Monday, September 29th 2008

Transcend 16 GB Compact Flash Failure

In the spring I bought a 16 GB Transcend Compact Flash card for my camera. I had some problems getting it formatted. But after I did manage to format it, it seemed to be working fine.

David Naylor and Jenny-Lyn Jacobson

Until our wedding day. I had lent my camera to Silvana who was doing most of the photography. Everything was working fine until after the ceremony. Suddenly the camera said Data Corrupted. The camera hung when you tried to view certain photos. She came over to me and we switched to one of my old memory cards.

I thought it was just one or two photos that were lost. As it turned out, I couldn’t get any photos off the card at all.

Viewing the card through Windows Explorer there were loads of files with seemingly random 09f2¤!”%-style filenames. The card size was suddenly claimed to be 248 GB (beat that Pretec). I could see many of the raw image files, but none of them were readable.

After doing a bit of hunting around I found Ahlberg Data in Stockholm. The website claimed that data almost always can be saved from hard drives and flash memory. So, hopeful, I sent them my card.

It turns out there’s a little processor in the card that deals with the communication between the flash memory units and and the camera/computer. This processor had probably been fried to quote the technician I spoke to. Which means that any data you get off the card will be complete gobbledygook.

So they couldn’t either get anything usable off the card.

You would have to open the card and read directly from the memory units. This would involve manual labour (don’t we all hate it!) and would be very expensive. Also, it would have to be done by a company called IBAS in Norway since Ahlberg Data themselves don’t have the right equipment.

But, he claimed, the Russians are building a machine that will be able to read directly from the memory units, bypassing the processor. (With less manual work required, if I got it right.) He said they are planning to buy one of these when they become available — possibly during the autumn.

Anyway, they were very kind and sent the card back without charging anything for the analysis (or postage). So now I have the unreadable card here, hoping that one day I will be able to salvage the photos from our wedding …

Let this be a lesson to anyone thinking of buying a cheap, large memory card. Please leave a comment if you have had similar problems, I’d be very interested to hear about them.

7 Responses to this post:

  1. Steve Hynes says:

    Same kind of card, same kind of problem, across multiple units in fact. The card format fails and my equipment will not recognize it. This was media for a Sony HVR Z7U, being used to record an event. The failure of two successive cards at the same time?Steve Hynes

  2. Jordan says:

    Hi David,That’s really bad luck having that happen on your wedding day. I actually bought an identical card last week for a trip to Russia and fortunately decided to try it out before I leave. I had the same issue as you with formatting the card however managed to do it natively within windows when putting the card in a card reader rather than reading it from the camera (Sony DSLR-A100). After formatting the camera correctly reported 3204 photos remaining. As one final check I put 8gb of stuff on the card to see if it would still work, but the camera only took 3 photos before telling me the card was full. I think the problem is not the card, but that the camera does not recognise a card larger than 8gb. I’m going back to swap it for an 8gb version today so I’ll let you know the result.Cheers,Jordan

  3. Jordan says:

    Hi David,That’s really bad luck having that happen on your wedding day. I actually bought an identical card last week for a trip to Russia and fortunately decided to try it out before I leave. I had the same issue as you with formatting the card however managed to do it natively within windows when putting the card in a card reader rather than reading it from the camera (Sony DSLR-A100). After formatting the camera correctly reported 3204 photos remaining. As one final check I put 8gb of stuff on the card to see if it would still work, but the camera only took 3 photos before telling me the card was full. I think the problem is not the card, but that the camera does not recognise a card larger than 8gb. I’m going back to swap it for an 8gb version today so I’ll let you know the result.Cheers,Jordan

  4. jjividen says:

    I read your blog and had to chime in with my experiences with a Transcend 8 GB compactflash card. As a photo pro, it is imperative that my card brings back the images I worked so hard to capture. This card is so unreliable, it will be turned into a neckace with a hole drilled through it for a neck strap! My Sandisk cards have been 100% downloadable. My Transcend loses one in 20 shots or more, depending on how important the photos are. The more valuable the shot, the greater the lose of images. Jerry

  5. David Naylor says:

    Wow, that sounds incredible. And that definitely was the case here … 100% important, 100% failure.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I recently bought a Transcend 16GB compact flash card.Using a transcend usb card reader, I copied several GB of multimedia stuff onto it. All seemed okay. The following day I tried to use the card again and found that it had completely failed. The data could not be read, nor could I reformat the card. I was unable to read or reformat it from Windows or Linux or in my camera.

  7. Cliff says:

    Hi David, just an alternate perspective. Been using transcend 16gb cards in my two D3s and my D700 for over a year. Multiple weddings, tens of thousands of shots, no problems whatsoever. In fact, the only card I've ever had fail was an Extreme III.