Memory card readers: a must-have accessory, memory card differences

Week of October 31, 2004

Q: I have a 5-year old Olympus Camedia digital camera and a new Dell Windows XP PC. When I install the Olympus software and attempt to download pictures, it does not work and suggests one of the following: change the port setting, lower connection speed, or set camera to outer connection mode. I do not know what these things mean. Obviously I’m inexperienced at this, but didn’t think it could be so difficult.

When I attempted the suggested way and turn my camera on, it beeps three times and does not download my pics.

Any suggestions?

-Connie Grady, Minnetonka, MN

A: You probably have a compatibility problem with the five year-old camera software and your new computer. It could also be several other things and without being there, it would be very hard for me to troubleshoot your problem.

This is an easy question to answer, however. My suggestion is to do an end-around the entire situation, forget about connecting the camera directly to the computer, and get a memory card reader instead.

A memory card reader is one accessory that is a must-have for every digital photographer. They offer great benefits in convenience and operation that make them well worth the modest purchase price- usually under $20.

Memory card readers are convenient because you can connect them to an open port on your computer and just leave them there. Whenever you want to download pictures, just take the card from the camera, place it in the card reader, and away you go! Most new computers will recognize a memory card reader without installing any special software, so you probably won’t have to worry about installing software to use it.

Downloading pictures from your camera requires it to be turned on, which wastes battery power better used for picture taking.   The flimsy cord that connects the camera to the computer is easy to misplace, as well.

Most card readers use a USB connection. If your computer has a USB 2 or FireWire port, you can buy a high-speed card reader that will take advantage of the faster connection and download your pictures even faster. If you combine a high-speed memory card with a high-speed card reader connected to an appropriate connection port, you will be shocked at how much faster your pictures download compared to your old camera connected directly to the computer. Some newer cameras have a built-in USB 2 or FireWire connection, but once you have experienced the convenience of a memory card reader, you won’t want to go back.

Laptop computer users can buy a PCMCIA card that will accept a memory card. It’s very convenient and offers fast downloading, as well.

Q: What is the difference between a SmartMedia card, a Compact Flash card and a SD media card?
-Rick Frame, Dallas, TX

A: All three are memory cards, but they do not have any real similarity beyond that. They are different sizes and shapes and totally incompatible with each other.

SD and Compact Flash are now the commonly used cards. Compact Flash cards, while larger in physical size than SD cards, tend to be much less expensive and available in a greater variety of speeds and sizes.

SmartMedia is becoming obsolete and is not used in recently-introduced digital cameras.

Comments are closed.