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05-30-2010, 03:38 PM   #1
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SD Card "Lost" my photos...

I just took about 300 photos on a 8GB SD card with my Pentax K-7. I had space for about 100 more. However, I tried to take another picture and the camera gave some error about not being able to save it. When I looked at the est number of photos left it didn't report anything. I turned off the camera, took out the SD card and put it back in. The camera reported space for 476 more photos. When I tried to preview the photos that should have been on the card it said "No image". When I got home I plugged the SD card into a computer. It showed the DCIM folder, but nothing in it. From my computer I created and deleted a folder in the DCIM directory to make sure the SD card could read/write.

Is there a way to recover data on the SD device?
Is there a firmware for the camera to fix this?
Is there an explanation why this happened?
If not, is there a way to get my money back for this camera and the lenses?

This is my 3rd SLR Pentax camera. I've used Pentax since I was 11 and have loved them. Please don't let this be the reason to stop recommending them.

05-30-2010, 03:48 PM   #2
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There are many freeware programs that will try to recover files, if only the directory/folder entries have been lost. Try a few - there is really no other way to know if you can recover anything. Beyond that it depends how important these pictures are.

On a recent trip I thought I had accidentally deleted about 200 images, and downloaded about six different programs to try to recover them. None worked, but it turned out the images hadn't been deleted at all; I'd just moved them to another directory (typo.)

I don't have a K7 but I did have my camera get confused about the content of a 4 gb sdcard once, and it was concerning because it was near the capacity (lots of pictures on a K100.) However rebooting the camera seemed to fix the problem in my case. It is disconcerting to think that you might lose so many pictures as can fit on a sdcard, especially if you buy the large 16 or 32gb sizes (even worse if you don't shoot raw, as you could lose even more pictures.)

Paul
05-30-2010, 03:49 PM   #3
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It is probably not the camera. I suspect it is a problem with the SD Card. Here are links to software utilities that may help you try to recover the images on the card. The card is formatted exactly like a PC disk. What ever you do, DO NOT FORMAT the SD card until you recover the images. Also DO NOT try to store anything else on the SD card.
If you are able to recover the images, move them off to your PC and then reformat the card (in the camera), and see if it then is able to hold (test) images again. Personally, I would ditch the card and get a new one.

I have never had this happen to me so I am unable to recommend a utility that I know will work.

hope that helps....
05-30-2010, 04:06 PM   #4
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You can use a freeware program named "Recuva", it should do the trick. There are other alternatives, but it's free and I've seen it recommended by some tech related Internet sites. Try to avoid using the SD card more than you have to. This is both because you may accidentally overwrite "hidden"/deleted data, and the SD card may stop functioning completely.

I've not seen this problem reported before (which I would expect, as it is a serious bug), but I guess it may be a bug related to the card, which would mean the card is faulty. Happens to all makes and types of cards, but I suppose the cheaper brands are more prone to faulty samples than the more well-known ones.
After recovering your photos, you may try to scan for errors using the tool 'CHKDSK' in Windows, or other disk tools in your operating system. In Windows, it should be accessable via My Computer. Right-click on the drive (the SD card) you wish to scan, and select properties. Then, bring up the "Tools" page, and click "Check now". It may not be a cure, but at least you know where the fault may be, and could return the SD card. Even if no errors are found, I would probably blame the card. Try a well-known brand (SanDisk, Lexar) to ensure no incompatibility.
As for the last question, you may want to get the camera checked, but I would bet on that the error is very hard to replicate.


Of course, the best way to determine what the cause is, would be to actually try to replicate the error, using the same card (without formatting it), same settings, and loading it up with about the same amount of pictures you had on the card when the error occured. Then, if you get an error, try to check if the error occures with a near-empty card. If it doesn't, it's probably got a bad 'sector', although you may want to check with another 8GB card filled with 300-ish pictures (if the error occured when replicating the conditions the error occured under).

05-30-2010, 04:29 PM   #5
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Thanks for the quick replies.

Thanks for the quick replies. I hope it's just the SD card, and not the camera. I tried two different recovery tools but they didn't work. I am now doing a low level disk dump of the card on my Linux box. Maybe I'll hack at the image with a Hex editor later.

I am upgrading the camera firmware, and I will use a new SD card brand. But it doesn't look like any of the firmware updates address this issue. (There is always the chance they found a bug and fixed it without announcing it) But even with the new firmware and a new SD card I'm still pissed and won't trust the camera because I'm not sure why it happened. God I'm pissed. I want Pentax (camera) or Centron (SD Card) to contact all the guests at the baby shower and apologize for me.

It appears that the camera will create the DCIM directory (maybe format too) if the SD card is new. I'm guessing the SD Card had some sort of IO error and Pentax didn't handle it properly. That is rather than just say, nope sorry, go away, the camera thought... must be a new card.. FORMAT!! I'm taking guesses here. Anyone have any more info? Can I take back all the nasty things I think about Pentax right now?

if ( i_dont_know_what_the_hell_the_card_says) {
format_card();
}

Would be better if...

if ( i_dont_know_what_the_hell_the_card_says ) {
if ( sd_card_is_all_zeros ) {
format_card();
else {
display_error();
prompt_user_for_option_to_format();
}
}
05-30-2010, 05:53 PM   #6
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Its usually the card and not the camera. Centron is a brand that I have never heard of before. It does not mean that they are inferior, but I would stay with one of the main SD memory suppliers - SanDisk, Transend, etc., and never purchase off SD cards off of ebay since there has been a lot of problems with fake SD cards.
05-30-2010, 06:10 PM   #7
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SD card appears to have been formated

I pulled it up with a hexeditor and after just a few bytes of mostly partition information the card is ALL zeros. (No chance of recovering the photos) I'm now going to run a lot of badblock checks on it. I need to figure out if it was the card or camera (or both).

Does anyone know if the Pentax format function just wipes the partition and FAT table, or does it zero out the disk?
05-30-2010, 06:33 PM   #8
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It was a bad card.

I would be REALLY surprised is the format function zeroed out the disk. That is a very time and CPU intensive operation, and also not something that is really necessary for the camera to do.

And hacking at it with a hex editor is a bad idea. No good will come of it, as you have discovered.

Another thing I gotta say is that I don't see any reason so far to escalate one bad experience with a Yogi-bear brand SD card that is probably a factory fake or something into a black mark against the whole Pentax brand. Hard disks get corrupt and die all the time, floppy disks get corrupt and die, and SD cards do too.

05-31-2010, 12:56 AM   #9
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I have never heard of Centron before. I have learned to stay away from cheap cards and only buy reputable brands (Sandisk has never failed me) from reputable dealers (not on the street). A friend of mine has just returned from Hong-Kong where he bought a fake Sandisk card. He lost all his photos. I also prefer 4x2Go cards than an 8Go one, to minimize the risks in case of a failure.
05-31-2010, 08:20 AM   #10
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SD card bad...

This is strange...

I've ran several destructive badblock checks against the card and it passes every time. (destructive meaning it writes/reads 0xaa then 0x55, then 0xff, then 0x00) I also verified the K-7 format function does not zero out the whole card. So now I'm left with no idea why the card works fine now. Nor do I know what caused the card to be zeroed out instantly.

What would cause an SD card to instantly become 0x00?
Would an ESD cause all 0x00 or would it be "random", or just broken?
Would an EMP cause all 0x00?
Any chance using Lithium batteries with the flash/or bad wiring in the flash cause a strong enough EMP to mess with the SD card? Any way to test? (If I do find an EMF meter to test it does anyone know what the normal magnetic field values should be?)
It was raining when it happened. I don't recall any thunder.
05-31-2010, 11:40 AM   #11
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I don't believe that your whole card was overwritten in one go. ESD can be excluded in my opinion as it was raining; further, once ESD problems show themselves, they are permanent. EMP is far fetched (you're watching to much television when you're not taking photos ) but you're desperately looking for an explanation.

It is more than likely (I basically will stick my hand in the fire for this) that your card had an internal read error. This resulted in any data to be returned from the card being 0x00 (0 for the non-computer literates under us). Therefore the camera happily indicated that there was space for 467 photos (as reading the FAT by the card's internal controller returned 0x00 and it was concluded that there were no files on the card) and your low level recovery returned only 0's.

I suspect a dry solder joint on the interface between the card's internal controller and the card's memory. Putting physical strain on the card (insert, remove etc) has fixed it for now. The dry solder joint is not at the interface side with the reader as in that case the partition information would have been zeroed as well.

You can do some temperature testing in combination with your bad block testing if you still want to investigate further. As you should not trust this card any further, you can also decide to open it up and check for dry solder joints.

@rawr
brettb probably used dd to make a dump and inspected that with an hex editor; there is no way that a hexeditor can directly access a corrupted disk.
05-31-2010, 12:52 PM   #12
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I have a question - when you received your KX did you format the SD card in the camera or just slide in the card and start shooting? Personally, I would acquire a new SD card and go forward, and not trust the old one.

sterretje makes a good observation about the card. I have to believe that the fault lies with the card, there are just too many opportunities for failure there - given the first occurrence.

If there is to be blame assessed to the camera it would fall into one of two areas. Either the software or the hardware. One has to consider that the SD card I/O routines are probably the same ones going back to the K100D Super when they were modified to handle HC. That is about 4 years across quite a few models and cameras - with no reported problems. On the hardware side of things, everything is a solid mount within the camera. Sliding in the card, the card will flex before anything in the camera. If there is going to be an intermittent hardware failure, it will occur in the card and not in the camera. The only reported problem that I have read concerning SD cards in Pentax cameras is with the K7, where folks feel that there is too little physical room provided in order to insert and extract the card from the camera.

I have fallen in to the habit of removing the card and mounting it in the PC to download the images. After which I replace it in the camera and do a format to "erase" the previous images. Also, as indicated before, I use about 4 4GB cards that I have acquired over time, rather than a single large one, essentially to limit the impact any card failures.

There are quite a few brands out there. Most of the electronics come from just a couple of FABs however. SanDisk, Transend, Kingston, Lexar, PNY, PQI are all good brands that I have used without any problems.
06-01-2010, 08:54 AM   #13
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Testing the card...

I think/hope its the card too. But I won't feel good until I can replicate it in a controlled way. I'll try to do some more testing. Since the badblock tests are all passing I'll try heating it up then testing. The camera had been on for about 3 hours. (not sure it would get hot enough to break solder joints or if the SD card even has solder) but I want to figure this out. I'll also take another 300+ pictures of my office to see if I can't get it to die again.

How complex are the controllers on SD cards. I know the controllers on SSD drives can do a lot of "magic". In other words your don't read from the memory locations directly on an SSD device. Everything is managed (or "faked") by the controller. Is that the same on the SD cards? In which case it would just take one mistake at the controller to think everything is 0x00.

btw, you can directly hexedit the SD card using /dev/mmcblkX in linux. But I have a dd dump too.
06-01-2010, 10:11 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by brettb Quote
How complex are the controllers on SD cards. I know the controllers on SSD drives can do a lot of "magic". In other words your don't read from the memory locations directly on an SSD device. Everything is managed (or "faked") by the controller. Is that the same on the SD cards? In which case it would just take one mistake at the controller to think everything is 0x00.
I downloaded a datasheet of a flash memory (the one shown in Secure Digital - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ); looks like it uses 8bit parallel I/O. As SD cards do not communicate 8bit in parallel (see the mentioned wiki article; 1bit, 4bit and SPI), the controller has to take care of this.

A firmware mistake (code runaway, stack errors) in the controller is not likely as there would have been plenty reports about it. Usually data from the memory is read into a register or the accumulator in the controller and next transfered to the outside world. If those are broken, they will stay broken in my opinion.

QuoteOriginally posted by brettb Quote
btw, you can directly hexedit the SD card using /dev/mmcblkX in linux. But I have a dd dump too.
Forgot about that
06-01-2010, 10:15 AM   #15
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Although the test results might be interesting. I would not spend to much time on it. Rather get two other cards (SanDisk is often mentioned as very good) and fill them up with 'useless' shots. If the problem manifests itself again, it was not the card. If the problem does not show, you can be confident that the camera is OK.
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