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Olympus 8 MB SmartMedia Card

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      18.11.2009 14:12
      Very helpful



      If you really do need an 8 MB card, this will do as well as any

      "Eight megabytes?" I hear you cry in astonishment. "I could barely fit the iIndex to my iEverythingInTheWholeWideUniverseEverEverInSpace on there, let alone any actual photos!" But yes - this really is an 8 MB memory card, and furthermore it's in a format hardly anyone now uses, that only goes up to 128 MB in any case, that's irritatingly fragile, and that (in the larger capacities at least) is increasingly expensive second-hand. Thus, a card like this is now mostly of interest to collectors of older digital cameras.

      As it happens, that price factor doesn't apply so much here, which is the first reason you might actually want to buy it. If you just want to test a camera that uses this type of card - and which has no internal memory of its own, as many do not - then shelling out for a 128 MB card, which can easily set you back £20 on eBay, can be a bit of a waste of money, especially if the camera then turns out not to work. An 8 MB card like this can be picked up far more cheaply, usually for just a few pounds. Actually so can a 16 MB card, so in truth I'd generally recommend you go for one of those, but as this is the 8 MB category I'd better not start reviewing a 16 MB model!

      Naturally the Olympus card follows the standard specifications for the SmartMedia format: it's black, very thin, mildly flexible - but it can snap, so needs handling with care - and extremely light, even more so than an SD card despite being twice the size. There is a largish area of exposed gold contact, but this seems to cope all right with everyday storage. The reassuring Olympus brand name is only faintly visible on the back, and unlike newer SmartMedia cards there's a specific reminder on the front that this is a 3-volt card. (There were also 5-volt cards, for which the only real collectors' market nowadays is for use in certain vintage synthesisers.)

      I tested this memory card with my Olympus Camedia C-2, a two-megapixel camera which though old is solid and reliable. The card slipped into its slot easily and smoothly, without any worrying degree of force being required to press it home. It also came out again without fuss, which if you're using a card reader, as I do, is even more important! The camera recognised the card at once, and predicted that an empty card would hold five photos on the highest SHQ quality (a slightly odd 1600x1208 resolution), 16 at HQ (1600x1200) and 47 in the 640x480 SQ mode. These are pretty much the values I would expect.

      I was pleasantly surprised by the speed of this card, considering the age of both the format and the camera. Enabling continuous shot mode, at the HQ quality setting I was able to take ten consecutive shots (admittedly of a very simple scene) before slow buffering began, and even at SHQ I could manage four. The card was also fairly fast to format: at this point I should mention that it is generally a good idea to format memory cards in the camera in which you wish to use them. You *can* do it on a computer, but unless you know what you're doing you can cause the camera to stop recognising the cards.

      One special feature of Olympus cards, not found on other brands of SmartMedia, is the Panorama mode, something which also exists on the later and much smaller xD format cards. To use this you need both an Olympus card *and* an Olympus camera which has the feature enabled. Panorama mode allows you to take several pictures and stitch them together to make, well, a panorama. Of course Olympus is not alone in offering a feature like this, but it does seem to be easier to do it than with most other brands, albeit with imperfect photo quality.

      It's always a bit strange writing a review of something like this, since the great majority of people are unlikely to buy such a card unless they already have a pretty good idea of why they might want to do so. Still, for that tiny proportion of digital camera users in the market for a small-capacity 3V SmartMedia card, there's absolutely nothing to complain about with Olympus's offering. I can't really give it more than three stars because that capacity *is* so limiting, but apart from that (admittedly major) failing there's nothing bad here.


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