Sony Memory Stick

Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: Is any memory card something to be enthusiastic about?

The Long Version: Two words always seem to come up when someone mentions Sony's Memory Stick format in a camera review, so I'll get them out of the way now: Expensive and Proprietary. Frankly, it gets a little monotonous. (Here, here, here, here, here, here...) No, they aren't sold at the local dollar store - on the shelf next to the toothpaste from South Afrlca - but their cost is in line with similar-speed SDHC cards from Sandisk and other reputable manufacturers. And if something being proprietary is such a problem for people buying P&S cameras, then why do cameras that take AA batteries, like my Canon SX20, hit so much resistance? Certainly, if someone already has a stack of SD cards, then a Sony device needs some pretty compelling features. Someone who has had a bad experience with a Sony camera, and wants to switch brands, won't have her day improved by telling her that she needs a new memory card as well. But these are relatively uncommon scenarios, and even cameras that take SD memory usually need a new card to go with them. We're past the point where buying enough memory to last through a week-long trip is a significant expense - as long as it's not an xD card, anyway.

I do have to confess that I find the many different names and formats of Sony's memory card(s) confusing, and even the wikipedia entry doesn't help much. I bought this card, a Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, because the plain old Memory Stick PRO Duo Mark 2 that lives in Penny's Cybershot S800 isn't certified to work with my PCM-D50 recorder. There's also an elusive "High Speed" model that isn't listed in the Wiki article, which has the same colour scheme as the PRO-HG card, but I have no idea what the differences (if any) might be. I suspect that Sony has hit the same wall that Sandisk recently climbed when it had to redo its names for the "Extreme" cards. There's only so many superlatives you can throw at a product; once you get to the Extreme Ultra Super-Duper PRO Special Edition to mark yet another format change or meaningless speed bump, your nomenclature is pretty much pooched and customer confusion is inevitable. The "Class X" system that SDHC cards use is vastly superior and does make it easier to understand some of the difference between cards. I want to say that Sony should adopt something similar, but that means either renaming existing products, or adding even more information to the already too-complicated names. Neither option is a good one, and there's already far too much nearly-meaningless marketing twaddle out there to make remembering all of it feasible.

But really, does anyone know what actual difference a Class 4 or Class 6 SDHC card will make in any of the hundreds of consumer cameras currently on the market?

So aside from a befuddling naming system that has lasted at least a half-decade too long, these cards are pretty much unremarkable. What I really wish for is an easy way to get a fingernail on these slippery little beasts - the scuff marks on mine are from needing my Swiss Army Knife's tweezers to get the card out of the PCM-D50's wimpy little pop-out slot. It makes me miss my Canon SX20's ability to fire its memory cards across the room, but since that's my biggest complaint about the PCMD50/Memory Stick combination, I'll live with it. What other option is there?


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