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I am a photography teacher, and this year I received cameras with CF cards. Within a week of letting the students use them, three cameras had bent CF slot pins. Does anyone have ideas for preventing this? Here are the ideas I've had so far, and some issues related to each:

  • Require students to bring me their cameras, and I remove and replace the memory cards. The students use card readers to import. This is the system I am currently using and it was working well for a while. Unfortunately, I recently had two more cameras show up with bent pins. It turns out that high school students don't always follow directions. And while I do want them to learn this skill, this is a rather high stakes situation to do it.
  • Hand out USB cables for importing instead of card readers. (This would prevent the need to remove the cards at all). I have used cables in the past, and one problem that pops up is that the USB ports on the cameras eventually wear out and do not connect anymore. This is likely from people attempting to shove the cable in the wrong way, or bumping into the cable while it's in the camera.
  • Purchase WIFI memory cards. (Again to prevent the need to remove the cards) I know most of the options here are SD cards (not CF cards), but I have SD to CF adaptors, so that is not an issue. The problem here is that the WIFI adaptors in the computers in my classroom (which are desktops) are likely being removed this summer and everything is being switched over to cables. I am also concerned about having multiple WIFI SD cards all in the same room, and am unsure if students would be able to tell which camera they are connecting to.
  • Can the SD card be removed from your SD to CF adapters while the adapter is in the camera? - You may have a 4th useful option staring you in the face. – TheLuckless May 3 at 15:11
  • @TheLuckless good idea, but unfortunately the SD card is inserted into the wrong edge of the adaptor, not the exposed edge that you see when you look into the CF slot. – Phil Anderson May 3 at 16:09
  • There may be other dirt cheap SD/CF adapters that allow access. Have you checked for alternatives? – BobT May 3 at 16:32
  • SD cards are almost as long as CF cards are tall. When you factor in the space required for the CF pins to go up into the body of the card, it would be nearly impossible to design an adapter that way, unfortunately. – dgatwood May 3 at 23:29
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    Now that I think about it, it would, in theory, be possible to build a micro-SD-to-CF adapter where the card went in the correct face, though. – dgatwood May 4 at 0:01
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The best solution, assuming you're stuck with CF-based cameras, is to start out the class by showing them pictures of CF slots with bent pins, saying "This cost us $xxx to repair; this year, if you break it, YOU pay for it."

That said, a better option is to avoid CF entirely for students. Hand out cheap cameras with SD card slots. There's a reason that (at least in current-generation cameras) only pro cameras still use CF. CF's mechanical design is terrible, making it highly prone to damage like this unless you treat it with a decent amount of respect. SD, by contrast, is much harder to break, hence the reason consumer gear almost exclusively uses SD, not CF, and has for at least the last decade. Heck, even the newer pro cameras have at least one SD slot these days.

Perhaps let students work their way up to the higher-end cameras after they've proven they can take care of the cheaper ones.

Or just move to newer pro cameras that have SD slots (e.g. Canon's 6D series, 5D Mark IV and later, etc.) and leave the CF slot empty.

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    Although SD cards and slots don't have the types of pins found in CF slots, people somehow find things to bend that weren't meant to be. – xiota May 4 at 4:08
  • What you're missing is that the part that is fragile with SD tends to be the card that costs $30, whereas with CF, the pins are part of the camera, which costs 10-100x as much. – dgatwood May 5 at 0:28
  • CF slots are usually more fragile than SD slots. CF cards are usually far more robust than SD cards. SD cards are also much easier to lose. High school students are very good at losing things a lot larger than either. – Michael C May 5 at 2:53
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  • Anyone with access to a suitable camera should use their own. This might include compact cameras, bridge cameras, and phone apps that allow manual control of all settings. They may use school cameras for specific assignments for which their personal cameras are not suitable.

  • Show them how to use the equipment properly, including use of CF cards.

    • Warn not to force cards into slots. Better to not use the camera for a few days than to worsen potential damage.
    • When issuing cameras, require each student to demonstrate proper use of the card with the camera and card reader.
  • Require parent signatures and deposits before distributing cameras.

  • Discard faulty cards which may be more likely to bend pins.

  • Consider MicroSD-CF adapters that allow MicroSD cards to be removed without removing the CF card from the camera. However, I was unable to find any for purchase that would work.

  • Roll out WiFi cards gradually. Give increased priority to cameras:

    • At increased risk of having bent pins.
    • That have already had bent pins straightened.
    • With damaged USB ports.
  • Enforce natural consequences. Break it...

    • Pay to fix it.
    • No further use of school cameras.

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