When it comes to photography and videography gear it can get technical real quick. Add memory cards and it gets even more complicated. No worries, we’ve got a few tips that’ll help you make informed choices when buying and help you understand which card to use when.

Before we continue make sure you know the following things:

  • What card slot does your camera have?
  • Does your camera have multiple and different card slots?
  • What are you photographing or taking videos of?
  • How many photos or length of video will you be taking/recording on a single occasion?

Memory cards are designed to work for specific devices and situations, we take a close look at what each type does.

SD cards –  Secure Digital card

The SD card is the most popular and widely used memory card. There are many options at different prices, sizes and speeds. The SD card is commonly used in most cameras and audio recording devices. 

There are a few subcategories within the SD card category: SDHC and SDXC are bigger (in storage size) and have ultra high speed or UHS ( I-II-III ) variations. UHS-I allows for 104 MB/s data transfers whereas UHS-II and UHS-III are faster and are generally used in professional cameras. 

SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards are those that have a capacity between 4-32GB (inclusive). As they get larger in size they double in capacity, so you can go for a 4GB, 8GB, 16GB or 32GB card.

SDXC (Secure Digital Extra Capacity) cards are those that offer anything above this. These are currently 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB cards, and will soon increase to even greater capacities. 

Most of today’s cameras that take SD media also support SDHC and SDXC cards, but older cameras that only support SD cards won’t work with SDHC or SDXC cards – and cameras that only support SD and SDHC varieties will not accept SDXC cards.

MicroSD Cards

This mini version of the SD card is widely used in smartphones, drones and action cameras. They’re really small and get lost easily, so make sure you have a safe place to store and/or have backup copies. 

XQD Cards

These cards are used mostly by Nikon for cameras like the D500, D850 the Z6 and the Z7, but will also probably start phasing out in the near future.

CFast Cards

It almost looks like a CF card, but isn’t. Newer technology allows these cards to be faster and more reliable than CF cards. A well-known camera with this card slot is the Canon 1DX MkII but they’re more often used in video cameras.

CF cards

These cards are almost completely phased out. New cameras aren’t launched with CF card slots anymore. Some of the popular DSLR cameras with these slots are Canon’s 5D MkIV, 1DX MkII and 7D MkII.

CFexpress Cards

These cards are designed with the newest technology and deliver high speeds and are compatible with XQD slots (after software update). For cameras recording in RAW 4K, the high speeds are crucial!

There are two main aspects to look at when determining what type of card to get:

1. Size 

How many images or videos do you need to store? What format are you shooting in, jpg or RAW? These questions help you know what size you might need. It’s a personal choice whether you want to have 2 x 128GB cards or 1 x 256GB cards. 

2. Speed

The speed you see printed on the memory card in a large font is usually the read speed, which isn’t the key spec you’re looking for. Writing speed is critical and it sets limitations when it comes to recording photos and videos. If you’re going to be shooting at high frame rates such as wildlife, sports or any other form of action photography then you need the fastest card for your camera.

Transfer speeds can be a little daunting if you’re unsure what you’re looking for. Most cards have one or more of their transfer speeds written in either MB/s (megabytes per second) or with an ‘x’ suffix to show this as a factor. This tells you how quickly the card can operate. 

Below is an image of a card that has all the information with regards to transfer speeds, so comparing it to a card that doesn’t have gets confusing, but here is some interesting information with regards to that. These figures mean exactly the same thing, but it can become confusing when trying to compare cards that aren’t marked with both. This card is a good example of how you do just that; a speed of 300MB/s is equal to 2000x, as a speed of 150kb is equal to 1x. 

memory card blog - suffix

There will often only be one figure, and in this case, it refers to the read speed. Read speed is how quickly information can be read from the card; this is different to the write speed, which refers to how quickly information can be written to it. When you take images on your camera they’re written to the card, when you put your card into your computer the images are being read from it. Read speeds are typically a little bit higher than write speeds, so if you only see one figure it’ll be this one – after all, a higher figure looks more impressive.

Memory card blog

These cards are backwards-compatible, which means that UHS-III and UHS-II cards physically fit and can still be used in devices that only support UHS-I (or even that don’t support UHS at all) – you just won’t get the same speed benefits them, and they will perform to the limits of whatever card type is supported by your camera.

Right now, there are five Video Speed Classes: V6, V10, V30, V60 and V90. Much like the Speed Class described above, each figure corresponds with a minimum sustained write speed in MB/s. So, the V6 card has a minimum sustained write speed of 6MB/s, the V10 has a 10MB/s speed and so on.

Storing your photos and videos on a reliable memory card is crucial. It ensures you can do download and edit them after your adventure or family reunion. Hopefully, this blog helps you to pick a memory card that suits your need and budget. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact our sales team for further assistance.