Memory and Storage Buying Guide

Memory & Storage Buying Guide

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Introduction

Memory cards are integral part of a camera; they provide the space to store photos as they are taken. Normally the focus is on the capacity or size of the memory card but there are other factors to consider when buying one, including speed and card type. Memory cards are an easy to use method of storing and transferring photos from camera to computer or printer. They can be used for re-recording and overwriting innumerable times. They also don't need a power source to store or contain data.

Purpose of the Guide

As formats for capturing photos and video have changed over time, so have the memory cards used to store them. The variety of types of cards available can make it difficult to choose the one that's right for you. This memory and storage buying guide gives a comprehensive look at the types of cards on the market to help you choose the one you need for your point and shoot, camcorder, or DSLR camera.

What are Memory and Storage Devices?

A memory card is an electronic flash memory data storage device that can be used for storing digital information. It comes in various forms and is used for many purposes. There are many different electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops, digital cameras, MP3 players and video game consoles which all use memory cards to store data. Memory cards are very small in physical size with the ability to read and write data many times and to retain data without power.

Memory cards are also available in different formats, sizes, capacities, speeds, etc. When buying a memory card, it is necessary to ensure that it is compatible with the camera. The types of memory cards that are compatible with most cameras include Compact Flash (CF), Secure Digital (SD), Memory Stick cards, miniSD, microSD, XD and XQD. It is essential to check the camera’s manual to see the different memory card formats that are suitable for it. You're camera's required format is a good place to start when looking for a new memory card.

memory cards

Left to right:
Compact Flash(CF), Secure Digital(SD), FlashDrive, XQD, MicroSD with Adapter

Newer professional cameras come with integrated dual memory card slots that enable users to make use of two memory cards simultaneously. The combination of memory card slots used in these cameras include two slots for SD memory cards or one CF and one SD memory card slot or even one Memory Stick and one SD memory card slot. This allows recording of different formats to different cards; for example JPEGs can be saved to one card while RAW files can be saved to the secondary slot simultaneously.

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Features of Memory and Storage Devices

Before choosing a memory card it is important to understand the features they offer. The features will determine how well the card works for your needs and whether it will be compatible with your camera. Let's go over the main features of memory cards and how to determine which ones you will need.

Memory Card Formats

When it comes to choosing memory cards, compatibility with the camera is the most important factor. Check the manual for your camera to see what types of cards it can use. SD (Secure Digital) cards are commonly used in cameras to record images and movies. They are small, postage stamp-sized cards which are often inexpensive but slower than more expensive cards. SDHC (high capacity) and SDXC (eXtended capacity) are more expensive SD cards which offer faster transfer speeds but are more expensive and not accepted by all cameras. SDXC cards have become more popular as HD video capability has become more readily available. Smartphones and certain point and shoots take smaller SD cards called MiniSD or MicroSD which offer the same benefits in a much smaller size. Compact Flash (CF) cards are larger, tougher memory cards mainly used in professional cameras. Older Olympus and Fuji cameras used xD memory cards but have since started utilizing the regular SD format. Sony also has an exclusive type of memory card called the Memory Stick which is still used but has also become less popular than the SD format.

Memory Card Speeds

Memory cards come in different speeds. Some cards state their speed in terms of megabytes per second (MBPS) while others use a multiplier like 100x speed. 1x is roughly equivalent to about 1.5MPBS so a card that states 100x would be around 15MPBS. More commonly these days, cards use speed class to denote the speed of the card. The speed class is the minimum write speed, which is important for making sure that the card can handle the stream of data from recording video. There are also some cards that use UHS (Ultra High Speed), which are only compatible with UHS devices. These have higher write speeds for handling 4K video but you can only take advantage of that with a camera that has UHS capability so be sure to check your manual. The table below summarizes speed classes and their minimum write speeds.

Speed Class Minimum Write Speed Uses
UHS Speed Class 3 30MB/s 4K Video recording
UHS Speed Class 1 10MB/s Full HD Video and HD photo continuous shooting
Speed Class 10 10MB/s Full HD Video and HD photo continuous shooting
Speed Class 6 6MB/s Full HD and HD Video
Speed Class 4 4MB/s Full HD and HD Video
Speed Class 2 2MB/s Standard Video

 

Storage Capacity

Memory cards are categorized based on the storage capacity they provide. Most modern memory card capacities are expressed in Gigabytes (GB) and ranges from 8GB to 64GB or even up to 2TB depending on the type of card. The storage capacity of a memory card determines the number of photos and videos that can be stored in it. The actual number of photos and videos that can be stored in the memory card also depends on the picture resolution and quality. Cameras with a large megapixel count create files with larger file sizes.


Apart from these main features of the memory card, the memory card is also categorized based on the devices it is used for. Here, some of the commonly used devices have been highlighted with the type of memory cards suitable for them.

Compact Camera Memory

The memory cards compatible with most digital cameras are SD, SDHC, memory stick, xD picture card, microSD and microSDHC. The Secure Digital (SD) provides maximum storage of up to 2 GB. Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) is mostly used in camcorders and have the same physical size as SD cards but have memory capacity of up to 32GB. Memory sticks are produced by and used in Sony products exclusively. the xD card is compatible only with Olympus cameras. Some versatile cards are the microSD or microSDHC, which are used in smartphones and some cameras with an adapter.

DSLR Memory

The SDHC memory card format is compatible with DSLR cameras as well as compact cameras. This format is currently being used in most of the newer DSLRs. This high-speed card gives maximum performance for the DSLR cameras. The Compact Flash or CF format is the standard used in high-end DSLR cameras. These are larger and stronger than SD cards, more suitable for adverse conditions. A few high end cameras can take XQD cards which can have storage capacity up to 2 terabytes.

Camcorder Memory

The Secure Digital HD Video (SDHC) is the most popular memory card for camcorders but before choosing a particular SDHC card, make sure that its class rating rating matches with that camera or camcorder. A class 2 rated card is preferred for standard definition recording while for high-definition recording, a class 4 or higher rated card should be opted. The memory stick, memory stick pro and memory stick pro duo are the formats exclusively used with Sony handycam camcorders for video recording. XQD cards are also an optimal memory card as they have higher transfer speeds and large storage capacities.

Eye-Fi Memory Cards

Another type of memory cards, the Eye-Fi Wireless Secure Digital media cards, are good when the photographer wants to upload photos and videos wirelessly to a computer or website. These cards are compatible with cameras that have SD card slots as well as both PC and Mac computers.

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Utilities of Memory and Storage Devices

Memory card selection is important as it will determine your camera's usability. Considering the size, storage capacity, format, and camera compatibility before choosing a card will ensure you buy the best card for your needs.

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Top 5 Manufacturers

Memory cards have become an essential part of digital cameras. There are many companies to choose from when deciding which card to buy. These are the top five memory card manufacturers.

Lexar

Lexar is a manufacturer of digital media products that includes SD cards, memory sticks, keydrives, CompactFlash cards and card readers. They provide a comprehensive range of high-performance products that are reliable and have excellent quality. Lexar memory cards are well-known all over the world for its high quality and high-speed performance.

Transcend

Transcend is a world-class leader in the field of memory and consumer electronics that provides the highest quality products including flash memory cards, USB flash drives, MP3 players, digital audio players, digital photo frames, portable hard drives, multimedia products, graphic cards, memory modules and accessories. It is also ranked the world’s third-largest manufacturer of USB flash drives.

Sony

 

Sony is the most recognized consumer electronics company worldwide that has set a benchmark with its new age technology, superior quality and innovative digital concepts. It is a world leader in various product categories such as audio/video entertainment products, information and communications, recording media, business and professional products.

Fuji

 

Fujifilm is a multinational photography and imaging company that creates innovative imaging products and effective solutions for photographers. It offers various different products that include color photographic film, digital cameras, photofinishing equipment, color paper, medical imaging equipment, graphic arts, flat panel displays, optical devices, photocopiers and printers.

Hoodman

 

Hoodman Corporation manufactures inspired digital camera tools. Glare Fighting LCD Loupes, Ratcheting variable angle viewers, the fastest, longest lasting CompactFlash memory cards and the worlds first steel plated, ruggedized SDHC memory card line. Founded in 1986, Hoodman Corporation has grown to be the dominant force in bringing innovative new products to the photo/video industry. With over 500 dealers in the USA and around the world, Hoodman products are easily within your reach.

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Terminology

There are a few important terms to understand when looking at memory cards. These will help you understand what the card is capable of and whether it is the one you are looking for.

Memory Card Formats:
Memory cards come in a wide variety of formats capable of storing different amounts of data at different speeds. Check your owners manual to see what types of cards your camera can use.
Storage Capacity:
Determines the number of photos and videos that can be stored on the memory card and is expressed in Gigabytes (GB).
Types of Memory Cards:
When selecting a memory card, it is necessary to make sure that it is compatible with the digital camera, camcorder or DSLR camera.

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Still have questions or need more information on memory & storage? Contact us so we can help!