Does the Memory Linger?

Clouds are ephemeral, blowing in the wind, forever changing their shapes and disappearing as their moisture evaporates or descends as precipitation. I am reminded that digital memory cards are also fragile, particularly (in my experience) CF cards made by Lexar. Here’s the story.

In the days of film, I lost some film due to handling problems. I remember exposing some sheet film to the light by accident while unloading sheet film in the field, botched chemistry, and even a whole batch of Kodachrome I mailed to the lab from some podunk town in Montana that was forever lost. But it has taken a real attitude adjustment for me to internalize the fact that digital memory cards are just (if not more) subject to Murphy’s law as film ever was.

Back in April, I lost a morning’s worth of work when my Lexar memory card started displaying the dread CHA error on my Nikon. The card was “unrecognized” by my computer, and the specialized rescue software supplied by card manufacturers failed to recover the images. Here’s the original story. The images were lost forever, but Lexar did replace the card.

Yesterday I spent a while photographing flowers at Blake Garden in the morning in the sunshine, and then at sunset I photographed the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay from the end of the Emeryville Pier. Yesterday when I tried to retreive the contents of the card, I couldn’t. Putting the card back in the camera I got the very same CHA error. Like clouds, and memories, these images are gone forever.

Fortunately, I can photograph at these nearby locations again pretty easily. But what generally as a digital photographer can one do about the fragility of memory cards? Here are my thoughts.

  • Recognize that memory cards are fragile, and plan around this in your workflow
  • Go for smaller rather than larger memory cards (meaning, for example, two 2GB cards rather than one 4GB card) to minimize possible loss
  • Get images off your memory cards as quickly as possible (I could have saved my morning work off the card before going out to shoot at sunset)
  • My opinion after two consecutive failures from Lexar (and none from Sandisk) is that Lexar media is inherently less reliable; caveat emptor

For comic relief, I reproduce my online support session with Lexar’s Bala below. I am not quite enough of a Borat to push this conversation as far as it might have gone, considering that Bala is obviously some person in India happy to have the job with Lexar and not that good at really irate customer placation.

Bala has entered the session.
Harold: This card gives me a CHA error on camera after a day’s shooting. Computers can’t read it, and the rescue software doesn’t recognize it. Note that this card was sent to me by you as a replacement for my original Lexar card which failed, ticket # 39565 originated 4/16/2006 (ticket closed in 5/2006). Doesn’t Lexar have any cards that actually work long term?
Bala: Thank you for contacting Lexar. I will be assisting you today!
Harold: OK
Bala: We understand that you receive card error
Bala: We apologize for the inconvenience you have encountered with our product
Harold: Yes
Bala: When do you exactly receive this error?
Harold: When I put the card in the camera and turn it on. Also, in the card reader the computer says is unrecognizable.
Bala: Please try to reformat the card in the camera
Harold: OK. Hold on, of course I lose my photos by doing that, but I guess they are lost anyhow…
Harold: Camera will not reformat. Gives me same CHA error.
Bala: What is the capacity and the speed of the card?
Harold: 2GB 80X
Bala: Do you have a different card that works fine?
Harold: Yes.
Bala: Since the above trouble shooting steps was unable to resolve this issue, it is possible that the product is defective. Hence it appears that replacement is required for this product. Would you like to replace the product?
Harold: It is defective, and for the second time. I am very disappointed in Lexar. Of course I would like to replace this…
Bala: In order to help you in tracking the RMA information and status,we will create a service request for you
Bala: Please check for the service re
Bala: request to send the card
Harold: OK. Will you send me an email?
Bala: Yes please login to isupport and check for the details to send the card.
Bala: You will receive an email
Harold: Thank you. Will this replacement actually work long term?
Bala: Yes
Bala: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Harold: Promise?
Bala: Lexar will replace your returned unit with another unit that is tested and verified to be in new or refurbished condition. You may not receive the original unit back.
Harold: OK, but that wasn’t my question. You’ve already sent me back one replacement that failed.
Bala: Lexar will inspect the product and at its option, repair or replace the product.
Bala: We will ensure to send a working card
Harold: …but will it continue working as I use it in the field. It is very hard to rely on Lexar.
Bala: It will work for sure
Bala: You can take our word
Harold: You promise?
Bala: It will work for sure
Bala: You are welcome
Bala: If you have further inquiries, please don’t hesitate to review our online support pages at Here you may find answers to many of the most common questions asked by our members. For further assistance contact us at (510) 413-1275 during regular business hours, 7 A.M to 5 P.M PST, Monday through Friday. Thank you for choosing Lexar. Have a Nice Day.
Bala has exited the session.
Your agent is experiencing technical difficulties. Please login again to re-establish contact.

This entry was posted in Landscape, Photography.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Photoblog 2.0: » Photoblog 2.0 Archive: » Caress on November 16, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    […] igital Photographs and Techniques from Harold Davis

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  2. […] Golden Gate Bridge Reflections, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger. Between a cloud in a reflection and the panorama of the Golden Gate, and opposite Fort Point, lies this refelec […]

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