Wednesday, October 17, 2012

HORROR !!! Memory Card FAILURE !!

UPDATE: Limited Edition Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm F2 Black Kit is available for purchase through online order. Head to the official page here (click) to check out the promotion. There are only 60 units available in Malaysia, and 3000 units worldwide.


My hands got unbearably itchy earlier this evening, probably due to insufficient shutter therapy session in the past weekend since most of my time was dedicated to a paid wedding assignment, leaving me very little time to shoot for myself. It just felt like something was not complete, and I just needed to click the shutter button a little more to satisfy the craving. Partially the reason was to further test the newly acquired Sony Alpha A350 DSLR, which I am still fairly new to. New gear, new inspiration!! I know I can be weird, so I headed out after work to Jalan Masjid India with the Sony hoping to catch the dying sunlight. 

I walked and found some interesting subjects, as I was getting more and more shots, suddenly...... the compact flash memory card started to GIVE UP on me !!! 

How dare you LEXAR 16GB !!!

The error message on the camera backscreen. The images were not displayed in review, and could not be used further without formatting. 



The card I bought not too long ago, and rarely used. Anyone had similar issue with this card?


In my past experience working with this card, which was rarely used, I did come home in a collection of few hundred shots, one or two files were corrupted. This has never happened before with any other memory cards I have used (I use exclusively Sandisk, both SD and CF cards, since the E-PL1 takes SD cards, E-520 takes CF cards, and E-5 takes BOTH, which is fantastic). I came across Lexar and knowing it is a choice that professionals do trust, I decided to buy both SD and CF cards from Lexar. Each and everytime I shot with the Lexar 16GB CF card, a few files would go corrupt for no apparent reasons. Therefore, I knew this CF card was unreliable, hence I seldom used it, and never would go to a paid assignment with it. 

I thought, for a shutter therapy session, if I had a few corrupt files, I can live with it. I was wrong. Now the WHOLE card was corrupted and I could not even use the card anymore after the error message popped out. It asked me to "format" the card. Me being careful, took out the card, and hoped that I can use some software voodoo to do some miracles in reviving the corrupted files in the card. 

What a mood killer !!

When I got home, I chucked the CF card into my memory card reader, and the computer failed to read the card, and again, asked me to "format" the card if I wanted to use it. Keeping myself calm and cool, thus I did some research online and found some recovery softwares. There is this software "CardRecovery", and I decided to give it a try. Download, install... gave the software a run.... it scanned the memory card... and it managed to discover 189 files in the card... then I saw hope. Yes, in the end, I managed to salvage ALL the files I have taken, with 2-3 files corrupted (I suspect error while writing to the card). 

I sighed a huge sigh of relief. With the rescued files, I proceeded to post-processing them, and here they are, my shutter therapy at Jalan Masjid India earlier this evening. Thank goodness for modern technology !!

All images in this blog entry (except the first two previous ones) were taken with Sony DSLR Alpha A350 and DT lenses 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 or 50mm F1.8

Loud Environment

Mobile Phone Generation

Sleeping Child

Heavy

Heads. Yes, the man's face was OOF. The camera decided the mannequin's head was more attractive. 

Men in uniform

Stranger 1

Stranger 2

Stranger 3

Street Talent

For the first half of the shutter therapy session, before sundown, I was shooting with the 50mm F1.8 exclusively. This time, I have got away with more hits than misses, and I am getting more and more familiar with the focusing behaviour. Don't ask me how or what I did to get more accurate focus and higher hit rates, it has a lot to do with timing and how you target the focus point. A lot more practice is needed to fully understand the behavior of the 50mm F1.8 lens and know how to use it optimally. I am quite pleased with the results from this lens so far. No, it is not as sharp, or as technically superior as the Olympus 50mm F2 macro, but the Sony does focus much faster than the Olympus. The thing about using the Olympus 50mm on DSLR E-5 was more reliable, due to the much larger and brighter Optical Viewfinder (I attached magnifier 1.2x to the already large default optical viewfinder on E-5). Having a better viewfinder allows better confirmation for "in-focus" AF, and I find that very hard to achieve looking through the tiny Sony A350's viewfinder. 

As I was shooting and shooting, the sky threatened to pour down, hence I stopped by a shopping mall, and I got in just in time before it rained cats and dogs. I then proceeded to grab a bite (it was dinner time after all) and spent a little bit of time in a local bookstore. About an hour later, I got out of the mall, and miraculously, as if the sky understood my still not satisfied desire to shoot, it stopped raining. It was sunset time, the perfect opportunity to shoot some urban landscape and scenery shots, and what better chance to test out the Sony DT 18-70mm lens !! 

I know the Sony 18-70mm lens is not a favourite, and has been hammered by almost every single lens tester or reviewer for being soft and having all the lens flaws ever known in the photography world. It is after all a mere kit lens, but rated very poorly and ranked almost at the bottom of its class. I initially did not want to have this lens at all, but the package that included the original battery grip with two original batteries, third party TTL capable flash, 50mm F1.8, the A350 body and this kit lens for such an irresistible price, I thought why not give it a try? No matter how bad the lens is, it is still a lens, able to capture light and resolve them into pixels. 

At least I did not have focusing issue with the 18-70mm at all, all my shots taken with AutoFocus came out spot on accurate. I shot mostly wide at 18mm, and as the sun was dying, I found the need to steady my hands to get the shots that I needed. No problem, thanks to the built in body Image Stabilization system, or what Sony fondly calls as Super Steady Shot (SSS). The SSS did work, and I managed to stretch the shutter speed to avoid using too high of ISO setting, hence preserving details while minimizing ugly noise if shot in higher ISO settings. As the sky got darker and darker giving way to night, I had to choice but to find something to rest the camera on for long exposure shooting. I know I know, I should be punished for being lazy and I should be bringing a tripod with me instead. But hey, it was just a casual solo walkaround, I did not intend to shoot that much. 

Yes the 18-70mm is softer, much softer than I have liked, but you know what, I do not care at all. If sharpness was a concern, I would not hesitate to bring out the Olympus DSLR E-5 and the marvelous Zuiko Digital 11-2mm F2.8-3.5. For a kit lens, I am quite satisfied with what the 18-70mm, though it did not successfully resolve enough details for the high resolution 14.2 Megapixels CCD image sensor inside the A350. Perhaps the 18-70mm is more suited for A200 or A300 with 10 Megepixels resolution limit. 


Bokeh, beautiful bokeh

Shutter Speed: 1/5sec Handheld, ISO400

Shutter Speed: 1/5sec handheld, ISO200

Shutter Speed: 1/6sec Handheld, ISO400

Shutter Speed: 2.5sec, camera rested on ground, taken with SSS off and 2 sec timer. ISO100

Shutter Speed: 8sec, camera rested on guard rail, SSS off, 2 sec timer. ISO100, 18mm wide angle

Shutter Speed: 8sec, camera rested on guard rail, SSS Off, 2 sec timer, ISO100. 26mm zoomed in. 

Shutter Speed: 1/5sec handheld, ISO800

All I can say is that I am truly glad I managed to recovered all the files, and surely I have some shots that I personally like in this blog entry. All the trouble and hassle, and all the images taken, would have been lost, no thanks to that Lexar 16GB card. Nevertheless, everything is fine now, and I am loving the Sony more and more. People doubted my decision of getting a 4 year old camera, while all my friends are chasing the latest gear and upgrade to something better or more capable system, not looking back. I am always the weird person making unexpected choices (well, the fact I was sticking with Olympus was one rare case, don't you think?) and you know what? I rarely make the wrong choices. So far I have NEVER regretted any gear or equipment I have purchased. I have a good feeling about this Sony, and so far it has proven to be doing just fine. 

Photography is a lot more than just buying the latest equipment. Knowing how to use your gear is a lot more important than having a more capable gear. I am still learning, and I know, there is so much more to explore and improve on. The journey never ends. 

50 comments:

  1. I am an avid follower of your blog. I really like your creative vision. Seems that you can make the best out of any equipment you use. I also also salute your diplomatic tact; frank but yet so not patronizing. Those qualities show in your pictures. Keep up the good work!
    -Khairul-

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    1. Hello Khairul,
      Thanks for such kind words !! I am not sure if I deserve them, but hey, it sure made my day. I think in whatever we do in life we have to be honest and true to ourselves. That also strongly applies in photography or any kind of art !!

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    2. Sorry, ironically I think I sounded patronizing there! That's not my intention, just appreciate your efforts imparting your experience. Thanks.
      -Khairul-

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    3. No worries, my pleasure to share!! Always.

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  2. Hello Robin,

    Glad to hear you could recover your files. You do know the best (and only) way to fix a flaky memory card is with a big hammer and anvil, don't you? There's probably a malformed contact in the card, and the only thing you will ever gain from insisting on using it is to damage the camera's connector... at which point you will be really sorry!

    Nice shooting, as always :-)

    Be well.

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    1. Hello Bert,
      Yeah, I wont be using that card anymore !! Now where is that giant hammer I had around...

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  3. This reminds me that I badly need some SD card for my camera. I like portrait shots for stranger 1,2 and 3... pics very sharp. I guess prime lenses will always have superior optics quality. The handheld shot are also very nice. Thanks for sharing Robin and keep this shutter therapy rolling...

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    1. Hey Johan,
      Thanks for the kind compliments, those are my favourites too !!

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  4. like your Olympus pictures more...

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    1. Hey Martin,
      No worries, I still love my Olympus dearly.

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  5. Congratulations! Well worth the effort.

    My Favorite? Clearly "Mobile Phone Generation". The tilt and the two directions of view, of the figure in the ad and of the real man in front, the high-key look, the color contrast between the shirt and everything else, great!

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    1. Thanks Andreas, I like that shot a lot too !

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  6. Great article and nice pictures. I only use SanDisk cards myselves, and after reading your article, I guess I will stick to SanDisk :)

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    1. Hello Stian,
      Yes I am sticking to Sandisk too from now on.

      Delete
  7. Robin,

    While I have no experience with this exact card, I can tell you that once you find even one corrupt file on a card, don't rely on it any further. Recover the images you can and return if possible for a replacement. On two separate occasions, I had cards where an image or two corrupted on a short shoot of maybe 20 images. Then after using again, both cards went into the toilet. Do not trust them, especially if they are fairly new. One was a bargain brand CF card that someone gave to me, the other was a Kingston.

    Nice images as always. Looks like you are having some fun with that Sony.

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    1. Hey Libby,
      Thanks for the advice. I thought only a few files would be corrupted and I can live with that, not the WHOLE card. Lesson learned, that card is indeed going into the toilet.
      Thanks for the kind words. and yes I am having lots of fun with that Sony !

      Delete
  8. I dont know how your card was corrupted. But my sandisk SDXC class 10 45mb/s card was partially corrupted when i plugged it into a cheap card reader. It happens to any memory card, even sandisk ones, unfortunately.

    Anyway, i like this set of photos, especially "loud environment". The colors of Sony is nice, but different. I still prefer Olympus colors. :)
    Thanks for sharing. Your photography is amazing.

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    1. Hey Calex,
      Oh dear that is a horror !! I use Apacer memory card reader, it has been with me for 3 years now and so far not even a slightest hiccup. I agree, cheap memory card reader can cause more problems than we think !!
      Thanks for the kind remarks. Me too, like yourself, prefer Olympus colors.

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  9. Hi Robin:
    The colourful building with water reflections look great and my favourite. I had to recover some files off an old CF card (standard Sandisk class when 256mb/512mb was the norm for CF cards way back 8 years ago with rescue software which worked great to recover files.). After that, reading up on card issues with other photographers, always best to reformat cards after archiving files to computer done in camera each time prior to all pro jobs was best advice I found to avoid issues, so totally clean card to start. Have not had any issues to date except that one time. I think I had not formatted that one card enough times, as it was for personal use back then. I only use Sandisk Ultra or Extreme in CF now with 4, 8, 16, or 32GB, or SD (for personal) as prices are much better in last 2 years. Online ordering at B&H Photo in New York for cards, is about half the price compared to majority of camera stores in Canada for these top brands and well worth the order.

    Was recently interested in Lexar's new Professional Series 32GB 400X but there were a few user complaints on B&H Photo in user reviews so only Sandisk for me for Pro work. Splitting up a wedding job over multiple cards also good advice to do just in case (usually 3 or 4 CF cards per wedding of different sizes with Nikons.) For personal use only, with EPL1 sometimes buy off brand like Verbaitum SD Class 10 as even less expensive card and never had issues yet. Important to reformat incamera between heavy uses, not just delete files and continue use even for personal use. My 2 cents of wisdom to pass on to anyone reading this who is learning. Robin, I imagine you do most of these steps already.

    One question, I know Kirk Tuck loves using his Sony cameras (mainly SLT a57 and a77 I think ) and uses these 2 for some of his pro work with high quality lenses and very good results. Did this influence your decision to buy one for personal or backup use.

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    1. Hello Adrian,
      Thanks for the kind compliments, and yes I personally love the reflection photo of the Sultan Abdul Samad bulding too.

      I always, always made sure I format the card before each session of a shoot. I do not immediately empty the cards after tranfering to computer, only after I have fully performed all necessary back-ups then I format the cards. Usually I would leave the files in the card, until I need to use it, and before the shooting session (before heading out of the house) I would format the card.

      I never delete the files (using delete all files function), I always format them clean.

      Hey Adrian, Kirk did probably influence my decision partially, but the main reason was the hard to resist offer for a full system. My original consideration was a Canon 40D, but even after 5 years now the camera body would cost more than the whole Sony system I have just purchased !

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    2. Yes. I do the same. I keep the files on card as an extra backup (until I run out of cards, and check my 2 backups (harddrive and external drive, and DVD(s) on originals if photos fit on a few DVDs as jpeg and/or Raw), and I have a few cards in my collection) and when I need to use them before a job I reformat them the day before the job. Kirk Tuck uses less expensive SD Pro cards (half price of CF cards with his Sonys so keeps them in envelopes until job is finally delivered to client, then clears cards). He must have many cards more than me, but he does lots of corporate work, etc. and I do weddings mainly these days, with CF cards. Perhaps you read that blog on a recent assignment.
      That said, there are some faulty cards out there and it sounds like your Lexar is one on them with bad sectors on it.

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    3. Hello Adrian,
      True, quite unlucky of me. Nonetheless, it was wise that I did not bring that card for an assignment, and spotted the problem early. Imagine shooting a thousand shots and come home to a corrupted card, that can be the next Stephen King's horror novel !!

      Delete
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  11. I can relate to the memory cards crashing on you. i had to go through it twice.
    In the first Case, I arrived to the office three days after photographing an excavation (that's what i do for a living).
    I used two cards, one of them old, the old one with 2/3 of the shots that I took was dead. to make things worse, the archeologist who thought that everything was documented released the area and the contractor cleaned it up. it took me a few days to find a place and for them a few days more to recover most of the photographs.
    on the second case six months later i had more luck. the excavations were still ongoing, and I went back, with my E-30 this time, and took the shots. after two failures in six months with two different cards, I sent the camera for a check. Apparently there was a tiny electrical problem that was responsible for the destruction of the two cards.

    Back to the photographs... my favorites are i loved "Heavy" and "Stranger 2".

    Assaf

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    1. Hello Assaf,
      So sorry to hear about such unlucky incidents !! These should never happen. Unfortunately electronics is never really that reliable.
      Thanks for the kind words. Those two photographs are my favourite too.
      Seems like your line of work and mine are not too far apart. I work in construction industry where earthworks is the main task (geotechnical engineering to be exact), hence a lot of excavation involved too.

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    2. Sorry that it took me so long, i was busy.

      our lines of work are not that far apart. it's the same with my brother (who's an architect and I'm the Archeologist), some times we just understand each other perfectly. BTW usually when the construction guys sees us they begin to sweat, they can't work until we clear the area for their project and sometimes they need to pay for an archeological excavation :)

      in the past 4 years i stopped digging and changed my hobby into a profession (big mistake). now i photograph most of the archeological excavations in Israel. so when the first card died and the construction already erased everything i was desperate to save some shots.







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  12. I find your Olympus images a bit more pleasing. These Sony images just don't really pop out for me. There seems to be something missing. I feel like these images don't have the same richness and sharpness from your E-5 images. Those look fantastic to my eyes!

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    1. Please leave a name the next time you comment, thanks. I agree Olympus color is still better, and I do prefer to work with Olympus on the whole. Nonetheless it is good to expose myself to a secondary system.

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  13. hey Robin,

    so far I have yet to encounter faulty card.. fingers crossed .. i am not as tech savvy as u r..
    but then again... i know who to message now ;0)

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    1. No worries Eric,
      Just give me a holla when you need the software or recommendation on what to do.

      Delete
  14. Horror indeed! Luckily I only had that once many years ago with a cheap compact and the card that came with it. Good thing you managed to save your work - excellent pictures. The "noisy environment" girl is very nice, and the night shots are spectacular. And of course the signature "Robinesque" portraits: brilliant!

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    1. Thanks Andre !!
      I have always loved long exposure night shot, just that it is not exactly safe to walk around Kuala Lumpur at night. I am thinking of doing more soon.
      Oh dear, did not know there is such thing as a "Robinesque" portraits, but thanks !!

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    3. Not to be confused with Rubenesque, (from Rubens, the old European painter) - those ladies were, erm, let's say barely dressed :-)

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  15. I know how it feels. I had a memory card failure once and even though I sent the memory card back to the manufacturer, they were not able to recover the files.

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    1. Hey Yat,
      Oh no, sorry to hear that. I guess in this digital age, as advanced as the technology is, we still have issues with reliability.

      Delete
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  17. Yo Robin, just wanna ask. Did you bought the software to recover all your photos? =)

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    1. Hey TianChad,
      *Aheemm, I did, USD39.95 !! *ahemm

      Delete
  18. Hi Robin,

    I'm impressed with your results from the Sony to date, but sorry about your Lexar CF card corruption.
    I can recommend SandiskRescue Pro if you have any problems in the future! You simply download the demo and and see what is recoverable and then pay the license fee to save the files if you are happy with it's results. It's saved me a few times.

    Stephen

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation Stephen !! The Cardrecovery software worked just fine !!

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  19. Robin, just to make you feel good... I had some original Sandisk cards fail on me too. Hence, I prefer to shoot with smaller cards especially with cameras that does not have a dual card slot for backups. The best memory cards I have come across by far, are the Panasonic ones... I use to sell them, and out of the thousands I sold... I have ever only seen just seen one ever comeback with a fault. Also my experiences, is having been and toured in the Panasonic SD Factory, you probably know why so many lesser names card failed... its because nothing gets wasted... and the ones that doesn't meet the 100% certification gets labelled under a third party brand and sold much cheaper... The level and amount of test and stress these memory cards go through before they get a 100% okayed by Panasonic is really crazy stuff! Hence, they're not cheap cards... and in Australia they are more expensive then the Sandisks! So, pick your brands wisely, and Yes Lexar, Sandisks are top makers...

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    1. Thanks for the tips Tom !! Panasonic is not a popular brand here, not even sure if the shops would carry them. Seems like people here push for Sandisk or Lexar more.
      Nonetheless I never doubted Panasonic's quality control. Being a Japanese manufacturer, they are very strict when it comes to delivering high standards of the products.

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  20. BTW. Nice photos... I wish I really had the time during my days in KL to do some shooting... oh well maybe next time!

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    1. Yes Tom,
      We should do some shutter therapy next time !!

      Delete
  21. the HOW DARE YOU LEXAR! got you a facebook share ;D
    i always use sandisk, never had an issue, is there a "card reliability" website?

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    1. Dear Mr,
      Thanks for the share !! I am not sure about the reliability website, but I cannot blame lexar entirely either. In a crate full of apples sure there are a few rotten ones.

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  22. Robin, DON'T BUY LEXAR CARDS! When I was a staff photographer at two different newspapers, they both used Lexar CF cards. We constantly had cards failing. When I went freelance 6 years ago, I ONLY bought Sandisk pro cards (IE: Sandisk Extreme). I can honestly say that I have NEVER once had one fail. Could it? Yes, I suppose it could be they haven't and I've shot several hundred thousand photos with them. Hope you get all your pics back with rescue software.

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    1. Thanks Craig for sharing your experience. I just could not resist the discount at a photography fair years back. Yes I managed to get the photos recovered, hence you are seeing them on this blog entry.

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