People tend to focus more on camera bodies and lenses when discussing camera gear. Once they find themselves with a camera body in hand, however, the next equally (or even more) important piece of gear takes center stage: memory cards. All digital photographers need them to store the photos they capture. Of course, not all memory cards are created equal. They come in different sizes and feature a wide variety of storage capacities, speeds, and durability. When it comes to choosing the “best” memory card, it’s worth noting that the answer will change based on the photographer’s needs. With that in mind, here’s our guide to help you find the best memory cards for you.

Understanding Different Types of Memory Cards

If you’re new to photography, it may help to know that your camera body will dictate which “type” of memory card you need based on its compatibility with your camera. Some cameras only take CF cards while others only take SD cards. Others with dual slots can use both multiple memory card formats at once. What you still must figure out, however, is which version of the card that your camera uses is the best memory card to serve your needs. We intend to help you in both areas. Below, we’ll break down different memory card types and look at the strengths and weaknesses of each before sharing our picks for the best memory cards.

SD

Professional photographers and hobbyists use SD (Secure Digital) format memory cards. However, these card formats are no longer manufactured. In a nutshell, its technology is already dated, especially with the innovations of newer card formats. Although you can still use SD memory cards for cameras that allow this format, it may not compete with the performance and capacity of upgraded formats.

SDHC

Dubbed as the upgraded version of the SD card format, the SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) is ideal for aspiring photographers and everyday use. The SDHC commonly provides 4GB to 32GB capacities.

SDXC

Otherwise referred to as SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity), this card format comes with 64GB and more capacity. This card format is perfect for photographers and videographers who use many megapixels and capture 4K video resolutions.

microSDHC and microSDXC

In terms of performance and capacities, these micro versions are anything but. You can expect the same from these card formats minus at least one-third of their original sizes. The microSDHC and microSDXC formats are perfect for camera phones and action cameras.

CompactFlash

Another card format that is becoming rarer because of upgraded versions is the CompactFlash. Before, this memory card format was utilized for higher-end DSLRs. However, the capacities and performance of SDHC and SDXC made it a more preferred choice over the CompactFlash format.

CFast Cards

Don’t be fooled! The CompactFlash cards are not compatible with the CFast formats despite sporting the same structure and size. The CFast cards are known for their high-speed features that make them perfect for video cameras.

XQD Cards

These memory card formats are limited only to some Nikon DSLRs and Sony camcorders. At this point, camera manufacturers are not leaning towards this format as the CFExpress cards supersede it. But, XQD Cards is known for its impressive performance for video recording and high-speed shooting.

CFExpress Cards

Known as the evolution of the XQD cards, CFExpress card formats are your comprehensive solution for a memory card. Unfortunately, this memory card format is only available for selected high-end cameras such as Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon. The CFExpress cards come in two types: Type A and Type B. It should be noted that these two types are not interchangeable, and a camera that allows only a Type A card cannot operate with a Type B format.

Now that we established the differences, the strengths, and the weaknesses of each memory card format, it’s time to delve into our best selections. You’ll discover the best memory cards for every format in the rest of the article below.

The Best Memory Cards – SD

Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X

Lexar

Both aspiring and professional photographers rely on this memory card for its fantastic write/read speeds and competent storage capacity. The write/read speeds for the Lexar memory card can go from 260MB/s to 300MB/s. At the same time, it provides ample storage of 128GB. It doesn’t matter if you are capturing 4K videos or utilizing rapid shooting modes. This memory card is your best option.

Specifications:

  • Card type: SDHC and SDXC
  • Storage capacity: 128GB
  • Read/Write speed: 260MB/s to 300MB/s
  • Ideal for: Flexible photography and videography functions

Pros:

  • Reliable and durable
  • High-speed data transfer

Cons:

  • Relatively pricier than other options

SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I

SanDisk Extreme ProIf you need a well-rounded choice that combines performance, fast transfer speeds, and ample storage, this SanDisk selection is perfect for your needs. This memory card’s write/read speeds range from 90MB/s to 170MB/s, making it capable of sequential shooting. Sequential shooting is otherwise known as “one-long take.” Moreover, the SanDisk Extreme PRO has 32GB to 1TB storage capacities for 4K video capture and raw photographs.

Specifications:

  • Card Type: SDXC
  • Storage capacity: 1TB
  • Read/Write speed: 90MB/s to 170MB/s
  • Ideal for: flexible photography and videography functions

Pros:

  • Good for rapid-fire performance
  • Suitable for stutter-free videos

Cons:

  • There are memory card options faster for its price point

[Related Reading: SanDisk Releases a 1TB Extreme Pro SDXC Memory Card]

Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3

TranscendThe Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3 brings the best storage capacity for pros that shoots sequential bursts of images and 4K raw videos. The beauty of this SD card is that you can shoot and store many raw files without having to insert another card during a session. While the maximum storage capacity of 64 GB might seem modest (considering that there are other better options regarding storage), this memory card’s performance is guaranteed to provide a compromise. Another thing to note is that this memory card is compatible with a UHS-II camcorder or DSLR.

Specifications:

  • Card Type: SDXC
  • Storage capacity: 64GB
  • Read/Write speed: 180MB/s to 285MB/s
  • Ideal for: professional photographers who often shoot rapid-fire and high-resolution raw videos and 4K videos.

Pros:

  • Shockproof and X-ray proof
  • Impressive read/write speeds

Cons:

  • The maximum capacity is set at 64GB
  • Faster options available in the market

The Best Memory Cards – CompactFlash

SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash

SanDiskBecause some cameras still utilize the CompactFlash format, choosing the best memory card that provides impeccable read/write speeds and storage capacity for your shooting needs is only fitting. The SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash can sustain HD video capture and provide various storage capacities that suit your needs.

Specifications:

  • Card Type: CompactFlash
  • Storage capacity: Maximum of 256GB
  • Read/Write speed: 150MB/s to 160MB/s
  • Ideal for: Both photography and videography (4K raw videos)

Pros:

  • Memory card for video capture
  • Great for sustained HD video capture and 4K videos

Cons:

  • The memory card format is old
  • Read/write speed is not the fastest

Transcend 800x CompactFlash

Transcend 1This memory card is a fantastic option for those who may have a tight budget. The Transcend 800x CompactFlash offers storage capacities from 32GB to 256GB. Regarding performance, it provides read/write speeds of 60MB/s to 120MB/s, which is considerable for its price.

Specifications:

  • Card Type: CompactFlash
  • Storage capacity: Maximum of 256GB
  • Read/Write speed: 60MB/s to 120MB/s
  • Ideal for: Photography and videography

Pros:

  • An affordable choice for professional photographers
  • Reliable transfer speeds

Cons:

  • No lifetime warranty
  • Not as fast as other card options

The Best Memory Cards – microSD

Samsung Pro Endurance

Samsung EnduranceAction cameras, drones, tablets, and smartphones need microSD for various storage purposes. Sticking true to its moniker, “Endurance,” this Samsung microSD memory card can store up to 43,000 hours of continuous video footage. It offers read/write speeds from 30MB/s to 100MB/s, which makes it a top-performing card.

 

Specifications:

  • Card type: microSD (comes with an SD adapter)
  • Storage capacity: Up to 128GB
  • Read/Write speed: 30MB/s to 100MB/s
  • Ideal for: security cameras, dashcams, action cameras

Pros:

  • Built for long-lasting use
  • CCTVs, security cameras, and dash cams will significantly benefit from this memory card

Cons:

  • You may easily lose it
  • Warranties vary for lower capacity cards and maximum capacity cards

Lexar Professional 1066x microSDXC UHS-I Card SILVER series

Lexar 1If you are leaning towards a budget option, the Lexar Professional microSDXC memory card will provide what you need without spending more. It is available in various storage capacities catering to either photography or videography needs. What’s more, it performs with a decent read/write speed that ranges from 120MB/s to 160MB/s.

Specifications:

  • Card type: microSD
  • Storage capacity: available in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB
  • Read/Write speeds: 120MB/s to 160MB/s
  • Ideal for: day to day photography and minimal videography

Pros:

  • Fast read/write speeds
  • Affordable
  • Ample storage capacity

Cons:

  • Not UHS-II

Samsung EVO Plus microSDHC

Samsung EvoAnother budget option that provides security and peace of mind against accidental damage is the Samsung EVO Plus memory card. It comes with a standard SD adapter, so you can use it as storage for devices that only uses the SD card format. This memory card also provides a fast read/write speed from 30MB/s to 100MB/s. The additional security features will surely gravitate you towards this choice because of its 10-year limited warranty and proofing against damages.

Specifications:

  • Card type: microSD (comes with an SD adapter)
  • Storage capacity: Available in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and256GB
  • Read/Write speeds: 30MB/s to 100MB/s
  • Ideal for: day to day photography (minimal videography)

Pros:

  • It comes with a 10-year limited warranty
  • Waterproof, temperature proof, magnetic proof, and X-ray proof
  • Quick read/write speeds

Cons:

  • Fiddly and tiny without an SD adapter

The Best Memory Cards – XQD

Sony Professional XQD G Series

SonyIf you are still using Nikon Z6, Z7, D810, D850, or Panasonic camcorders such as S1 and S1R, there’s a big chance that you are utilizing the XQD memory cards format. This memory card is suitable for 4K video recording and high-bursts shooting modes. It provides a whopping read/write speed of 400MB/s to 450MB/s.

Specifications:

  • Card type: XQD version 2
  • Storage capacity: Available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB
  • Read/Write speeds: 400MB/s to 450MB/s
  • Ideal for: High-burst shooting mode, high-speed action, and 4K videography

Pros:

  • Incredible read/write speeds
  • Durable build and optimized for longevity

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Limited usability

The Best Memory Cards – CFExpress

SanDisk Extreme Pro CFExpress Card

SanDisk 1Professional photographers looking for the best-performing CFExpress Type B memory card will never go wrong with the SanDisk selection. It provides an astounding 1400MB/s to 1700MB/s read/write speeds that only a few cards can put up with. The only concern for this card is that read/write speeds vary concerning its storage capacity.

Specifications:

  • Card type: CFExpress Type B
  • Storage capacity: Available in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB
  • Read/Write speeds: Ranges from 800MB/s to 1700MB/s
  • Ideal for: Professional photography

Pros:

  • Amazing speeds
  • Various storage capacities

Cons:

  • Different read/write speeds depending on storage capacities

Lexar Professional CFExpress Type B Card

Lexar ProThis memory card provides a massive value option for professional photographers who need decent performance without coming across data issues. The Lexar Professional memory card offers a remarkable read speed of 1750MB/s but struggles with the write speed of only 1000MB/s.

Specifications:

  • Card type: CFExpress Type B Card
  • Storage capacity: Ranges from 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB
  • Read/Write speeds: 1000MB/s to 1700MB/s
  • Ideal for: Professional photography

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Fast read speeds

Cons:

  • Slow write speeds

Sony Tough CFExpress Type A Memory Card

Sony ToughThe only CFExpress Type A memory card that you need is the Sony Tough card. Type A memory cards are slightly smaller and more compact than Type B cards. Moreover, its read/write speed is comparatively slower than Type B memory cards. However, this doesn’t mean that its performance is subpar. It provides a decent 700MB/s to 800MB/s speed that will carry you through photography or videography sessions.

Specifications:

  • Card Type: CFExpress Type A
  • Storage capacity: 80GB and 160GB only
  • Read/Write speeds: 700MB/s to 800MB/s
  • Ideal for: Professional photography/videography

Pros:

  • Compact size
  • Decent speeds

Cons:

  • Limited compatibility
  • Expensive per gigabyte

The Best Memory Cards – CFast

SanDisk Extreme Pro CFast 2.0

SanDisk ExtremeCommonly utilized for professional videography, the CFast memory card has one of the most limited usability because this card is only used for Hasselblad H6D-100C and Canon EOS 1-D X Mark II. The SanDisk Extreme Pro CFast memory card offers lightning read/write speeds from 400MB/s to 512MB/s.

Specifications:

  • Card type: CFast
  • Storage Capacity: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
  • Read/Write speeds: 430MB/s to 525MB/s
  • Ideal for: High-speed action and 4K videography

Pros:

  • Reliable and durable build
  • High-speed performance

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Limited camera compatibility

Lexar 64GB 3500x CFast 2.0

Lexar Pro 1Are you looking for a more affordable option that can cater to 4K videography demands? The Lexar CFast 2.0 alternative is an excellent selection to work with. Aside from solving your 4K video dilemma, it can also help you store RAW photos and ProRes videos. Its read/write speeds range from 440MB/s to 520MB/s.

Specifications:

  • Card Type: CFExpress
  • Storage capacity: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB
  • Read/Write speeds: 440MB/s to 520MB/s
  • Ideal for: Professional photography and videography

Pros:

  • Considerably priced
  • It comes with a limited lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • It may be expensive for hobbyists and aspiring pros

Despite the overwhelming variety of memory cards available, your camera manufacturer will always be a reference point for which format to choose. Beyond that, the best memory cards will be those that best suit your needs, which may vary depending on the genre of photography you shoot. Wedding photographers will potentially capture thousands more images per session than a family photographer, for example, and will require more memory and faster speeds from their cards. Knowing your needs will give you a criteria for budget, storage capacity, and performance speed.

We hope that this list helps you with your search for the best memory cards. If you have a top pick that didn’t make a list, let us know in the comments below.