March 5, 2007 HelpLine

Playing Your Cards Right

Q) I’ve followed your recommendation about using a card reader instead of connecting my camera directly to my computer. But I’m not sure of formatting. It seems to be working fine. but I’m not sure I’m choosing the right option.

M. Donavan
Cincinnati, Ohio

A) I’m glad you took my advice on the card reader. Using one can help your batteries last longer, avoid “connection” issues and prevent a precariously placed camera from obeying the laws of gravity. (Okay, that last one is a bit much.)

Formatting cards in readers is a potential problem. While I’ve received comments from people who haven’t had problems formatting cards this way, I have received comments from others who have had problems with this method. I’ve also talked with professional photographers who use multiple cards on a daily (even hourly) basis. And while they might not agree on lenses, composition or workflow, they agree on the practice of formatting the card in the camera.

The formatting process allows the card to re-create a new directory structure and adds any folders or special files that the camera needs for proper operation. If you format via the reader, the directory structure is created, but if you don’t select the right formatting options, it could be wrong for your camera. One camera manufacturer told me about a white balance or color error on some images that was a direct result of not formatting the cards properly.

Formatting should be done on a regular basis (versus just erasing the files) in order to minimize directory errors and corrupt files. I format the card every time I put the card in the camera-after I’ve downloaded the images, of course.

If you have any questions, please send them to HelpLine, PCPhoto Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or [email protected].

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