Thursday, May 24, 2012

How much Memory is enough Memory?

Sandisk 64gb SD Cards
Over the last few weeks, I have been preparing myself for the upcoming trekking trip to the Himalayas, by carefully choosing the right camera gear that will allow me to shoot for around 8 days straight, without any access to civilization. This means I should not only have enough battery power to last for 8 days, but I also need to have enough memory cards to keep all those images.

Luckily for me, the Panasonic GX1 camera supports the newer (and higher capacity) SDXC cards. I found a good deal on Amazon for the Sandisk 64 GB Ultra cards, and decided to pick up 2 of them. That effectively gives me 128 GB of memory for shooting.

I just want to marvel at the sheer amount of data that is crammed into these postage sized cards. Each tiny 64 GB card has about 549,755,813,888 bits inside it. I can't even comprehend that number. Just 10 years back (when we first starting shooting digital), we would feel very good when we could get our hands on a 16MB card (that's about 4000 times less capacity that the one shown above!).

I am sure in another 10 years' time, we will laugh and remember the good old days, when a 64 GB card was considered capacious, and I am pretty sure we will be shooting images that easily take 1 GB per image (if not more). If you think about it, the current champ (excluding the medium-format system), is the Nikon D800, which easily takes around 100MB for 1 image (75 MB for RAW + 20 MB for JPEG). A 10 fold increase in image size in 10 years seems like a sure bet.

During my trip, I plan to shoot simultaneously RAW+JPEG fine. This makes it more easy for post processing. 90% of the time, I can just take the JPEG file and do some tweaks or use it as-is. For the few exceptions where some serious post processing is required, I can always revert to the RAW file.

The RAW file size on the GX1 is around 18MB, and the JPG is around 7 MB. So that's 25MB per image. This gives me the ability to shoot around 5000 images on both the cards - which is more than sufficient for 8 days of shooting. I can even shoot some high-definition video without worrying too much about it.

The only real danger I can see is if something goes wrong with the card. I will basically lose everything. Most of the newer dSLRs support dual-card slot where the camera writes to both the cards simultaneously. So even if one card fails, you can always rely on the second card as your safety backup. Unfortunately, the GX1 does not have this feature, and I will just have to trust Sandisk and their quality control to make sure something like that does not happen to me.

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