The best SD cards are an essential part of every photographer’s armory. Even the best cameras in the world are useless if you don’t have a memory card to store your videos and images. Although memory cards come in many different formats yet Secure Digital (SD) is still the most common and thus, the most popular format. In this article, we are going to present the 10 best SD cards for photography and what makes them a great choice for your camera.
Our guide on the best SD cards for camera also contains the following sections for you to easily jump to your required information.
- 10 best SD cards for photographers
- Types of SD Cards
- SD cards speed classes explained
- How to choose an SD card?
- Frequently asked questions
If you even have a slight knowledge of modern cameras, you would know that even the best of them have only 32 MB of built-in memory which is not enough. It only allows you to record 5 to 6 images at most depending upon their quality. Therefore, you need a memory card with a lot of capacity and faster transfer speeds to keep up with the huge volume of data you have to upload. microSD cards are growing in popularity especially for drones and larger quadcopters. Similarly, CFexpress cards are dominating the professional market. However, most mirrorless cameras and DSLRs still use ever-reliable SD cards.
It is also a daunting task to find the right SD card for your camera considering a huge swath of these cards is available in the market. But – you don’t need to sweat. We have done all the hard work and come up with the best SD cards for photography for you.
10 Best SD Cards for Photographers
The following are the best SD cards according to our experts.
|Image||Product Name||Speeds||Capacity||Speed Rating||Check Price|
Sony Professional XQD G Series
Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II
SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I
Lexar Professional 633x UHS-I
SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I
PNY Elite Performance Class 10 U3
Sony M Series Class 10 UHS-II
Sony Tough G Series UHS-II 64GB
SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I
Transcend UHS-II Class 3
- Sony Professional XQD G Series: The best SD card for photographers
- Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II: Best SD card for professional photography
- SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I: The best all-round SD card
- Lexar Professional 633x UHS-I: SD card with the highest capacity
- SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I: Best budget SD card
- PNY Elite Performance Class 10 U3: Best SD card for photography under $100
- Sony M Series Class 10 UHS-II: SD card with best sequential read speed
- Sony Tough G Series UHS-II 64GB: Most tough and durable SD card
- SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I: Best value for money
- Transcend UHS-II Class 3: Best SD card for shooting raw videos and files
1. Sony Professional XQD G Series: The Best SD Card for Photographers
Sony Professional XQD G series contains some of the best SD cards for photography. With a maximum capacity of 164GB, it provides you with ample storage for your videos and photos. However, these cards are far superior to their rivals when it comes to data transfer speeds.
The XQD series achieve maximum read and write speeds of whopping 440 MB/s and 400 MB/s as they incorporate PCI Express Generation 2 Interface. As a result, you can transfer very large data to and from the memory card in a fraction of seconds. The incredibly fast card is therefore an ideal option for sequential burst shooting and 4K shooting without speed degradation.
Sony Professional XQD also offers unrivaled strength even during intense use. It can withstand drops from up to 5 meters. Similarly, it is 5 times more durable than standard XQD cards. The card is also shockproof, magnet proof as well as resistant to UV rays. It can also maintain the highest levels of performance in extreme temperatures.
Finally, you can also download the File Rescue App for this memory card to recover your lost files.
2. Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II: Best SD Card for Professional Photography
Lexar Professional 2000X UHS-II is the best option for you if you are a professional photographer. With the write speed of 300 MB/s, this SD card has everything you need to take professional-grade videos and images. The read speed of 260 MB/s is also far greater than most of the SD cards have to offer. The card leverages U3 or UHS-II technology to realize these speeds.
The maximum storage capacity is on the lower side. However, the card delivers the good when it comes to shooting high resolution Raw files and 4K full HD videos. It is compatible with HD camcorders, DSLRs, and 3D cameras. Similarly, the package also includes SD UHS-II reader which dramatically accelerates the workflow by quickly transferring the files from the SD card to the computer.
The memory card is also backward compatible with UHS-I devices.
3. SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I: The Best all-round SD Card
SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I is the best multipurpose SD card right now. No matter you want to use it for 4K videos or raw files, it will always surpass your expectations. SanDisk is, in fact, one of the biggest memory card manufacturers in the world and this is their bestselling card by a fair distance.
Having a write and read speeds of up to 90 MB/s and 170 MB/s respectively, you cannot go wrong with this tried and tested card. It has an impressive UHS speed Class 3 and video speed class 30 ratings as well as the storage capacity of up to 1TB.
The best feature of the memory card is a staggering writing speed of 90 MB/s. The high writing speed enables the camera to easily handle rapid-fire sequential shooting both for raw files and JPEG. Similarly, the workflow is also very fast thanks to the 170 MB/s of read speed. It is also the best memory card for 4K videos because it offers incredible data crunching as well.
All in all, SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 is the best memory card for camera for its amazing read and write speeds, reliability, suitability for 4K videos, and very reasonable price.
4. Lexar Professional UHS-I 633x: SD Card with Highest Capacity
With the storage capacity of up to 1TB, Lexar Professional UHS-I allows you to keep shooting for long periods without changing your card. 1TB is a lot of data for a small SD card. It also means you don’t need to carry bulky external hard drives with you to save your images and videos.
Lexar Professional UHS-1 has the read speed of 95 MB/s (633x) which is exceptional for data storage. The card leverages UHS-1 or UHS-3 technology to achieve that speed depending on the capacity. Similarly, the 70 MB/s of write speed is quite acceptable although not as good as Sony Tough and G or SanDisk Extreme Pro series. However, 70 MB/s cane easily handle RAW bursts, 3D videos, 4K videos, and other large files. You can also take stunning high-quality images in full 1080P HD.
Keep in mind that this particular memory card is designed for mid-range HD camcorders, DSLRs, and 3D cameras. The card also considerably accelerates the workflow through high speed data transfer from card to computer. It also helps you save your time and get back to taking photos quickly.
Lexar Professional UHS-1 provides you with enough speed and space to record and share your adventures and precious moments on the go.
5. SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I: Best Budget SD Card
SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I is the cheapest SD card on our list. Having a capacity of up to 128GB, the SD card also has a read or transfer speed of 80 MB/s which is unbelievable at this price. Similarly, it is an ideal memory card for compact to mid-range video cameras, DSLRs, and point and shoot cameras. However, it is also compatible with SDHC as well as I/SDXC I UHS cameras.
SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-1 allows you to quickly take and transfer photographs because it is a lightning fast memory card. It also excels at recording amazing videos at Full HD 1080P thanks to class 10 speed rating.
Surprisingly, the memory card is also shockproof, waterproof, temperature proof, x-ray proof, and magnet proof that is an absolute bargain considering the price. It is also a very durable memory card, evident from the fact that SanDisk offers a 10-year limited warranty for it.
6. PNY Elite Performance Class 10 U3: Best SD Card for Photography under $100
As the name suggests, this memory car offers elite performance when it comes to sequential read speeds, 4K Ultra HD videography, and burst mode HD photography. It has a fairly high read speed of 95 MB/s and speed class 10 or U3, allowing you to quickly and effortlessly transfer your files to the computer.
PNY Elite Performance is compatible with HD video cameras, DSLRs, point and shoot cameras, and more. It is magnet proof, shockproof, waterproof, and temperature proof, making it a very sturdy and durable memory card as well.
Finally, the memory card offers plenty of space for your videos, images, and other files with a capacity of up to 512GB.
7. Sony M Series Class 10 UHS-II V60: SD Card with Best Sequential Read Speed
If you are looking for an SD card with incredible sequential read speed, you must choose Sony M Series Class 10 UHS-II SD card. It has a storage capacity of up to 256GB and write speed of 150 MB/s depending on the capacity. What sets Sony M Series UHS-2 apart from others is its unbelievable write speed of up to 277 MB/s.
However, you must have a UHS-II reader to realize the maximum read and write speeds. Another great thing about the memory card is the File Rescue Software. The software helps you restore or recover lost videos and images.
It is worth mentioning that the Sony M UHS-II series is an ideal choice for enhancing the performance of professional and high-end UHS-2 compatible cameras. The unbelievably high read and write speeds mean you can achieve maximum performance in continuous burst mode and 4K video shooting. On top of that, these SD cards ensure super-fast transfer of files to your computer or other compatible devices.
8. Sony Tough G Series UHS-II 64GB: Most Tough and Durable SD Card
If you want a combination of excellent construction and amazing features, you must go for Sony Tough G Series UHS-II 64GB SD card. It offers the highest degree of bend strength thanks to extremely hard material it is made of. It can bend 18 times more than a standard SD card without breaking.
However, the memory card is not all about bend strength. It can easily become the best SD card for photography for its astounding read and write speeds of 300 MB/s and 299 MB/s respectively. No other SD car in this price range can match Sony Tough in terms of read and write speeds. The fast write speed is also ideal for continuous burst shooting and 4K recording. The card is also Class 10, U3, and UHS-II compliant. Therefore, you get amazing videos at Full HD and brilliant images as well.
It is also the first memory card to have ribless or no write protection switch design. Being a completely sealed and dustproof card, you can confidently use it in the harshest of environments and conditions. It also has a waterproof rating of IPX8 which is simply outstanding. To top it all, it is also backward compatible with UHS-I technology.
9. SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I: Best Value for Money
The next memory card for camera that makes its way to our list of the best SD cards for photography is SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I. It offers minimum and maximum storage capacities of 32GB and 256GB respectively. Therefore, you will have more than enough space to store your images and videos. It is a topnotch memory card for full HD videos and excellent photographs because of its 100 MB/s of read speed depending on the capacity.
SanDisk Ultra Class 10 UHS-I series of memory cards are a great choice for compact to mid-range point and shoot cameras. The UHS-I and Class 10 compliance also means the card offers exceptional Full HD video recording performance. Some cards in the series also allow UHS enabled cameras to record real-time videos. Finally, the 10-years manufacturer warranty means the card will last long.
10. Transcend UHS-II Class 3: Best SD Card for Shooting Raw Videos and Files
Transcend is known for making some of the best SD cards for photography. Transcend UHS-II U3 is arguable the best cheap memory card for shooting raw videos and files. With the capacity of up to 64GB as well as read and write speeds of 285 MB/s and 180 MB/s, it offers exceptional value for your money.
The super-fast card can easily handle sequential bursts of high-quality images, necessary for shooting raw files. Similarly, you don’t have to change the card every 10 minutes because Transcend UHS-II allows sufficient storage for your videos and images. You may think the maximum capacity of 64GB is negligible compared to that of some other cards on our list. However, the card’s performance is second to none.
Apart from raw files, this particular memory card is an absolute belter for high resolution videos as well. It is a blistering fast memory card thanks to the extremely high read and write speeds. It offers 3 times more speed than a standard UHS-I memory card. The card is also waterproof and shockproof.
Finally, it is compatible with UHS-II enabled camcorders, 3D cameras, and DSLRs.
Types of SD Cards
In most cases, you should not worry about the types of SD card or any memory card for that matter. The kind of memory card you need depends on your camera. For example, some mirrorless and DLSRs only take SD cards as a memory medium. You cannot use a CompactFlash or even microSD in these cameras. However, you can maximize the performance of your SD/memory card and that of the camera by having some knowledge of how they work.
Please note that we are only going to discuss the types of SD Cards for the sake of this guide. There are three main types of SD cards which are as under.
Secure Digital (SD) Cards
The standard or most basic type of SD card is known as, well an SD card. However, companies have ceased their production because technology has evolved dramatically since their inception. You can still use SD cards in modern cameras. But – you cannot expect the level of performance you associate with their current relatives.
Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Cards
SDHC cards, as the name suggests, have comparatively higher capacities than SD cards. Their capacity may range between 4GB to 32GB and therefore, they are suitable for everyday use. Similarly, they are perfect for entry-level cameras be they mirrorless, compact, or DSLRs.
Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC)
If an SD card has a capacity of 64GB or above, it will be an SDXC card. They are specially designed for high-end cameras with advanced applications such as 4K video shooting and continuous burst shooting. However, you need to check the card’s speed rating if you are going to use it for a specific application.
SD Cards Speed Class and UHS Ratings
Although it seems a cumbersome task to get your head around SD cards speed classes and UHS ratings yet they are very easy to understand. You will only come across four terms Speed Class, Ultra High Speed (UHS), Video Speed class, and Rated Speed when learning about SD cards’ speed ratings. Each of them is a unique standard even though they are somehow related to each other. You may even see more than one of them on a single SD card but one will take precedence over others.
You would find a letter “C” on each SD card with a number inside it. While C stands for class the number denotes the speed in megabytes per second. The following are the five speed classes every card is based on.
Class Minimum Speed
2 2 MB/s
4 4 MB/s
6 6 MB/s
8 8 MB/s
10 10 MB/s
UHS Speed Ratings
The SD association introduced a new speed class in 2009. Known as UHS speed class, it takes precedence over the standard classes only if your hardware or camera supports it. Almost all cameras made after 2009 are compatible with UHS. The SD card will default to the above-mentioned classes if you are using your SD card in an older camera model. Just like C for class, “U” denotes UHS on an SD card with speed class number inside mentioned inside it.
There are only two UHS speed classes so far.
UHS Minimum Speed
1 10 MB/s
3 30 MB/s
Video Speed Classes
The latest speed classes introduced by the SD association are known as video speed classes. There are five “V Classes” that are V6, V10, V30, V60, and V90. The last two classes have especially been designed for larger professional video files such as 360, 4K, and others.
The following is a glimpse of various video speed classes and their speeds.
V Class Minimum Speed
6 6 MB/s
10 10 MB/s
30 30 MB/s
60 60 MB/s
90 90 MB/s
Sometimes, manufacturers put their own speed on SD cards even though the SD Association has standardized all the above classes. The rated speed provided by the manufacturer is theoretically the maximum transfer speed your card can offer. Shown in megabytes, the rated speeds vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and card to card. As for UHS speeds, the memory card may not realize the specified rated speed if you install it in the device which is not capable enough to achieve these speeds.
Speed Classes Refer to SD Card’s Write Speed
It is pertinent to mention that speed class refers to how fast an SD card can record data it receives from the camera. In simple words, speed classes correspond to the memory card’s write speed. On the other hand, the read speed means how quickly the computer can copy data from the card. On most occasions, the card lists its read speed in megabytes per second.
The write and read speeds are independent of each other as well. For example, a card may have a write speed of 200 MB/s but it may not have a V90 speed rating. Therefore, you must carefully look for the speed classes while shopping for an SD card.
How to Choose an SD Card for Photography?
You need to consider a lot of factors apart from the speed classes and ratings while choosing the best SD cards for photography.
First and foremost, whatever memory card you choose should physically fit in your camera, tablet, or smartphone. You can contact the manufacturer or search the internet if you are not sure. You will find the information somewhere, most probably from Google. You can also purchase SD adapters for using microSD cards in the cameras which only support SD cards. This could greatly help you if you want to use the same card for your smartphone and camera.
Read and Write Speeds
We have already discussed read and write speeds in detail above. How much speed you want actually depends on how and what you shoot. You need blistering fast SD cards with both read and write speed over 100 MB/s if you shoot extremely high resolution images, 4k video, Raw files, and other larger files.
Storage capacity is also directly proportional to your requirements. For example, you require more storage (in Gigabytes or GB) if you shoot plenty of high resolution images and 4K videos. The storage capacity of modern SD cards ranges from a minimum of 32GB to a maximum of 1Tb. While a memory card of 32GB to 64GB is enough for average photographers, professional photographers opt for higher storage for their cameras.
Strength and Durability
You also need a waterproof, dustproof, magnet proof, and shockproof card if you are work in extreme conditions. Similarly, go for a memory card that can withstand extreme temperatures as well. For example, SD cards from Sony Tough range are known for their bend strength and destruction proof capabilities.
Go for the Highest Possible Specifications
Generally, we recommend going for an SD card with the highest possible read and write speeds as well as memory which your camera can handle. For instance, you don’t need “top of the line” memory card if you have an entry-level camera with a low frame rate per second and modest resolution. This will also help you save a lot of money. You will have to pay considerably more for memory cards with higher speeds and capacities. Therefore, you should leave them for professional photographers only.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the most reliable SD card?
The following are the most reliable SD cards.
- Sony Professional XQD G Series: The best overall SD card
- Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II: Premium speed for professional photographers
- SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1: The best all-round SD card
- Lexar Professional 633x: Highest capacity
- SanDisk Ultra Class 10: Best budget SD card
- Which devices use SD cards?
SD cards are commonly used in DSLRs, camcorders, compact cameras, 3D cameras, and point and shoot cameras to store videos and images. Their smaller version, the microSD cards are used in smartphones and tablets.
- How long will an SD card last?
Most SD cards have a lifespan of 5 years. However, some companies also offer up to 10-year warranty for some of their models.
- What is the best read and write speed for an SD card?
The 95 MB/s of read speed is the minimum requirement for storing videos, images, and other files on the SD card. The SD card needs to have at least 70 MB/s of write speed if you use it for RAW bursts, 3D video, and 4K videos.
- Do all SD cards fit all cameras?
No, not all SD cards fit all cameras. There is no universal memory or SD card design. Point to remember is that the professional cameras use larger standard SD cards with greater speeds, capacities, and capabilities. Smartphones, on the other hand, use smaller microSD cards.
Concluding our guide on the best SD cards for photographers, we declare Sony Professional XQD G Series as the overall winner. The Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-II takes the second spot for being the best SD card for professional photography. The third position goes to SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1 for being the best all-round SD card.