No matter what equipment you purchase, what photography skill level you have, or whether you are a professional photographer or just got your first point-and-shoot camera, what matters most is your pictures. Equipment can be replaced, a precious moment - never. That is why we back-up our data to external hard drives, optical discs, services like iCloud, etc. Nevertheless, before your pictures get to any of it, they go to the memory card inserted into your camera, and for a period of time, your card is the only thing that keeps your photos "alive". So, the role of memory cards in your digital life should never be underestimated.
These days, many manufacturers come up with memory cards that can withstand some serious mishaps and work under extreme conditions. In this review, we test a Samsung microSD Card, but other companies, including SanDisk, Panasonic, and many others, offer similar solutions.
While microSD cards are designed to be used primarily with mobile devices, the Samsung card in our test comes with an SD adapter and can be used for photography applications, as well.
There are many ways memory chips can fail, and some defects and damages cannot be easily detected. To ensure that a card functions a hundred percent, we would have to run some serious tests similar to what manufacturers do during their production cycles. Since we don't have that kind of capabilities, we opted for a simpler test that allows detecting more or less serious failures.
Prior to exposing the card to any of the extremes, we filled the whole 8GB of memory with several video files. To confirm that the data is not damaged, we used data comparison software. It takes several minutes to run the software, but it ensured that every bit of data is not different from the original files on a PC. Again, this is not a production level test, but it is comprehensive enough for this kind of testing.
We all know that accidents do happen. Have you ever washed your cell phone in a washer or dropped your camera into a pool or a puddle? Ever forgot to tightly close the battery compartment of your waterproof camera? We've seen things like that happen so many times that it's not even funny anymore :). So, the first thing we tested was waterproofing.
To test, we placed the SD card into a glass of water for about an hour and ran the comparison software mentioned above. All the data was intact.
Electronic chips are sensitive to magnetic fields. When a memory card is exposed to a magnetic field, the data can be lost. When is this important? Well, leaving your card in front of a speaker can potentially cause damage to your images and footage on the card.
For this test, we took a magnet out of a speaker and placed the microSD card directly onto the magnet for about an hour. Running the data comparison routine showed no damage to the data.
Unfortunately, sometimes, we drop our equipment: from cell phones to large and expensive DSLR's. While the device usually absorbs some of the impact energy, the card inside may get damaged.
Since SD cards are very light, we decided to stomp on our card instead of dropping it on the floor. Striking the card with the heel fairly hard didn't cause any significant damage to the card itself, and more importantly, all the data was completely safe again.
According to Samsung, this memory card is capable of surviving pressure of a 1.6 ton (3200 pounds) car. We decided to take the matter further and try the card with a 2.2 ton (4400 pounds) car. On top of that, we wanted to make it a real-word scenario and placed the card on a "real" surface. So, we dropped the memory card in a driveway and ran it over with an SUV.
As you can see in the image above, the asphalt is not perfectly flat. The imperfections of the asphalt surface created small dents on the card. Result? The card was rendered unusable. In the following image, you can see that the damages do not really look significant, but apparently they were enough for the card to stop functioning. We weren't able to read the card in any of our devices. We tried several SD card readers (via the SD adapter) and a number of cell phones. Neither device was able to recognize the card anymore.
The following video is the recording of our testing.
The tested Samsung microSD card looks and feels incredibly solid and robust. It's really not difficult to believe that this card can take some serious abuse. In the tests performed within the limit specified by the manufacturer, the card itself and all its data stayed safe and undamaged. Pushing the limit and running the card card over with a heavy SUV destroyed it, but that's not something that has a lot of practical use. So, this new breed of "indestructible" cards makes us feel a lot better about our data safety.
Please also note that besides the characteristics tested here, these new cards are typically resistant to extreme temperatures and X-rays.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.