in the other thread who said that and it was based on experience when a brand new card was corrupted in camera. This was a well known branded card bought from Amazon.  Luckily my camera had two slots and was mirroring to another card.

PanzerSGT Junior Member • Posts: 30
Re: Memory card failure?

I've only had two card failures that I can remember.  I bought a cheap Onn brand card from Walmart because I needed one in a hurry to hold music for a device.  It lasted about 6 months before it stopped reading.  Since it was just music I didn't bother to try to recover it.  The other was a Kodak brand card that spent several years outside in a trail cam.
For things that matter I use SanDisk or Lexar (before they were sold). I also date them and after a few years they go out of the camera rotation and into non-critical stuff.

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JimH123 Senior Member • Posts: 2,723
Re: Memory card failure?

ajff wrote:

Found it interesting in another thread regarding preferred memory card sizes that many (if not most) use smaller sized cards (16 or 32gb) to minimise the risk of loosing pics due to “memory card failure”.

I’ve been into digital since 2001 & taken thousands (or 100s of thousands)of pics using memory sticks, compact flash, sd, micro sd without (knock on wood) ever had a single card failure. I even broke a camera by falling into a river once & was still able to recoup the pics from the memory stick...

Is my experience an aberration?

Could it be because I’ve always stuck to the Sony memory sticks & later Sandisk cards or am I just memory stick lucky?(!)

BTW, my std size these past few years are 64g cards in all my cams with a couple of extra 128s for good measure that I take with me on trips (shoot jpg+Raw & they fill up fast- especially on race days or air meets)

Be aware that all Flash Memory cards experience a problem called "wear out".  They are spec'ed for a certain number of write/erase cycles.  The older cards with lower density actually had longer life expectancies.  Newer cards with much higher densities have shorter life expectancies.

When a card wears out, you don't know about it at first.  These memory cards use something called ECC (Error Correction) and what they do is fail a bit here and a bit there and as long as the part hasn't exceeded to ability of ECC to correct the problem, you're never the wiser.  As time goes on, more and more bits fail and eventually ECC can't fix it any longer.

Flash memory is incredibly expensive to manufacture and there are only about 5 or 6 manufacturers of Flash Memory in the world.  Each of these manufacturers does package their parts, add a memory manager and then see them.

But there are other companies that don't manufacture the actual wafers from whence the individual die are produced.  Instead they buy known good die and add their own memory manager and do their own packaging.  Some of these companies are quite good.  Others, not so good.  And from these, most of the failures happen.  And there are a number of ways one can fail.

- The package may fail.

- The memory manager may fail.

- The stack of die that makes up the memory may fail.

- The part may wear out.

You just don't know when one may fail.  But fail they can, and fail they do.

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