More Corrupt Memory-Card Woes
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As soon as I switched to a Nikon D700 from a Nikon D200, I started getting corrupt memory cards. I brought the camera to the Nikon Service Center in Osaka, but they said that it's probably the memory card that's the problem. I used only Transcend compact flash cards, which are not on the official supported list, so they suggested that I move to an officially-supported card.

In those early days, the problem manifested itself with a scrambled view of the image on the D700's screen, but they downloaded fine and I never had other problem with the images. In any case, they soon went away and for months I forgot about the issue. Then last December I had a full-card meltdown, and would have lost all the images from the day if it hadn't been for the image-recovery tool I wrote about in “Recovering Photos from a Corrupt Memory Card with PhotoRec

I wasn't entirely convinced the problem was with the card.... I half suspected that it was due to my card reader, but I threw the card away and got another. Unfortunately, five months later I ran into the problem again, finding upon return from a vacation that all the images from our trip to Ishigaki Island were lost to a corrupt card. Again, PhotoRec came to my rescue, so again, I sent a big fat donation of thanks to its maintainer.

I still felt that the problem wasn't in the cards, but to be prudent, I switched to cards on Nikon's official supported-for-the-D700 list of cards.

So yesterday, I arrived at my folks in Ohio after a long flight from Japan, and this morning I took some pictures of Anthony playing, and found my Lexar Professional card to be totally corrupt. Sigh. PhotoRec is running right now.

The problem could be my card reader (a different one than before, I think, but I'm not 100% sure... I have several), or this and the previous time it could be the airport X-Ray..... or it could be my D700. I dunno.


All 12 comments so far, oldest first...

With 3 DSLR’s and 2 P&S’s in my recent history, and over 100,000 images made using 5 different brands of CF card and 3 different card readers, I have never yet had a CF card failure. I expect that I will at some point (just like hard drives, they will fail). It seems pretty fishy to me that you’ve had so many failures since switching to a new camera when you’ve used different cards and different readers. You have to look at the commonality…

— comment by Sean Phillips on July 28th, 2009 at 4:56am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I would suggest to check your computer memory. The only time I got corrupted images when downloading pictures from my Canon 20D, I had a 512MB Ram stick (is this the right word in English ???) not working correctly.

Removing the guilty RAM and replacing it with a new one solved the issue.

It’s happened with two different computers (with two different OS) now, so I doubt that’s it. The only thing that I know is the same every time is the camera body (D700). I’ve taken about 20,000 shots with it and so percent-wise have had few problems, but “few” is not “zero” so it’s still a problem. I’m going to go out and get a new card reader and use that for a while, just to be sure it wasn’t the old readers. —Jeffrey

— comment by sysedit on July 28th, 2009 at 5:24am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

You could also try plugging a USB cable into the D700 and using it as your card reader. I love seperate card readers, and hate using the camera for this, but in your case it eliminates a variable entirely. Have you upgraded the firmware on the D700 — I know Nikon posted a firmware update for the D700.

(here’s hoping that my D700, arriving tomorrow, doesn’t do that).


Excellent idea…. I’ll give it a try. Must check the firmware as well. I remember not upgrading right away because it didn’t seem to cover anything I was interested in, but I did it later… I think. —Jeffrey

— comment by Josh on July 28th, 2009 at 6:16am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

The suggestion by Josh sounds reasonable but I vaguely remember the D700 only supported PTP mode.

Also, I have a D700 (still using the original firmware; A 1.00, B 1.00) with several Sandisk Extreme III CF cards and have never had any image/CF corruption after thousands of writes. I read the images off via an external CF reader. So I doubt the original firmware is the root cause.

Turns out that plugging directly into the camera and loading with Lightroom is really convenient, so I’ll do that for a while until I can figure this out. —Jeffrey

— comment by Chi on July 28th, 2009 at 8:51am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

What I can suggest you is to format you memory card with the camera body itself. Usually, there’s a menu for that. The idea behind this is the firmware responsible to read/write data on the card could be buggy. Formatting via the camera itself, via the same buggy part could “help” such problem.

Also, if you have Linux installed, I can give you a small procedure to check if the memory card is physically damaged (bad sectors).

I format in-camera every time I use it… Nikon makes it easy with a two-button salute. I don’t have a Linux machine handy, but have something I can use to check…. maybe I will, just to be sure…. —Jeffrey

Good luck.

— comment by BobCaTT on July 28th, 2009 at 11:05am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I too recommend reformatting the card in the camera (once you have recovered your photos of course!). I had a similar problem about a year ago when I last upgraded my camera. When I eventually flicked through the manual I found out it formats cards differently to previous models. Cards formatted in the old model cause corruption if used in the new model, and vice versa. I don’t know if this is the same problem you are having, since I don’t use the same camera (I use Pentax), but it is worth checking the notes in the manual, if you still have it.

Thanks for the link to PhotoRec. When I had corrupted cards I used the SanDisk software that came with the cards (which doesn’t run on linux, only windows). It recovered most of my photos, but I still lost about twenty. I shall give PhotoRec a go if ever I have problems again.

— comment by Ian on July 28th, 2009 at 11:41am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I experimented these kind of problem several times with a Canon 5D Mark II. To my greatest concern, it happened randomly, with a very small batch of images and with any of my cards. I have never had any problem with my 5D before with the same material. So I suspected a hardware problem.

Since, I have upgraded to the latest firmware, corrupted images are gone. It was firmware related or at least the problem was corrected with the new firmware.

Did you try reinstalling the firmware ? downgrading the firmware ?

— comment by Tonino on July 28th, 2009 at 2:44pm JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I totally agree with you that PhotoRec is a Super recoverer.
I have had 3 opportunities when I had to recover lost photos, once from a SanDisk CompactFlash I have already formatted, twice from harddisk that had crashed.
It is not fast (perhaps on my computers) but the recovered photos gave me a lot of confidence in recommending it.
Thank you for sharing your experience with this product. It reafirmed my confidence with the product.
Thank you for this great Blog.

The only problem with PhotoRec is that its command-line interface is sorty of geeky, which is just dandy for me, but perhaps a stumbling block for non-geek photographers. If you can get by that and have it work, I hope you’ll send $20 or $30 to the developer in thanks. I have a couple of times… —Jeffrey

— comment by Alex Chng on July 28th, 2009 at 9:31pm JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

One more for PhotoRec! I’ve never had a corrupted card in almost 4 years of DSLRs (Canon and SanDisk Ultra II’s, one 8GB Extreme III). But, for the first time EVER, I accidentally formatted a full 2GB card in the camera thinking it was a different one. There went 200 photos 🙁 I tried three file recovery programs I have, (one of which I paid a not-so-small fee for) but none of them found any files. Went with PhotoRec and recovered all of them pretty quickly. I’ve sent off my donation, well worth it!

Have to agree with the interface though. Could definitely use a GUI… command line can seem archaic enough that most people these days wouldn’t want to go near it.

— comment by JasonP on July 29th, 2009 at 3:38am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

I don’t know if you have any contact with Nikon, but when you have a corrupted memory card, before restoring anything, it might be very good to make an “image” of it and then transmit everything to the technical staff.

And I guess someone in your reader could even provide a good contact.


— comment by BobCaTT on July 29th, 2009 at 8:14pm JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

I had a similair problem with my D70 last year. I’ve got 2 Sandisk 1GB CF-Cards and I was getting half written images more and more often – sometimes corrupting the entire card. I brought my camera to an official Nikon repair service here in Berlin. Two weeks and 300+ Euros later the problem was solved. Apparently the controller in the camera was defunct.

— comment by Daniel Cutter on July 29th, 2009 at 8:32pm JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

For myself seems like the faster/newer cards are hit or miss whether they will work on older card readers. I have two older Lexar Firewire CF RW019 readers, same model purchased at the same time. One will choke on the new cards and the other works fine with the newer cards… so I have not idea what’s going on with that.

Anyway I’ve only had one corrupt card in 8 years of digital and it was very stressful as it was a paying job… family portraits. What worked was Photo Rescue:

I tried RescuePRO and had no luck what so ever.

John V.

— comment by John V on July 31st, 2009 at 2:51am JST (14 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink
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