Memory cards are an essential purchase for a digital camera. Unfortunately, choosing the right memory card isn’t always easy especially as there’s more choice than ever. This guide will let you know what options you have when choosing a memory card, and help point you in the right direction. Thankfully memory cards are now cheaper than ever, with 8gb memory cards available for less than £5, meaning you can fit not just hundreds, but thousands of photos on the card! Updated Oct 2012.
What size? – As a very rough guide a 1gb (1000mb) memory card will fit around 250 photos with todays 8 – 12 megapixel cameras. So a good size memory card to go for is a 4gb or 8gb memory card as this should allow over 1000 – 2000 high quality photos to be taken. If you plan on using the video features of your camera then it’s a good idea to buy an even larger and faster memory card. For more details on how many photos will fit on a memory card click here.
SD cards – come in three main flavours SD (2gb or less), SDHC (4gb to 32gb), and SDXC (64gb or more). SD cards are used by nearly every single digital camera in the world (excluding some DSLRs). These come in various different prices, from the more basic models, to Sandisk Ultra, and Sandisk Extreme. I would recommend Ultra or Extreme, these tend to support higher writing speeds needed by some cameras for HD video recording. Check the type and class when buying. Older cameras may not support SDHC or SDXC cards, so check the manual before purchase. SD Cards at Amazon: 1GB, 2GB. SDHC Cards at Amazon: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB.
Sandisk PLUS USB – In my opinion, these are the best memory cards you can get. They work just like a regular SD card, but when you want to view the images on your PC, you can fold it in half, and plug it straight into a USB socket. They also work as USB Pen Drives, and can fit in your wallet. SanDisk have foolishly discontinued these, so buy them while they’re still available! SDHC Cards with USB at Amazon: 4GB Sandisk Plus USB.
Nb. SD Card Speeds note the small number 4 with a semi-circle around it on these SD cards, and the small number 2 on the MicroSD card. This is the speed rating (class) of the card, the higher the number the quicker the card. This is of particular importance to people who want to record HD video with digital cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix series, and class 6 or higher is recommended.
MicroSD – these are another option, they often come with a MicroSD to SD adapter so they can be used in every SD camera. They also have the added bonus of working with some Olympus cameras (using the MicroSD to XD adapter) so you can use large 8gb cards with Olympus cameras. Sandisk also sell a MicroSD / Sony M2 to USB stick adapter (details below), so you can have quick access to the memory stick via USB. The only problem I’ve found with MicroSD when used in SD adapters is that the fit isn’t very tight, and they can slip out when knocked (and this could cause problems when using the card in a camera). MicroSD is used by most mobile phones. These come as MicroSD and MicroSDHC with older phones and cameras not supporting SDHC so please check before purchasing. MicroSD Cards at Amazon: 1GB, 2GB. MicroSDHC Cards at Amazon: 4gb, 8gb, 16gb
Nb.For more information on SD, SDHC, and MicroSD cards, have a look at the Secure Digital Card page on Wikipedia.
Compact Flash (CF) – invented by SanDisk, and used in most Digital SLRs. However, increasingly with entry level DSLRs, CF is often being replaced by SD cards. Compact flash cards are physically larger than other memory cards, often more expensive, and have for a long time offered the highest capacity, however more recently SD cards have been catching up in capacity offered. More information on Compact Flash cards at Wikipedia. Compact Flash Cards at Amazon: 2gb, 4gb, 8gb, 16gb, 32gb.
XD Cards – these were used by Fujifilm and Olympus – Fujifilm and Olympus now support SD cards, with their latest cameras. The maximum size XD cards go up to is 2gb and they are very slow compared to SD cards. Olympus started supplying MicroSD card adapters (MASD-1, pictured here), so you may as well buy MicroSD instead if your camera will take the adapter. The only possible reason for using XD cards is because Olympus enable the panoramic mode in their camera’s with Olympus branded XD cards. If you have a Fuji camera, like the FinePix F100fd, that supports both XD and SD, then switch to SD as write times will be much quicker and there will be less of a delay between photos. For more information on XD cards, there is a great article on Wrotniak.net. Olympus XD Cards at Amazon: 1gb Type M+, 2gb Type M+.
Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo – used exclusively by Sony in Sony cameras, PSP etc, this format is quick (like SD cards), supports large sizes (like SD cards), is slightly smaller than SD, but often costs two to three times as much as SD cards. I guess one benefit of Sony Memory Sticks is that it keeps things fairly simple, if you own an old Sony digital camera, you need a Sony memory stick. With Sony’s latest cameras, they now support both Sony and SD/SDHC memory cards, so for these reasons, if your camera supports it, it would be better to buy an SD/SDHC card. More information on Sony Memory Sticks can be found on Wikipedia. Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo cards at Amazon: 2gb, 4gb, 8gb, 16gb.
Sandisk MicroSD / Sony M2 to USB stick adapter – this USB card reader lets you have quick access to the MicroSD or Sony M2 memory stick via USB. It’s very small and fits on your keyring. It’s available from Amazon UK: SanDisk MobileMate Micro Memory Card Reader.
If anyone’s looking for a great USB card reader, then have a look at the Kingston 19 in 1 UDB card reader, it will work with every memory card listed above, and is great if you’re having problems getting photos off your camera and memory card. If anyone’s wondering why I tend to recommend Sandisk – the simple truth is that I’ve used their memory cards with literally hundreds of cameras and never had a problem. They were also involved in the development of SD cards and developed Compact Flash cards, so they should know what they’re doing when it comes to making them!
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