Following a series of recent discussions about whether or not it was possible to recover files from XQD cards that have been formatted by mistake I have obtained some clarification from Sony of what can or can’t be done.
This information is specifically for XQD cards and the PXW-FS7 but probably applies to most Sony cameras and also SxS media. I’m not sure about SD cards.
The bottom line is that if you format the card in the camera you will not be able to recover any previously shot material. An in-camera format completely erases everything on the card. This is done to ensure that material shot on the cards cannot be recovered by another production company in the case of card or camera rentals. So there is no point in attempting any form of data recovery on a card formatted in the camera as there is nothing recoverable left on the card.
Formatted by a computer:
When you format a card with a computer it is possible that the material will still be on the card. However different operating systems handle the formatting of the cards differently, so there is no guarantee that the data will be recoverable and often it won’t be recoverable. For very important material it may be worth attempting to recover the card. Sony may be able to assist with this in some cases.
Clips deleted from a card can typically be recovered provided they have not be recorded over by a later recording. Again Sony may be able to assist with this.
Delete or Format?
Based on this new information from Sony I may be adjusting my workflow. My own workflow has always been to off-load material from a card. Then to do a parity check to compare the original files on the card and what is now on the hard drives. This checks not just the file size but also the general structure of the files so should pick up most problems with any copies. My last check is then to skim through the files with Catalyst Browse or my edit application to make sure the clips are there and playable. Only then do I format a card. In light of this new information I may use my computer to delete the clips from a card rather than format it. Of course this will only ever offer some benefit if the card is not recorded on again causing the previous files to be over written, but it might add an extra chance of data recovery should the backups get lost or some other disaster occur. From time to time I would format the cards in camera as this helps keep the cards in the best possible condition.