After Hours

Where you can stick your pics: Options for digital camera storage

Digital cameras are becoming as popular as scanners with end users. Kyle Harmon has some tips for choosing the best storage technology for your shop.

If something can’t be put on a scanner, the most popular alternative lately is to take a digital picture of it. More and more businesses are turning to digital photography when creating images for publication on the Web or in print. Since those cameras have to interact with end-user computers, it’s important for the IT department to take an active role in evaluating the storage media options for digital photography. Here are some products to consider.

Smart media
Smart media technology is one of the two most popular forms of storage for digital cameras. Smart media are slightly smaller than compact flash and considerably thinner. They are also water resistant. In addition, because this technology is so popular, many digital camera gadgets (such as picture frames and digital photo printers) work with them.

On the downside, because they are so thin, smart media seem quite fragile. This made me worry that if I carried one around in my pocket, it might be damaged. Also, because they come in different voltage ratings, sometimes the different voltages are not interchangeable, which can make finding the right one more difficult.
  • Pros: Very widespread use, easy to find, small
  • Cons: Thin—probably easier to break, different voltages, more expensive than Iomega’s new Clik! disks
  • Price: The media cards run about $90 for 32 MB

Compact flash
Compact flash is the other most popular form of digital camera storage. Compact flash cards use the same technology that standard PCMCIA type II flash memory cards use. This makes it easy to use PCMCIA adapters to access the compact flash cards on a laptop. Thanks to its popularity, compact flash—like smart media—has direct support in most digital camera accessories. Compact flash costs about the same price per megabyte as smart media, but is available in higher capacities.
  • Pros: Small, one-fourth the size of a PCMCIA card, easy to find, compatible with many digital camera accessories, higher capacities
  • Cons: Not water resistant like the smart media, more expensive than the Clik!
  • Price: Compact flash cards run about $85 for 30 MB

Sony Memory Stick
Sony has decided to throw its hat in the ring by introducing its own type of media that ships with Sony digital cameras (with the exception of the floppy drive models). This technology, called Memory Stick, is proprietary to Sony, so only Sony and Sony-endorsed products will contain it. The lack of compatibility, however, is about the only drawback of this media.

Memory Stick, which is smaller than a stick of gum, is available in capacities up to 64 MB. The MSRP, at $80 for 32 MB, is considerably lower than the price of other media. I was able to find it even cheaper at around $65. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult for me to endorse such proprietary technology, although Sony does have many great camera models available.
  • Pros: High capacities, low price
  • Cons: Proprietary technology, slightly larger than other media
  • Price: Sony’s Memory Stick runs around $65 for 32 MB

Iomega Clik!
Iomega’s Clik! disks are the size of half of a business card, about half the size of a PCMCIA card, and about 2 millimeters thick (in other words, they are tiny). Iomega offers drives to read the disks in several forms, including PCMCIA card ($199—the cards stick directly in the PCMCIA slot), parallel port interface, and a USB docking station that works in conjunction with the PCMCIA drive. Clik! can also be read as an interface that allows you to transfer data directly from smart media or compact flash media.

The digital camera package Iomega offers is a good idea. Similar to the way that many photo cameras work, the battery-operated device has interfaces for both smart media and compact flash, as well as a built-in Clik! drive. This allows you to transfer data to and from those media directly to and from a Clik! disk, enabling you to carry extra photos for much cheaper than purchasing an additional media card (the Clik! disks cost from $10 to $15 each, depending on how many you purchase). Each of these tiny disks holds 40 megabytes.

In the few days since Iomega sent me the unit, I have been duly impressed. The speed is remarkable, and the installation of the PCMCIA drive only took a few minutes. Overall, I would really like to see more devices directly supporting this media format. Already available is the AGFA Clik! Digital Camera, but unfortunately it lacks the picture quality and features available in other cameras.
  • Pros: High capacity, extremely low price
  • Cons: Lack of widespread support
  • Price: Clik! for the digital camera—$149 after $50 rebate. Disks cost from $10 to $15 each depending on the number purchased.

Kyle Harmon is the owner of UCANweb.com.

To comment on this article or to share your experiences with digital camera technology, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Kyle.
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