Beginners Guide to Memory Cards

In this video blog post I’m going to teach you about memory cards, and how to choose the one that’s right for you and your photography or video.

If the video above doesn’t play you can watch it on YouTube.

But first, a little memory card history

My first memory card had a capacity of 256 MB, yes I said that right MB, and it cost about $750. Yikes! That was in 2003 or so.

The last memory card I bought, had a capacity of 32GB, and it cost $40. My newest SD card has 125X the memory space at a fraction of the cost.

So the message here is that the price of memory cards drops significantly over time. Expect a price drop every 6 months or so, especially for lower capacity cards.



memory-cards-blog

Common types of Memory cards

  • CF
  • SD
  • Micro SD

Let’s look at some memory cards up close.

Understanding-Memory-Card-Lingo

There are a lot of numbers and symbols on memory cards, and even for seasoned photographers, it’s hard to figure out what they all mean.

So what do these numbers and symbols mean?

Capacity: Capacity is measured in GB.

Personally, I don’t like to get cards with too much capacity. I’d rather buy two 32GB cards than one 64GB card. I do this because cards can fail or get damaged and then I’ll lose less files. Plus, the smaller capacity cards usually cost less too.

X-Speed

  • X-Speed has to do with how fast the photos or videos can be transferred to and from the card, also called the write and read speeds.
  • The higher the number, the higher the performance.
  • Each “x” represents .15MB/s. For example, if you multiply our SD 1000x by .15MB/s, you will get 150MB/s.
  • And you can also see that 150MB/s is printed on this SD card.
  • So as you can see, Performance and x-speed are really the same thing.
  • On some brands of cards the x-speed is printed as both x amount, and as MB/s

Speed Class – there are three numbers representing speed class.

  • The first has a C around it. This number designates minimum write performance to record video. 10 is the fastest speed.
  • The UHS Speed class has to do with transferring the files into the memory card, which is very important if you shoot video or large raw files.
    • UHS-I enables maximum transfer speeds of 104MB/s
    • UHS-II enables maximum transfer speeds of 312MB/s.
  • U numbers: Within the UHS Speed Class there are two designations, U1 and U3, which represent minimum write speeds of 10MB/s and 30MB/s respectively.

My recommendation

If you shoot 4K Photo, Video, raw files, or use high speed burst photography, get a card with a high performance speed, Class of 10, and a U3 rating.

This is the one I use!

Memory Card Readers

card-reader-blue

Buying the fastest card on the market won’t do you any good if you have a slow card reader.

  • If your computer has a USB 3.0 port, buy a USB 3.0 card reader to take advantage of fast read speeds.
  • The difference between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 can mean cutting transfer times down from hours to minutes. Transferring your content faster lets you start editing sooner, which in turn allows you to more quickly shift your focus back to shooting.

Last tip:

Format your new memory cards before using them! Read how to do that, here.