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Memory Cards and Card Readers: Everything You Need to Know

By Hanssie on August 5th 2015

Memory cards and card readers definitely are not the sexiest subjects to discuss in photography, but nonetheless, nearly every camera uses a memory card and I’d dare say that it is one of the MOST important items in your camera bag. Without a card, you have no images. Therefore, educating yourself on memory cards and knowing which one is right for you and for your camera is fairly important. What brands are the best? Does speed matter? Does it matter what type of card reader I buy? Should you format the card or erase all images?



In the beginning of my career, I would go to Costco, choose the memory card that was on sale at the moment and that’s the one I’d use. For a reader, I would do the same thing, but at Best Buy. I was told that Sandisk and Lexar were good, reputable, cards and so that was what I went with. Through the years, I’ve learned a bit more about memory cards and picked up some better cards through sales at B&H and Adorama, but I’ll admit I still have a lot to learn. The following video from B&H is one of the more through videos I’ve seen on the subject and will teach you everything you need to know (and perhaps not want to know) about memory cards and readers.

A word of warning, the presentation is quite long, so this almost hour long video might be good to run in the background while you’re editing, but by the end of it, you’ll definitely know all you ever wanted or needed to know about memory cards and readers. Photographer Jeff Cable, presents a ton of information, even showing a video on how memory cards are made. Since Jeff is the head of marketing at Lexar, all the cards are from his company, but the information can be used across the board. You’ll be well versed on the topic of memory cards, and know exactly what you need and what to look for when shopping for them.

How To Choose The Best Memory Card For Your Camera

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Terms: #Card Reader

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tom Blair

    Good info Short and to the point

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  2. Ralph Hightower

    I thought that flash storage had a limited write cycle. But Jeff Cable said that their cards have a lifetime warranty, so that flash technology must not be an issue anymore.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Flash cards absolutely do have a limited number of program/erase cycles. That varies by flash type: SLC, MLC, or TLC, which store one, two, or three bits per cell; two, four, or eight charge levels per cell.

      In practice, it’s hard to kill a memory card in regular use. All modern cards use write levelling to ensure writes are averaged across the whole card. A typical TLC card might have a 10,000 program/erase cycles typical. If you were to fill it every day, that’s over 27 years of use on average. You’ll probably stop using it out of speed or capacity concerns long before it wears out.

      This is more of a concern for SSD, being attached to a computer and all.

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  3. Max C

    Sandisk has worked very well so far without problems. I cannot afford to tryout another card because I have important stuff on them.

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  4. Peter Nord

    I have noticed that memory cards are faster than my D810. I put in the fastest CF I could find. Held the shutter down until the exposure capture rate slowed. Then I tried my older previous fastest card, no difference. So I find no reason to pay the extra for faster than my camera can handle. Both were Sandisk. I don’t have a lot of extra cards. I put the images on my computer, when all is backed up, reformat in camera. I only have had one card go bad in nearly 20 years. That was a Sandisk card. I gave them a call, got an RMA number, sent it back, and soon had a replacement card, no charge. Nice no questions asked warranty. They did request an email of the card’s serial number. I just do stills, your milage might vary with video.

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    • Justin Haugen

      The other reason for faster cards is faster read/write times on the computer. There is an appreciable difference in transfer speeds using a high speed card and a usb3.0 card reader.

      Also, have you tested your memory cards with jpeg or raw, or jpeg+raw? Jpegs will undoubtedly clear fast and you probably wouldn’t notice much difference between cards like you have experienced. But I’m making a best uneducated guess without reading up on the specs of the D810 for write speeds, that a high speed card will clear a buffer full of raws or raw+jpegs faster. What were the write speeds of your previous faster cards versus the newer faster cards you tried out?

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    • Peter Nord

      Justin, I used Sandisk Extreme Pro CF 90MB/s and 160MB/s 16GB cards. I just wanted to see if there was a difference in speed from start to when the buffer fills. I was just testing the way I shoot. I counted the number of frames when the capture rate slowed. I was only using the SD card for overflow. An easy thing you can do for the way you shoot.
      While I don’t remember how many frames, the number was about the same for both kinds of cards. I didn’t pay any attention on how fast the buffer cleared. Nor how fast my card reader could write to my computer. I don’t have any ten minute post deadlines. I’ll put a card in the computer and read my email. I’m still reading email when the card is finished.
      Read and write speed to my computer is not a roadblock. So I just discovered for the way I shoot the faster card didn’t offer any advantage. The slower card had the advantage of saving money. It just seemed an easy way to decide if newer cards were faster for me.
      When I started sixty years ago, I’d shoot NCAA bball with a dozen film holders for my SpeedGraphic, hurry off to the dark room, take a couple of wet prints to the news room, the sports guy would pick one, put it on the sending machine. If just a couple hours elapsed, I thought that was great. So maybe I’m easily satisfied now days.

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    • Justin Haugen

      Hey Peter, I found this article that had a pretty good rundown on card speeds and buffer clearing on your D810.

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  5. Graham Curran

    Thanks for the info.

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