"You have failed me for the last time Captain SD Card

As regular readers of my blog may recall, in my recent post about hiring a lens I mentioned that I had experienced an SD card failure. Here’s what happened, how I attempted to sort it out and the lessons I learnt.

I set off to the Autumn Classic at Prescott Hillclimb full of excitement. It was a beautiful day, I had a new (to me) Nikon D7100 with a Nikon 80-200 f2.8 on the front of it and a head full of new things to try. On top of that the Autumn Classic is one of the best events that the Bugatti Owners Club holds at Prescott, so spirits were high.

And they stayed high! One of the great things about the events at Prescott is just how close you can get to everything; you can walk through the paddock as drivers and crews prepare their cars, you can pore over all sorts of exciting and unusual vehicles on display, and you can get close to the track for nearly its entire length. One of my aims with the 80-200 lens was to try and take some candid people shots, particularly of the racers and their crews. With the soft, blurred backgrounds the lens produces when opened up I was hoping these would add to my usual “vehicles only” Prescott portfolio. Then of course there is the action on track; not just racing but cavalcades of all sorts of stuff. This year a great run of hot rods, Indian motorcycles and steam-powered cars made the climb up the hill. I snapped away busily.

As an unexpected bonus, lunchtime saw the arrival over the hill of Rich Goodwin in his Pitts S2S. It is very hard to describe just what he made that plane do so go and look at this quickly. Whilst it would have been nice to have been shooting with a longer lens, the D7100/80-200 combo was catching some great images, and I was super-pleased.

Being super-pleased came to a crashing halt about twenty minutes later. Looking down at the rear screen of the camera to check a shot I saw this:

“Oh oh” I thought. I tried switching the camera off and back on again. Same message. I switched SD cards, and could carry on shooting, although with a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach. Was this a card problem (bad) or a camera problem (terrible)? I wouldn’t find out until I got home. Anyway, being the consummate professional that I am, I carried on shooting.

I was using SanDisk Extreme SDHC 32GB 60MB/s cards. When I got home I attempted to access the card using the inbuilt SD card reader on my Dell laptop (running Windows 10). Whilst File Explorer showed an F Drive, it would not open it, or give any information about the card. A small box popped up which read "Location is not available. F:\ is not accessible. The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error" If I right clicked the drive it told me that I had 0 bytes available and 0 bytes used. I also tried the card in my USB SD card reader, with the same results. I tried linking the camera to the PC using the Nikon-supplied USB cable. The laptop picked up the connection but didn’t show any card or files. I even tried plugging the card reader in to my Nexus 9 tablet using my OTG cable. No go.
Having looked around online I came across several bits of software that claimed to be able to recover images from a corrupted SD card. Some looked a bit dubious, but I tried Rescue Pro (demo version) and PhotoRec. The problem with both of these is that the SD card could not even be seen, let alone recovered. PhotoRec listed all available drives that it could see; the SD card is not there, just the laptop HDD and two external drives. A friend of a friend suggested GetDataBack Simple from Runtime.org. I got the same problem, it showed the HDD on the laptop and the two external drives, but no card. File Explorer did show Removable Disk (F) but this did not come up on GetDataBack's list of drives.

All of the various help topics that I came across discussed recovery of images from a card that the computer could at least see! Recovery service companies want what seems an obscene amount of money to recover the files (£177 for a 32gb card!) and even then didn't seem overly optimistic in this case.

A final throw of the die was giving the card to a Mac-using mate to see if that would make a difference, but sadly it did not.

Resigned to the loss of 300+ images, many of which I think had real potential, I returned the card to the store from whence it came and got a replacement.

What Did I Learn?

  • 1.Use the dual SD card slots in the Nikon D7100 in “Backup” mode rather than “Overflow” mode. That way, if one card goes the other should still have all your images stored.
  • 2.If that isn’t an option, then maybe take your laptop with you and backup frequently! I guess that’s probably an easier option if you’re working in more sheltered environments.
  • 3.It might have been wise to have switched cards more regularly so that in the event of a failure I still had a good selection of images available. That is the trouble with the increasing capacities of memory cards I suppose. The 32GB cards I use will store something like 700 RAW files from the D7100, imagine how you would feel losing 512GBs-worth!
  • 4.Sometimes it is good to stop taking photos and to just enjoy the spectacle. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in taking a million shots that we forget to just stop and look, to soak up whatever it is that is unfolding in front of us.

In summary: I took a lot of photos, I lost a lot of photos, life goes on! I’m glad it wasn’t for a client, and I have learnt very valuable lessons!

by Ken Long

Category: Featured Musings Motorsport Equipment