MEMORY CARD BUYING GUIDE
Don't know your SDHC from SDXC? Not sure if you would need 8GB or 32GB? We'll help you find the right card to suit your needs.
What type of memory card will I need for my device?
Please note that this is an approximate guideline. Make sure you check what the manufacturer recommends before purchasing a card. Older devices, in particular, may not accept newer card types.
|Memory Card/Device||SD||SDHC||SDXC||MicroSD||Compact Flash|
What are the different types of memory cards?
SD cards are the most commonly used memory cards. There are three main types available:
These have more storage space than standard SD cards which gives you room to shoot higher-quality films and photos.
SDXC have a higher capacity than both SD and SDHC cards, and they usually work faster.
These are smaller versions (in physical size) of SD, SDHC and SDXC cards, which are great for devices such as mobile phones and action cameras.
To record HD or 4K on any SD card, choose one with a UHS I or UHS II rating (it should say in the product title).
For more specialist use you can also get an alternative to an SD card:
This type of memory card uses flash memory technology to store its data. They are not as commonly used as SD cards, but have very large capacities and very fast speeds. They are generally used by professional photographers.
How many GBs of storage will I need on my memory card?
Please use this as a rough guide as these are approximate values and could vary depending on the device and file types you are using.
|Capacity (GB)||Hours of MP3 music||Photos (12MP JPEG format)||Photos (20MP JPEG format)||Photos (20MP RAW format)||Standard HD Video Recording (9Mbps)||Full HD Video Recording (13 Mbps)|
What's the difference between JPEG and RAW?
JPEG is the most commonly used format for taking photos. Most digital cameras will automatically use this format. RAW formats are only used when trying to attain the highest quality possible on a DSLR camera. You would need to change to this format manually.
What does MBs mean?
MBs stands for megabytes per second which is mentioned in the title of many memory cards. This refers to the read speed (more on this below), basically how quickly you can load your files when you try to access them on a device. 30MBs would mean a low read speed – you'd have to wait to view a photo you'd taken. A high read speed would be 160MBs and upward, essential if you're loading large, high-quality files.
Memory card write and read speeds
If you're buying a basic memory card for everyday use it's unlikely that you'll need to go deep into the details.
However, if you want to shoot very high quality images or use your images professionally, then you'll need to look a little deeper at the specs. They can affect the speed at which you can take images and how detailed those images are. Be warned though, it gets quite complicated.
What do the different speeds mean?
Memory card speeds are measured primarily in 2 ways (the table in the next section will help you put the speeds into context).
Read speed: How quickly you can access data on the memory card. A higher read speed means you won't have to spend as much time waiting for videos to download to your computer or other devices. 30MBs would be considered slow, while 160MBs or over would be considered fast.
Write speed: How fast your photo or film goes from being shot to being stored on the card. A slow speed could make it difficult to take photos quickly and reduce the quality of footage you film.
On SD cards you also get:
Speed class: The minimum write speed for the card, also measured in MBs. Filming a video? This is essential for you to consider as a dramatic drop in write speed could cause loss of frames and reduce video quality. This means action footage could look jumpy or distorted.
UHS class: This is another measure of write speed. UHS stands for ultra high speed. Cards with a UHS rating can work fast enough to capture HD and 4K images, if your device is compatible (check speeds below).
On compact flash cards you also get:
UDMA rating: Ultra direct memory access enables more rapid write and read speeds, allowing the card to support HD and 4K images. Cards are graded from 0-7, with 7 offering the highest performance. Just want the highest speed possible? Be sure that the speed of your device supports the speed of the card, otherwise the benefits are lost.
VPG: Stands for video performance guarantee and is very similar to an SD card's speed class. There are only two classifications, VPG-20 and VPG-65, with the latter offering the minimum possible risk of frame loss.
What memory card speeds do I need?
|Memory card type||Speed class||Min. write speed||4K recording||Full HD recording||Standard HD recording||Continuous recording||HD photos|
|Compact Flash||VPG-65||65 MB/s||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Compact Flash||VPG-20||20 MB/s||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|SD||UHS speed 3||30 MB/s||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|SD||UHS speed 1||10 MB/s||✔||✔||✔|
|SD||Speed class 10||10 MB/s||✔||✔||✔|
|SD||Speed class 6||6 MB/s||✔||✔|
|SD||Speed class 2||2 MB/s||✔|
Write protect on SD cards
Often memory cards will have the write-protect logo displayed. This means you can lock your card so that it cannot be written on. To be able to record data on your card again, you would need to move the tiny lever at the top of the card down to make it ready to use.
Memory Card Accessories
Memory card readers enable you to connect your card to your computer/laptop if the device does not have the correct memory card reader built in. They simply plug into a USB port.
Some memory cards come with adaptors which allow the cards to be used in incompatible devices. The most common example is an adaptor that allows microSD cards to fit into SD card slots.