841,094 Memory Cards

Memory cards are one of those things that you only notice when they aren’t working right. I don’t think about mine until all of a sudden I’m out of space and have to swap to cards. Every now and then though, you’re going to need to buy new memory cards, and if you do enough thinking about it then, they will serve you well for a long time. A quick search for “memory card” on Amazon.com brings up 841,094 results – here’s what you need to know to choose the right one.

You’ll never be able to tell what memory card was used to record an image… so what difference do they make?


Today’s memory cards come in 2 common formats: Compact Flash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD). You don’t have a choice between these, just use the kind your camera is built for. Compact Flash cards are bigger and more square, Secure Digital cards are more rectangular with a notch cut out of them.


This is the only thing most people think about when they get a new memory card – how much data in can hold. Current card capacities range from 4GB  to 128GB. The capacity determines how many pictures can be stored on the card before it will need to be downloaded. The number of photos will depend on the megapixel rating and quality settings of your camera. Suffice to say, bigger is better.


In addition to capacity, memory cards are rated by speed. The faster the card is the quicker your camera can store the picture and be able to take another one and the faster the card will download to your computer. Speed is also very important when shooting video. If your card cannot keep up with the amount of data your camera is capturing the camera will cut off the recording.

Card speeds are reported by “Class” and speed. The higher the numbers, the faster the card. The Class number (4, 6, 8, 10, etc…) reports the MINIMUM sustained speed the card can handle. A Class 10 card guarantees that it can record video at 10MB/s or more at all times. The speed reporting, such as 80MB/s reports the maximum burst speed the card can handle in a pinch.


Quality can be measured in terms of capacity or speed, but what I mean here is the quality of the manufacturing and parts that go into each card. Different brands have different ways of indicating their Professional and Consumer lines. Professional cards are rated for higher and lower operating temperatures, and usually have higher speeds than Consumer cards. They may also come with an extended warranty and even data recovery software.

What I Use

I shoot with Sandisk Extreme and ExtremePro cards. I have shot with other cards over the years, but I continue to come back to Sandisk for the quality and reliability of their Extreme line. They are more expensive, but the quality is worth it. I did have one of my 8GB Extreme III CF cards fail on me after 5 or 6 years of use. I sent it back to Sandisk and they replaced it under their lifetime guarantee. I also like that these cards come with data recovery software for those times when something is accidentally deleted.

Leave me a comment to let me know what you shoot with or any questions you have!



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