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ONE OF THE IMPORTANT ISSUES in photography and imaging process is to restore and retrieve digital images to/from a camera or PC/laptop/notebook. Our frustrations are always triggered by not saving or sometimes deleting the photos and files either in diskettes or flash memory cards. Aside from this, we are also concern with the memory capacity of the cards and its compatibility with other digital and computing gadgets.The flash memory card or 'flash card' is getting popular nowadays as a substitute for the floppy disk, particularly being used for digital cameras, music players, mobile phones and video games. It is a small and handy storage device which has a high-record and power-free storage features. One of them is the xD picture card which is mainly used in digital cameras and comparable to other flash cards such as: CompactFlash (SanDisk), SmartMedia (Toshiba), Multimedia Card (Siemens AG & SanDisk), Memory Stick (Sony), and Secure Digital (Panasonic, Toshiba, Sandisk).
***WHATand WHY's xD picture card? In 2002, xD (eXtreme Digital) picture card is introduced by Olympus and Fujifilm, three years after I bought my IR500 Olympus digital camera. Inclusive of my camera purchase is a 16-MB of picture card able to store/keep up to 16 photos at 4 megapixels or 34 seconds of a video clip. Because of its memory limitation, I decided to buy a 64 MB card early this year which is capable to capture a maximum of 65 images and 2.18 minutes of video recording. Ironically, being a frequent traveller, my camera is always my companion and most of the time I take a lot of photos during my trips and having two picture cards (80 MB in total) are not enough to store my shoots and short videos. Re-use or reformatting these cards requires another electronic gadget to be able to download in my notebook. In some occasions, I do not bring my notebook and camera dock, thus taking pictures needs careful management, enable to use all the memory and the battery in my entire travel. It is frustrating to find out that I already consumed the memory and the battery only just half way of my trip. Consequently, I have to review all the photos taken previously and delete some of it to accommodate the rest of my destinations. For an ordinary day trip, using my old 135 film camera I normally consume 1-2 film rolls, but having with the digital camera I could probably take 100-150 photos. It may increase depending on the locations and attractions of the places I visited in the UK or abroad.
Having these issues, I decided to acquire another xD picture card: Type H 512MB prior to my US trip in July. The difference between with this and the former standard cards is that type H (high speed) offers a higher data rates and 3 times faster. The card can store up to 523 photos and 18:30 minutes of video recording. Other basic features includes: dimension - 20mmX25mmX1.78mm; weight - 2.8 grams (comparable to a 10-pence coin); writing speed - 9 MB/s; operating voltage - 3V; and read speed - 15 MB/s. And most importantly (for Olympus users), Type H card provides a 'special features or effects' in the photo developing/printing which I will discuss it next.
***HOW does XD Olympus Type H picture card work? 1. Speed and Special Effects This feature is only available for this type of picture card. The new major functions of the cards cover the lightning-fast image capturing and the creative art effects. The Type H card is twice or three times faster than standard or type M picture cards, depending on the type of the camera and the setting used. This means, in my own experience, I could easily capture (write) pictures fast while inside a moving vehicle or even a quick stolen shoot without any distortion or blurredness in the image. And it is easy to retrieve (read) the photos on card or if you want to view the photos as previously taken from the camera.
The creative art effects on the other hand is the 3D function turning the images into something completely different perspective. The modified or enhanced images will be viewed either on printed paper or computer screen using the red-blue 3D filter (anaglyph) glasses, similar to the glasses used in watching 3D movies. This feature can be activated only using the Olympus Master 1.4 or higher, the software companion for Olympus cameras installed in a PC/notebook/laptop for enhancement, printing, and back-up purposes.
Since I am using a lower version (v1) of the software, I had to upgrade it on-line and activated it using (once only) the 20-digit serial number code (of the 6-cardholder in the package) to enable these new art and 3D effect work. According to the instruction, the software analyse information from the 2D image/photo to determine which objects are located nearer and further away which is based on the softness or sharpness and shadow. This will be the basis for the software to use the 3D effect to the image selected taken in a panoramic orientation only. The other art effect includes the cartoon art, water colour and oil painting effects to enhance the original digital images taken from any kind card format.
2. Compatibility I was not aware that using this card has limitations in terms of the digital camera used. Fortunately, I was lucky that the card successfully working and compatible with my IR 500 unit. Olympus camera models that will not work with this type of card includes: u[mju] 410 digital, C-160 and C-60 zoom, including the P-440 printer. The compatibility chart is available on-line at http://www.olympus.co.uk/consumer/images/
3. Packaging and Special Instructions Since I am an Olympus camera club (UK) member, I was able to purchase (by credit card) from Olympus User office in Norwich at 34.99 pounds inclusive of VAT and postage cost. The card is neatly placed in a plastic pack containing the manual instructions with 2-year warranty details. Aside from the card, a free card holder is also enclosed with a 6-slot blue-coloured plastic card holder, bearing the serial number code for activation. Some of the important instructions mentioned in the pack cover formatting and handling of the card. It is recommended that the card will be formatted on the camera being used; otherwise it will not function properly. It also suggested to keep the card away from wet (salty liquid) and dusty places, or away from heat-generating or combustible materials.
***IS IT WORTH BUYING? I think is it worth to have this high speed card as an upgrade to my old picture cards. Do I have any option to have other flash cards? No, because I am using an IR 500 Olympus camera which is compatible to this type of picture card. Otherwise, I have to transfer the photos to the computer first from my camera using the dock and then store it to other flash cards like memory stick which is compatible to my Sony VAIO notebook where built-in slots are installed for such memory stick or picture card type. Unfortunately, I can not directly use the card to the memory slots in my Sony notebook for easy transfer without the use of USB drive and camera dock. Well, this is not a big issue.
LASTLY, this card also fits with my new imaging requirement which I could enhance the pictures using the panoramic and 3-dimentional (3D) features thru the Olympus Master companion software. However, for a 512 MB picture card memory, it is highly recommended to have extra batteries as back-up especially when you are traveling in remote areas where power source is limited for charging and re-formatting. For normal shooting mode (not using the close-up and flash), the battery can take up to 150-200 photos, which means for a 512 picture card, I have to use the battery 2-3 times. Summary: The picture memory card for people who love travelling and photography.
Pictures of Olympus HIGH Speed XD-Picture CARD 512 MB