This week i’m writing about a very upsetting and somewhat troubling situation that I’ve recently had with memory card failure. In my case memory card failure & speed and spec misrepresentation as well as a terrible warranty and customer service issue. Were talking about SD CARD warranty replacement and the surrounding warranty industry. Also the very complicated job of shopping for a memory card!
Why are memory card manufacturers so bad at warranty for such a critical product needed by every Youtuber, videographer, Pro user or consumer out there? Why is choosing the correct memory card product so difficult to get the performance you need!
As of right now.. I am without memory cards to use in my GH5… Let me explain my story and the background to this article!
As many of you know, I love to shoot with my GH5. Even before the camera came out I was on the hunt for deals on higher end professional memory cards and sometimes deals crop up.
Like many of you I shop on Amazon and came across what seemed like an amazing Boxing Day deal (For those that don’t know, the day after christmas in Canada is called Boxing day and there are sales much like black friday – Dec 26th usually has some of the best deals all year).
Like most of you I don’t have a lot of money as a small Youtuber so I have to shop for deals when and where I can find them – all to bring you guys great content or video ideas.
Almost Two years ago, I purchased a two pack of these Lexar 128gb UHS-II U3 1000x 150 MBps SDXC cards. At the time everyone was talking about them and the specs seemed really great! UHS-II, 150 MBps and 80 to 90 MBps write speeds quote by some people!
Looking at the box you would think that 150 MBps is really fast and fast enough for the 400 Mbps (50 MBps) speeds that the GH5 can maximum shoot and I would be well covered here by the specs.
Well as it turns out.. 150 MBps is only the Read speed of those cards.
Some of you know this marketing ploy already but some of you may not know.
Being in I.T. for over 10 years and having some knowledge of cards beforehand, I actually knew about the quoted marketing speed on the card as being a maximum READ Speed.
The original Amazon Product page said that this card could write at 80 MBps. I then did some research and discovered that the write speed were quoted from Lexar as being about 80 MBps or slightly lower and several other testing websites showing it as being within 10 MBps or so up or down of this speed that i could find.
This made my decision to Buy the cards as the deal seemed legit as the GH5 (which wasn’t out yet) only needed a sustained write speed of 50 MBps (400Mbps) at the most for its higher end 4K 10-bit files codec when it came out later on. UHS-II, combined with those reviews for write speeds seemed like it would be good enough to handle all the new rates.
A Quick Primer on Memory Card Symbolism in relation to performance! Very useful when shopping for memory cards!
To most users who are unfamiliar with memory card labels or what they NEED for their particular camera here is a brief primer.
SDHD versus SDXC – SDHD means the card has a maximum memory capacity of 32 GB cards.. This is the old style of card (typically also slower speeds). SDXC is the Extendable Card format and has higher capacities and is the most modern format.
Professional – This is Lexar’s marketing designation which is actually their warranty program. This means cards are covered by warranty for the lifetime of the card (which really means about 5- 10 years in practical terms although very misleading) – I assumed professional also meant that the company would be treating professionals better than average consumer grade cards. This isn’t the case – more on this later. Other manufacturers have different labels and classes.
1000x (or 633x or 2000x etc..) – This is an old throwback to CDROM days measurement of speed. the old CDROM used to Read at 150KBps or 1x speed, so 1000 times the 150 KBps equals 150 MBps (remember this is READ speeds only).
UHS I or UHS II – This is in fact the technology platform in which the IO controller uses. If a card is UHS I only its theoretical speed limit is 104 MBps (SDR104 controller chip) maximum Reads and usually only has one row of pins on the back – this is the older standard but still much accepted today. UHS-II builds upon that technology and has a second row of pins on the back of the SDCard. This allows more data laneway’s for faster transfer speeds. Upper speeds can reach a theoretical maximum of 312 MBps on UHS II cards (Full duplex – the bus speed) – **more on this later**. Its important to note that not all cameras support both UHS-I and UHS-II however newer cameras usually support the newer UHS-II standard.
NEW as of the last couple years! V30, V60, V90 – These new symbols are the next iteration of Write speed monikers which means that if the card has this symbol on it, it can verifiably sustain those minimum speeds or so were told. V30 = 30 MBps, V60 = 60 MBps and V90 = 90 MBps respectively. One thing is for certain.. this gives memory card makers the right to charge more if the card is certified. But is this a certification or just a marketing guarantee?
Here comes the confusing part are you ready?
Not all DSLR cameras or devices are built the same! Not all USB card readers are built the same! and not all SD cards are using the same components!! Make sure the USB Reader you buy is capable of UHS-II card reading and USB 3.0 or 3.1 speeds at a minimum! Yes these usually cost more than the cheap ones. Make sure you get name brand readers with quality components in them and have a decent warranty that usually means they will last you longer.
Actual performance differs from manufacturer to manufacturer
Each manufacturer uses its own benchmarking tools to identify its own performance characteristics for their marketing department using optimal and sometimes fictitious real world scenarios. The manufacturers also shop around for components for memory and controllers to reduce costs to put into their sdcard products to increase their profit margins. Nothing new in the manufacturing world or technology here but most of the time benchmarks are for marketing purposes only and are exaggerated performances of the best version of the cards. The problems come in when there are lots of cards that are clearly have manufacturing issues or performance issues in large batches and they get stamped and sold in to the market at lower prices just to move inventory and still labeled as higher performing cards.
this is Consumer fraud and the practices need to stop.
To give an example that closely relates: Intel the CPU manufacturer, will take silicon for CPUs and test each CPU to see how high they can push the CPU silicon before it becomes unstable. they have a rigorous testing process. They label the CPU’s that have higher performing metrics at stable temperatures and speeds for a given lot differently then ones that can’t reach those numbers. They lock down the CPU’s that don’t perform as well as lower Core product SKUs matching performance metrics in each category. They stamp the label of the performance accordingly. This allows less waste in manufacturing sets the pricing different to make a profit and gives consumers what they want at the price decided by the company. CPU’s that are faulty are discarded entirely as they are not sell-able. Intel will never sell a CPU that claims more performance then the CPU can produce. In Every situation there are errors however manufacturers strive to reduce waste. In fact most of their CPUS sometimes are very conservative performance numbers and can perform better under certain circumstances.
With memory cards they should be doing the same thing however there are some differences.
Actual performance Varies greatly depending on the technology being used to implement as well as some other considerations.
As manufacturers are continuing to improve and they discover failures or shortcomings in their products and quality controls are relatively non-existent or not effective, Consumers end up getting products that are not equal or not performing like they should.
Silicon based products have been this way for a long time, usually held to a higher standard in terms of which inferior products when tested are labeled accordingly but shockingly this doesn’t seem to apply to the memory or sd card industry at the moment. So many cards, companies etc are flooding the market and no one seems to be holding these companies to account because Memory cards are seen as “disposable tech”. At the prices we are seeing.. this is simply a very bad trend for consumers who have to rely on this technology in some cases for generating income.
The Revision Game
Another piece of this game manufacturers are playing is the revision of the product.. or what you might say are batches of their products done at different times with so-called improvements either in the card’s firmware or physical manufacturing, all of which is unknown to the customer. For example the same card I bought turns out to have at least 3 different versions depending on the date it was made.
From the packaging you can’t tell when or how this affects the cards performance at all.
My cards complicate the issue even further by the serial number saying they are revision C when in fact they could be Revision A or B due to confusing product numbers..
Here are both of my cards numbers on the back side:
Card #1 (Keep in mind these were bought in a 2-pack!) Lexar Professional 128GB SDXC U3 UHS II 1000x 150Mbps (on back) 5808 18707B02 31628-C10-128GBBM B 3816B Made in Korea
Card #2 Lexar Professional 128GB SDXC U3 UHS II 1000x 150Mbps (on back) 5808 18707B02 31628-C10-128GBBM B 3816B Made in Korea
Can you tell whether this is a Revision B or C card? I can’t..
This information on the back above would seem to suggest that the Revision History of the Card is either:
- Version B
- Version C
As I don’t have access to Lexar’s internal Serial Numbering scheme, the end B could signify the Revision B however the earlier C above might mean its revision C. It’s hard to know.
Since I know for a fact that Revision C was sold up until 2015 and these cards were bought late in 2016.. that would indicate that Amazon is selling me old stock of the Lexar media or that Lexar dumped a lot of its old products on Amazon later on!
The most current Revision is E of these cards at a reported write speed of aprox 75 – 80 MBps sustained writes for UHS-I speeds. (varying reports and sources).
Nowhere on the packaging did this information along with all the other labels i already went over appear on the packaging or make any sense to me as a consumer that this would or could potentially mean LESS write performance.
The Label Game
To top it off, these cards have a different colored label then the retail cards. Labels are grey in color rather than the Gold or Yellow color for other cards that are labeled professional. Does this signify anything other than Marketing or are these cards counterfeit or made just for Amazon? Lexar hasn’t said they are counterfeit so I’ll assume for the moment they are not.
After all that too wouldn’t be the customers fault! Counterfeiting does occur in this market place and that is a whole other topic that could be explored in another article.
Note: If Amazon is in fact selling counterfeit items under its own distribution that would be a major scandal and company reputation issue at hand. Amazon’s interest is in serving the customer and maintaining its e-commerce integrity. Amazon does not want counterfeit products on its site and personally have seen them go at big lengths to refund customers or correct issues for customers who have been taken by products that are being sold from not trustworthy sellers. thats just my personal experience however. One tip here is if in doubt.. buy from amazon.ca fulfillment as they are legitmently dealing with the manufacturers..
The Camera Game
The Final issue is that Camera Manufacturers are all using different controllers and firmware in their products. This can result in a skew of different results with memory card results however I would ask the question of why? Clearly if all memory card manufacturers were using the same standards and controllers as the cameras everyone would have the same experience. We all know that performance in camera is based on more than just the memory card however the weakest link is usually the culprit.
In my case, this week I learned two things:
- The GH5 Write speeds in UHS-I for these cards is underperforming compared to other cameras controllers. Average is 38 MB/per sec for UHS-I – real world testing. Not the 80 MBps i was promised. Other cards seem to work better. but i wasn’t even getting those speeds.. i was getting 34MBps for card 1 and 21 MBps for Card 2.. very bad…
- The GH5 Told me through the interface that these two cards were not the same – so could not use Backup recording for dual card slot redundancy.
- The GH5 with Rev B/C of the Lexar cards I bought were running in UHS-I mode only!!! They Underperformed most of the competition compared to the newer Revision E that Lexar released with virtually the same packaging!
- That the Lexar cards themselves that I bought actually only READ in UHS-II mode all the time! No WRITE in UHS-II ever? But they have UHS-II label on the box! That’s misleading and very upsetting!!
(source: Camera Memory Speed Website)
This is unacceptable from a consumer point of view and what partially prompted my warranty return. As some of you know framerate corruption on the cards for files was also playing a big part here. Unreliable cards are useless to a Video guy. Paying for something I thought I was getting but wasn’t even close has been very upsetting.
My theory about sales practices..
Keep in mind this is my opinion and not necessarily fact here.. however logically it all makes perfect sense.
Companies have to accept Amazon’s pricing when they sell through that platform. Due to poor negotiation and wiggle room with Amazon, manufacturers may in fact be dumping older stock on Amazon’s market with packaging that is different. These SKU’s could be made specifically for Amazon which means the better higher cost technology inside could be different from real high margin retail products which have the best components internally. This wouldn’t be the first time this has happened in the Tech industry all to make a quick buck. Its normal practice in various retailers to save costs and bump margins..Its also quite possible that only the packaging has changed..
The problem is that doing these kinds of schemes usually causes to consumer confusion.. If the products are different it creates consumer fraud due to the mis-labeling of it being a professional product when its clearly not performing that way.
You are not getting anywhere near what you pay for if its mislabeled. Period!
What evidence do I have that this practice is occuring. At the moment none.. this is all just a theory based on my own experiences with the tech industry and the Potential of where business may or may not be heading. With cheap Chinese knockoff technology only a few years behind us.. we have already experienced some of this in the past. Will it happen again?
There are various other documentaries on the retail and tech sector in general from everything from handbags made exclusively for a certain retailer to low cost capacitors in power supplies during the early 2000s from IBM to show that bad decisions and practices hurt us all..
Note: I will point out that I’m NOT accusing Lexar or other memory card makers of this practice at the moment but it has happened before in the memory technology sector (RAMBUS price-fixing Lawsuit as example as an extreme case). Businesses often try to take advantage where they can and sometimes bad decisions can and will be made.
So far this is just a theory that’s worth more investigating and verified by qualified journalists in the tech industry of which I currently am not but I felt the need to put that scenario out there.
As you can tell, the fact that I am even thinking in these terms is even shocking to me that it COULD happen. Sometimes you have to think through what could be happening in order to get to the truth. When trust is eroded it can lead to upset consumers that can and will start to think negatively about the industry. That wasn’t my goal here however.
When trust is broken, brands are no longer trusted, reputations are tarnished and customer loyalty disappears. This seems to be happening in our world at an increasing alarming rate.
You would think that manufacturers and retailers would struggle to provide better ways to HELP customers rather than alienate them even if it means a slightly smaller profit margin for its investors.. after all stable profits are better than no profits or fluctuating profits.
As a Youtuber and influencer, I feel it is my duty to point out issues like this so that consumers are educated and to try to influence the industry as a whole for everyone’s benefit.
After a failure.. The warranty process is grueling not customer friendly and responsive.
The worse thing about all of this is how it impacts the consumer.. when customers lose time, money and patience when they have to be scrutinized by warranty agents.. and asking for everything under the sun as far as documentation just like a CSI crime scene…
Worst part is.. they already have your money and when you ship your product to them.. they now have both.
It causes resentment and ultimate loses faith in the company or brand if the warranty process does not go quick, smooth and the customer gets the results they want.
For professionals who rely on this technology, This is even more critical that warranty issues be solved quickly!
if you stamp something with the words “PROFESSIONAL” and charge an obscene amount of money for your product, You’d better deliver.. Period.
Professionals do not and will not spend time and money on inferior products. And they will not recommend or push that product if they get burned once.
Manufacturers need to take notice..
Customer deserve better!
Update: See my current ongoing warranty claim with Lexar at the end of this article for an update on my warranty request as i am writing this article.
My initial reasons were..
- They were on sale (seems logical doesn’t it?)
- UHS-II Write speeds (turns out not to be the case however!)
- They seemed to have a superior warranty for the life of the cards (which in my mind was at least 5-10 years or greater but the warranty said lifetime – in canada that’s typical 25 years or the lifetime of the actual average product lifespan itself which ever is less according to retail general accepted consensus..)
- Shipping was free via Amazon
- Amazon delivers quickly (although this was less of a concern at the time)
- I thought i was saving money by getting a professional quality product that worked out of the box and for a longer period of time than some of the competition or lower card standards.
Fast forward to when I actually purchased the Panasonic GH5 after having bought the cards ahead of time.
I’ve now used the cards for some time (less than a year) and thought i didn’t have many issues with them initially this simply wasn’t true as it turned out. I’ve been having issues from the start (unknown to me).
The cards out of the gate would not allow me to run them to allow Backup recording. You see the GH5 has double card slots. It has a function that allows Duplication which means that it will record to both cards simultaneously for redundancy but ONLY if the cards are identical.
Seeing as the pack i bought was a Two pack.. clearly the Two cards should be identical? This wasn’t the case at all and i was disappointed. Now i made one mistake here and that was buying the cards ahead of time from Amazon and not being able to return them right away.
For those that have ever tried returning cards through the manufacturer its a grueling process for which shouldn’t be.. but i digress here. So my issues with the GH5 seemed at first limited to backup issue which i thought was perhaps firmware related so i ignored the warning and moved on to actual filming.
For a while the shots turned out great and things were okay however i started to experience real problems when importing the footage into Premiere Pro on numerous occasions but only randomly with files at first. As projects got bigger and went on, the footage got worse to deal with.
I will say here that to date i’ve only had a handful of 4K projects that i’ve shot, so most of the issues were limited to the higher bitrates while shooting on these cards.
Take that to my last project in which most of the footage was having issues. I realized when looking at the footage that there was framerate corruption in the files. No matter how many times i copied them.
Warranty process & current situation
My initial week was figuring out what went wrong with the cards and doing some speed tests with them. thats when i realized the cards not only were incorrectly writing files to the cards due to speed problems but that they were in fact not writing fast enough even between each other.
In Lexar’s Defense.. they did recommend formatting the cards on the PC rather than on the camera and then reformatting with the Camera. this was a good thought however as it turned out made no difference at all in WRITE performance.
One other point i noted here was that the cluster format size defualt was 128kb per cluster. this seemed high to me but apparently was the default size. Techies will know what i am talking about here. I even went as far as trying other cluster sizes but the GH5 reformats to 128 kb clusters anyways.
After about a week of testing and communicating back and forth with warranty support convincing them it was their cards causing my issue.. they gave me the following to look over and agree to in order to send my cards in.
For example in Lexar’s warranty that states their legal obligations mostly to protect them and not you. Most of which is fine print which most of us tend not to read (definitely not when purchasing them originally).
They then send you to another page to tell you where to send and what you are agreeing to etc.
Essentially the only thing I didn’t agree to was the Customs charges as I bought my product in Canada. Why should i have to pay Brokerage or customs fees or extra tax for a defective product bought originally in Canada?
They agreed due to other cusotmers also complaining. It makes sense. were essentially paying more for a product that doesn’t work and we don’t actually have in hand any more!
They want you to pay for shipping to return a product. So that means you are now out of pocket for shipping. That’s step 1.
Returning to Amazon: You may say well what about Amazon returns? Okay so part of the issue may have been returned to amazon but that window closes within less than 30 days. (I will mention here that Amazon’s returns are a great service), If your like me and bought the product without being able to test it for a camera that wasn’t out yet (or maybe it was a christmas gift) the less than 30 day return period isn’t long enough for a product that has a lifetime warranty. The product was out of Amazon’s return period and in all rights the product was being used even though i didn’t realize there were some issues with it. Its not amazon’s fault here, its a warranty issue.
The warranty also states it has to be returned in a period of time and it must contain insurance and guarantee that they receive it undamaged. IE a tracking number.
i also opted for a signature as i didn’t want the package to go missing.
Luckily in this case they had a Canadian return center so shipping with insurance and signature wasn’t that much but for me but its an extra cost tacked on.
Warranty processes then take time and in my case I was told that due to a problem with the UPS postal service strike and issue with cross border shipments. They were not able to ship to Canada without charges cross border for a product that was purchased from Amazon.ca not .com.
How is this the customers fault again?
Products that are sold in a country should be serviced and dispatched from the same country otherwise undue costs can occur or at the very least, for warranties should be absorbed by the manufacturer.
To top it off..
I returned the product and heard nothing after that.
I sent another email to their warranty system.. and finally last week they told me I was now switched into their system as having returned the product and waiting for Warranty return but things were slow do them moving offices. They were completely unaware that the product had arrived at their warranty depot and they said that i hadn’t sent them my tracking number? I wasn’t told I had to and had assumed that the Lexar case number on the packaging i sent would have signaled the person to enter this into their system on arrival.. i was wrong.
So a week went by without anything being done and several emails back and forth about the same issue about UPS mail strike.. of which i’m still not convinced was actually a thing still.
Fast forward to today.
Lexar has tried to offer me monetary incentive so I can go buy new cards. At first thought that sounds great.
However, they very insultingly quoted me lower prices than what the cards I had were worth at MSRP prices…
that was an insult given that the cost to replace the cards I thought I was buying originally for the performance i need.. will not cover what i need.
Note: It’s only after threatening to go to the media or legal that I was taken seriously lately.
So far I am 4 weeks into this process and still waiting for Lexar to ship me new cards that work to my satisfaction in the GH5.
You might ask why not just buy other cards from another manufacturer?
The answer is that i don’t have the money for them. Lexar has my money. Professional cards are so expensive and in todays day and age.. literally every dime counts.
For small time professionals money and reliability in equipment are big concerns and until Lexar comes through with replacements my business is effectively shut down.
A couple of other issues going on during this time:
- Lexar was recently bought out by a chinese company called Longsys and have been merging or moving several offices
- The UPS strike didn’t affect Canada and Canadapost was still servicing Canadian clients and never went on Strike.
- Lexar consistently refused to ship through another carrier than UPS. This was clearly bad business to tie themselves to one carrier.
My next route is to try an contact their new CEO (Longsys) to let them know about this whole situation so that i can finally resolve it and get the memory cards i need to continue my video work and improve their warranty service for others. There are a lot of other Canadians in the same situation as I am. Reddit is also filled with complaints about these cards.
Whether or not I ever buy from Lexar again is going to heavily depend on the attitudes and response from Lexar and whether they can satisfy me as a customer going forward. So far this hasn’t been the case.
As my battle with Lexar warranty continues I will keep you all updated. They have promised to send cards and I am on a waiting list now with no Date of when or if I will actually receive the cards.
When standards start to degrade and labels and marketing have no meaning, surely manufacturers are accountable for those issues.. I mean what is the point of having standards if no one follows them? I’m calling on all Manufacturers to start changing their Quality control practices and to start listening to their customers & provide better customer and warranty services!
Most customers will wait for great products if those products fill most of all of the needs of the consumer but manufacturers have to be upfront about limitations. If it means using better parts in your products or tuning things to performance to adhere to standards while reducing a little bit of profit, its a much better strategy. Products should work according to the standards that they are designed to work for.
Companies can still make good products and please customers all while earning profit. In the social media age.. Companies who cost consumers more time and money are not benefiting technology, themselves or the industry they serve when corners and bad decisions are made.
We live in a world that is full of technology and our daily lives are complicated enough as it is without having to worry or deal with quality issues, there is simply no patience for this practice in business any longer and customers will and do act with their wallets. Shareholders also need to lower expectations if it means better products and services are better as a result. This all leads to more happiness and less stress and happiness is the goal everyone can get behind. Lets all work together!