Orquid "Phoenix"

Orquid "Phoenix"

by ceinmart

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My fiance just got a free FujiFilm FinePix S1. An old camera, I know, but also perfect for helping her learn the basics behind photography.

Anyway, we aren't experts on storage at all. We can see that for SmartMedia cards, the max is 64MB. Does anyone know the maximum for the CompactFlash cards? Does CompactFlash work like that, with the memory limits, the way that SD kind of works? Would a 4GB (or larger) Type I card from BestBuy work? Or does the operating system have a size limit?

Any information at all about this specific camera or CompactFlash in general will be greatly appreciated.

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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The file system for the camera (given the era, the cards available at the time and their price) is probably FAT (FAT16). There's no indication anywhere that the camera is capable of using FAT32. If that's the case, you won't be able to use cards bigger than 2GB, and may find that only 1GB is addressable.

While they're not nearly as commonly available as cards weighing in at 4GB and up, you can still find 1GB and 2GB cards at very reasonable prices (under $20). Don't worry about the speed ratings -- all of the currently-available cards will read and write faster than the cards of c. 2000 (except the microdrive, which was really rather snappy).

Unfortunately, Fuji's two non-JPEG formats are TIFF, so you won't be able to get very many shots on a card unless you use JPEG, and there is no RAW format. JPEG Fine should be good enough for most purposes, though, and the bit-depth limitation might actually help to learn about exposure, white balance, etc.

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Best answer. Helped me understand the underlying concepts behind CF cards. Wish we had more info on the S1 Pro's OS and whether it will go all the way to 128GB, or if it will crap out before then. But we'll have to see. And a new 4GB card worked great in the S1 Pro, just as an FYI. Thanks again to everyone who helped! –  decoy Jan 4 '12 at 14:24
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SmartMedia, like its successor xD, is a raw NAND format — it's just flash memory chips, and the device is responsible for all the intelligence. In theory, this means the cards can be cheaper and the more advanced processors in cameras or card readers can manage the flash better than the tiny ones fit into other types of cards.

In reality, economies of scale meant the prices never came down to be competitive with other types, and the disadvantages of leaving the cards themselves to be dumb (yes, the name is ironic) shine through:

  • Every device needs to be updated to support newer, larger formats. As you know, your camera topped out at 64MB, and even though 128MB SmartMedia cards were made, without a firmware update made to support the new sizes, you can't use them.
  • Because the interface is at a lower level, it's easy to accidentally corrupt the whole card without even writing to it.

So, that was a big market flop.

Compact Flash, on the other hand, uses an interface which uses the same IDE interface as hard drives. There's a tiny little "drive controller" built into each card. That means the limits are the same ones that limit computers from using larger hard drive types: sector/cylinder math barriers (which may limit the card to 2GB), and filesystem limits (which, largely by coincidence, may impose the same 2GB limit).

It is incredibly likely that a camera of that vintage (see also this recent question) is bound by one of those limits, making 2GB the top. It's possible but unlikely that something obscure will limit you to 1GB. I know for sure that it'll support up to 1GB, because for a while, Fujifilm bundled a 1GB microdrive with the camera as a promotion.

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CF doesn't merely "mimic" IDE, it for all intents and purposes is IDE (PATA) with a different connector. "The Compactflash interface operates, depending on the state of a mode pin on powerup, as either 16-bit PC Card (0x7FF address limit) or as an IDE (PATA) interface." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CompactFlash#Technical_details –  Michael Kjörling Dec 29 '11 at 14:54
    
@MichaelKjörling: yeah. That's an error through oversimplification. I'll edit. –  mattdm Dec 29 '11 at 15:02
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I'm taking a guess here as I'm comparing it to my Nikon D100 which is of a similar age and type but you can probably get up to an 8GB card in there. However from personal experience my camera slows down badly when using a card over 2GB so really, considering the low files size output, I'd stick with either a bunch of 256/512mb cards or a couple of 1-2GB cards. All of which are dirt cheap anyways. Buy a card holder to go with them and you can swap around as you see fit. I used 1 or 2GB IBM microdrives which were perfect for the time and camera.

You might need to avoid the faster cards as well becasue the older cameras may not work well with them.

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Compact Flash theoretically has a limit of 128GB or greater. The S1 seems to be 6 megapixels, so on a 4GB card you could hold 600+ images

If this is the S1 Pro, then according to this link:

Compatible Media (As of July 2000 ): Microdrive: IBM: 340MB; Compact Flash cards: Sandisk: SDCFB-16t32140/48/64/9a1128| | Lexer Media: 4x type 8 MB to 80 MB 8x type 8 MB to 160 MB

Fuji have a compatibility chart here.

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Best information. I was looking for something like this compat chart but couldn't find it. Thank you. –  decoy Jan 4 '12 at 14:23
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