Spring 2012

Spring 2012
by ani

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The reason I ask is that I recently attended the LA Photo Show and the SanDisk rep there told me that swapping memory cards between different cameras is a very bad idea. He told me that the reason is because it will lead to disc corruption and dramatically reduces the life of the memory card.
Previously, I have done this (swapping between devices) many times, always formatting the SDXC card, after placing it in the new camera, just as a precaution. My experience comes from way back when I used to format my 1/4" floppy discs when using them in a different PC, as a way of making me feel that the disc is going to read/write ok, if the format worked smoothly. I realize that I should probably just accept the SanDisk product reps advice, but I was wondering if there are any studies or documentation to support this? I have Googled it and can't really find anything substantial. Most cameras create their own folders with different names, but these files are created automatically on a newly formatted card when the camera is turned on for the first time, after the formatting. I have several large and expensive Pro Extreme SD memory cards and several digital cameras (Canon T3i, Canon 5DM3, etc), so this concerns me.

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If you do not reformat it could lead to problems, but if you reformat when moving to a different camera there should be no issues (assuming you have already copied the content that gets erased when you reformat). – Michael Clark May 31 '14 at 18:38
up vote -2 down vote accepted

With most cameras, not much actually changes on the memory card, when being formatted, other than the pointer to the file being erased. On the other hand, some cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III, allow for a low level formatting option, which should help a lot. The answer is that lots of people swap memory cards all the time and don't have problems, but they could happen due to file corruption in some rare cases. I think that if your camera allows for low level formatting, you should be ok, otherwise its better to be safe than sorry and not swap them.

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Why would low level formatting matter, let alone "help a lot"? – mattdm May 31 '14 at 3:02
A bit more research found this information: Low-level formatting does a better job of erasing the files. Exactly, what level of difference is a gray area. The low-level format marks 'bad' sectors and takes them off limits for future use, which is helpful, and in the case of a badly corrupted card, 'help a lot'. – Vonada Jun 3 '14 at 23:20

It is okay to do this. The advice you were given is superstition that doesn't have any technical basis. (Cynically, the memory card manufacturer's representative may just have wanted to sell you more cards, and to propagate a story which could lead to more sales if widely believed.)

This is slightly related to What is the right way to format a SD Card for use in camera? — another place where people often warn not to do something which is probably no big deal.

The filesystem used in almost all cameras is FAT, which is relatively simple and well-understood because it is so old and used pretty much everywhere. Every embedded operating system which might be used in a camera will have this tested and retested and proven by experience. There may be remaining driver bugs, and it's conceivable that some interaction between bugs could cause problems, but most such bugs are really worked out by now, and the interaction seems quite unlikely. And especially if you reformat in the new camera each time... really, there's very little mechanism for anything to go wrong.

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