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Gear & Apps

Extreme SD Card Showdown | What’s In Your SD-Card Wallet?

By Kishore Sawh on March 7th 2015

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Regardless if you’re a Canon shooter, a Nikon shooter, or anything in-between, or you’re using a $100 point and shoot or a $3000 DSLR, in all likelihood Secure Digital (SD) flash memory cards are going to be what you use to record and store your images. Out of everything in your camera bag, they may be the most overlooked pieces of kit, and typically the place where photographers like to ‘save’ money. Though I don’t really understand this mindset of being cheap with the very thing that all other gear works to create, the world of SD cards is about as sexy as beige paint, and they all look the same. There are hundreds of options, and that makes it easy to just reach for whatever is cheapest and in arms reach. But does it matter?

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The most important considerations of SD cards are typically their reliability and data transfer rates in both read and write. Reliability is a tough one to measure, but read/write speeds are printed right there on the card itself, so it should be simple to tell, no? Not quite. As with so much in life, what we’re sold isn’t exactly what we get, and LinusTechTips has done an SD card comparison to see how real life performance of various cards compare to each other, using a Canon 6D and Panasonic GH4.

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[REWIND: HOW TO REALLY FORMAT SD CARDS FOR OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE]

Using each memory card, 30 RAW images were shot using the burst mode of the camera, and using a microphone, each shutter actuation was recoded which gave an actual visualization of the recordings and times. Especially noteworthy is once the camera’s buffer had been maxed out. If you’re thinking that a big brand like Sony would put out the best performing cards, according to this test, you’re as off the mark as they are. Sandisk Extreme came out on top with the most accurate recording times in correlation to the advertised speeds.

Check out the video for a more specific breakdown to see how your cards stack up, and if maybe you should consider changing.

Source: Resource Magazine, images are screen captures from featured video

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Marc Weisberg

    Great video interesting results. Does anyone know who makes that SD case shown near the end of the video? Need one.

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  2. Vince Arredondo

    Very informative!

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  3. Benjamin Bettenhausen

    Thank you for the very informative, helpful, and well organized review of SD cards. My only suggestion for improvement would be regarding the 4K video footage segment. Simply put, your test footage was so simple (a slow pan with shallow focus) that it didn’t stress the video codec. If you looked at the file size of those 4K clips and divided each by their total time I would guess that they’d average about 70Mbps, which is well below the 100Mbps limit. I would guess that the 1080p clips would average well below their 200Mbps limit too. So if you’re shooting simple footage like interviews then you don’t need a fast card. If you’re shooting action scenes with everything in focus then I would recommend going with the fastest card available. My $0.02

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  4. Barry Cunningham

    Very annoying video. Too much goofing off and ads; too quick over the useful information it did include.

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    • Drew Valadez

      This guy does computer parts reviews and has recently been getting into other fields. He is one of the more recognizable faces in it it, next to TekSyndicate, who personally drives me insane.

      If you watch a lot of tech review videos, you will realize a lot of them tend to be this way. It does make it not stale too with useless jargon that you can read on the side of the box or look up on a specs sheet.

      DSLR reviews tend to be a more serious tone in video reviews. These guys are just DigitalRev of the computer gear world.

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  5. Matthew Saville

    The fact of the matter is, most companies flat-out lie about, or at least prominently distract from, the actual speed of the memory card.

    Companies always hype up the read speed of the card, which is (as this video points out) almost irrelevant while actually shooting. It’s the WRITE speed (the speed with which you can write TO the card) that matters, when clearing a camera’s buffer etc.

    Lexar and Transcend seem to be bigger culprits, often, I’ve seen cards that are touted as ~90 MB/s (read) but in the fine print you find out that they can barely sustain 15-30 MB/s write.

    Again, as this video accurately points out, this may not be an issue for video but shooting high-megapixel stills is another issue altogether. And if you think a 20 MP, ~4 FPS camera is a tough test, try a 24-36 MP test at 6-7 FPS!

    When shooting speed is important, I only ever trust Sandisk’s fastest cards, the 95 MB/s ones. As you can see in one of the charts, its write speed rates almost as high as its read speed, which is very rare.

    =Matt=

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    • robert garfinkle

      You are right about write – :)

      Marketing is very shoddy, deceptive, I won’t peg the computer industry for being unique, every industry does it… Play up the big numbers (95mb/sec), and hide or minimize the small numbers (30mb/sec)… like gasoline, BIG CARWASH PRICE / small without carwash price…

      Notorious, are the SSDs for computers. yet if you look at the specs, look for the difference between read / write. I have passed up 750mbps SSDs, as their write speeds are usually reporting 350mbps (won’t go faster than the lowest number…), yet Intel, Samsung, and a couple of Crucial SSDs depict a 540 read / 520 write – very closely matched, evenly distributed…

      Yup, Sandisk Extreme Pro for sure – it’s big bucks, but you get what you pay for, big performance…

      and go the distance, rely on actual benchmarks (1st), and user reviews (2nd)…

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  6. Stephen Jennings

    I never noticed a big difference with read/write with other cameras I’ve used.. until i got the D800. That beastie requires some fast cards. I use the Sandisk pictured in the article in 32g version.. 32g fits about 400ish images at full resolution 14bit. Lexar CF card is 155mb/s write and cost an arm and a leg. And first born. And your cat too. But the prices on cards drop pretty fast after a year or so it seems..

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  7. robert garfinkle

    Simple math here – whatever the throughput is of your camera – honor it… don’t compromise… nothing “sucks” more than hitting a false buffer because your camera cannot offload the images fast enough to the card…

    Another thing, out of experience, be aware of the throughput rates for different file types / formats – just cause your camera can do “top” speeds, it may not be for all formats, especially raw…

    also, it may be worth looking into getting a card reader can honor the read speed of the card – I thought I was set, had a card that met / exceeded the specs of the camera, yet when I went to transfer the images to my pc with my pc’s built in card reader it was sup par – took forever it seemed…

    the other side of the coin, get enough cards where it does not matter what the card reader throughput is, of your pc… then it’s never a problem, unless you need to process the images immediately after you shot them…

    buy right — both Adorama / BH Photo most likely have the cards you need, yet their prices may be not what you are willing to pay, especially if you are buying more than one – but, you can call them, and it never hurts to ask for either a price match or a discount that may be acceptable – if you have history with them, they may honor a good price…

    as for MFR, well, some people say it does not matter, I beg to differ, I buy Sandisk Extreme Pro’s – yet some don’t buy em, claim they are junk, I have never had a problem, I have one SDXC card and also a couple CF’s

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  8. Jeremy Nielsen

    Is there a high res version of this chart somewhere? It’s difficult to read (i am on a computer)

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