Now that you have your card, let’s talk about formatting. When you purchase any new SD card, you can start shooting right away—and probably everything will work as it should. However, what you should do first is format the card in the camera. This process allows the camera to initialize the card so it records images to its specifications, just as a computer hard drive must be formatted. The card may work in the camera without being formatted, but chances of failure down the road are much higher.
As a general practice, I always format new cards, or cards that have been used in different cameras. I also reformat cards after I have downloaded my images and want to start a new shooting session. Note that you should always format your card in the camera, not your computer. Using the computer could render the card useless. You should also pay attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations in respect to moisture, humidity, and proper handling procedures. It sounds cliché, but when it comes to protecting your images, every little bit helps.
Formatting the memory card is not equivalent to erasing all of its data, however. The truth is that when the camera formats the card, it’s resetting the file management information. Your camera will simply write the new image data over the previous data. Think of it as removing the table of contents from a book and replacing it with a blank page. All of the contents are still there, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the empty table of contents. The camera will see the card as completely empty so you won’t be losing any space, even if you have previously filled the card with images. Why explain all this detail? This technique makes it possible to recover photos, using third-party software, in the event you accidentally format a card.
Formatt ing your memory card
- Insert your memory card into the camera if it’s not already there.
- Press the Menu button and navigate to the setup menu screen (the second tab from the left).
- Press the Down button to highlight the Format option (A) and press Set.
- The default selection for the Format screen is Cancel, just in case you didn’t really want to format the card. Press the Right button to highlight OK (B).
- Press the Set button to format the card.
Note that when you perform the card formatting, you can select Low Level Format, which performs a more intensive formatting of the card. The camera formats all of the recordable sectors on the card, a process that takes much longer than a normal formatting and does not need to be performed every time you format. You only need to do this if you see a slowdown in card performance. To enable the Low Level Format option, follow the directions on the previous page, but highlight the Low Level Format option and press the Right button (which puts a checkmark next to the option) before
starting the format process (Figure 2.2).