Film vs Digital – storage

This year’s holiday was my first trip with my new Digital SLR (a Canon EOS 300D).

My three previous trips (all to the US) involved first a Canon Sureshot then a Canon EOS 300 (both 35mm film cameras).

Using digital instead of film presented many advantages but also some disadvantages. Overall I feel the good outweighs the bad, but it was not quite as plain sailing as I thought it would be.

The first real headache was worrying about storage capacity.

One of the great advantages of a film camera is that film is relatively cheap so you can just buy more when you need it.

Digital on the other hand doesn’t work the same way. Memory cards are not that cheap, and you wouldn’t realistically plan to buy more cards as you need them in the way that you would with film.

I always shoot at the highest quality setting (RAW format) on my camera which means each photo takes around 7MB.

That means a 512MB compact flash card (£120 from Dabs at the time) can store approximately 70 photos.

A quick look in my photo database shows that last year I took 336 photos (the previous years don’t matter so much as I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and took way too many photos).

336 divided by 70 means I would need 5 x 512MB cards to be able to take the same amount.

I decided that I didn’t want to spend £600 on memory cards so looked at other options.

Portable hard drives with built in card readers are a popular option in this situation – but I didn’t want to trust my photos to something that couldn’t survive being dropped on the ground.

A far more appealing option was the Apacer Disk Steno that could burn CDs from memory cards, so I bought two Lexar 512MB cards from Dabs and a Disk Steno from Jessops.

Sadly, it wouldn’t work with the Lexar cards at all. It worked fine with an older smaller card I had so I had to assume it was a compatibility problem, later Google searches confirmed this.

So, I sent it back to Jessops.

Another option was to burn cards to CD in various cybercafes and photo shops whilst on holiday. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough shops so didn’t want to do this. As it turned out shops doing this were everywhere so it would have worked out fine, but of course I didn’t know this before I went.

I was now running out of options so I decided to bite the bullet and buy 4 more 512MB cards from Dabs.

The reason I bought 4 instead of 3 was that one of the Lexar cards died on me.

I had sent it back to Dabs but there was no way I would get a replacement back in time for the holiday so I bought an extra card to replace that one.

This time I avoided Lexar and bought cheaper Crucial ones, £100 each this time.

So, I now had enough capacity to take 350 photos, just in case this was not enough I borrowed a 256MB card from a friend, thereby adding another 35 photos to bring it up to 385 (I ended up taking 312 photos and not using the 256 card at all).

Once the holiday was underway, using just memory cards worked quite well. No worries about having to back up to CD or hard drive, just shoot and swap cards as I went.

Not the cheapest option then (the most expensive in fact), but probably the most convenient in actual day to day usage.

Next time I will blog about some of the advantages of shooting digital.

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