Being frugal can have its drawbacks. I can spend a lot of money on some things and be a cheapskate with others. I have no problem buying an expensive computer and peripherals, for example, but usually spend less than $200 a year on software. I’m the same way with the memory cards inside my cameras. And I got screwed by it yesterday.
When I shot stills with film, I routinely went out with 10 to 15 rolls of film in my bag. My attitude was: film is cheap and I don’t want to run out at an inopportune time and miss a shot. When I made the switch to digital, the price of CF cards was still very high, something like $250 for a 512k card. So I did not buy a lot of cards; on the contrary, I bought one card (which I still have) and planned to offload it frequently. As the price of CF cards came down, I eventually bought a couple more, maxing out my inventory at 4. I got pretty disciplined about offloading the cards and never ran into a problem.
When I transitioned to shooting video, I was back in the same boat. A 32 gig Sony SxS card was about $1300 when I bought my camera, so I bought only one. Similarly, I bought only one 16 gig CF card when I acquired my Canon 7d. My primary motivation was saving money, with the rationalization being that I’d empty the cards before I needed them again. It worked for a long time but being a penny pincher caught up with me yesterday.
I took my kids to the local petting zoo. A perfect opportunity to make a home movie and test my new Zacuto Z Finder Pro. My 16 gig card was sitting on my desk, waiting to be offloaded, so I tossed a 2 gig CF card into the 7d. 2 gig would certainly be enough for 3 hours at a park, I thought. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong….I was wrong, to paraphrase Dr. Cox from “Scrubs.”
I used the card for about an hour before I saw the “media full” message in the viewfinder. And of course I didn’t pack a backup. Dumb-ass. So I had to chimp the card and delete scenes in the field to make space for the rest of the afternoon. In the end, I did not have enough space to film my son on a pony ride.
Media is cheap compared to lost opportunities. 16 gig is widely accepted as the minimum for filming with HDSLRs. You need more than one card and you need to carry more than one card, or be prepared to miss opportunities. Don’t be a cheapskate like me.