Expanding your memory as the years go by

From the headline of this article, you might think that I’ve discovered some kind of miracle drug, capable of increasing your grey matter function in old age or perhaps a technique to assist you in clinging on to those ever decreasing brain cells….. but, alas, I have not!
I have, however, just discovered the most recent iteration of SanDisk’s Extreme Pro SD card series and it would seem, at first glance at least, to be the card to end all cards with a massive 512gb storage capacity. Does bigger always mean better though?
 SanDisk 512gb
When considering that 32mb used to be seen as ‘large’ (remember those days!) and the fact that DSLRs, like the new Nikon D810, have 36 megapixel sensors, it’s easy to see why such an increase in memory might be seen as nothing but positive.
 DSC_6748I’m considering submitting these two cards I found at the bottom of an old drawer to a museum!
Also, as a photographer primarily shooting weddings, you might think that a fast, high capacity, memory card would be ideal. After all, no one wants to be fiddling around in pockets and pouches for a new card just as the first kiss, cake cutting or bouquet throwing is about to go off (although, heaven knows, I’ve been there before, having got carried away with proceedings, not keeping an eye on my digital display and finding myself desperately clawing away at the memory port door of my camera, spare card in teeth, ready for what needs to be the quickest reload in history!).
As it is, I regularly shoot off around 2000 images during a full day wedding (imagine doing that in the good old days of 24 or 36 exposures!), so owning a card that can hold nearly 5,000 raw images or a whopping nigh on 48,000 jpg images would be perfect, no? Before I answer that, let’s look at it from a slightly different angle.
I’ll start with a question. Have you ever had a memory card go ‘rogue’? If not then you should count yourself extremely lucky! I’ve lost count of the amount of cards that have unceremoniously ‘given up the ghost’, leaving me with nothing more than ‘CHA/CHR’ on my display or the even worse, and unidentifiable, ‘Err’ message! Unfortunately this problem isn’t confined to the smaller and cheaper cards either, as this has happened across many different (well known) brands and sizes. Luckily for me, going through my cards the night before a shoot has always been part of my overall workflow and so I’ve always ensured I have fully functioning cards for any upcoming job but even that isn’t necessarily a die cast guarantee against disaster.
So what happens then when, 1500 images in to a full day shoot, you suddenly find you have a completely unresponsive camera and that dreaded ‘Err’ message. You switch it off, take the memory card out, put it back in, turn  the camera back on. Still nothing. You do the same again, this time removing the batteries as well. Hey, you might even try taking the card out and blowing on it (remember when that used to work?). But then what? You furrow you brow, yes, start to panic, almost certainly and maybe even cast off a few expletives under your breath. But then comes the gut wrenching, heart sinking realisation that every last one of the shots you’ve spent hours poring over creatively, those ‘one time only’ moments, the poses that could never be replicated, are all lost to an electronic abyss!
Not only will this leave you feeling completely dejected and de-motivated, you’ll also likely have a very unimpressed client who’s getting no end product to justify the (hopefully) vast sum you’ve been paid to provide!
So, as you can see, there is quite a trade off to be had here. Do you go for large memory, offering all day shooting without a single card change or a smaller capacity memory, giving you peace of mind that, should one of your cards go wrong, you won’t lose everything you’ve shot.
Personally, I would go for smaller cards everytime, making sure to manage the number of shots more effectively, which I guess is just something that comes with time. I’ve found myself just getting a ‘feel’ for when the card might be running low and so change it out before the next ‘event’ on the day. Does that mean it’s the perfect solution? Not by any means, as everyone works differently but, as a general rule, it’s probably the safest option.
So to answer my earlier question, is a 512gb card a good thing? Well, in terms of technological advancement, it absolutely is. We need companies pushing the boundaries in terms of memory size, processor speed, and, ultimately, price because without research like this we’d never have had DSLRs in the first place. That said, would I recommend spending nearly £700 on a card that could lose an entire day’s shooting and which would probably never be maxed out anyway? Well, the Jury’s out on that one but I suspect the verdict may not be one that SanDisk will enjoy hearing.
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