Thursday, May 31, 2007

June 2007 HelpLine

Q) I'm going on the trip of a lifetime in a few months and I was looking to stock up on memory cards so I don't have to bring my laptop with me. With prices coming down and card sizes going up, I thought I'd have an easy decision. When I got to the store, I became confused. There used to be just one flavor of SD; now there's SDHC. Should I try out the new cards?

Lindsay Miller Published in HelpLine
June 2007 HelpLine

If you've read this column over the years, you know how I've espoused the card reader as the reliable, must-have accessory for getting your images to your computer. The SD/SDHC compatibility issue extends to card readers, too. I know I might be a little redundant here, but I want to make the issue clear. If you're heading down the SDHC path, you'll need to purchase a new card reader, too. (Some manufacturers have deals that include a reader with an SDHC card purchase.)

So how do you know if your equipment supports SDHC? There's an SDHC logo that you can look for. Obviously, you can check your manuals. You also can check the manufacturer's website to see if it has SDHC-compatibility information or if it has a software upgrade that might add SDHC compatibility to your device. Memory card manufacturers' websites also list compatible devices, though you'll find the devices need to be fairly new. Remember that trying it out to see if an SDHC card works in the slot might not be the best test.

Don't forget to consider all of the devices in your digital-imaging chain. I was talking with someone who had just bought a new camera and was all set to convert to SDHC cards. As I chatted with him about getting new cards, I realized that he does a fair amount of printing directly off his SD cards by inserting them into the SD slot built into his two-year-old printer. So while he had considered the camera and a new card reader, he hadn't thought about his printer. If his printer isn't SDHC-compatible and can't be upgraded (or replaced), he'd have to stick to using SD cards in the printer.

Before I leave this topic, I want to bring up another issue with larger SD (not SDHC) cards. If you remember back to the first paragraph of this column (yes, I've been going on for a while about this), I mentioned that with some memory cards "capacity really doesn't have an effect on which card to choose." I put a lot of qualifiers into that sentence because there are two issues with some of the larger SD cards that people have come across:

• There are some problems with SD cards that are larger than 1 GB. Even though the spec allows for 2 GB SD cards, there are some devices—including some card readers and printers—that have difficulty with 2 GB cards (remember, I'm talking about SD).

• Some 4 GB SD cards aren't built to the SDHC spec (you can tell because they don't have the SDHC logo). These cards can cause problems in SD devices. If you put them in an SDHC device and then an SD device, you might end up with file corruption.

A Reminder To Back Up

No, this isn't in response to a reader's question, but I feel so strongly about backups that I want to keep reminding everyone to back up their data on a regular basis.

In my travels, I have the opportunity to meet with a lot of people from various electronics companies. Often, the conversation leads to requests for digital photography tips. The individuals aren't pros, but they're looking to improve their picture taking. While I'm happy to help, after the conversation goes on for a while, I can't resist asking them one hard question: "When was the last time you backed up all of your images?"

Unfortunately, more times than not, the answer isn't the right one. Please take the time to work out a regular system for backing up your computer. If a picture is worth a thousand words, one bad drive could make your computer speechless.

If you have questions, please send them to HelpLine, PCPhoto Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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