Q: I've heard a few different opinions on this question: How should I decide whether to use one large memory card with my digital camera or several small memory cards? Is there a good way to decide? --D.S.
A: Actually, there are a few good ways to decide, but the final answer will be different for each person, depending on their photography needs.
A large memory card is probably better for someone who wants to shoot HD video with a digital still camera. Such video requires a lot of storage space. One large card is much easier to physically keep track of than several small ones.
Using several small memory cards probably is better for someone seeking some peace of mind. For example, if you have your vacation photos spread over several memory cards, losing one card or having one card fail is less devastating than having the large memory card that contains all of your vacation photos fail. A small memory card also may have a slightly faster read/write time than a large card, because it doesn't have as much data to sort through, although the speed differences usually are minimal, as most large cards are newer models, which should give them improved speeds. In addition, some older cameras cannot use memory cards over a specific capacity, meaning you may need to use several small ones.
Finally, your budget will play a role, too. Memory cards are much less expensive than they were a few years ago, but they still can be costly. Over the long run, a large memory card is less expensive than a small card, because the large card usually costs less per gigabyte. However, the large card is going to cost a lot more initially than a small card. If your budget doesn't allow for the single expense of purchasing one large card, you may naturally end up buying a few small cards over 12-24 months.
Find more answers to common camera questions on the Camera FAQ page.