Do CF cards just go bad?
November 20, 2004 8:06 AM   Subscribe

My 256MB compact flash card that I've been using without any trouble for the last two years in my Canon s400 has decided that it has problems. I've reformatted it several times already in the camera and on my G4 Aluminum Powerbook but it still breaks down in a few days and won't record pics.

I've lost a bunch of really good pics already and don't want to lose anymore. Can someone give me some idea of what's going on? Do CF cards just go bad?
posted by fenriq to Technology (7 answers total)
All of the non volitile ram cards (cf, xD, SD, MMC, etc.) have a limited number of write cycles they can support. It's a pretty large number but if you've formatted/written to the card alot you could have worn it out.

The good news is CF media is cheap like borch right now. You can probably buy 512 for for what you paid for the 256 and have change left over.

Do you have any problems when you write to the card from the computer? If you have the same problem with a new card it could be your camera.
posted by Mitheral at 8:18 AM on November 20, 2004

I'm no expert, but yes, I've read and heard enough stories of CF cards "just going bad" to believe that it's a fragile technology for photographers out and about and using them a lot. Anecdotally, you do seem to get something for your money buying the more expensive cards marketed specifically to photographers - they appear to be more robust.

Another tip is to carry more cards of smaller memory, rather than just one or two high-capacity ones, hence absorbing the risk of failure somewhat.
posted by normy at 9:01 AM on November 20, 2004

Response by poster: Yep, $42 on eBay for a 512 card, shipped. Alot less than the 256.

And in thinking about it, the card got very heavily used. At least five or six thousand pics, maybe a lot more. I guess the new investment in the memory means I'm going to stick with the Canon for a while longer. I would like to get into one of the new super slim 5+ MP cameras but I'd like to stick with Canon. They totally dropped the ball with the S500. I hope they get back on it with the S600.

Thanks for the thoughts. Normy, I actually always do carry a little spare card. But its a tiny little 32 or something. I'll probably use that until the new card gets here.
posted by fenriq at 9:45 AM on November 20, 2004

before you go the ebay route, take a look at dealram- they usually have the cheapest prices on flash memory. i'm not affiliated with them, but i am a happy customer of one of their linked retailers...
posted by fake at 10:40 AM on November 20, 2004

Just a few general comments.. First, compact flash cards are amazingly durable. One of the cards I use on a regular basis has been through a washing machine/dryer cycle with no issues whatsoever.

Also, you should *never* format your cards anywhere except for in your camera, this often causes issues with CF cards. I would try to format again in your camera, just to ensure that the problem persists and is not just caused by formatting on your laptop.

There are a number of good image rescue programs for CF cards that have problems like the ones you described. I know Lexar makes one.

In your circumstance, it does seem like there might be an actual issue with your card, and given the steady drop in prices, it might be a good time for a new card.
posted by steve.wdc at 11:27 AM on November 20, 2004

As far as I know most CF are built around SRAM technology. In theory it should last 1Million read/write cycles +- 10% and allow some memory cell to go bad (like bad cluster on hd or fd) and still work.

Fenriq, I guess the problem is in writing cycle (when the S400 writes the pix to CF) ..

1) What error number does the S400 give ? Have you checked for troubleshooting hints ? (I got a Canon too)

2) Does the error appear ALSO when you go low on battery ?

3)Assuming you had an error while taking a pix, can you open/read the file that represent (and IS) the photo you were taking ? If so, does the photo appear to be corrupted and shown only partially, or is it totally corrupted ?
posted by elpapacito at 3:52 PM on November 20, 2004

I had a media card go bad once. It definitely wasn't at the end of its life cycle, but there must have been some kind of I/O error that burned it, either in the camera or my card reader. It was toast.
posted by scarabic at 2:25 PM on November 21, 2004

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