I have a Nikon d3100, a few weeks ago I had an issue where my files all got lost. I figured it was due to using an old memory card so I replaced my memory card. I have only used the new 32g card two times (formatting them in the camera each shoot). Yesterday I came home from a shoot and all but one of the photos are ‘corrupted’ I can see that there are NEF files but they wont’t open no matter how I try to download them. There is one photo (my first one) that is able to open and download but all of the others are unable to do anything with. They aren’t really lost because I can see them Any tips or tricks? Or ways to recover these photos? Is my camera the problem?


3 Answers 3


What you see are likely JPEG thumbnails that are embedded in the NEF file. They display fine if the first kilobytes of the file are readable, but that doesn't mean the rest of the file isn't corrupt.

A few things to check:

  • the size of the files (in bytes, not in pixels) as reported by the camera (if the camera can display it) and is it compatible with the size of your NEF when the camera worked?
  • the size of the files in your computer file explorer, and wether that look coherent with a NEF size.
  • if the files are big enough to be NEFs, then ZIP some of them (ZIP of any other compression utility, such as WinRar). Compare the size of the ZIP with the size of the files. If you get better than a 5% compression, the file is likely damaged (NEF files likely do not compress well, while damaged files often have large blocks of data replaced by all zeroes or all ones and these areas compress very well). You can ZIP a few good NEFs to get a better estimation of the compression ratio of good NEFs (2% for my Canon CR2s...).

The tests above will only tell you if there is any hope to recover some of the files. As to why the files are damaged, as @flolilo says, too many variables... If the cards behave normally in another camera it could be the camera.


If it happens with several cards that work fine in other devices, then it is almost certainly the camera.

Yo may not have to buy a new camera though, I had the same problem some years ago. The problem was that I had used the camera in a too moist environment. After a few weeks it worked fine again. Putting it in a closed box with some silica bags may help to get it dry inside faster. If you are like most people and don't have a bunch of silica bags lying around, you could use rice. Put the rice in a closed paper bag to prevent dust in your camera.

  • 4
    Salt - Maybe it's just me, but I think this is a very bad idea. Take silica gel (desiccant bags) instead.
    – flolilo
    Mar 28, 2019 at 20:03
  • 2
    @flolilo It's not just you. Salt isn't a dessicant, and it will promote corrosion in electronics. I suppose that once the camera stops working completely, it won't corrupt files anymore, but this isn't good advice. Mar 28, 2019 at 23:17
  • 3
    In the environment-friendly-probably-already-have-some-at-home category (uncooked) rice was used in the past as moisture catcher. People even put a few grains in salt shakers (until additives were added to table salt).
    – xenoid
    Mar 29, 2019 at 7:14
  • @xenoid Putting rice in salt shakers is not a thing of the past. In most of Florida, especially the coast, it's so humid, that's the only way to keep the salt from forming a lump in the shaker.
    – scottbb
    Mar 29, 2019 at 21:50
  • 2
    What I don't like about rice - but that's just flolilo's temporal germophibia speaking - is that in theory, it could start to mold. Not really a problem, but check your rice at least once a year ;-)
    – flolilo
    Mar 31, 2019 at 20:00

Ouch. I have a similar issue with a D300, So now I have the policy that I only download the photos connecting the camera directly with a USB cable, not removing the card. I have no issues with moist, dirt or anything similar. I am extremely careful about that.

There is a chance you can still recover some images using some recovery software. See other posts on the forum regarding that.

  • 1
    Does not removing the card help? If so, that implies the problem is with your card reader or the USB cable by which it is attached.
    – mattdm
    Mar 29, 2019 at 8:43
  • I have no issues with the same card from a canon camera using the same card reader.
    – Rafael
    Apr 2, 2019 at 13:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.