Month: April 2015

The Advantages of Renting Photographic Gear Before you Buy

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We have all heard the expression “The gear does not make the photo. The photographer makes the photo.” That being said, the gear does certainly help in perfecting the art of photography.

If you are a professional photographer or even a serious amateur, you know that photography is quite an expensive profession/hobby. Good equipment can be expensive and by the time you build your day-to-day gear bag, it can set you back several thousands of dollars. Just when you think you have the perfect setup,  you hear about the latest camera or a faster lens than what you have just being released for pre-order. Gear lust is very real among photographers!

Kenichi Nobusue

By kenichi nobusue

This is where renting gear or even borrowing becomes a viable option for many professional as well as serious amateurs.

Benefits of renting photo gear

There are several advantages to renting photographic equipment.

  • The cost of renting is typically much lower than cost of buying the gear. This becomes more relevant if it is not something you are going to use too often (like a mega telephoto lens, fish-eye, or tilt-shift lens).

    Jon Fingas

    By Jon Fingas

  • Ability to try out the equipment and see if it suits your style of photography. Once you know you like a piece of gear, you can make the investment and know you’re making the right choice.
  • Using a rental as a backup system for assignments especially events like weddings or concerts.
  • Traveling light and having gear shipped directly to your hotel is an option many photographers mention as a plus for renting. This also eliminates travel-related anxiety around lost luggage and excess baggage charges.
  • Using a rental when your main gear is out for repair. This let’s you keep working while you wait for repairs to be completed.
  • Eliminating buyer’s remorse. It is true that not every piece of gear works for everyone. Often times we buy gear because a certain photographer that we admire has the same equipment, only to be disappointed that our pictures are no where like theirs.

Renting – online versus local stores

Richard Fisher

By Richard Fisher

There are many different options for renting photographic gear. You can do so from local stores in your area or online vendors. In the US, big camera chain stores like CalumetPhotographic and AdoramaRentals sell as well as rent photo gear. CalumetPhoto, one of the local camera retailers in my area, also has local stores where you can go to pick up and drop off rental equipment. They tend to have a wide variety of equipment but definitely recommend reserving gear, especially if you want it for a specific event like weddings, to ensure you get what you want.

There are online stores like Borrowlens and Lensprotogo that also offer a wide variety of lens, cameras and other equipment for rent. You order online and have the gear shipped to your home or location of your choice. Once you are done, you ship it back to them. There is definitely more flexibility in renting gear online but there is the added cost of shipping and insurance, as well as a slight risk that the gear might not arrive in time (any unforeseen circumstances like extreme weather).

Benefits of borrowing photo gear

Giyu (Velvia)

By Giyu (Velvia)

Sometimes you get lucky and have other photographer friends who let you borrow their equipment for a photoshoot, or just to test out – definitely one of the more cost effective ways of trying out photographic gear. However, for those of us who don’t have such awesome friends, there is another method of renting temporary gear that is starting to become popular.

Online companies like CameraLends provide access to a lending community where you can rent cameras directly from local photographers and film makers. On the CameraLends website, they offer a peer-to-peer lending community for photographers and videographers. Owners post unused gear to rent out to other photographers and you can rent gear directly from local photographers, faster and cheaper than traditional means. But this service is somewhat dependent on the market you are in. Not every market will have every piece of equipment available for rent.

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 10.51.13 AM

Regardless of what method you choose to borrow or rent camera equipment, definitely try out gear before you make the investment to purchase it. The last thing you want to happen is buying equipment you think you want or need, only to find that it is really not benefiting your particular style of photography.

The post The Advantages of Renting Photographic Gear Before you Buy by Karthika Gupta appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

The Ultimate Guide to Natural Light Photography

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Dps covers template 363x448

As a photographer, the most powerful tool you have is natural light

It may be free for the taking – but are you making the most of it to create beautiful images?

Today I’m pleased to announce the launch of our latest dPS eBook – Life in Natural Light by Rachel Devine.

Rachel is someone I have had come to photograph my family – largely because I love the way that she uses natural light to capture special moments of life – so when our team began talking about who we wanted to write this eBook Rachel was the first person to come to mind.

In this beautifully illustrated eBook Rachel reveals her secrets for finding and using natural light to tell unique visual stories, enhance mood and create quality images.

Knowledge, Advice and Inspiration

I love what Rachel and our team have done in producing this eBook. You’re going to come away from reading it with a few really important things:

  • a comprehensive understanding of the different types of natural light (because it’s something that is always changing)
  • practical advice on how to spot, control and harness the power of natural light
  • inspiration to get out and shoot having seen Rachel (and other photographers) beautiful images

What more could you want – theory, advice and inspiration that will transform your approach to this important topic!


Our Early Bird Offer to dPS Readers

To celebrate the launch of Life in Natural Light we’ve put together a fantastic little bundle together for you. You’ll not only get this great eBook but bundled with it comes:

  • 16 Lightroom presets for you to use, optimized for natural light and custom-created by Rachel herself
  • A natural light printable worksheet, to use as a quick reference in the field

Normally this bundle would retail for $29.99 USD but for a limited time you can pick it up for just $19.99 USD.

Learn more about Life in Natural Light and grab your copy today here.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Natural Light Photography by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Shoot a Star Trails Selfie

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How I shot the star trails selfie

There are times when planning and patience can result in a killer shot. This nighttime star trails selfie (above) that I captured in the Canadian Rockies was one of those times. I’d planned to shoot star trails over Mount Rundle and the town of Banff, Alberta while hopefully capturing reflections in Vermillion Lake, surrounded by melting ice.

My initial vision was for a completely cloudless sky, but the small yet persistent low clouds ended up adding an ethereal quality to the shot I hadn’t expected.

When I looked back at my first 30 second exposure, I knew right away that this shot had some potential. All I had to do was set things up properly and then play the waiting game.

I’d like to share with you exactly how I shot and processed this image so that you too can try your hand at star trails, and maybe even a selfie like I did.

Required Gear

Capturing the Shot

Step 1 – Location and conditions

In this case, my location was already set because I wanted Mount Rundle to be central in the composition. I needed a relatively clear night with good visibility of the stars. If it had been cloudy, I would have just stayed home. When planning a location, check the weather forecast and figure out which direction you’ll be facing to get an idea of the direction of the star trails. For more info on the movement of the earth and the direction of star trails read this article.

I was shooting the sunset earlier that evening so I had a good idea of how things were going to turn out. Here’s the bonus shot I captured while waiting for the stars to arrive.

Vermillion Lakes, Banff - Mirror World by Gavin Hardcastle

Step 2 – Composing the shot

Whenever I shoot star trails it’s important to remember that I’ll need roughly 60-70% of the frame dedicated to a sky that probably isn’t doing much. I can’t see the star trails until I’ve finished processing your images and that means I have to imagine the trails and frame the composition accordingly.

Step 3 – Setting aperture, exposure and ISO

Night photography demands that we use much higher ISO settings than we would during daylight hours. It’s how we increase the cameras sensitivity to light. With this shot I was able to get away with ISO 2000 because there was a lot of light pollution from the towns of Banff and Canmore.

Using an aperture of f/2.8 meant that my lens was pulling in as much light as it could and with a 30 second exposure. I was happy with the brightness of the image, especially the stars.

Here’s one of the RAW frames before processing. Even with the haze and light pollution from Banff I could see that the stars were plenty bright enough to capture trails. You can even see a couple of amorous geese in the shot just in the reflection of Mount Rundle.

Star Trails RAW frame

Step 4 – Setting up my timelapse intervalometer

I shoot with the Sony A7R camera which has a cool timelapse app. This basically works the same way as a hardware intervalometer which you can get for pretty much any DSLR. It works by taking continuous shots at an interval that I set. I tell the app/intervalometer to take 120 exposures, and that I want them all to be 30 seconds long. I don’t want any gap between shots so that means the camera immediately takes one shot after another with no rest period.

When doing this, I make sure to switch off the cameras built-in noise reduction as this can mess up the timing of the intervalometer. In-camera noise reduction can take a long time to process so I don’t want my cameras memory buffer locked up and busy when it’s supposed to be taking the next exposure.

I’ll also want to use the fastest memory card I can afford.

Sony Play Timelapse App

The Sony Timelapse App

Canon DSLR users will be delighted to learn that Magic Lantern has an intervalometer for timelapse shooting.

Step 5 – Final check and off we go

Before I commence shooting a lengthy timelapse I’ll do a final check of focus, make sure I’ve got plenty of battery power left, lots of memory, and that the tripod is stable and not likely to move during shooting. I’ve learned the hard way that these things can ruin an otherwise perfectly executed timelapse.

Step 6 – Begin shooting and ……. pose

Once you’ve started your timelapse you’ve now got to come to terms with your boredom. I didn’t plan to do a selfie, I actually wandered into the frame of my shot because I was just looking around at stuff. If you do plan on doing a selfie, just be sure to stand in place long enough for at least one of the exposures to capture you. To be on the safe side, try and stay in position for a full minute.

It might even be really cool if you stand in multiple positions to make it look like a crowd of identical models.

Posing for a selfie in Banff

Top Tip for shooting Star Trails or Timelapse

I highly recommend bringing a second camera so that you can carry on shooting while your A camera is tied up shooting the star trails. Not only does this alleviate crushing boredom, but it’s also great practice. You do practice right?

Step 7 – Check your shots before leaving

Once my timelapse has finished, I check the images on the camera before packing up and leaving. I have my camera set to play my images as I spin the jog wheel, kind of like a flip book animation. It’s great for checking how the movement of the stars worked out and I’m always amazed at the things the camera picked up that I didn’t see. I had lots of frisky geese swimming in and out of my shots as they went about their noisy geese business.

If I spot a disaster in the playback (let’s say a bug camped out on my lens) it’s time to start all over again. After an hour or so of waiting, I’ll be loath to start again, but sometimes you’ve just got to grin and bear it if you want that killer shot.

Processing the Shots

To process star trail images with this shooting technique, I used Adobe Bridge, Camera RAW and Photoshop.

Adobe Bridge lets us quickly preview our star trails timelapse.

Adobe Bridge lets us quickly preview our star trails timelapse. Just hold down the bottom cursor key to flip through all of the frames and watch a rough animation.

Step 1 – Tweak the RAW files

In Adobe Bridge, I’ll select all 120 of my images, then right click and choose Open in Camera RAW. This loads the images into Adobe Camera RAW where I can reduce the noise, change the white balance and make any colour tweaks that I want. Here’s a list of what I tweaked.

  • Added sharpening
  • Changed White Balance to Auto
  • Added slight noise reduction
  • Increased Contrast
  • Boosted Shadows and Blacks
  • Increased Clarity and Vibrance
  • Reduced Highlights and Whites
  • Used Straighten Tool to fix horizon line

When I’m finished tweaking, I hit Select All, then click Synchronize so that the tweaks I made to my first RAW file get applied to all 120 images. Next I hit the Done button to take me back to Adobe Bridge where I can now see those ACR tweaks applied to all 120 image thumbnails.

Adobe Camera Raw for processing star trails in Photoshop

I used Adobe Camera to make image corrections and then apply the same corrections to ALL of the frames.

Step 2 – Save as low resolution JPGs

This next step requires a lot of computer resources. My current PC only has 16 GB of RAM so I knew I’d have to make some low resolution versions of my RAW files in order to be able to load all 120 images into Photoshop layers. If I ever print this image, I’ll need to reprocess this image at full resolution which will require some major processing, but for web use I know I can get away with using smaller resolution JPEGS to create my final image.

To do this, I select all of my newly tweaked RAW files in Adobe Bridge once again. I then right click and choose Open in Camera RAW. I hit Select All, then choose Save Images in the bottom left. This opens a dialog box where I can specify a location, file format and most importantly, image resolution and size.

I choose JPEG and then specify a resolution of 72 pixels per inch and tell it to resize my images to a much smaller resolution that I know Photoshop can handle but will still look great for web use. Finally I click Save and go make some coffee while I wait for all 120 images to process.

Adobe Camera Raw Save Options

Step 3 – Load the JPEGs into Photoshop layers

Back in Adobe Bridge I navigate to where I saved my low resolution JPEGs. It’s best to export these to a separate folder to keep things to tidy. Once again, I select all my JPEGs and then choose Tools > Photoshop > Load Files into Photoshop Layers.

This will take even longer than it took to export the JPEG’s so I’ll go downstairs and watch an episode of House of Cards.

Step 4 – Can you feel the magic?

This is where the magic happens and I finally get to see my star trails. With all of the 120 images loaded into Photoshop Layers, I go to the Layers panel to select ALL of my layers. This can be done by clicking on the top layer so that it’s highlighted in light blue, holding down shift and then clicking on the bottom layer – I need to scroll down to see all 120 layers.

With my 120 layers selected, I now change the Layer Blend Mode to Lighten and BAM – Star Trails!

Note: You could also use a free program like StarStax to put the trails together if you don’t have Photoshop.

Make Star Trails with the Lighten Blend Mode

From this point on I can process the image with some final tweaks in Photoshop. To do that I’ll merge all layers down to one by pressing ctrl+E. Then I can change contrast, colour balance, crop, add a vignette and whatever else I think suites the composition.

My finished star trails selfie is done and ready to share with the world. I hope you like it.

How I shot and Processed a Star Trails Selfie

Why don’t you give it a try?

There is a much easier but somewhat less controlled method of getting a shot like this. Follow steps one to three and then simply use a remote shutter release while your camera is set to Bulb mode and take a very long exposure. You could leave the shutter open for an hour or two to capture the same effect. Just be careful that your lens doesn’t fog up while the camera heats up.

You won’t have the same pinpoint control over each exposure with this simpler method, but it’s a great way to get into shooting star trails if you don’t have the time to go through all of these post processing steps.

Editor’s note: caution – long exposures of this nature will cause your sensor to heat up potentially causing damage to it like stuck pixels or worse. Please do so at your own risk. 

If you prefer the more long winded method that I used, you’ll get the maximum image quality possible and if you do decide to do some selfie modelling, you can pick the exact exposure that captures you at your best. In my case, it was the back of my head.

The post How to Shoot a Star Trails Selfie by Gavin Hardcastle appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

4 Things Commercial Photographers Need to Discuss with Their Small Business Clients

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Lead architects of a high-end design firm.

Lead architects of a high-end design firm.

Providing successful images for a business can be very rewarding, especially when it’s for a budding business that you get to witness growing. While all businesses, big and small, essentially have the same demands, a small business is most likely still learning how to work with various professionals and creating their processes as they go. Diving into a project with a small business can lead to lots of time and money being wasted if terms and project details are not discussed openly, early on. The following are some key factors to discuss with your small business client during an initial consultation so that conflicts can be avoided down the line:

1. Brand

Large family-run urban farm.

Large family-run urban farm

While we are hired in part because of the individual style that we have developed over time, a business’s brand is the first thing that needs to come across to their audience. When working with a small business especially, the branding should be clearly defined in order to be able to provide images that will be a great benefit to them. Do they have certain color palettes they work with? Are their graphics portraying a more formal brand, or a very casual brand? Are they nature-oriented, or do they work in traditional office spaces? What clientele are they catering to? All of these are questions that should be addressed in the initial consultations. A small business may still be developing their brand or creating a branding package, so without a brand to guide the images, there may be a need for updated photos once the brand is clearly defined. Expressing this to a client will not only help them understand that professional photography is an investment intended to last a long time, but it will also show them that you are keeping their best interest in mind for their long-term success.

2. Budget

Small businesses will typically have very low budgets, so the decision to invest in professional photography services will be a big one for them. Regardless of the cost for your services, there is likely to be very little (if any) wiggle room in their budget allowance. Being aware, and respectful, of the client’s budget restrictions will not only help ensure that there is less run-around in the planning stages, but it will also give the client more confidence that you are an ally. If you offer packages geared towards commercial work, consider having several options to select from, or to use as a kick-off for budget discussions. Often a custom quote is required depending on their specific needs, but some packages to give the client a ballpark idea of pricing can let them know what they can expect to spend.

Independent financial advisor.

Independent financial advisor

3. Timeline

Depending on how experienced your small business client is, their timeline for getting final images may not be very realistic. This is where it’s your job to educate clients on your process and, more importantly, on your specific ability to turn around jobs in a time crunch. Knowing their expectations about timing and delivery will be vital in creating a quote, coordinating any vendors (venue, props, assistants), and making sure that the client gets their images in time to use them.

Do they require any extensive editing techniques or talent that requires outsourcing? Did they request a location or backdrop that requires reservations and a long wait for booking? Will they need models, and if so, do they have specifics in mind? Are they planning on using these images for a specific event, or marketing campaign that has a set date? Which leads to the final factor to keep in mind…

Home-based food business products.

Home-based food business products

4. Usage

Many folks will assume that if they hire you to take photos, they then get to keep the photos and do as they wish with them. In reality, commercial work is generally very specific about what usage is permitted. If they are planning to use the photos on a product label, do you get any royalty from that product sale? If they are hiring you because of a large print marketing campaign, can they then use the images in email campaigns several years down the line? Are you granting them use for a certain amount of time, or can they use these images forever? Once you turn over the images, are they allowed to do any alterations to them?

While there is no one answer to these questions, be sure to discuss the planned use of these images and to clearly specify it in a contract. Both parties need to be in agreement with what is decided, and having this discussion up front will once again show your client that you value your work and intend to be completely open with them about terms.

Owner of a co-working space.

Owner of a co-working space

Although there are many factors to discuss with your client at the beginning of a project, these four points will help get the basic information clarified, and get both parties on the same page. These discussion points will also go a long way to helping you create a quote for them that is accurate and all-inclusive; avoiding time-consuming confusion farther into the project.

Do you have any additional points of conversation that are a must for initial client consultations? Please share in the comments below.

The post 4 Things Commercial Photographers Need to Discuss with Their Small Business Clients by Natalia Robert appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Select the Right Camera Memory Card

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In today’s market if you want to buy a camera memory card, you may find it challenging to select the right one. A card comes with the following criteria; type, speed, price, capacity. If you want to buy a high capacity card with low price it might come with a low transfer speed. If you wish to buy a high transfer speed with high capacity card it may come with a really high price. If you want to strike a balance between both, you really have to compromise on quality.

Paul Hudson

By Paul Hudson

What is a memory card?

A small removable memory medium which can be used to store data on one medium and to transfer the data to another medium.

Let’s see each criteria which will help you decide on a memory card in detail.


This one is fairly straightforward, and not a big deal. A 32GB memory card can hold up to about 1000 RAW photographs. Assuming that one RAW file size is 30MB, in general a Canon 5D MKIII will produce a RAW file between 25-35MB in size. Likewise a 16GB card can hold up to about 500 photographs, and so on. If you shoot in jpeg format, then a 32GB card can hold around 3200 photographs, assuming you have your jpeg settings as fine in detail, and large in file size. With that setting a jpeg file will come in at an average size of 10MB on a Canon 5D MK III camera.


There are many types of memory cards available on the market ranging from Micro SD card, SD card, CF card, M2 (from sony). But there are only three type of cards being used primarily in the photography world, Secure Digital (SD) card, Eye-fi card, Compact Flash (CF) card.

Micro SD card

Micro SD card is a miniature version of the SD card and meant to be used in mobile phones. This card has capacity, as well as transfer speed restrictions. That is why it is used primarily in Smartphones where one can store music and apps, or any other relatively less active data.

Daniel Sancho

By Daniel Sancho

Secure Digital card (SD card)

This type of the card is widely being used in digital cameras, primarily in point and shoot cameras and secondarily being used in professional cameras. The constraint in using this card is the capacity of the card. The initial high capacity is only 2GB when introduced in 1999. But as the time and technology progressed a later version as SDHC is introduced with a higher capacity of 64GB in 2006 (HC means Higher capacity). The recent third iteration of SD card been announced in 2009 as SDXC cards (XC stands for extended capacity). This type of card offers up to 2TB and increased transfer speed.

Eye-fi card

These are unique SD cards that come with built-in WiFi. This allows you to transfer the data to your computer or a cloud based service or even to your Smartphone directly, thus enabling you to clear off the memory as you shoot, without having a need to replace the memory card. It is even possible to geotag your photographs with the available wireless service, but with less accuracy though.


By bfishadow

There seems to be a promising future for this card!

Compact Flash card (CF card)

First introduced in 1994, CD cards have high speed, and high capacity. This is the reason why CF cards occupy the primary card slot in professional cameras. Present SD cards are equalling the speed and capacity of CF cards, but camera manufacturers are not leaving CF cards just yet. They often provide slots for both an SD and CF card, but some photographers wish they would offer two SD card slots instead. This provides some extra space inside the camera and saves money for the photographer (CF cards costs roughly twice that of SD cards). Hopefully they will switch the importance to SD cards in the near future.

As the name suggests this is a flash memory which aids high speed reading/writing speed, and has a higher capacity too.


Speed in SD cards

All memory cards come with speed, either mentioned or not. Speed here means both writing and reading. The one indicated on the card is the maximum speed the card can read, but the most important thing is the write speed. Read speed is the time taken to read the data from the card and the write speed is the time taken to write the data. Simply put read speed comes into action when you transfer the data from the card, write speed comes into play when you shoot. In general the write speed is about half of the speed of read speed in SDHC cards. In few other cards both the read and write speeds are about the same.

Simon Yeo

By Simon Yeo

The speed of cards have been classified into classes by the SD Association, which are referred to below. The speeds are primarily meant for video recording, where sustained recording (write) is required and it is supposed to be the minimum worst case scenario speed.

You really need to give weight to this one single-most important factor, when you buy a memory card. All SD cards have a class noted on them. Check the attached diagram below:

Class Minimum Speed
2 2MB/s
4 4MB/s
6 6MB/s
8 8MB/s
10 10MB/s

Later, in 2009 another class, UHS, was introduced by the SD association and is designed for SDHC and SDXC memory cards. UHS utilizes a new data bus that will not work in non-UHS host devices. If you use a UHS memory card in a non-UHS host, it will default to the standard data bus and use the “Speed Class” rating instead of the “UHS Speed Class” rating. UHS memory cards have a full higher potential of recording real-time broadcasts, capturing large size HD videos and extremely high quality professional HD.

Courtesy – SanDisk website.

UHS Class Minimum Speed
1 10MB/s
3 30MB/s

Speed in CF cards

When it comes to CF cards the speed is often mentioned as X times and in many cards it’s been mentioned as MB per second, which is pretty straight forward. Whereas when the speed is mentioned as 600X or 1066X what exactly does it means? X means 150Kb per second. It is a standard brought over from optical media recording. Now to find out what exactly the speed is of 600X – to find this multiply 600 by 150 and divide the result by 1000. The final result is in MB per second. Eg., a 600X speed card is capable of 90MB per second read speed (600?150/1000).

The latest CF cards come with the UDMA 7 which improves in clearing the camera’s buffer memory quickly, which allows the camera to get ready for the next burst. Firmware upgrade is required for the Canon 5D MKIII (yours may require it also, check with the manufacturer) camera to make full use of UDMA 7.


When it comes to price, the fastest card is the primary criteria which decides the price. The next deciding factor is capacity of the card. An SD card is 50% of the price in the same capacity CF card. So, if you want to buy a high speed card with same capacity you will need to pay more. On the other side if you want to buy a high capacity card at a lower price, it is possible to do so but you’ll get a lower speed card.


  • If you use two cards at different speeds, the lowest speed is the deciding criteria for the burst. For instance if you use a CF card at 90 MB/sec in one slot and an SD card having the capacity of 45MB/sec (and you set RAW files for both cards) then you won’t get the advantage of 90MB/sec and the possibility of missing the shot. You have to use both cards at the same speed.
  • If you do not upgrade to the latest firmware for the 5D MKIII camera, the host memory will perform for UDMA 6 which significantly consumes more time in clearing the buffer memory.
  • I wish the camera manufacturers would switch to SD cards completely for both slots. The speeds of the SD card already matches with the CF cards, there is no point paying twice the price, and we’d get the added bonus of saving space inside the camera.
  • In few cases the SD card speed is higher than CF cards. For instance SanDisk Extreme Pro speed is 280 MB/sec but from the same manufacturer the CF card’s maximum speed is 160 MB/sec.

Hope you have gotten a bit of information from this article. Do share your thoughts in the comments.

The post How to Select the Right Camera Memory Card by Navan Viswa appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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