Photo Tips Podcast: What Does 9999 Mean on a Camera? #34
What Does 9999 Mean on a Camera?
Have you ever seen the numbers 999 or 9999 on your camera? And it seems to be a permanent fixture? A lot people can’t figure out what this means or what’s going on but the answer is actually pretty simple. It’s your frame count. All digital cameras tell you how much space or rather how many frames you have left on your memory card by counting down the number of frames you have available. The problem is that every camera has a maximum count it’s capable of displaying and it’s usually 999 or 9,999. Now that memory cards are exceeding 64 gigabytes and people are using 128, 256 or even 512 gigabyte cards, it means that you can shoot more than 1000 images even if you are shooting raw and well over 10,000 images when you are shooting jpg, even if it’s a large jpg.
I’m going to explain a little bit further on this but in the examples I’m about to use I’m going to use some fairly round numbers, so please don’t hold me to them.
Let’s say you’re shooting a large jpg which typically takes up about 3.6mb of space. With a 128 gigabyte card in the camera, it means that you’ll be able to shoot over 35,000 images, but your camera can only show 4 digits which means until you get under 10k images you’ll only see 126.96.36.199. In other words you’ll have to shoot 25,001 pictures before you will see it go to 9,998. On the other hand if your camera is only capable of showing 3 digits and not 4, it means that you’ll have to shoot 34,001 images before you see a change. Now let’s say you are shooting and uncompressed raw file in the new Sony 7r mark iv. The files are about 60mp and take up about 123 megabytes of space. In this case you would ONLY be able to shoot about 1,040 images on this 128gb card. And your camera would display that because it’s well under the 9,999 threshold. As a reminder, I’m using approximate numbers here but you get the idea. BTW, 1000 images in one intensive 8 hour day of shooting is a crap load of photos. Even for a pro shooter, that’s a pretty rare event. So personally I don’t see the practicality of the mega size memory card.
Pretty much every camera that I have seen lately can number images up to 9,999 before it starts over. So if you are actually shooting 35,000 on one card it means that you will run out of numbers three times. So what happens when you run out of numbers? Well as far as Canon cameras are concerned, it create a new folder and start numbering one again and put your next 9,999 images in that new folder. And I am willing to assume other manufacturers are going to do the same. Or at least they will have some sort of strategy for dealing with this. As you can see even though your camera is only showing 188.8.131.52 it is still numbering the images and calculating your space availability in the background.
I would like to add that my geeky husband, who deals with software engineers all the time, he wanted to pointed out that the exact count depends on the software engineers who programed the camera. It depends on whether they start counting at zero or one. And he felt that I would be remiss if I did not point this out. So for anyone out there who is trying to make exact calculations you may be off by 1 more or one less frame unless you know exactly how the engineers programed the system.
Last thought on this. Before you stick a really big card in your camera do check the manual to see if your camera can actually handle it. Yes, there is an upper size limit as to what your camera can use. Oh, and one more thing, do check out podcasts numbers 5, 6, and 8 on memory cards.