Today’s Question: You mentioned formatting a media card in the camera. Is it true that formatting a card on your computer could make it so the card is not usable by your camera?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Not exactly. If you use the wrong file system when formatting a media card, the camera might not be able to read from or write to that card. However, if you then format the card in the camera, you’ll be back to being able to use that card again.
More Detail: The issue with formatting a media card using a computer has nothing to do with the fact that you’re using a computer to format the card. Rather, the issue is the risk of using a file system that is not compatible with your camera.
Most digital cameras use the FAT16 or FAT32 file systems. Computers can use other file systems, such as the NTFS file system used by default in Windows 10, or the APFS file system used by MacOS Catalina. A media card formatted with the NTFS or APFS file system will not be supported by any camera that I am aware of.
This does not mean, however, that you couldn’t format the media card using your computer. You would just need to be sure to use a file system supported by your digital camera.
To me it seems a whole lot easier to format your media cards in the camera, rather than on the computer. The card will eventually need to be put back into the camera anyway, and when you format using the camera you’ll know the file system on the card will be supported by the camera.
So it isn’t a problem to format a media card on your computer as long as you use the right file system, but in my mind it is easier to remove any confusion and risk of error by using your camera to format your media cards.