Memory cards are used to store pictures and video clips. The majority of digital cameras also have a small amount of built in storage. In most cases this is very small and can only hold a small number of images. Therefore in almost all instances you will need to use a memory card before being able to take lots of pictures with your digital camera.
There are a number of different types of memory card. Most digital cameras are only compatible with one type of memory card. So if you buy the wrong type of card it is unlikely to work in your camera.
Memory cards also come in classes. For example you can buy a class 4 card. Higher class cards are able to read and write information quicker than low class cards. Class becomes more important if you are using an advanced digital camera or are looking to shoot HD movies. So as well as checking the type of memory card your digital camera is compatible with you also need to check the class of card you need to use all the features your digital camera offers.
A further consideration is the maximum storage capacity your digital camera can cope with. Some cameras are unable to cope with high capacity cards or higher class cards. If you are not sure of the limitations of your camera it is advisable to consult your user manual or speak directly to the manufacturer before buying.
SD cards are by far the most common type of memory card. They are compatible with the majority of digital cameras. Different types of SD card are available such as SDHC and SDXC cards. These are normally higher capacity and faster processing versions than the standard SD card.
CompactFlash cards offer very high storage capacities and fast processing times. Once they were widely used, but now they are usually only found in the most advanced Digital SLRS.
Micro SD cards were initially a popular method of storing images in mobile phones. A small number of digital cameras are also compatible with them.
Historically the majority of Fuji and Olympus digital cameras used xD cards, but their cameras are now use SD cards.
Memory Stick Duo is used by Sony digital cameras. Most Sony cameras are now also compatible with SD cards.
Multi Media Cards have the same physical characteristics as Secure Digital Cards. The technology inside them is different. They are usually used as an alternative to SD cards. This means that some digital cameras that use SD cards can also use Multi Media Cards.
Digital cameras include a format option within their menu systems. This deletes all the images on the card and frees up storage for later use. It can also clear up minor problems that the card may develop. It is seen as good practice to format memory cards from time to time. Always ensure you have stored any images elsewhere before formatting.
From time to time memory cards can become damaged. There are a number of companies that specialize in retrieving images from corrupt cards. If you need images retrieved there are plenty of online companies offering the service or your local camera shop should be able to provide assistance.
I have used a wide range of brands over the years and I have never had a memory card fail on me. Brands I have used include Sandisk, Integral, Kingston, Sony, Olympus and Fuji. 99.9% of the time there are no restrictions on the brands you can buy, but just occasionally a digital camera manufacturer will specify a particular brand of card. For example some Olympus digital cameras used to only be able to use the panorama function with Olympus own brand cards.
As with most things you tend to get what you pay for and I would personally avoid any cards that are sold at a price that is simply too good to be true.
Memory card prices can vary. This can depend on the brand, capacity and class of the card. It can pay to shop around.
Read more: Compare Memory Card Prices