Scott Hanselman

Reviewing a Decade of Digital Life - The size and the direction of personal media

December 29, 2010 Comment on this post [29] Posted in Musings
Sponsored By

As 2010 winds down, I was looking in my \\SERVER\Photos\2000 folder and reminiscing about how old and fat I am and how young and thin my wife is, when I noticed how different the folder sizes were. I noticed the sizes of the photos, their pixel sizes and the camera that created them.

Here's some observations, calculations and comments from a guy who has 12 years of family life in digital form. I'm curious of your observations of your own media as well, Dear Reader.


Or, if you like charts with callouts:


Or, if you're not into the whole brevity thing:

In the Old Days

Kodak DC265I started with a Kodak DC265 Camera. This camera used Compact Flash cards and created JPG files at 1536x1024 (1.5 megapixels!) that were an average of  300k in size.

I took a massive 263 megs of photos in 1999.

Here's an example shot from that camera, un-retouched. Click for full size.


Casio EX-Z3 I used this camera until June 22nd, 2003 (according to the EXIF data embedded in my photos) when I got a Casio EX-Z3. My very first picture with this camera was of my wife across the camera at me. It was numbered CIMG0001.JPG ;) and it was 2048x1536 and a whopping full megabyte in size. This was a 3.2 megapixel camera.

2003 was the first year my yearly photo folder nearly reached a gig in size.

Here's an example shot from that camera, un-retouched. Click for full size.


The Kinda Modern Era

EX-Z750_ff[1]My first son was born at the end of 2005 and I upgraded to a Casio Exilim EX-Z750 (I like small pocket cameras) to take pics of him. The EX-Z750 was 7.2 megapixels and created pictures that were 3072x2304 and about 3 megs in size. I remember being blown away by this camera.

The number of photos I took in my son's first year nearly doubled the previous year and the 2006 folder alone is almost 10gigs.

Here's an example shot from that camera, un-retouched. Click for full size.


As they say about babies, the first baby gets a million photos (or at least two thousand) and the second baby gets less.

In fact, the year of baby #2 created over three thousand photos and that number goes up every year.

Canon EOS D40 In 2008, I bought two cameras. First, a Canon EOS D40 in an attempt to "get serious" about photography. Two years later I still don't know how to make those cool photos where the person is in focus and everything else is blurry. Sigh.

The canon creates about 2-3 meg JPEG files (or RAW if you insist) that about are about 3008x2000. It's the best camera I've owned when I can get things in focus. I wish it was faster and that it was in my pocket.

Here's an example shot from a speedboat (for no other reason than speedboats are cool) using the Canon D40, un-retouched. Click for full size.


Second, a Fuji Finepix F70EXR which I regret buying. It's a 10 megapixel and is the smalled 10x optical zoom (that I never use) and makes photos of 3616x2712 that are about 4 megs each. However, it has horrific low-light support (as do most point-and-shoots) and it's grainy as heck. It's a mess. I intend to replace it with a Canon PowerShot S95 as soon as my wife "releases the funds."

Here's a shot from the Fuji. Click for full size.


2010 The Year of the Wi-fi Memory Card

fujifinepixIn 2010 I collected over 6500 photos totaling 20gigs. I am not a photographer or a photography enthusiast. I'm just a dude with a good lookin' family that I like to take pictures of.

I attribute this "success" to three things:

  • Three good quality cameras were available at any time.
    • The iPhone 4 has a great little 5 megapixel camera. Having this in my pocket (or any phone with a 5Mb camera) meant I took more pictures in the moment.
    • The Canon EOS D40 (a slightly "prosumer" DSLR) meant I tried harder to be a photographer
    • The Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD Card in my Fuji Finepix F70EXR meant that digital photos showed up on my server as soon as the camera got within my home's wireless cloud.


The #1 most significant purchase for me photography-wise in 2010 was an Eye-Fi Pro Wi-Fi SD Card. It  removed the "go download the photos to computer step."

No joke, this card is amazing. You take photos and whenever the card is in range of wi-fi it'll geo-tag your photos and drop them in a folder. The wife is bananas over this card. Read (watch) my review.

I'm creating more media year over year. This post doesn't touch on video, but let's just say that I captured my FIRST digital video file on June 23rd, 2003. It was one megabyte, about 320x240 at 15fps. Today, everything I capture is 1280x720p at 30fps and I don't even think about file size.

The only thing I think about is backups. Here's to a digital 2011!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Hosting By
Hosted in an Azure App Service
December 29, 2010 14:37
I love the baby 1 and baby 2 moments :)

But what if add a new line to that graph which mentions the cost per GB ($/GB). I mean, yes the use of data has increased but disks have also gotten bigger and bigger. the only thing of note is the insane amount of increase in photos taken (50% in the last year).

anyways, cool info ;)
December 29, 2010 15:13
"Two years later I still don't know how to make those cool photos where the person is in focus and everything else is blurry. Sigh."

I suspect you're kidding, with your tech acumen, but nevertheless........Set your 40D to Aperture Priority and pick the smallest number you can. If you have an average lens, this is probably around 3.5 to 4.0. To get the really cool stuff - that number needs to be 2.8 or smaller, but that means a fairly substantial lens. You can also get Picasa to fake it for you with their "soft focus" tool - but that is a cheap imitation.
December 29, 2010 15:19
"Two years later I still don't know how to make those cool photos where the person is in focus and everything else is blurry. Sigh."

Switch to Aperture mode (Av), then set the aperture as low as possible. It works even better if the focus is in Macro mode - the tricky thing is though, you have to make *sure* what you want the center of the photo is focused - if the AutoFocus picks the wrong guy, it's blur city for the whole photo
December 29, 2010 16:00
Good candidate for a PivotViewer collection, especially if the photos have EXIF information within.
December 29, 2010 16:41
Just wanted to point this out before your wife saw it :)

...reminiscing about how old and fat I am and how young and thing my wife is, when I noticed how different the folder sizes were...

December 29, 2010 16:49
Great article, Scott. I'm still (after two years!) saving for a devoted file server with enough RAID that my life to date isn't lost due to one failure (again), but the wifi card certainly sounds great if I get a camera.

Your kid has no business being so cute.
December 29, 2010 17:48

I have been wanting to try the Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD Card but heard it only worked half of the time. From your post, it sounds like it works pretty well for you.

December 29, 2010 17:54
As TimB and Paul and others have said: Put your camera into Av (Aperture Priority) mode, then crank that value down to as low as it'll go.

I would also recommend dropping the $100 needed on a Canon EF 50mm f1.8mm lens - also known as the 'nifty fifty'.

It doesn't zoom, but the quality of images you'll get - especially if you switch to Aperture Priority Mode and wind down to the 1.8-2.8 range - are pretty nice.

I've got tens of thousands of dollars worth of lenses now, but I'm still blown away by the quality of images people can pull out of this lens.

Search on Flickr for this lens for examples of what the images it can produce are.
December 29, 2010 19:55
Thank you for the information about the Eye-fi. Like your wife, my wife loves to take pictures but hates uploading to the computer so I'm gonna buy an Eye-fi sd card for her.

December 29, 2010 20:12
"Two years later I still don't know how to make those cool photos where the person is in focus and everything else is blurry. Sigh."
You shouldn't worry about this. If you make photos like this, a huge portion of the picture is completely useless, (you can't see what is on it), so maybe it looks cool, but basicly it is just a waste of pixels. ;)
December 29, 2010 20:48
I think the "download photos to pc" step is an important one, cos that's when I delete the crap photos.

I hate when friends are showing me their photos and there's ten shots of the same thing. Pick the best shot and delete the rest please!
December 29, 2010 21:55
Awesome, i guess you can say i picture blog, i try to tell the 'story' with pictures, so i tend to take a lot... mine is published all on picasa , i figured its a waste for the pics to remain unshared in my computer... what's the use? anyway, that is a whole subject of its own...

I am really interested in the Geo-taging feature you described. If you are nowhere near a wifi during the photo-shoot, for example in the forest, remote beach etc, and later on drive to the city, does it get Geo tagged wrongly?
December 29, 2010 22:17
@Simon Barnes

I'm still (after two years!) saving for a devoted file server with enough RAID that my life to date isn't lost due to one failure (again)

What about Mozy or a similar backup-to-the-cloud service?

@Scott H.: I'm about your age and have kids at similar ages to yours, and I suspect my photos-per-year and GB-per-year trends are pretty similar to yours as well.

With that being said: What does one *do* with all of these tens of thousands of media? Back in the olden days (!) of 20 years ago, having to purchase film and the hassle of getting photos developed were limiting factors on the number of photos taken; consequently, at least in my case, I could look through my entire childhood's worth of photos in a single afternoon.

Now those constraints are gone, and the obvious result is that we are generating way more content than before. I wonder if my kids are ever going to look at all of these photos and movies that my wife and I are taking of them, given that it would take days and days to get through them all?
December 29, 2010 22:54
If I remember correctly from the relevant Hanselminutes episode, you have a Nikon D40 not a Canon EOS 40D. Also the Nikon D40 is 6M pixels, while the Canon 40D is 10M.
December 29, 2010 23:56
Looks like you got quite a collection. I myself started photographing things last year and build a collection of around 90GB by now. In fact, I love taking pictures so much I got myself a Canon D5 mk2. A very fine camera if you know what you're doing ;)

December 30, 2010 0:13
I just ran through my 11 years of stored photo's/video from a non-DSLR camera.
It started with a KODAK DC240 and three cameras later, I'm on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS6.
First year I had 127 files (57 Mb), and this year 6936 files (59.5 Gb).

The biggest change was our increase in travel and my recording HD Video on the same device that I take pictures.
December 30, 2010 0:36
Since you have a Canon, might I suggest getting the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens (around $350 at Amazon). That will get you the short depth of field you'd like, by using aperture priority mode at f/1.4. It takes a lot of practice though, and sometimes you actually have to choose which eye is in sharp focus! The f/1.8 version is cheaper, though obviously the depth of field is a little wider.

I had my first baby this year, and with the crushing file size of Canon 7D photos (18 million pixels, often 20 MB or more EACH for raw photos, great for non-destructive exposure adjustments), my S3 account is getting really expensive for backup. I can't backup video online at all... it's just too much data to be cost effective right now.

You'll love the Canon S95... it's surprisingly awesome. The video quality isn't great (virtually no manual control), but the stills are striking. First point-and-shoot I've ever had that really satisfied me.
December 30, 2010 0:38
Oh... example of the 50mm f/1.4 here.
December 30, 2010 1:08

Yes... See how the pictures & data grew over time.. No family small data.. married with child data grew.. most important those picture tell your life & your son will see how much you care about them.
December 30, 2010 10:41
Ask John Lam about that blurry effect. To get it right, it takes a certain type of lens.

However, there's the poor man's way that gets you a decent effect. If you have a zoom digital SLR (your Canon will probably be fine), step away from the subject and use full zoom to bring the subject close. That helps pull the subject away from the background.
December 30, 2010 19:13
I'll agree with what every one else is saying RE the "out of focus" - To do that, you really need to lower your depth of field (DOF). To do that, you MUST shoot with the lens WIDE OPEN, and (BIG and) use a relatively longer lens, as short lenses tend of have a MUCH greater DOF at any particular distance from the lens as a longer lens. The "kit" lens (aka the lens they tend to sell with the camera) just does NOT open up enough to give the effect you are looking for, unless the subject is relatively close, and the background relatively far

If you have the 40D, you have what is known as a "crop body", and lenses act longer than they do on a full frame 35mm camera, and the classic 50mm lens becomes an almost perfect portrait lens (I prefer a TAD longer, but), and as a bunch of folks have said, the 50mm 1.8 is a SUPER lens, probably the biggest bargin in the Canon lineup (at $100, the 1.4 is also a great lens, but at more than 3x the price).

IF you want to buy a great ZOOM lens for all around use on a crop body, and are willing to spend BUCKS, buy the 24-70 F2.8L lens - don't gag at the nearly $1300 price tag, or the weight (it's heavy). There is a reason that a lot of pros call this lens "the money maker"
December 30, 2010 22:27
KG2V: The length of the lens does not need to be long to achieve shallow DOF. Yes, a long lens zoomed in all the way will appear to do that, but if you put stuff immediately in front and behind the subject, they'll likely be in focus. It still comes down to the aperture of the lens. Like I said, the 50mm lenses that open up to f/1.8 or f/1.4 will do this with you standing in front of the subject.
December 30, 2010 23:53
WAF on the Eye-FI card is wonderful. I've got a DSLR with a CF card that still has photos from months ago because I can't get my act together to pull them off of there. I was hoping that Eye-Fi would do a CF version of the card (or maybe not, maybe this is a good reason to upgrade the camera). You can get a SD-CF adapter, but I was waiting to see and then the holidays and then... I keep thinking that an Eye-Fi card in the DSLR might be the trick I need to make me learn how to use all of those cool features on the camera. Shorten the cycle, remember why I took certain photos, experiment with more settings... Clearly, just the missing Eye-Fi card is all I need...

I stopped organizing my photos by month-year since the software will do all of that for you now automatically. I'm not going to suggest my chaotic method of organization be adopted by anyone other than me, but I have found that the tools in the photo organizing software work well to weed out the rejects (ratings), organize by people (tagging), and sort chronologically (EXIF date). It doesn't work as well for this sort of analysis, though.

Excellent post. I imagine we'll all be talking about the size of our home video collections 10 years from now.
December 31, 2010 2:29
Can't wait to see you're latest Tools List. I tried looking at your past blog entries but couldn't
find entry where you say it will be posted!

P.S. I also have cheap F1.8mm lens
January 01, 2011 23:29
TRY and get a shallow DOF with say a 24mm prime lens - the way the DOF curve on a lens that short is, everything from a couple of feet to infinity is in focus even when wide open, where LONGER lenses have shallower DOF - in other words, it's just easier on a longer (relative) lens - in this case, by longer, I'm talking 50mm, or even 75mm - aka what would be considered a 'standard' lens on a full frame camera
January 01, 2011 23:44
"Two years later I still don't know how to make those cool photos where the person is in focus and everything else is blurry. Sigh."

That's actually Photoshop: select the subject, inverse selection -> effects>blur ;o)
January 03, 2011 19:11
I think the most important point you made was towards the end, the availability of good cameras at anytime. Having a camera on my phone (or hopefully iPod Touch soon 8^D) makes it easy to do a "quick snap" of the hike with my kids, the cool cloud formation I just saw, or that random family moment we're having on the road. For a while my wife and I debated about keeping a disposable camera in our glove box for just such things, but now technology doesn't require that.

I'll agree that the quality on most of my "quick shots" is horrid, but the more important aspect is documenting the moment, in which case having the small/portable cameras becomes key.
January 11, 2011 13:52
James Myatt - You are correct! I get those cameras confused. Thanks!

Jon Schneider - We watch them as slide shows with family all the time from the Xbox 360.

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.