Why I Hate SD Cards « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Why I Hate SD Cards

I swear by my Delkin 700X compact flash cards. And I do not use or recommend SD cards.

This lounging Coastal Brown Bear image was created at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK on my recent bear boat trip with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF on the bear’s face and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Why I Hate SD Cards

Simply put, SD cards are too tiny for me. I would lose them in a heartbeat. But there are several other reasons that I have never even considered using an SD card.

When the first cameras with dual media card slots came out, it was commonplace for folks on Instructional Photo Tours (IPTs) to become confused. In fact, it happened several times. “Images are missing. I know that I photographed a pair of Great Blue Herons copulating. But the images are not on the card that I downloaded.” Why not? The camera had inadvertently switched to recording on the SD card…. Things with the cameras have improved as I have not been hearing similar tales of woe for several years now.

SD cards do not fit into any of the card readers that fit into the PCMCIA slot that is built in to many laptops; you need an external card reader with multiple slots. I far prefer an internal card readers like my Delkin Express Card 54.

Lastly, I learned from Denise Ippolito’s friend Lisa Cuchara that when an SD card is used in the 5D III that it might–depending on how the camera is set up, cause the buffer to fill much more quickly than when only a CF card has been inserted. Complete details on that including comments from top Canon technical adviser Chuck Westfall will be included in the final version of the 5D MIII User’s Guide. A pre-publication version is available right now with a $10 savings.

This brood of Common Mergansers was photographed at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park, AK on my recent bear boat trip with the tripod-mounted Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens, 1.4X III TC, and the Canon EOS-5D Mark III. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/640 sec. at f/9 in Av mode.

Central sensor/AI Servo Surround/Rear Focus AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image for a larger version.

Learn everything that I know about this great camera along with my favorite AF Area Selection Modes in the 5D Mark III User’s Guide and save $10 by clicking here. As you will see, the list of unfinished items has dwindled considerably. The guide is nearly complete. When I am finished, the price will go to $50.

I use and depend on Delkin 64gb 700X compact flash cards every day that I am in the field. I have used and counted on them for more than a decade now. I have never lost a single image due to card failure or error. And I have never once hit the buffer wall when using one of the 700X cards in my 5D Mark III.

Delkin 700X CompactFlash Pro UDMA Enabled Cards

You can learn more about Delkin’s new 700X CompactFlash Pro UDMA Enabled Cards by clicking here and learn why the 1000X cards are overkill for still photographers.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear used to create the images in today’s post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lensI decided to leave the 800 at home for the bear boat trip and quickly fell in love with the 500 II for its light weight, great versatility, and four-stop IS. A complete review will be coming soon.
1.4X III TC The latest version of the 1.4X TC is designed to work best with the Series II Super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-5D Mark III. Man, I am in love with this camera body. Both the files and the AF system are superb.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂 And you will love them in mega-cold weather….
Gizo GT3532 LS CF Tripod. This one replaces the GT3530LS Tripod and will last you a lifetime. I’ll be commenting on this new model soon. In short, I like it.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.

19 comments to Why I Hate SD Cards

  • Artie. Very, very good post. I agree that CF cards simply perform better in the camera.

    I just want to update you on a couple of things from recent experience.

    Within the last year or so the PCMCIA or Express card slot is pretty much extinct on new computers. I got a Toshiba that was one of the last with an Express Card slot.

    Most newer computers have an SD card slot, including my new MacBook Air. I do not shoot with SD cards but do use them as temporary backup. Faster for me back at the hotel to download compact flash to the SD card…do my first round of editing to toss out the obvious rejects…and then burn the rest to two separate hard drives. I keep the high capacity (32-64 gb) SD cards for a year. At the end of the year I burn the year’s images on several backup hard drives and then recycle the SD cards for the new year. I also keep two of the master backup hard drives in different places (office and safe deposit box) just in case.

  • Well, I add to the bunch of people with a Nikon D7000 (and D5100), so there’s no option but SD. The Nikon cameras I’ve owned in the past used CF, so I had some experience of both. I don’t find them particularly different; I understand Art’s points about the fear to loose them, but OTOH I’ve had bad experiences in the past with a couple of CF card readers: the pin-shaped contacts that fits in the card used to bend.

    In any case, I have a Manhattan adapter for my MacBook Pro that works quite well with SD cards.

  • SD cards are great for back up purposes. I always keep one in my 1D3 in case I run out of CF card, and it has come in handy on a few occasions. Do I rely on it…no, but my SD card slot is rarely empty. It helps to try to keep to a routine when it comes to cards.

  • avatar Tom Lozinski

    I actually like the SD cards better. They are so small that I always have an extra card in my wallet without even noticing it. I have dropped about 5 in the ocean (in the camera)on separate occasions and only had 1 of the 5 go funny. I’ve also put many through the wash with no problem. I have never bent a pin on an SD card but have bent pins on CF readers which is not fun to deal with. Prices seem to be cheaper for SD cards too and especially the readers. I don’t think I’d ever choose a camera over the card format though.

  • Yikes, I didn’t like reading you hate SD cards. I use the 60D so I have no choice but to use SD, so far I haven’t had any issues.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Are you saying that a 60D accepts only SD cards??? Yikes!

      • Lol, yes it only accepts SD. I was disappointed when I first got it because all of my CF cards were useless with the 60D.

        • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

          Thanks John. That makes zero sense to me. Though I have never even held a 60D I did not like what I had heard…. Now at least I have one very good reason 🙂

  • P.S. I don’t like SD cards either. I used to use them, and although I’d only go for top-notch models, I had trouble with them…some corrupt files and some other annoying technical issues…since I bought a 7D and switched to the CF cards, I’ll never go back. NEVER! I only use Lexar but have heard good things about Delkin. My card reader’s a Delkin and she never lets me down…

  • Man of men, your bear pictures are whizbangs! I told you before that I’m a fan of your landscape work. Now, your bears too! Bears are great! Well captured; there is love in your pictures…I’m not just imagining it…

  • avatar Renato Fernandez

    My NIkon D300S will sometimes record the pictures in the SD, even though the CF is the primary. It is a hassle when I’m scarred for not finding my pictures.

  • avatar Myer Bornstein

    I have noproblem with SD cards, I use them all the time in my Nikon D7000 and D800. I have a spearate wallet for them that I place them into when I finish a day shoot.

    As for Delkin C F cards I have 2 16 and 32 Gig cards that are incompatable with my D800 They are UDMA 6 cards 450x

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Anytime you have to change cards the likelihood of losing one increases :). And that goes double for tiny SD cards. Glad that they work for you.

  • Hi: While I dont necessarily dislike SD cards, I do find running two cards in the camera more cumbersome than using a single, large card. More cards to download, higher chance of mixup, and I too have inadvertently set my camera to record directly to card #2 (the “backup”). Given that the 5D3 can write to hi speed CF’s more quickly than their SD counterparts, I find it advantageuous to switch out CF’s in high action situations rather than sending the overflow to the slower SD port and clogging the camera’s buffer for the next 16 GBs or so. And, as you pointed out, a large CF card pretty much eliminates the need for an overflow SD card in the first place.

    That said, I do run two cards when shooting large amounts of 1080 video as it is pretty easy to fill a big CF card and run out of space mid-clip. The 5D3 will aoutomatically start up a new clip on the second card almost instantaneously. But for stills, I agree that one big CF is the way to go.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      If you are doing serious video one of the very large 1000X Delkin cards like the 64gb would be perfecto.

  • avatar Barry Boulton

    Hmmm……I do think that “hating” SD cards because of camera design problems (that, at all events, is what you described) seems a shade over-the-top! I’m delighted that my Nikon D7000 has dual SD cards and not the massive CF cards. Additionally, my HP quad-core laptop has a built-in SD card reader so I don’t need an external reader.
    Anyway – and much more importantly – I love reading and learning from your blogs and, in that context, may I add that my primary photographic subjects are birds and I’ve happily (and easily) changed to rear-focus after reading your excellent article; I don’t know about Canon cameras, but somehow the D7000 just seems to make that easy. I actually use rear focus for birds, but the more standard button for people and landscapes.

    So, thanks!!!!

    Barry Boulton

  • avatar Daniel Gomez-Ibanez

    Artie: On the 1D Mark IV, which has slots for both a CF card and a SD card, some of us keep an SD card in the camera as a backup in case the CF card gets full. But if you are recording to the CF card and you happen to remove it without turning off the camera, the camera will default to recording on the SD card (assuming you have one inserted), and it will continue recording on the SD card even if you later re-insert a CF card. To fix this you have to press the function button and re-select the CF card as the primary recording media.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Daniel, That is great if you remember to do it. With my 64gb 700X cards I never fill a card. Ever. Heck, the only time that I ever filled a 32gb card was when I forgot to format the card after a great morning and followed that up with a great afternoon. The morning’s images had of course been downloaded and seen on my laptop.