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11-30-2012, 10:50 PM   #1
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Cautionary Tale: Unexpected Total Loss of Photos from SD Card

Just returned from an amazing trip through Turkey. But about 175 photos from my secondary SD card (16GB, Amazon branded) are lost forever. I am puzzled how it could have happened.

I was at the ruins of the church of St. John the Apostle in Selcuk, shooting views of the ruins and nearby crusader castle when I asked a woman to take a picture of me and my gf. She put the camera to her eye to take the picture, but upon pressing the shutter, said it was not working. When I looked at the display, it had a card error message. Tried inserting card in my laptop later on, but card was not recognized as a drive at all. When I got back home, I tried about 5 different softwares, including Recuva and PhotoRec, but no luck. So I sent the card off to Recoverfab in Germany, who disassembles each card, unsolders the controller and recompiles data from the memory chips inside. I was hopeful, but he just replied today that he was unable to recover any usable data from the Turkey trip. Interestingly, he was able to recover some photos from Italy I took last summer and had deleted by reformatting after transfer to my desktop, but they were on a different memory chip. Recoverfab stated that the reason for the data loss seems to be "an electrostatic discharge or a voltage peak from a connected device." Now I am wondering if the woman I gave it to to take the picture had some kind of static buildup on her person that transferred to the camera, since it was working fine before that moment.

Anyhow, I lost all my photos from the amazing travertine terraces at Pamukkale and from Ephesus, so I'm pretty bummed out because I think I had captured what promised to be some great shots. I don't know if this was avoidable. I contacted Amazon about it and they sent me a new 16GB card, no questions asked (after more than 1 yr from original purchase). I tested it and seems to work fine, but I think I will only use Sandisk from now on (filled an 8GB Extreme III for first part of my trip) and Amazon card for emergencies, although I can't say for sure their card had anything to do with it. I will also be downloading each day's shots to my laptop every day from now on. Has anyone else had this sudden SD card failure happen during normal shooting so unexpectedly?

11-30-2012, 10:55 PM   #2
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I have a Sandisk Extreme and a Ultra and none of them has yet to fail me. That's unfortunate that it happened. But you said it, it's best to stick with Sandisk from now on, I've yet to hear a failure from them in this forum.
11-30-2012, 11:00 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Sorry to hear about your situation… I once used an application called photorescue to recover an entire 40-GB hard drive (it was only designed for memory cards). It seems like you've exhausted your options, but if not, perhaps you should give that one a try.
12-01-2012, 12:00 AM   #4
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Sorry to hear about the loss. I haven't had any problems with my Sandisk and Transcend 16gb class 10 cards so far. Perhaps you should keep a 4gb card for such occasions, changing cards before handing the camera to a stranger, it doesn't take that long to do.
QuoteOriginally posted by lectrolink Quote
Now I am wondering if the woman I gave it to to take the picture had some kind of static buildup on her person that transferred to the camera, since it was working fine before that moment.
Perhaps she was an alien

12-01-2012, 02:54 AM   #5
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I second giving photorescue a go, I nuked my entire 2TB hard drive space in Uni (don't ask) but managed to recover it all. You should be able to recover most of your files as long as you haven't used the card for anything since it packed in. The images might come back without metadata or anything though, but at least you'll have them.
12-01-2012, 03:56 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by lectrolink Quote
So I sent the card off to Recoverfab in Germany, who disassembles each card, unsolders the controller and recompiles data from the memory chips inside. I was hopeful, but he just replied today that he was unable to recover any usable data from the Turkey trip
....
12-01-2012, 04:10 AM   #7
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Well, that is sad to hear and I feel your pain. There is no predicting when a card will bite the dust, although I tend to drop out cards that "have been in service" for awhile. Maybe at some point Pentax will have a camera with two slots and that might have helped too, who can really say?
12-01-2012, 05:33 AM   #8
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Never had any sudden, drastic failures. But I consider SD cards as just smaller versions of 3.5 inch floppy drives, with many of the same risks - including static.

This is why (a) I use Sandisk cards; (b) Only use small SD cards (8GB max, unless it involves video) to minimise big data loss; (c) Backup everything off the card to the home PC (or netbook if in the field) at the end of every day.

12-01-2012, 06:35 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
Never had any sudden, drastic failures. But I consider SD cards as just smaller versions of 3.5 inch floppy drives, with many of the same risks - including static.

This is why (a) I use Sandisk cards; (b) Only use small SD cards (8GB max, unless it involves video) to minimise big data loss; (c) Backup everything off the card to the home PC (or netbook if in the field) at the end of every day.
I second that idea, from learning the hard way I now manage to make sure that every chance I get I will back up my info on my SD cards, even though I use 16 GB cards I rarely ever go above 4GB on them because I will usually download them on my two back up HDs.
A little while back I just about roasted my HD that had my one and only back up, after I recovered all my data I went out and bought another HD, now when I load my images into Lightroom I have it make a second copy to my other HD, so now when I do my imports I am stashing complete copies onto another HD, I am also thinking of having a third back up in some form or another.
In your situation I can understand that you probably had no choice and no chance to back up your images before you handed your camera to a stranger, but at least you now know the importance of constant and immediate back up of your images.
Another trick I have learned is that I also back up images that I dont think turned out so well, because I never know that down the road when I revisit the images, I just might like them and or use them for something......and believe it or not-THAT has happened
12-01-2012, 07:32 AM   #10
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I never had a camera SD card failure but have had failure of the larger CompactFlash cards in industrial use.
So I specify industrial/medical grade versions now, made by Amtron, but currently Amtron does not provide sd cards

From my reading at the time, consumer grade memory cards can be expected to fail after about 100,000 writes.
The industrial grades have on board processor to spread the writes over the whole memory array and the life is extended to 1 ~ 2 million writes.

Transcend does provide industrial grade sd cards with hardened specifications, and as I understand, with the activity spreading feature.
These are more costly and not high capacity, but they are readily available from Amazon etc.
Welcome to Transcend Online Store

It is hard to imagine how a card in a camera with the door closed could suffer from electrostatic discharge, but i suppose it is possible.
I tend to download frequently, uploading the good shots to box.com, and keep the cards mostly empty, but that is not so easy while traveling.
12-01-2012, 07:53 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
(a) I use Sandisk cards; (b) Only use small SD cards (8GB max, unless it involves video) to minimise big data loss; (c) Backup everything off the card to the home PC (or netbook if in the field) at the end of every day.
I use this strategy as well.
I never format the card. I'm not going to debate or argue this, been there done that.
I've had no failure. (yet)
12-01-2012, 09:55 AM   #12
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I had a PNY 8GB class 10 give up the ghost on me. Luckily I tend to try to make a habit of unloading the disk to my PC daily (if not more frequently) so it wasn't a huge loss, but still aggravating all the same.
12-01-2012, 10:03 AM   #13
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PhotoRec is the best free recovery program. I've saved quite a few friends' card images with it, where other programs failed. It runs in a dos box in windows but it's simple to use.
TestDisk and PhotoRec - CNET Download.com
12-01-2012, 11:04 AM   #14
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Whenever shooting photos of important event, travels and so on what I do is to use two or three cards and swap them around regularly. That is not fill up and then continue on a new one but alternate the cards. That way if the worst happens I at least I still have two thirds of my photos surviving and there wouldn't be one big gap.

In another age I also used to take with me a portable CD burner and would backup the photos onto CD whenever I had the opportunity. Not much use nowadays but instead I can use my smartphone to back up the photos either into its own micro SD (if there happens to be enough space) or to another SD card if I'm out of space on the phone.

I have twice had SD cards fail on me in a big way. The first one I don't remember the make, but was using it in a Fuji S9500. The second time I actually had two SD cards die on me at the same time, both of them Kingston 32GB class 10. These two not only lost the photos but never worked again - they became essentially a dead piece of plastic.

I have on other occasions had a few individual photos corrupted but not often enough to be of any consequence.

Since that Kingston failure I have been using Transcend cards without any issues.
12-01-2012, 11:54 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by LeDave Quote
I have a Sandisk Extreme and a Ultra and none of them has yet to fail me. That's unfortunate that it happened. But you said it, it's best to stick with Sandisk from now on, I've yet to hear a failure from them in this forum.
Sorry, this is not true -

Please see on PentaxForums.com:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/140414-sandisk-war...xperience.html
Very Disturbing problem with K-x today, pics dissappeared from memory card.
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/201177-help-corrup...ml#post2149845
SD Cards/Recovery Sofwares?

Then on Sandisk's own support forums

Problems with Sandisk SDHC

and specifically:

Problems with Sandisk Extreme SDHC

Sandisk do have a well deserved good reputation -
but like anything else they are not perfect or absolutely fault free.

Last edited by UnknownVT; 12-01-2012 at 01:42 PM.
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