When someone buys a new digital camera for recreational purposes, they rarely look at the type of storage media the camera supports. How important is the storage media, exactly? Well, it's where your pictures are stored, so it must be pretty important! Someone doesn't want to be in a another country before they figure out the camera blinks "Memory Low" in red. A new digital camera usually comes with a means of storage, but the storage media is, most of the time, not sufficient enough to hold the slighest amount of pictures. The average stock digital camera may come with 16MB, 32MB, and maybe even 64MB worth of memory media. A memory card with at least 512MB-1GB storage is highly recommended to replace the stock memory card the camera packaging includes. The most common types of digital camera storage media are CompactFlash, Secure Digital, xD Picture, Memory Stick, MicroDrive, and SmartMedia.
Most of the current digital cameras use CompactFlash cards. The two types of CF cards are Type I and Type II(slightly thicker). The Type II CompactFlash card is also known as MicroDrive, which will be discussed further down this storage media list. SanDisk describes their CF cards as "size of a matchbook and only weighs half an ounce". There is a controller card that allows for faster transfers. These cards are the most popular because of the decent price and the support throughout many digital cameras.
Secure Digital Cards are the smallest digital camera media cards in the storage media market. The cards can store up to 4GB of memory as of now, but new technology will soon increase the max size to 8GB. A high level of protection is guaranteed against illegal copying. This means that Secure Digital Cards offer more data security.
xD Picture Cards can be used in CompactFlash supported cameras with a CompactFlash adapter. The maximum capacity of xD Picture Cards is a gigabyte of space. The cards offer fast read and write capabilities for digital cameras.
Memory Sticks were created by Sony for their Cybershot line of digital cameras. They aren't supported by brands of digital cameras other than Sony which decreases their digital camera's support of Memory Sticks severely. Many of Sony's other products, besides digital cameras, support Memory Sticks. The Playstation Portable(PSP) uses Sony's Memory Sticks as well as Sony's Vaio line.
MicroDrives are the hard drives inside of Type II CompactFlash Cards. They have better value and are better priced than flash memory, but flash memory has more space and storage. You may have heard that hard drive MP3 players fail over time due to their moving parts. The same concept can be applied to these cards because they have moving parts as well. This is why you may have heard that MicroDrives are unreliable and low in quality. Many of them would break due to the mishandling of the card.
SmartMedia cards are being replaced by the new flash card technology. The cards are still available, but the modern digital cameras usually don't support this type of storage media anymore. The card is cheaper than all the other types of storage media mentioned above.
Storage Media for digital cameras is constantly evolving and improving in quality and capacity. Years ago, the maximum storage capacity for an average memory card was 128MB or 256MB at max. They cost way too much, probably 300% more than they cost right now. The prices of digital camera storage media gets lower every year as the technology gets better. The types of storage media provides diversity and choice for the average consumer with a digital camera.