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Catastrophic Data Loss (and Likely Why It Happened)

Dark Wraith

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Dark Wraith Registered since 05th Apr 2010
Thu 19-May-11 12:18 AM

I have shot many pictures with my Nikon D7000 since getting it late last year, and quite a few of those photographs are true gems that have earned me an undeserved reputation as a great photographer. Last night I had an event to shoot, one that was both personal and professional: it was my daughter's last high school orchestra concert before she graduates from high school in a couple of weeks.

After maybe 150 shots, many appearing in the brief review screen as among the best I had ever done, near the end of the concert, I got a reading through the viewfinder that I didn't understand. On the left I saw the cryptic letters "Cd," and on the right, when I would press the shutter release, I'd see "Err."

When the graduating seniors in the orchestra assembled on the steps for that last Great Moment Together, I had nothing.

Nothing.

I even tried to swap the Sandisk 32Gb Class 10 card that had been in Slot 1 with the Sandisk 4Gb Class 6 card in Slot 2.

Same errors, and no action on the shutter release.

When I got home, that 32Gb card was unreadable. Windows 7 on my computer kept reporting that the thing was unformatted. Looking further into the matter, the card had no boot sector.

Ditto for the 4Gb card in Slot 2 (which had been my main card until I bought the heavy lifter Class 10 beast more than a month ago).

Thinking back on last night to figure out what happened, I have two possibilities that are the most probable, with the latter I describe below being more likely than this first one.

Possibility 1 (not as likely): Having worked with computers for decades, and having had disk failures before, something as catastrophic as boot sector destruction (especially on more than one drive) is often the result of over-heating. Supposedly, the Nikon D7000 is engineered with the recognition that the sensor can overheat, which is why high-quality movies can't be of more than 20 minutes in length (I think it's 20 minutes, anyway). Under rapid-fire shooting, which I was doing at several times during the evening, it's possible I cooked the two SDHC cards.

Possibility 2 (more likely): Towards the end of the evening, the SB-600 speedlight I had on the D7000 was flagging severely, even though I had put in four brand new, top-of-the-line Energizer photo batteries right before the event. I decided to sit down and swap out the Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 DX VRII I'd been using all evening and put on my Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.4G. In my rush to get the faster lens on, I forgot to turn off the camera. As soon as I unlocked the telephoto lens from its mount, I heard what sounded like the shutter cutting out, and the camera turned off. It is possible that what happened at that instant was the equivalent of pulling a USB flash drive out of its port without electronically unmounting it, first. Although doing that won't necesarily destroy a flash device, it's a very bad thing to do, and in a camera, it might be a quick way to execute any removable media that might be in the way of an unchoreographed shutdown.

So far, I've tried to recover the 150 or so RAW files on that Sandisk SDHC card with four different recovery utilities, but not one of them can see anything on the card, primarily because they all rely on the boot sector being in some semblance of recoverability.

As it stands right now, I've lost photographs that cannot be replaced, and quite a few people who were depending upon me will be sorely disappointed at my failure. (Yes, this is my failure: I had become so confidant in the quality and reliability of the D7000 and its peripherals that I didn't bother to take along my lowly D5000 as a backup, which would at least have allowed me to get that last, wonderful shot of those young people the last time they would ever be together like that.)

I am offering this rather long narrative as a cautionary tale. First, the Nikon D7000 is not a professional camera. Hammering it in a high-pressure photo shoot is bad practice, no matter how much people tell you they just love your photographs, and no matter how many nice, easy portraits, senior pictures, and pretty landscape prints you've sold.

Second, watch for warning signs that the camera is in distress. That SB-600 speedlight had never acted up before. It might have been warning me that something was going wrong. Maybe that lowly SB-600 was trying to tell me something the fancy digital readouts in the viewfinder display were going to let me know about when it was too late.

Third, if you have a back-up body, take it with you, no matter how well your primary camera has performed in the past and no matter how much you look like a geek staggering around with several bags of equipment hanging from your neck.

Finally, whether or not this is what caused the ruin of not one, but two SDHC cards, don't ever swap lenses with the camera turned on.

At this point, I'm out of business for a while, and it's not just because I've lost a couple of SDHC cards. I need to tone down my hubris about being such a great photographer and get out of the mind-set that, "It's a Nikon!" as an excuse for sloppy practices when people are relying on me, not my camera, to be as good as they need.

I apologize immediately for the length of this post and thank you for reading it.



Dark Wraith
Professor, Writer, Photographer
See my Gallery

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