Articles: Memory

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Sony CyberShot DSC-F828

Finally, I decided to check out a camera of the amateur class. The F828 has a big-resolution sensor (8 megapixel) and can record high-quality video (30 frames per second in the 640x480 resolution) with sound and zoom (thanks to the metal zoom circle on the objective lens).

A CompactFlash slot in a Sony camera is an unheard-of accident. Until now, the company has been sticking to its own standards, inventing proprietary formats whenever possible and developing products compatible with those formats only. Considering the influence of the company in the audio-video equipment field, the users of digital cameras from Sony had to put up with it, buying Memory Stick/Pro media.

Marketing considerations must have prevailed over the company’s engineering principles, and the F828 came equipped with slots for CompactFlash as well as for MemoryStick/Pro. This fact certainly added popularity to this camera, although with one reservation: you need MemoryStick/Pro or MicroDrive flash cards to record high-quality video – CompactFlash cannot be used for that. That’s strange since the required bandwidth can be provided by a fast CompactFlash card. The performance of MemoryStick Pro and MicroDrive devices cannot be considered overall higher than that of CompactFlash cards. Well, that’s a subject for another review…

You can feel the borderline between professional and amateur products in the serial shooting mode. The Sony F828 allows photographing up to seven frames at a speed of 2.5 fps, but only in JPEG format. The camera can also shoot in TIFF and RAW formats, but only with single frames. These limitations are probably due to the insufficient size of the camera’s frame buffer or may have been imposed deliberately. Anyway, I’m going to check out the camera’s writing speed in the serial shooting mode (in JPEG format):

You see that the camera has no favorites. Moreover, the write speeds of the first and last cards are 16s and 25s, respectively. This is no great difference. A more interesting fact is that you get about the same numbers if measure the write speed with single RAW or TIFF frames. Thus, if you shoot in JPEG format, fast media won’t help you much. And otherwise, if you’re getting the highest quality from the camera and always shooting in RAW or TIFF formats, you need to use fast memory cards with it.

And, somewhat off the topic of this review, I want to remind you that you need Memory Stick Pro or MicroDrive to record video in 640x480x30fps format.

Camera Tests: Summary

If you’ve been examining the results carefully enough, you have certainly noticed that the leaders vary between different “camera – memory card” combinations. It is also evident that the gap in performance of the fastest and slowest card also varies depending on the camera. I suppose there are cameras (not included into this review) that wouldn’t have any speed difference working with any flash card! My point is that you should always consider the performance of a memory card with the device you are intending to use the card with. Each “reader – memory card” system will have its own unique performance level.

So, the first fact that can be derived from my tests reads as follows: make sure it makes sense for you to buy a faster memory card. Compare the performance of your current card to the one you intend to purchase, with a simple stop-watch: serial photographing, exposure of no less than 1/250s, white balance preset and aperture size – in accordance to the lighting, manual focus, maximum quality of files (RAW or TIFF would be optimal). If the difference is obvious – the purchase makes sense. And vice versa…

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