And a way to recycle those old Compact Flash and SD cards too!
In my last post, I recommended a couple of strategies for keeping vital information about your camera’s functions handy. For the more tech-oriented here is something you can do to make certain you always have your full manual with you.
If you have been shooting digitally long or have upgraded your camera recently, chances are you have an old memory card laying around that is too small or too slow for your new-fangled camera. I have graduated from 16 MB (not a typo!) to 512 MB to 1 GB to 2 GB to 4 GB cards in my recent evolution. My newest camera is using an 8 GB card-for example. What do you do with those couple of loose 1/2 GB cards you have laying around? Consider turning them into a mobile camera manual library.
Camcorders, DSLRs, Point-n-shoot, Speed-lites
and Light Meter manuals on the laptop drive.
One obvious method for doing this is to download the PDF files from your camera equipment manufacturer’s website and store them on your mobile computer or your online data repository. This method works great provided you have internet access and assumes you are carrying a laptop and have the time to boot it, retrieve the document and read it on the laptop’s screen. How can you take portability one step further?
Transfer your paper manuals to portable storage
You can transfer your manuals in PDF form onto one of your flash drives and then rely on a computer to be available should you need to refer to it. This eliminates the need to pack your own computer with you wherever you go but still relies on questionable equipment availability. My entire arsenal of manuals shown in the top picture only occupies 60MB so it will fit on the Duarte Design 128MB thumb drive given out as freebie. These drives are given out by companies at events and functions and work well to be a manual repository. Now, thousands of pages of manuals can be stored in a much smaller, and more importantly, lighter incarnation.
Taking it a step further
But if we want to rely on only the gear in our camera bag, we can’t depend on card readers, thumb drives, local computers or packing our laptop. Why not put the manual on the camera’s memory card in a fashion the camera can read and display?
The obvious solution: Photograph the manual! Take your lowly 512 MB memory card and place it in your camera and shoot the pertinent manual pages on Small JPG-Fine Detail. Now you have your camera’s manual on the camera-provided you know how to view it. Sure, it takes some time but the potential reward of finding out how to sync the flash to the second shutter curtain, for example, is worth the small advance effort.
I have a 20D, 40D and 5D Digital SLRs that all take the same Compact Flash Card. By putting the same card into each camera, a discrete folder will be created that contains each particular camera’s impending files. By using the 20D to photograph the 20D manual, the 40D to photograph the 40D, and the 5D to photograph the 5D manual, you will ensure that each camera will be able to read its own manuals files-yet be stored on the same card.
Here’s the beauty: You can then view the manual on the Camera’s LCD screen. You can thumb through quickly, Zoom in and move around. All of this for the size and weight of a single compact flash card. By shooting the 20D manual on the 20D, etc., you will always have the right camera reading the right manual. For your non-camera items, flash, camcorders, etc, you should shoot them with the camera you are most likely to have with you, or if you have the card space, shoot the pertinent manual pages with multiple cameras on the same card.
Manual Shooting Tips
1. Mount your camera on a tripod positioned above the manual and level it to provide a square perspective.
2. Use a flat piece of plexi-glass to hold the open manual down, flattening it as much as possible when shooting two-page spreads. An empty 8×10 picture frame works well and can be seen in the background of the shot above.
3. Fill the frame with the manual. You don’t need to worry about the page edges falling outside the frame. You want the words to be as big as possible.
4. Be selective in your page choices. Warranty, safety and basic unpacking instructions can probably be omitted.
5. Don’t be afraid to include handwritten information like lens nodal points, hyper-focal distances, and other information you’ve derived in your years of picture taking.
6. Write the word “Manuals” on the card with a permanent marker so you can distinguish it from your production cards at a glance.
7. Store it separately from your production cards.
There is no limit to what can be photographed and carried on an obsolete memory card. Contact Information? Duplicate Passport? Anything to which you might need to visually refer is fair game. The sky is the limit.
The obvious caveat is that you can easily delete the individual images or, heaven help us, reformat the card. Once you have the manual pages shot-back them up to a computer so you can restore them if necessary. Not all camera memory cards have write-protect devices so you must be cautious.
Hopefully this concept will help you carry your instructional manuals with you without taking up the valuable space in your bags and the valuable weight on your back.
Rikk Flohr © 2009