Instead of recording images on film, digital cameras store pictures on memory cards. Some people, in fact, refer to memory cards as digital film, but I hate that term because film and memory cards actually have little in common. Film must be developed before you can view your pictures, a process that involves time and some not-so-nice chemicals. Film can be damaged when exposed to some airport security scanners; memory cards are immune to those devices. The cost per picture is also much higher for film: You have to develop and print each negative, whether the shot is a keeper or a clunker. With digital, you print only the pictures you like — and you can reuse your memory cards over and over and over, saving even more money.
Whatever term you prefer, your Canon can use the following two types of memory cards:
1 CompactFlash, or CF, cards: You can use CompactFlash cards that carry either the Type I or Type II specification. The only difference between the two card types is thickness; Type II cards are a little thicker than Type I cards. Type I is the most commonly sold version of the cards today. In Figure 1-5, you can see one such card in the foreground and another partially inserted into the camera's card slot.
1 Microdrives: These devices are actually tiny hard drives that are encased in Type II CompactFlash-style housings. Microdrives are more susceptible to damage if dropped or exposed to vibration, however, so I don't really recommend them. However, if you already own one, feel free to use it, albeit carefully.
Memory card access light Card-eject button
Do you need high-speed memory cards?
Memory cards are categorized not just by their storage capacity, but also by their data-transfer speed. The speed specs you see on memory cards — 10x, 40x, 80x, 133x, and the like — reflect the transfer rate compared to a single-speed CD-ROM, which can move about 156K (kilobytes) of data per second. So a 10x card, for example, is 10 times faster than that, offering a transfer speed of 1.5MB (megabytes) per second.
Faster data-transfer speeds reduce the time your camera needs to write a picture file onto the card and the time required to download files from the card to your computer. Of course, card prices rise along with card speed. And whether you will really notice much difference depends on a couple of factors.
On the picture-taking end, users who want to capture fast-paced action benefit the most from high-speed cards. Bumping up your card speed can enable you to fire off a continuous series of shots at a slightly faster pace than with a slower card. Users who shoot at the highest resolution or prefer the Raw file format (CR2 files, on Canon cameras) also gain the most from high-speed cards; both options increase file size and, thus, the time needed to store the picture on the card. (See Chapter 3 for details.)
When it comes to picture downloading, you may or may not enjoy much of a speed increase because transfer time isn't just dependent on the card. How long it takes for files to shuffle from card to computer also depends on the capabilities of your computer and, if you use a memory-card reader to download files, on the speed of that device. (Chapter 8 covers the file-downloading process.)
To sum up, if you want to push your camera to its speed limit — and money is no object — go for a high-speed card. Otherwise, you probably don't need to make the extra investment; even a "slow" card is usually more than fast enough to satisfy all but the most demanding users.
Safeguarding your memory cards — and the images you store on them — requires just a few precautions:
I Inserting a card: First, be sure that the camera is turned off. Then put the card in the card slot with the label facing the back of the camera, as shown in Figure 1-5. Push the card into the slot until it clicks into place. The card-eject button — the tiny black push button labeled in the figure — should pop up. When you close the card-access door, the memory-card access light, also labeled in Figure 1-5, blinks for a second to let you know the card is inserted properly. (You probably can't make it out in the figure, but the letters CF appear next to the light to remind you of its purpose.)
I Formatting a card: The first time you use a new memory card, take a few seconds to format it by choosing the Format command from the camera's Setup Menu 1. This step simply ensures that the card is properly prepared to record your pictures. See the upcoming section "Setup Menu 1" for details.
I Removing a card: After making sure that the memory-card access light is off, indicating that the camera has finished recording your most recent photo, turn the camera off. Open the memory-card door, as shown in
Figure 1-5. Push in the card-eject button. The card should pop halfway out of the slot, enabling you to grab it by the tail and remove it.
^ Handling cards: When cards aren't in use, store them in the protective cases they came in or in a memory card wallet. Keep cards away from extreme heat and cold as well.
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Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.