March/April 2005 HelpLine
Memory Cards Vs. Film
* When Digital Film Isn't Film
* Caught In The RAW
* Making It On Television
* ƒ-Stop Exposé
When Digital Film Isn't Film
Q) Does it make a difference in picture quality if we use the nonbranded (cheaper versions) of memory cards? Are the super-speed SD better than the normal SD?
A) It has become a convenience to refer to memory cards as "digital film," but that analogy falls apart quickly in one area: picture quality. Sit at a table with a few film photographers, start asking about the best film, and you'll hear lengthy discussions about Fujichrome Velvia's color rendition or Kodak Ektachrome's tonal range. Sit at a table with a group of photographers shooting digital, ask about memory cards, and you might hear discussions about reliability or write speed, but nothing regarding picture quality (if you do, move to a different table, fast).
In short, there's no difference in picture quality between the cards; they're simply storage devices for image data. Once the camera processes the image (whether a lot with JPEG or minimal with RAW), it's just writing data onto the card. There isn't such a thing as a high-resolution card or a low image-noise card.
Cards vary as to reliability and how well they work under different conditions, however. Certain memory cards are rated for use under very hot or cold conditions—for example, conditions beyond the normal range of card use. Branded cards, as a whole, are very reliable, and you can count on them working and not failing on you.