The best memory cards for your camera

The best memory cards for your camera

the-best-memory-cards-for-your-camera

Finding the best memory card for your camera is a confusing process. Memory cards are the common standard media cameras use to store what they record. While most of us aren’t loading films into our cameras any more, in their place we have an almost dizzying array of options when it comes to memory cards, along with their capabilities when it comes to speed and performance. We’re here to help you find the best memory card for your needs (and the best deals on it).

Luckily, perhaps, physical formats of memory cards don’t change all that often – postage stamp sized Secure Digital (SD) cards have been with us for most of the past two decades, in turn spawning the microSD variant still used by most smartphones and tablets. What has improved over time is how many image files they can store and how fast they can do so, in line with innovations in the world of stills photography (bigger resolutions) and video (not only higher resolutions, but also faster frame rates). 

So, if you’ve invested in one of the best cameras, you’ll most likely need a latest generation media card to unlock the maximum potential of your no doubt data-hungry device. With so many different choices of brands, capacities and performance speeds, where on earth do you start?

Upgrading your camera kit? Take a look at our pick of the best camera bags and cases.

How to choose the best memory card

Obviously you’ll have a budget in mind and will also want to go for the highest capacity card with the quickest read and write speeds you can afford. The advice here used to be to opt for several cards rather than one giant capacity option, in case the latter became corrupted in some way and images lost. But, in truth, such occurrences are rare, especially these days. If you do go for a one-size-fits all high capacity card, you’ll obviously being paying more money for more memory, but it may be worth it in the long run.

Aside from the most common SD and microSD cards, there still exists the older but at one time just as popular CompactFlash (CF) card, along with its successor in the newer XQD format, used by some of the most celebrated current mirrorless cameras, such as the Nikon Z6 and Z7

Unsurprisingly the XQD card has been specifically developed to cope with the increased demands of such high resolution cameras for more data storage and lightning fast read and write times – particularly important when shooting high quality RAW files and/or 4K video, as any photographer will know. 

Another recent development is toughened memory cards for power users. Examples include the aptly named Sony Tough, an SDXC format card that’s dust-proof, waterproof, can resist pressures up to 16kg – as well as being super-fast.

Your own particular needs may be very different though, so we’ve chosen a variety of memory cards to suit differing requirements – and budgets! Read on to find the best camera memory card for you…

Best memory cards: SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-I

01. SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-I

The best all-round SD memory card

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 90MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 95MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and/or video (including 4K)

Great rapid fire performance 

Stutter-free results 

Cheaper standard options 

Faster options 

Power users are advised to check out the Extreme PRO SDXC card from long standing card manufacturer SanDisk. Available in capacities from 32GB up to an impressive 512GB, this option offers a speed class 3 rating. The real practical advantage here is not only write speeds up to an impressive 90MB/s – which means that it is able to deal with rapid fire sequential shooting and in both JPEG and Raw – but also has a extremely fast transfer speed of up to 95MB/s, which will speed up the workflow of enthusiasts and pros. Aside from making it easier to capture a sequence of Raw photographs, the data crunching on offer here also makes it suitable for 4K video shooting. To sum up, this is one capable contender.

Best memory cards: Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X Speed

02. Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X Speed

The best SD card for professional photographers

Card type: SDHC and/or SDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 300MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 260MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)

Fast and efficient 

Limited lifetime warranty

Costly

Efficient rivals 

Lexar has long been the go-to card for photography enthusiasts and professional shooters, and, despite disappearing from the market for a little while, it has bounced back with plenty of Lexar options still available. A solid choice for us is the Lexar Professional 16GB Class 10 UHS-II 1000x Speed, which deploys UHS-II tech to enable transfer speeds up to 300 MB/s and write speeds up to 260 MB/s. 

This ensures that, whether you’re recording full HD, 4K video, or shooting high-resolution Raw files, this card delivers the goods, even if maximum data capacity is 128GB, rather than the maximum 512GB offered by some rivals. A close alternative in terms of specification and performance would be SanDisk’s Extreme PRO SD UHS-II (also featured here), but we feel you can’t really go wrong with this one.

Best memory cards: SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-II

03. SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-II

An even faster card than the UHS-I Pro version

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 300MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 260MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Pros wanting to shoot swift bursts of high res stills and video

Unrivalled speed 

Smooth 4K video capture

Expensive 

Biases speed over capacity

Missing that essential shot if you’re working as a pro photographer can be an expensive mistake, and is especially irritating if it’s because your card can’t keep up. Try and avoid the latter ever happening by investing in this ultra speedy, inevitably costlier, example from industry stalwart SanDisk – the SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-II. In offering read speeds of up to 300 MB/s and write speeds of an equally impressive 260 MB/s, it’s a class leader among memory cards.

The above specification makes it a must-have option for reportage, sports and wildlife photographers, shooting bursts of rapid fire stills, or videographers wanting the clarity of 4K resolution video, with the inevitable data hungriness that comes with it. As this is an SDXC (‘Extended Capacity’) card too, storage is impressive. Available card offerings are from 32GB up to 128GB, but truly the accent is on speed here.

best memory cards: Sony SF-G Tough SDXC

04. Sony SF-G Tough SDXC

This card claims to be the world’s toughest and fastest

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 300 MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 299 MB/s | Warranty: Manufacturer’s | Suitable for: High speed burst photography and video (including 4K)

Tough design

Dust, dirt, water and grime proof

Currently only up to 128GB

Inevitably pricier than more basic cards

The bigger the card’s data capacity, the higher the potential worry of losing hundreds, possibly thousands of precious image files should anything untoward happen. Purporting to eliminate some of that stress is the Sony Tough range, supplied in common-use SD format. While arguably no card can claim to be 100% destruction–proof, there come with the boast of being dustproof and waterproof, while possessing ‘bend proof’ strength into the bargain – namely being able to withstand 18KG of exerted pressure (that’s18x greater than standard SD). 

If you need more convincing still, Sony’s Tough has also been tested against drops from 5 metres in height, while the card can simply be washed clean of any grime that gets on it. Speed wise, a further bonus is the card’s ability to cope with the sequential capture of 241-compressed Raw or 362 JPEGs in 20fps burst shooting mode on the Sony A9. If you’re a pro shooter and have the budget, you’ll definitely want to check these out.

Best memory cards: Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3

05. Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3

Great for shooting Raw files or high-resolution video

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 64GB | Read Speed: Up to 285MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 180MB/s | Warranty: Five year limited warranty | Suitable for: Pros shooting rapid fire high res Raw stills and high quality 4K video

Blisteringly fast 

Good value for money

Modest capacity

Faster options available 

If it’s Raw files you primarily need to capture, then you’ll want a card that can cope with the highest quality imagery in sequential bursts – as well as one that provides a sufficient storage capacity to avoid having to swap out the media in use at that decisive moment. While the Transcend SDXC UHS-I U3‘s 64GB maximum capacity (the alternative being 32GB) may initially appear a little small when compared with other options here, the performance is anything but, via commendably quick read and write times of 285 MB/s and 180 MB/s respectively. 

Obviously you will need UHS-II compatible DSLR or camcorder to be able to use this one – so check – but speeds of up to 3x faster than standard UHS-1 SD memory cards can be delivered. These Transcend branded cards are also shock and X-ray proof, thereby providing a degree of certainly for photo and video enthusiasts and pros.

Best memory cards: Lexar Professional 633x SDHC / SDXC UHS-I

06. Lexar Professional 633x SDHC / SDXC UHS-I

High capacity and a swift performance when shooting up to 4K video

Card type: SDHC and/or SDXC | Capacity: Up to 1TB | Read Speed: Up to 95MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 45MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K) at pro level

High speed data transfer 

Limited lifetime warranty

Pricier than alternatives 

Modest write speeds

As photographers, we always think we have enough storage capacity until suddenly we don’t. The Lexar Professional 633x SDXC UHS-I is designed for use by DSLR owners, with up to 1TB of storage capacity offered. The only (inevitable) downside is that the read and transfer rates are a little more modest than the lower capacity yet higher speed cards pitched at professionals. This means you’ll need to decide which is more important to you – having the space to store many hours of video, or having the potential to transfer it between devices super-quickly. Ultimately the fact that there is a choice between the two makes us as consumers the victors.

Best memory cards: PNY Elite Performance SDXC

07. PNY Elite Performance SDXC

Top capacity thumbnail-sized media card for all your digital memories

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 95MB/s | Write Speed: Not specified | Warranty: Lifetime (limited) | Suitable for: High speed burst photography and video (including 4K)

Water and shock proofed design

Fair price

Faster alternatives available

PNY is a less familiar brand name

Though there are plenty of budget priced card offerings bearing the US-based PNY brand, this Elite Performance series, with capacities from a useful 32GB up to a generous 512GB, currently tops the range. It offers not only a high capacity, but also an industry-standard read speed of 95MB per second from an SDXC format card. The ‘Elite’ moniker signifies that these Class 10 speed, UHS-1 compatible cards are not only suitable for shooting video on a DSLR with, but are also durable with it, being waterproof, shock proof, temperature proof and magnet proof. Thus the brand is able to claim that the Elite Performance range of cards are suitable for advanced photo enthusiasts and even professionals, as well as those recording 4K quality clips. Peace of mind of a lifetime-limited warranty is provided.

Best memory cards: SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash

08. SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash

There’s nothing retro about a 160MB/s read speed

Card type: CompactFlash | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 160MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 150MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)

Suitable for pro still or video capture

Suitable for both Full HD and 4K resolutions

Can’t match the speed of SDXC format Extreme PRO cards

One of the oldest camera memory formats 

Compact flash cards may be older and bulkier than the newer SD format alternative, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still deliver sufficient capacity and speed to satisfy today’s DSLR user. A case in point is SanDisk’s CompactFlash range, which offers capacities from a useful 16GB to a power user 256GB, so you don’t have to swap out media cards in the heat of the action.

Also impressive with this one is write speeds of up to 140MB/s at maximum 256GB capacity (otherwise it’s 150 MB/s for the 128GB and lower capacities), which also makes it just as suited to video use, particularly for those DSLRs also offering Full HD capture. In fact, with a minimum sustained write speed of 65MB/s, the claim by its manufacturer is that this one is class leading.

Best memory cards: Transcend CompactFlash 800

09. Transcend CompactFlash 800

Transcend’s CF gives plenty of data storage for your buck

Card type: CompactFlash | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 120MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 60MB/s | Warranty: Five year limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including Full HD)

Swift and easy file transfer

Optimised for video

Slower than competitors 

No lifetime warranty

While it may not be as recognisable to the casual observer as competing card brands, Transcend is one of the longer-term players in the market – and, usefully, still makes many low-capacity cards, holding obvious appeal for those on tighter budget. However, even the higher capacity offerings that may appeal to semi pro DSLR users – such as this CompactFlash 800 series – are hardly expensive for what’s on offer.

Capacities run from a standard 32GB up to a slightly more impressive 256GB. Specification is also solid for a budget card; here we get read speeds of up to 120 MB/s and write speeds of 60 MB/s. Actual performance of course is affected by camera hardware and software, as is the case with any card. However, here there’s even a built-in error correcting code to detect and correct any transfer errors.

Best memory cards: Samsung PRO Endurance

10. Samsung PRO Endurance

The best MicroSD card, suitable for an array of devices

Card type: microSD (With SD adapter) | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 100MB/s | Write speed: Up to 30MB/s | Warranty: Up to 5 years | Suitable for: Action cameras, dashcams, security cameras

Durably longer lasting

Fiddly to handle 

Very easy to lose 

The Samsung PRO Endurance is our pick for the best MicroSD card around right now. It does cost a little more to get a microSD card with larger SD card-sized adapters, although this series is still very reasonably priced.

The draw here includes the fact that the cards are claimed to be able to withstand harsh environments, are longer lasting and are particularly suited to use in action cameras. This is because they can continually record at high read/write speeds (100MB/s and 30MB/s, respectively). Also promised for the highest capacity card is an industry best of 43,800 hours of continuous video recording. Peace of mind comes courtesy of warranties of between two years for the lower capacity cards, to five years for maximum capacity cards.

Best memory cards: Samsung EVO Plus

11. Samsung EVO Plus

Inexpensive microSD cards with SD card adapter

Card type: microSD (With SD adapter) | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 100MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 30MB/s | Warranty: 10 years | Suitable for: Day to day photography

Generous read speed 

Well protected 

Fiddly without adapter

Easily lost 

Arriving with us in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities, these Class 10 microSD cards  handily come with an SD adapter that allows them to be used in cameras just as easily as a smartphone or tablet. Costing less than £20 for the lowest 32GB capacity, this seems like good value considering they manage read speeds of 100 MB/s (albeit a modest write speed of 30MB/s). A bright red design also ensures this jack of all trades option from Samsung won’t readily get lost down the back of the sofa, despite being fingernail sized. Peace of mind also comes via a 10 year limited warranty, plus the fact that the cards are claimed as waterproof, temperature proof, X-ray proof and magnetic proof. 

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