If you are getting serious about photography, you want the best SD (secure digital) memory cards for your images. It can be daunting to see the huge array of memory card brands, speeds, sizes, and prices. Which one is the best? What do I need? Should I buy the most expensive one? There are many questions that come with choosing a memory card, so let's take a look at what's on the market and best for you.
Memory Card Brands
A great place to start your search for the best memory card is with the brand. Then you can easily narrow down the choices that might be overwhelming you.
Many photographers favor SanDisk. Most old-school photographers will tell you SanDisk has been around since they emerged from the darkroom and discovered the digital world. The brand has a great reputation for making quality memory cards and other photography products, including USB flash drives.
Lexar is another reputable brand with a longer history than SanDisk. Sony, Samsung and ProGrade also produce reliable memory cards to store and transfer your images.
Remember: you get what you pay for, so when you see a brand you've never heard of and the price is low, don't be tempted to buy a bunch. Your memory cards are vitally important for keeping your files safe and protected. Even taking a small chance with your files isn't worth the regret you will feel if a cheap card fails. You don't need the fanciest camera bag. The beauty of your work won't be affected by the brand of bag you carry, but the outcome for using a low-quality memory card could reflect negatively on your reputation as a photographer for years.
Invest in a good brand of memory card that you can rely on. Avoid buying cheap cards and watch out for knock-offs if you buy cards while traveling. If the price is too good to be true, it should be a red flag.
Memory Card Size
We encourage photographers to shoot at one of the highest resolutions your camera is capable of, which means you need plenty of memory. First, consider what kind of photoshoots you are doing. A wedding or event photographer might like larger cards because they are shooting a lot of images during a job. A travel photographer might also prefer a big-sized card, so they don't have to change cards too often when they are on the road, in the jungle, or up a mountain.
Thirty-two gig or 64 gig cards are great go-to sizes to carry in your camera bag. You might like to add some 128 gig cards if you shoot a lot. If you hope to branch into shooting video, bigger cards will be useful in the future.
Many photographers like to change their cards several times during photo shoots just in case a card gets corrupted. Wedding photographers will usually put a fresh card in before the bride walks down the aisle, so there's no need to change cards during the ceremony. In these cases, several smaller cards are better than a larger one.
If you are shooting a family or portrait session for one to two hours, you can probably use a 32 gig card and not fill it up. A lot comes down to personal preference, subject matter, and how much you shoot.
Micro SD Card
Don't use microSD cards with an adapter in your camera. We know they are cheaper, but they aren't made to cope with the amount of data a camera requires and they can slow down the read/write speeds. There is also a risk the card can be damaged or corrupted, and they are not reliable. Don't cross the road with your eyes closed and don't use microSD cards in your camera.
Class 10 Cards
Look for class 10 memory cards that are fast and efficient. If you are shooting high-resolution images and shooting raw, class 10 cards perform well. On the card, you will see a number inside a circle or U-shape that tells you if the card is class 10.
Last but not least, speed is quite an important detail about memory cards. SD cards come in six speeds: class 2, class 4, class 6, class 10, U1 and the fastest is U3. You need a fast card if you are shooting high-resolution, which we recommend. If you are shooting continuously in bursts while shooting sports, events or animals, you also will benefit from using a fast card like the U1 or U3. Go for a Class 10 card if you are shooting in raw.
If you are using a point-and-shoot camera and shooting jpeg files, you can use class 2, 4 or 6 cards. Many cameras come with a small low-speed memory card to get you started.
The faster cards are more expensive but worth the investment. You might not be shooting in raw now, but if you are getting more serious about photography, you probably will move to raw files at some stage, so invest in fast speed cards if you can.
Memory Card Tips
- Replace your cards every year or two
- Format your card in your camera
- If you have several camera bodies, use separate cards for each one
- Store your cards in a water-proof case when they are not in use
- Take cards out of the camera if you are not shooting frequently
- If you see an error message change your card immediately
- Back up your files on your computer as soon as possible after a photoshoot
- Invest in a quality card reader
- Don't fill your card completely (change it before it is full)
- Turn your camera off before removing the memory card
We hope this article has helped you decide which memory card you will buy next. Leave your card receipt in your camera bag, so it's easy to check when it's time to replace them. Shop around for the best SD memory card deal and have fun filling them up with impactful images. Happy shooting!