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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Small Compact Digitals by Canon 
Thread started 29 Jul 2006 (Saturday) 16:56
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Warning: 4GB "SD" cards are not compliant with the SecureDigital Association spec

 
DavidW
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Jul 29, 2006 16:56 |  #1

Hi all,

I'm going to post this once in a new thread, then point people to this thread, as I've posted this information in numerous threads so far. It may be a candidate for a sticky - though that's down to the moderators.

There is an architectural limit in SD at 2GB. Originally the limit was at 1GB, but there was a way found to extend the SD standard to permit 2GB cards. Even so, some devices don't work properly with 2GB cards.

There are various 4GB "SD" cards on the market, but they break the original SD card specification. This can lead to problems in use. There is a new SD HC specification that, amongst other things, removes the 2GB limit - see this press release (external link) for details, including confirmation of the 2GB architectural limit in SD. However, at the moment, very few devices support SD HC. Some Panasonic devices do. SD HC compatible devices are likely to have the SD HC logo on them, as do SD HC cards.

At the time I originally wrote this post, no Canon cameras officially support SD HC. On 24 August 2006, Canon announced the A630, A640 and A710 IS, all of which have SD HC support. I suspect from now on, all new Canon cameras with SD slots will support SD HC, but check the specifications. Those that have asked Canon seem usually to get the response that 2GB is the maximum size of SD card that can be used in their cameras that don't explicitly claim SD HC support.

Partitions larger than 2GB require FAT32 support if you're going to use FAT. However, just supporting FAT32 isn't enough - you also need hardware compatibility with the card. There are no size related hardware compatibility issues with CompactFlash - apparently the specification doesn't contain any architectural limits on card size - so for CompactFlash, you just need to support FAT32 to be able to use cards larger than 2GB.

This may be why some think of the 2GB limit as being related to FAT32 support - older DSLRs that don't support FAT32 can't be used with 4GB or larger CompactFlash cards unless the cards have an ability to operate as a bank of 2GB cards using a switch.

Personally, I'd leave the 4GB "SD" cards alone. You may be fortunate in buying a 4GB "SD" card to get one that works without issues in all your devices (camera, card reader - possibly other devices such as a PDA). Problems with these cards may be subtle - it would be a disaster if all was well until you filled the card beyond 2GB, at which point some subtle corruption took place.

I'm not familiar enough with the SD and SD HC specifications (which are restricted distribution - to get full details even of the non-CPRM stuff you have to enter into an agreement with the SecureDigital Association) to know precisely what the details are. Depending on how the SD interface is implemented in the camera, it may be possible to add SD HC support with a firmware upgrade - but that's not saying Canon will provide such an upgrade. It could be that the SD support in the current crop of Canon cameras is implemented using a hardware component that can't be reprogrammed to support SD HC.

Reports that a particular combination works may be misleading. Many "brands" of SD cards are simply a label stuck on a card bought in bulk. There are far fewer manufacturers than there are brands of cards. In the past, even Lexar bought in cards, though a couple of years ago they started making their own.

Someone may buy a 4GB card from one of these rebranders, and post that it works. Someone else may read this result, buy a card of the same brand and find that it doesn't work because it's a card of a different design, possibly from a different manufacturer altogether.

The big two of the memory card world - Sandisk and Lexar - do not sell 4GB "SD" cards (I keep calling them "SD" cards because they violate the SD specification). At the time of writing, Lexar's range of SD cards stop at 2GB.

Sandisk sell a 4GB SD HC card, and have posted this FAQ (external link) on their web site. At the moment, you get a USB 2 SD HC reader with the card, presumably because most card readers aren't SD HC compatible.

SD HC apparently has an architectural limit at 32GB.


David




  
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Jon
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Jul 30, 2006 14:55 |  #2

Stickied - Thanks, David.


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DavidW
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Jul 31, 2006 10:23 |  #3

Thanks Jon.

Here's a "bullet point" summary:

  • The SD standard has an architectural limit at 2GB.
  • The only SecureDigital Association compliant way of producing a 4GB SD HC card is to use SD HC.
  • SD HC is a SecureDigital Association standard for cards between 4GB and 32GB.
  • SD HC also addresses the problem of knowing which cards are fast enough for applications such as video. SD HC cards have a class, which is a guaranteed sustained write speed in millions of bytes per second.
  • SD HC cards only work in SD HC devices, which should have an SD HC logo on them.
  • SD HC devices should be fully backwards compatible, in that they should work fine with 2GB or smaller SD cards. There may be some cases that break this rule in the future - for example, a digital camcorder may mandate SD HC cards in order to get the benefit of guaranteed write speeds, but I would expect backwards compatibility in SD HC digital stills cameras for the foreseeable future.
  • At the time I originally wrote this post, I don't believe any Canon camera supports SD HC. Some Panasonic cameras do. SD HC support is likely to become much more prevalent in the next few months. On 24 August 2006, Canon announced the A630, A640 and A710 IS, all of which have SD HC support. I suspect from now on, all new Canon cameras with SD slots will support SD HC, but check the specifications.
  • It may or may not be possible to add SD HC support to existing cameras - it may need a firmware upgrade, or it may need a hardware change.
  • If it's possible to add SD HC support with new firmware, that doesn't mean that Canon will offer an upgrade, particularly if there's a licence fee per device for adding SD HC support (I don't know what licensing terms the SecureDigital Association use - some standards have a per item royalty).
  • FAT32 comes into this, but only as far as if you're using FAT, you need to use FAT32 for 4GB and upwards. Just having FAT32 support isn't enough - you need a suitable low level card interface as well, which for 4GB and upwards means using SD HC, or another sort of card entirely (my understanding is that CompactFlash has no architectural limits on card size).
  • You can buy 4GB "SD" cards, but they violate the SecureDigital Association SD specification, and may malfunction in use. You may be lucky and get a card that works in your camera and card reader, but you may not. Just because a card has worked once doesn't mean it will work reliably in the future.
  • Most brands of SD cards aren't manufacturers - many companies buy SD cards in bulk and apply their label to the bulk cards. This means that if someone reports that "SuperStorage" brand (which I've made up and I hope doesn't exist) 4GB "SD" cards work in an S3 IS, you could go out and buy a "SuperStorage" brand card 4GB card which doesn't work in your S3 IS - because it could have the same part number, SKU, bar code, packaging and label, but be a completely different design of card.


I spent a lot of time working with various people (including unofficial collaboration with some of the companies involved) on compatibility of early SD cards with Pocket PCs where there were often severe problems, so I know card compatibility issues aren't necessarily straightforward. I have first hand experience from that work of the same brand and size SD card coming from different manufacturers in different batches. I also know that devices matter - cards that failed in Pocket PCs often worked fine in cameras, because cameras have different card usage patterns to Pocket PCs. Different Pocket PCs had different SD driver code and came up with different results.

The problems were real, people lost data, and in some cases expensive cards were ruined - in those days we could only dream of 2GB SD cards for £75. Things have got much better since then, and I'm not going to mention what companies had problems, as it's all ancient history in electronics terms. This is why I care about issues such as standards compliance. I don't want to lose precious photos to an unreliable non-standard card, or be in a situation where I have to think about putting my card in someone else's card reader in case it corrupts.


If you want to be completely safe, stick to 1GB SD cards from a major brand. There are a few devices that malfunction with 2GB SD cards, but most are fine, and 2GB SD cards can be made compliant with the SecureDigital Association SD specification. There is not, and can not be, any such thing as a SecureDigital Association compliant 4GB SD card - to be compliant with the specifications it would have to be an SD HC card.

David



  
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JohnBee
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Jul 31, 2006 17:52 as a reply to  @ DavidW's post |  #4

I beleive the Canon S3 IS is HD compliant.

We have tried two 4GB cards initially and purchased the faster one of the two ironically it was cheaper at 150X. We have been using it none stop for several weeks now. It has been maxed out on a few occasions with multiple movies.

I have never experienced any errors or negative side effects with the 4GB card as of yet. I guess its safe to assume that it is compliant.




  
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Jaime
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Jul 31, 2006 18:38 |  #5

ANd I want to stand corrected. since I did not mean to mislead anyone in another thread. I was misinformed by my son and was under the impression that a card reader could read a 4GB SD card. When I came home and talked to my son, I indeed discovered that it was a 2GB card that he has read on my card reader. I made this comment on the original thread as well, since again I need to apologize because I did not mean to mislead anyone here. Thank you for making me follow up on this rather than letting it slide and continue to mislead.


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DavidW
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Jul 31, 2006 23:17 as a reply to  @ JohnBee's post |  #6

JohnBee wrote:
I beleive the Canon S3 IS is HD compliant.

We have tried two 4GB cards initially and purchased the faster one of the two ironically it was cheaper at 150X. We have been using it none stop for several weeks now. It has been maxed out on a few occasions with multiple movies.

I have never experienced any errors or negative side effects with the 4GB card as of yet. I guess its safe to assume that it is compliant.

There was a serious point behind the time and trouble it took to research and write this material. I hoped it was clear enough.

With respect, your result does not prove SD HC compliance. Checking standards compliance is far more than throwing two elements together and saying "they work". Further, you've apparently mixed up two different things anyway.

You appear to be talking about one of the non-standard complaint 4GB SD cards, then you claim your result shows that the S3 IS is SD HC compliant. If you have the sort of card I think you do, this is nothing to do with SD HC anyway.

Let's be clear what sort of card you have. As you talk about a "times" rating, I think it's one of the non-standards compliant SD cards. An SD HC card has the SD HC logo, and I'd expect a Class rating rather than a "times" rating. You can see the SD HC logo in this picture (external link) of a Sandisk 4GB SD HC card.

Assuming your card is one of the 4GB "SD" cards, you happen to have found one that has worked so far. I hope it continues to work, but I personally wouldn't want to trust it. As I wrote in the bullet points:

DavidW wrote:
="DavidW"]You can buy 4GB "SD" cards, but they violate the SecureDigital Association SD specification, and may malfunction in use. You may be lucky and get a card that works in your camera and card reader, but you may not. Just because a card has worked once doesn't mean it will work reliably in the future.

I do know a little of what I'm talking about. I worked as an R&D engineer for a computer networking company until shortly before I became too sick to work. In the course of my work I came across misbehaving and non-standards compliant products, especially when it comes to storage products. I once found a firmware bug in a hard disk by monitoring the drive's data interface with a logic analyser, figuring out the sequence of commands that caused the drive to error, writing test software and refining it until I had the simplest case. I also persuaded a manufacturer that two of its tape drive products were faulty.

I happen to think standards compliance is important. My data is important to me, and I think that's true of many photographers. I don't want to lose data to a card malfunction because the designer strayed outside the standards.

The S3 IS is SD HC compliant when Canon announce it as SD HC compliant, which I would expect to involve new firmware. By all means use the card you have - I'm glad it's working for you - but it is not and cannot be compliant with the SecureDigital Association specifications, unless it's an SD HC card. If you have an S3 IS working with a 4GB SD HC card (with the special SD HC logo) then that is news. I'd be surprised if there is SD HC support in the S3 IS, as if there was, I would expect Canon to be announcing it quite loudly. As they haven't made such an announcement to my knowledge, then if there is SD HC compliance, which I strongly doubt, it may be flawed in some way, such as only being implemented to a preliminary version of the standard.

I have tried to keep this thread factual. I'm glad that some people have these non-compliant cards working, but I believe there is a risk in using them, and would hate people to lose data to them through not understanding the issues.


David




  
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JohnBee
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Aug 01, 2006 09:51 as a reply to  @ DavidW's post |  #7

DavidW wrote:
There was a serious point behind the time and trouble it took to research and write this material. I hoped it was clear enough.

With respect, your result does not prove SD HC compliance. Checking standards compliance is far more than throwing two elements together and saying "they work". Further, you've apparently mixed up two different things anyway.

You appear to be talking about one of the non-standard complaint 4GB SD cards, then you claim your result shows that the S3 IS is SD HC compliant. If you have the sort of card I think you do, this is nothing to do with SD HC anyway.

Let's be clear what sort of card you have. As you talk about a "times" rating, I think it's one of the non-standards compliant SD cards. An SD HC card has the SD HC logo, and I'd expect a Class rating rather than a "times" rating. You can see the SD HC logo in this picture (external link) of a Sandisk 4GB SD HC card.

Assuming your card is one of the 4GB "SD" cards, you happen to have found one that has worked so far. I hope it continues to work, but I personally wouldn't want to trust it. As I wrote in the bullet points:

I do know a little of what I'm talking about. I worked as an R&D engineer for a computer networking company until shortly before I became too sick to work. In the course of my work I came across misbehaving and non-standards compliant products, especially when it comes to storage products. I once found a firmware bug in a hard disk by monitoring the drive's data interface with a logic analyser, figuring out the sequence of commands that caused the drive to error, writing test software and refining it until I had the simplest case. I also persuaded a manufacturer that two of its tape drive products were faulty.

I happen to think standards compliance is important. My data is important to me, and I think that's true of many photographers. I don't want to lose data to a card malfunction because the designer strayed outside the standards.

The S3 IS is SD HC compliant when Canon announce it as SD HC compliant, which I would expect to involve new firmware. By all means use the card you have - I'm glad it's working for you - but it is not and cannot be compliant with the SecureDigital Association specifications, unless it's an SD HC card. If you have an S3 IS working with a 4GB SD HC card (with the special SD HC logo) then that is news. I'd be surprised if there is SD HC support in the S3 IS, as if there was, I would expect Canon to be announcing it quite loudly. As they haven't made such an announcement to my knowledge, then if there is SD HC compliance, which I strongly doubt, it may be flawed in some way, such as only being implemented to a preliminary version of the standard.

I have tried to keep this thread factual. I'm glad that some people have these non-compliant cards working, but I believe there is a risk in using them, and would hate people to lose data to them through not understanding the issues.


David

Does the HD indication qualify the card based on its transfer ratings or memory density?

If so what rating do 4GB 150X SD cards fall under?
There are no HD stamps on either one of the cards that I possess.

Sadly I don't have dibs in the manufacturing or design of SD cards etc.

However as simple as my point is, it is aimed at helping people understand that 4GB SD cards are not all doomed to failure in digital camera's per say.
Your quote stating that it now works, may not in the future is a little whishi washy imo. Are you suggesting that the components are under strain and will eventually fail? I have had the two cards 4GB & 2GB we have in our camera's for over 4 weeks now and the 4GB card receives the highest usage. Overall I would say it has been neared capacity and emptied aprox. 30 times and has received a low level format at least twice as indicated in the manual.

The reason I did post regarding my own experience is that your caution left little room for success based on the use of 4GB SD cards in camera's. Although you did point out an indicated standard HD compliance, I noticed this same information posted as reference on other boards which leads people to believe that it is the 4GB SD cards in general that are a problem.

Whether or not the Canon S3IS is compliant is beyond me, it does however accept 2 and 4GB 150X SD cards without a hitch. Additionally, my card reader also accepts and reads both those cards.

Although I am not an electronics engineer or otherwise, I do own a dozen SD cards of various brands, which until recently they were limited to 1GB, however since I purchased a 2 and 4GB card, they worked from the get go and I have not experienced any problems whatsoever with either of them.

Call me lucky but the facts are as shown based on my experience.




  
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JohnBee
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Aug 01, 2006 10:10 |  #8

So far these are the cards that people have reported as "working" with the Canon S3IS

  • A-Data 4GB 150X Turbo Secure Digital Card
    High-speed performance at 22.5MB/s

  • Transcend 4GB 150X Secure Digital Card

  • Patriot Memory 4GB Secure Digital Card
    High-speed data transfer of up to 133x (20MB/s)

  • US Modular 4GB Secure Digital Card


I have done a quick search at TigerDirect for other brands, coincidently I am in the need of another card so if I can find another brand "not disclosed in the above mentioned listing, I will purchase and test it.

I great as your research is for heeding possible problems, I think it is equally important that we list off the working combinations currently on the market as a means to help people take advantage of whats out there.



  
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Jon
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Aug 01, 2006 11:34 |  #9

SD HC has nothing to do wth the transfer rate or, necessarily, with memory density. It relates to the architecture of the data transfer controller. When equipment that's HC-compliant starts coming out, it'll presumably be backward-compatible with vanilla SD cards, but cards the manufacturer jiggered a little so they could cram extra memory in might just break in the new standard devices. Basically, just because it works now, don't expect it to continue to work.


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DavidW
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Aug 24, 2006 09:05 |  #10

First new Canon cameras announced with SD HC support - A630, A640, A710 IS

Canon have announced the A630, A640 and A710 IS. According to this press release (external link) all the cameras have SD HC support for 4GB SD HC cards (no upper limit is specified - SD HC goes to 32GB but I don't think cards larger than 4GB are currently available).

The maximum movie clip length is apparently 36 minute sat VGA resolution, 30fps.


This is not surprising - I'd expect new models to include SD HC support from here on (as I said in my summary "SD HC support is likely to become much more prevalent in the next few months"). What is unclear is whether Canon will add SD HC support via firmware upgrade to any existing models, if indeed, such an upgrade is technically possible. Pentax have just released firmware that adds SD HC support to their K100D DSLR, but that's a more expensive camera than any Canon compact.

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DavidW
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Aug 24, 2006 12:29 |  #11

Original post and summary updated

I have updated both the original post in the thread and the summary post to reflect the situation with the new cameras - the changes are in italics. As I put when adding to those posts, I suspect that all new Canon cameras from now that have SD support will support SD HC (though check the specifications). Whether any current models get SD HC support added remains to be seen.

If you have an SD HC camera using an SD HC card, be aware that all accessories you use with that card, such as card readers, need to support SD HC.

David




  
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gubak1
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Sep 29, 2006 06:54 as a reply to  @ DavidW's post |  #12
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Great topic!
Thanks David!


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kids_bus_driver
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Oct 15, 2006 01:26 |  #13

JohnBee wrote in post #1795493 (external link)
So far these are the cards that people have reported as "working" with the Canon S3IS
  • A-Data 4GB 150X Turbo Secure Digital Card
    High-speed performance at 22.5MB/s
  • Transcend 4GB 150X Secure Digital Card
  • Patriot Memory 4GB Secure Digital Card
    High-speed data transfer of up to 133x (20MB/s)
  • US Modular 4GB Secure Digital Card

I have done a quick search at TigerDirect for other brands, coincidently I am in the need of another card so if I can find another brand "not disclosed in the above mentioned listing, I will purchase and test it.

I great as your research is for heeding possible problems, I think it is equally important that we list off the working combinations currently on the market as a means to help people take advantage of whats out there.

Having not read this forum before purchasing and using a 4gb 150x Ridata at Meritline, I purchased an S3 and the 4gb Ridata and have filled it numerous times. Its formatting at 3.8 each time. I'm using it for mostly video and the camera stops at 1gb every time.

Is stopping normal for the s3?


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Jon
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Oct 17, 2006 13:28 |  #14

The 1 GB limit's hard-wired into the camera, as it is in the A610/A620. As that's about 9 min. at normal frame rates and video sizes, it shouldn't be a problem. Longer clips are just harder to edit and deal with generally.


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gubak1
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Dec 22, 2006 04:06 |  #15
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JohnBee wrote in post #1792804 (external link)
I beleive the Canon S3 IS is HD compliant.

We have tried two 4GB cards initially and purchased the faster one of the two ironically it was cheaper at 150X. We have been using it none stop for several weeks now. It has been maxed out on a few occasions with multiple movies.

I have never experienced any errors or negative side effects with the 4GB card as of yet. I guess its safe to assume that it is compliant.

I have been using similar card, and have had no problems!


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