Probably like most of you, I have a plethora of different memory card sizes from 2GB up to 32GB. When I head out on a big shoot I tend to wonder if it would be better to use the smaller cards and spread the shoot out across a number of cards or shoot entirely with one. It seems every photographer has a different opinion on this one, here's what I think.
Those who choose to shoot with the smaller cards tend to all agree that they want to make sure and not put all their eggs in one basket. They would rather have 4-6 smaller cards than one large card with half or maybe even all the photos from the event. Those who shoot on the larger cards argue that they would rather keep the card in their camera the whole time and not take the chance of losing it. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages I see with each.
But before I list those I think one important component to consider is which camera you are using. My favorites are the cameras with dual card slots - which is one of the main reasons I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark III the day it came out. As a wedding photographer it was very important to me to have a second card recording back up images the entire time as I was shooting. Knowing that I have a back up image going to a second card gives me the peace of mind that if something happens to one of my cards (get's lost or corrupted for example) I still have the images recorded somewhere else.
On a newly formatted card, using my Mark III I can shoot approximately 125 original RAW photos on an 4GB card, 261 on an 8GB, 512 on a 16GB, and about 1000 on a 32GB card. This number fluctuates as you shoot depending on the actual size of the images. The cost for a name brand decent 4GB card runs about $25 ($6.25/GB), 8GB for $29 ($3.65/GB), 16GB for $47 ($2.97/GB) 32GB for $85 ($2.65/GB) or 64GB for $138 ($2.15/GB).
Advantages of Using Smaller Cards
- Don't fear losing all the images to a corrupt card.
- Slows down your shooting style since you know card space is limited.
- Space out your shooting throughout the day on different cards to keep from losing an entire event if a card gets lost.
Disadvantages of Using Smaller Cards
- Greater chance of losing a card if you have a number of them to keep track of.
- Risk missing a moment while swapping out a new card.
- More wear and tear on your camera components removing and inserting cards often.
While shooting with smaller cards does have it's advantages I have personally chosen to instead shoot on larger cards (namely 32GB) when I am shooting weddings.
Advantages of Using Larger Cards
- Less risk of losing your card because it stays in your camera throughout the entire shoot.
- Better cost per gigabyte of space.
- Easier organization and importing of cards
- Less chance of missing something important while changing a card out.
- Less risk of damaging a component in camera while changing card.
Disadvantages of Using Larger Cards
- Big risk of losing most or all of a shoot. All eggs in one basket.
So which option is the best choice? It really is a matter of preference and as I mentioned above it also depends on the camera you are using and the functions it provides. The way I have it set up on my 5D Mark III is that I use 32GB cards and have the RAW files recorded to it. I then have a 32GB SDHC card inserted in the second slot that acts entirely as my backup. I record medium size JPEG's to the SDHC card. It fits about 7400 medium size JPEG's on the 32GB card so I leave it in there for a couple weeks at a time backing up each shot I have taken. Then after a couple of weeks I'll back that card up to a separate hard drive on my computer before formatting and using again.
Now it's your turn. How do you manage your cards? Large ones or small ones? Why?