In any photographer’s workflow, one of the most important things is how you handle your image files. Memory cards, hard drives, external storage, cloud storage…there’s a lot to think about!

We always place a heavy emphasis on redundancy and backing up images, but we shouldn’t overlook the one BIG step in between capture and storage/backup: how we transfer our images from our camera to our computer! This step can impact the safety of our memory cards and the image files themselves, not to mention how much time we spend performing the task of downloading.

Luckily, transferring images is now easier, faster, and more secure than it was in the early days of digital photography, thanks to the wide variety of memory card readers available. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional photographer, don’t underestimate the importance of this indispensable piece of gear!

Choosing the best memory card reader for your workflow deserves serious consideration, and, to help you out, we’ve looked at a wide array of features on five current memory card readers. In this article, we’ll list our favorites, based on factors including transfer speed, compatibility, build quality, and other areas to help you make an informed purchase.

ProGrade Digital CFExpress Type B and SD Card Reader

ProGrade CFExpress Type BFor professional photographers who utilize both SD and CFExpress card formats, the ProGrade Digital CFExpress Type B and SD Card Reader is a great option. This memory card reader can accommodate most modern mirrorless and DSLR cameras, and it features incredibly fast transfer speeds up to 1.25GB/s (10Gb/s) from both cards simultaneously.

In fact, this is one of the fastest card readers we’ve worked with, especially when using faster cards (and the appropriate cable). Finally, the included 2-year warranty also lends a lot of credence to the build quality of this card reader.

Specifications:

  • Supports card type: UHS-I and UHS-II SD, SDHC, SDXC, CFExpress Type B
  • Connection type: USB Type-C and Type-A
  • USB Speed: USB 3.2 Gen 2

Pros:

  • Fast read/write speeds
  • Compatible for both SD and CFExpress card formats
  • High-quality build
  • Comes with a USB Type-C connector and USB Type-A cable

Cons:

  • Relatively pricey
  • Doesn’t support XQD card format (Some Nikon cameras)
  • USB 3.2 connection can occasionally bottleneck transfer speed

[Related: Prograde SD Card & Refresh Pro Software Review]

SanDisk ImageMate Pro Multi-Card Reader

SanDisk Image ProIf you have a variety of memory cards with different formats, you’ll need a memory card reader that can provide plenty of versatility and functions. The good news is that the SanDisk ImageMate Pro Multi-Card Reader is a great all-around card reader to help you out.

While that alone may qualify it as the best memory card reader for you, its size might matter. One important consideration for those on the go is that this card reader falls on the bulkier side. For that reason, we’d more likely recommend it for desktop use.

Specifications:

  • Card types supported: UHS-I and UHS-II SD, SDHC, SDXC, microSDHC, microSDXC, and CompactFlash
  • USB speed: USB 3.1 Gen. 1
  • Connection type: USB Type – A

Pros:

  • Reliable read/write speeds for UHS-I and II SD Cards
  • Comes with a detachable USB Type-A Cord
  • Comparatively more affordable than other options on this list

Cons:

  • No USB 3.1 Gen. 2 or Type-C connection
  • Not ideal for mobile use

ProGrade Digital Thunderbolt 3 CFExpress and XQD Card Reader

Card Reader ProGrade CFExpress XQDWe’ve talked about finding the best memory card reader, but if you’re looking for the fastest, then you’ve found it. The ProGrade Digital Thunderbolt 3 CFExpress and XQD Card reader provides up to a whopping 5GB/s (40Gb/s) of data transfer speed, which is up to four times faster than USB 3.2 Gen 2. If your computer accepts USB-C inputs, then consider this memory card reader a must-have.

Just know, however, that as its name implies, this card reader requires a Thunderbolt 3 port.  You can find the same build quality and 2-year warranty as described in the ProGrade option that kicked off this list.

Specifications:

  • Supports card type: CFExpress Type B, XQD
  • Connection type: Thunderbolt 3
  • Dimensions (size): 98 mm. x 98 mm. x 24 mm.

Pros:

  • Fast read/write speeds
  • Ideal for Nikon Z 6 and Nikon Z 7 users
  • High-quality build for durability

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No USB connectivity

Kingston Workflow Station Dock

Kingston Work Dock Card ReaderAre you tired of having to deal with adapters or different cables when you have a whole stack of SD or micro SD cards to back up? Instead of tolerating such inconvenience, consider picking up the Kingston Workflow Station Dock.

This device is a USB-C modular docking station that can accommodate multiple USB-C or USB-A connections ,and numerous SD card readers. This option especially comes in handy when working with a large team (with photographers, videographers, drone operators, etc.).

Specifications:

  • Card types supported: SD, MicroSD
  • USB speed: USB 3.2 Gen 2
  • Connection Type: USB Type-C and USB Type-A

Pros:

  • Fast read/write speeds
  • Simultaneously access up to 8 SD cards

Cons:

  • Requires power source to operate
  • Quite expensive
  • Only SD/MicroSD compatible modules

Kingston Nucleum USB Type C Hub

Card Reader Kingston NucleumSome photographers travel all the time, or at least very often. They may also work outdoors more often, or on-location, even if getting on an airplane or checking into a hotel is not involved.

If you fit this description, then you know the importance of having all portable and lightweight devices. With newer MacBook Pro computers eliminating many ports and leaving only Thunderbolt (USB-C) connectivity, options quickly become limited! This is where the Kingston Nucleum USB Type C Hub comes in. This memory card reader includes seven ports (see the specs below) and is compatible with SDHC and SDXC SD and Micro SD cards.

Specifications:

  • Card types supported: UHS-I and UHS-II SD, SDHC, SDXC, microSDHC, microSDXC
  • USB speed: USB 3.1 Gen 1
  • 7 ports: USB-C connection, including USB 3.1 Type-C power pass through, USB 3.1 Type-C data transfer port, SD card slot, Micro SD card slot, USB 3.0/3.1 backwards compatible with USB 2.0, and 4K HDMI
  • Connection type: USB Type-C

Pros:

  • Portable and versatile
  • Durable, metallic build

Cons:

  • Transfer speeds may not be as fast as other options on the list

Conclusion

Before deciding which is the best memory card reader for you, always consider which memory cards you actually use, the transfer speeds you want, the connection compatibility for your devices, and the portability of the reader. By doing so, you can ensure you’ve selected the best card reader for your money.

We hope this compilation helps. Let us know if you have other picks that we missed by sharing them in the comments below and adding your personal experience with any of these card readers!