How can I check free space on my memory card on a Nikon DSLR?

  • Currently I'm using a 4 GB memory card for shooting RAW on D5100, but how can I find the available free space on memory card from the camera? The number of shots remaining is so misleading!

    Number of shots remaining is an approximate because the nature of the shot will affect file size as a result of efficiency for compression (e.g. more uniform colors compress better).

    As an aside, I checked my D800 and didn't see an option. I'm not entirely sure how that will help you anyways, you're not going to predict the image sizes without averaging and the camera is doing that already, so you're just going to be guessing how many more pictures you can take as well.

    This is kind of frustrating - I totally understand the OP's question and why he would want to know. I check mine too! However on my Canon I can see this by going to the Format Card menu option (but not formatting it obviously) - but the screen before it formats shows a bar showing how full the card is from 0-100%. Looked in the Nikon D5100 manual online and can't find any equivalent.

    4GB is tiny in today's memory card capacities. Pick up a 32GB card for $30USD and you'll forget about this issue/concern. 64GB if you do video.

    @dpollitt - worth pointing out that 64gb cards don't work in all cameras though, the camera has to support SDXC since the file system is different.

    @AJHenderson But not worth noting since the D5100 supports SDXC...

    @dpollitt - fair point, the topic itself only mentions Nikon DSLRs in general though so someone with another camera may get here and not know the distinction matters.

  • Michael C

    Michael C Correct answer

    7 years ago

    Even if you knew the exact amount of free space remaining on your memory card you could still only guess the approximate number of remaining frames you could add to the card. It is, in fact, exactly what your camera is already doing for you.

    This is because even RAW files are compressed, albeit losslessly, and so the exact size of a file depends upon the content of the file. The more uniform the data in a frame is, the smaller the resulting file will be. The more varied the data in a frame is, the larger the resulting file will be. A photo of a uniformly lit gray wall will can be compressed into a much smaller file than a photo of a spectacular fall foliage scene that includes almost every variation of tone, shade, and color that the camera is capable of recording.

    In real world practice, I just looked at several hundred photos I took late last week. All of the files were taken at full resolution and saved as .cr2 files. The file sizes ranged from 22,366 to 36,459 KB (average of 27,893 KB) for my 5616x3744 pixel (21MP) Canon 5DII, and from 20,147 to 27,861 KB (average of 24,442 KB) for my 5184x3456 (18MP) Canon 7D. Both save RAW files in 14-bit depth. So if I have room for 10 'average' photos on my 5DII, I might fit as many as 12 or as few as 7 more shots on the card, depending on the content of the photos and how far they compress.

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