Wedding Photographers Guide to Buying Faster USB Memory Sticks

If you’re a professional wedding photographer (or any professional photographer for that matter) and you’re thinking of changing from CD’s and DVD’s in favour of USB memory sticks with your logo printed or engraved on them then there are some basic things you need to be consider before you commit to buying them:

  1. Most suppliers of memory sticks printed with a company brand or logo are supplying then as “giveaway” promotional gift – the sort of thing that are handed out like sweets at trade and retail shows. Typically these memory sticks won’t get a huge amount of usage and the demands the sticks in terms of read/write cycles (the number of times the USB sticks is used) and the read/write speeds (the speed taken to transfer files onto the USB stick) are pretty light.

    Typical read/write speeds of a “standard” promotional USB sticks can be as low as 2MB per second (write) and 6MB per second (read). Whilst this is slow it’s fine if all you’re doing is loading up a couple of sales brochures onto the sticks but, if you’re a professional photographer or wedding video company you may (depending on what you are doing with the drives) need to specify certain minimum requirements – read/write speeds, grade of memory chip etc.

  2. If you buy standard promotional USB Flash drives and you then start to load very files or lots of high quality images onto them then pretty soon you’ll notice that they’re not the quickest of products. If you’ve been used to working on Apple Mac’s and you use top end Memory Cards with fast read/write speeds, or Firewire or Thunderbolt to move data around then by comparison a promotional USB flash drive is going to be a “horse and cart”.

    For example top end SD cards or CF cards have a read/write speed of around 40MB per second – X10 times the speed of standard promotional USB flash drives. Thunderbolt is on a different planet with transfer speeds of 10GB per second!

  3. All promotional USB memory sticks will be USB 2.0 rather than the latest and faster USB 3.0 The reason is cost – USB 3.0 memory sticks are still priced at a premium so unless you ask for USB 3.0 the prices you’ll be quoted will almost universally be for USB 2.0.
  4. If speed of data transfer is an issue for you then ask for a price for USB 3.0 memory sticks – these have read write speed of around 50MB – 100MB per second so they are blisteringly quick! The downside is cost and you need a PC or Mac that is equipped with USB 3.0 USB ports to take advantage of the speed improvements. They’ll still work on USB 2.0 PC’s but only at USB 2.0 speeds!
  5. A sensible compromise if you’re looking for decent data transfer speeds it to ask for “upgraded” USB 2.0 flash drives – they’ll be a little more expensive but you should get something that has a longer warranty period and better performance with speeds closer to the High performance products sold by brands like Kingston and Lacie. Remember if you don’t ask for this you will just get “standard” promotional USB flash drives which are fine they’re just slow! By default USB2U always quote professional photographers for upgraded USB 2.0 products.
  6. Ideally talk to your supplier about what you plan to use your USB memory sticks and get them to recommend a solution. If you’ve chosen your supplier well and they know their industry they should not only be aware of the issues but they should be able to put forward a range of different solutions.

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