Fake memory card?

When I’ve got my camera and “came back” to photography, a fast 8GB SanDisk SD card (Extreme 30 MB/s) costed 50 so Euros and a 32GB was around 150 Euros. My option back then was to get the 8GB, together with camera, bag and tripod (some investment for a new toy).

Shooting raw in a Canon EOS 60D, 8GB allows me to take about 250 shots. Normally it used to be enough, but shooting children events or a long day in a city like Venice or Paris, specially after I started bracketing for HDR things … that number felt quite short.

2 years after, prices have dropped considerably and I decided to go for a new memory card.

1- Not much that 32GB (about 1000 pictures) is necessary. I won’t go more than a day shooting without backing up the shots, so no need for an expensive 64-128GB.

2- Not faster than 45 MB/s, since my camera won’t profit for that.

I would go for a Hoodman Steel (100% fail free card, but it’s too expensive for my needs), so I decided to keep SanDisk Extreme, not 45 MB/s.

Photo stores have it around 40 so Euros and I found it in Amazon for around 25 Euros, but on the “Market Place” (third party vendors that use the Amazon infrastructure and are somehow “certified” by Amazon). Amazon itself did not have the card, or I could not find it.

In percentage is quite a difference, so I went Amazon.

Got the card in a couple of days, opened and comparing with my old card it looked weird.

The box was right, the sticker was right, but the back of my old 8GB is “semi-transparent” and have “SanDisk” engraved (also all my other SanDisk cards for point and shoot and other usages), while this card had an opaque back. No “permanent” reference to SanDisk.

In pictures below we can see how the front of the card shows no difference (I know, pictures suck, phone camera, late at night … but trust me), but the back of the card is really different, and holds no evidence of being a SanDisk card.

SanDisk Extreme SD cards – Front. Left the “fake” (not 100% sure), right the surely original.

SanDisk Extreme SD cards – Back. Left the “fake” (not 100% sure), right the surely original.

Google has a lot about it, but no shots of the back of a SanDisk SD card (now it does, see above). Also a lot of information about fake cards on the market (usually on e-bay) and how to test them.

The box passed the bad fakery test.

A simple test code discarded the usual fakery, of getting a small card and making it look like a larger card, also to your device. This test gave me a normal 32GB card.

Speed and fail test also didn’t give me much to suspect, but still …

I contacted SanDisk with a simple question “do all your Extreme cards have “semi-transparent” backs with “SanDisk” engraved?” Their answer was fast (less than a day) but useless. They first warned me to buy ONLY from authorized dealers, then they wanted serial numbers, date of purchase, pictures … THIS WAS NOT WHAT I ASKED!!!!!!

Also checked comments. The SD cards in Amazon had some bad reviews (not many) as having failed after a short while, or being unreliable … while most of the forums put SanDisk as one of the most reliable cards you can get (on the humanly payable price range). This really got me even more suspicious.

My point was “is a fast 32GB card, but it’s not what I bought, what if is not a reliable card!”. Imagine I’m shooting my son’s school play, or some vacations or so and the card “fails” and I look all the images. I’d be very upset.

Solution. Got the card at my usual photo gear shop (almost twice the price) and this one looks like a the old one. Semi-transparent SanDisk engraved SD card! They are an official SanDisk dealer, so it’s really supposed to be SanDisk.

Sent the other one back to the vendor, German law assures me 14 days return with full refund, no questions asked (just have to swallow the shipping back and forth).

Happy with my new card … eventually the Amazon vendor doesn’t even know it’s a fake card. Not even I’m sure about it, but now I’m sure I have an original and reliable one.

Watch out for this kind of thing when buying gear!

About Cris Da Rocha

Astrophysicist, DB manager, cyclist, musician and, why not, "photographer to be". Back to enjoy photography after many years ... it's cool. Might share something nice and get something new.
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16 Responses to Fake memory card?

  1. Hey Chris, Great Post, My wife is getting back into Photography and I’ve been kicking around memory cards and batteries???? πŸ™‚ Kenny T

    • Cards and batteries are two things I would really care for originals or, in the case of batteries, for reliable/good non-originals.

      A battery that doesn’t hold charge properly and long enough is just a nice paper weight πŸ™‚

  2. Ive been victimized by this too but not from amazon but from a photo shop in south africa…was just desperate to get one…..bad decision!

  3. Bo Ismono says:

    Thanks for the post. I just got the same problem. I wrote the seller on Amazon Marketplace and he assured me that they are original cards and should just check read and write speeds. Never the less I do not trust them that much. Did Sandisk ever get back to you regarding the engraved Sandisk logo?

    • Sandisk gave the lame “you should buy your cards from authorized dealers” at first. After that I realized it would be a waste of time to keep asking it.

      The “visual” difference from the card from Amazon and the card from the authorized dealer is HUGE, maybe the images don’t show it as much, but …

      I ran real size and read/write tests and could not find one good reason not to use the card, apart from my gut feeling that it would bring me problems in the worst moment possible, like kids birthday, vacations or an eventual assignment. So I took the safe road.

      • Bo Ismono says:

        Yes, I just some tests as well. Looks good, but I do not have a good feeling with them. Especially since I’d be using them on jobs. Waiting for a reply so I can send them back.

      • Bo Ismono says:

        I just received an Email from SanDisk. They verified that the card is original. So apparently they due have cards without the translucent back and without an engraved logo.

        This is what they wrote:
        “Thank you for contacting SanDisk Technical Support. It is our goal to make sure you have all the resources you need to get the most from your product.

        We have reviewed your case and can inform you that your card is an original SanDisk product.
        The variation in the card case is due to manufacturing reasons.

        Thank you for your kind cooperation and for your trust in SanDisk products.”

      • This is a pretty good information!

        And they don’t mention anything like “second line” products or so.

        I might have paid double than for my card … one thing though that scared me, but I only checked after buying the card was the number of bad reviews that product had.

        But the good information is “not every SanDisk card is engraved!”.

      • Bo Ismono says:

        Yes, that’s definitely good news. I think they should make some statement or something. I guess a lot of people on the net are quite confused and left in the dark about this matter. But a least our cards are fine now πŸ˜‰

      • BTW, browsing in Amazon the impression I’ve got is that the place I’ve bought the card is kind of an official distributer.

        If you go on the “SanDisk” vendor in Amazon.de, they are one of the “delivery thru” for some products.

        I might have been “untrustful” towards them. In any case I feel safer now.

        Could have avoided all that if SanDisk had given my a actual answer to my question, as they gave to you, and not a blah blah blah …

      • Adding a bit more to the topic.

        This weekend I bought a small SanDisk Extreme at Media Markt (one of the official SanDisk dealers) and the card was not semi-transparent and engraved … was like the one I’ve bought in Amazon …

        Well, I don’t regret not taking my chances before, but I admit that with all the information we gathered so far, the card probably was not fake. But NOW we know and I hope people can profit from that.

  4. Sandisk user says:

    I bought a Sandisk Ultra 30MB/s 32GB SDHC card for 53 (australian) dollars from JB HI FI. Therefore it must be an original and not a fake. But it doesn’t have SanDisk engraved in it.

    • Yep, it is indeed possible. I, myself, got a small card from the same line that was not engraved (comment above). Still don’t regret giving the first one back! πŸ™‚

  5. cengiz says:

    Hi.. I recently bought a Sandisk Extreme SDHC 16 GB SD card (45 MB/s claimed). I also suspected that it could be a fake because there were no engravings on the backside, and the transfer speed is rather low (~17 – 19 MB/s write/read) which is not faster than my 4 year old class 4 Kingston 4 GB SDHC. In contrast Sandisk is much faster in my Nikon D90 (~1 RAW/s vs 1 RAW/5s buffer to card write speed).

    My lap top is 2013 made ASUS N56VZ from which I expect top performance of the new card.

    My card look exactly like the one on the left, above (suspected fake), should I return it to the vendor (which is quite reliable) or should I keep it?

    PS: Although it is fast in D90 it is not as fast as 45 MB/s, it is 15 MB/s max.

    • Well, at the end we found out (my experience after the topic, some reply from SanDisk and other people’s experience) that non-engraved cards can also come from SanDisk.

      It’s hard to tell if you should keep it or not. I’d say, if you’re not happy with the performance of the card you should contact the vendor and make sure this piece is not defective (since you mentioned that the vendor is reliable).

      Regardless of being a fake or not, you should be happy with the performance of the card.

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