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There’s A New SD Card Class | SD 5.0 VSC SD Is Faster & More Stable

By Kishore Sawh on March 2nd 2016

Memory cards present something of a paradox in photography, and arguably always have, and perhaps always will. The paradox arises because, on the one hand, every digital camera uses the ubiquitous little chips. Within photography forums, they can often be found smack in the middle of heated debates, whilst at the same time they are treated with a sort of disdain when it comes time to purchase. It’s curious, very curious, that for a majority of people, the main criteria they go by for purchase is size and price – that’s it.

Actually, what it is, is fascinating, because you’ll see someone go out and drop inches of cash on a new DSLR or mirrorless, spend eons looking into the lenses and lights, and then when it comes to the critical piece of hardware that stores the fruit of the labor, they care little. It would appear that many feel a memory card is a memory card is a memory card, but a little education and understanding would rectify that.


Of course, this doesn’t apply to you, our savvy, sexy Loungers. You are fully rounded photographers, with a degree from the university of photog-life, a diploma from the school of doing things right, and if you’re like me, three gold stars from the kindergarten of learning the hard way that not all memory cards are created equal.

Once you start to push your photography environments and boundaries, any photographer will begin to understand the high value that should be placed on memory cards; and before you get to that point, it’s worth your time to learn about the various types of cards, what all the signs and numbers on them mean, and how to format them properly. This base will have your digital photography life operating optimally.

I should interject here that I’m not simply speaking about catastrophic failure leading to data loss, but also card speed, and to that end, we should welcome the arrival of a new class of the ubiquitous SD card, the VSC SD (Video Speed Card SD).


That’s right, the SD Association, the consortium behind the cards that bear their name, have pulled back their tiny curtains and revealed this new faster speed class for SD cards. The new SD 5.0 cards feature the fastest speed class to date, and are meant to support 4k, 8k, 3D, and 360 video recording – and by default, extremely fast still shooting. As it now stands, the speeds will begin at 6MB per second (V6) and lead up to 90MB (V90).

Not only are the new cards faster, but the intention is to address and fix issues with previous standards, and all of which you can read in the company white paper here. The long and short of it was that the SD Association felt the current standards were self-limiting, and now with multi-file recording, specified block sizes and such, the limit bar is now raised. There’s a new protocol that accounts for NAND flash architecture which will enable the high transfer speeds.

Consumers will easily capture memories at their devices’ best quality by following device manufacturer recommendations and matching the Video Speed Class mark on their device to an SD memory card with the same Video Speed Class mark. The new marks will appear on SDHC and SDXC UHS-I and UHS-II memory cards.

The new Video Speed Class maintains the tradition of ensuring guaranteed minimum performance levels as the familiar Speed Class and UHS Speed Class systems do today. Minimum speeds will range from 6MB to 90 MB per second. The fastest options, V60 and V90, support 8K resolution, while V6, V10 and V30 capture high-definition and 4K resolution. All speed classes guarantee minimum video recording speeds to ensure smooth video playback, so actual recording performance may be even faster.

It’s the NAND way of using blocks of space that are providing much more speed, essentially because it appears that writing and erasing from fewer but larger blocks is quicker than numerous small blocks. If some of you are concerned that the cards will wear out quicker, apparently there are new flash controllers that support the level of algorithms required to limit the number of block erases, and extend the life of the card.



That’s from the manufacturer’s perspective, and from ours, the consumer, it means no lag, and on the high end, better quality video at 8k at up to 120 frames per second. We’re talking about approximately triple the current speeds. For all of you who are shooting Canon 5DRSs or A7Riis or D810s, this should be exciting. There’s no mention of stability, however, though I would still caution you all to format your cards using the SD Formatter.

At this time, there’s no release date, but it should be here ‘soon’. What do you think about this? Does it matter for most of you? Are many of you shooting at frame speeds and with cameras that would truly benefit from these new cards? We’d love to hear.

Sources: SD Association, Imaging Resource


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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. Dave Haynie

    So, in short, the Vspeed class thing is just a return to the (speed) class that’s been an SD tradition almost from the get-go. They presumably could have kept the UHS speed classes going, since the number there *10 is the minimum guaranteed continuous write speed, too.

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  2. robert garfinkle

    Must be common core math

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  3. robert garfinkle

    I’m a little confused. I own a D810. It is a UHS 1 device. Am I getting this correctly that my UHS 1 device is of no consequence, that the new cards can work with my device anyway??

    But, but I thought when I purchased a Sandisk Extreme 95mb card for my D810 that it’d suffice, yes? or is it a misnomer / lie that what I purchased does not really do what it states.

    Because according to the chart above, V90 is the fastest, yes? So what’s the benefit over what I have now?

    just asking…

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    • Kishore Sawh

      As far as I understand, the speed listed on your Extreme is the max write speed, where for V90 it is the minimum write speed

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    • Alex Petrenko

      UHS II cards work perfectly with D810 and greatly speed up the process of transfer if photos to computer. As far as I understand – V – mostly about marking, not changing electronics.

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    • Dave Haynie

      All UHS cards work with any old SD device, UHS devices work with pretty much any old card. However, if your camera is a UHS-I device, it will treat a UHS-II device exactly as a UHS-I device. It has to.. you need that second row of signals to support UHS-II transfer modes.

      Both UHS standards support a basic and a high-speed transfer mode. The basic UHS-I mode is 50MB/s, the high-speed mode is 104MB/s. So it may be possible that even a UHS-I device will see some performance increases going from, say, a V30 card to a V60 or V90 card. You may be seeing that today, in fact, since some SD cards specify best-case write performance as high as 250MB/s (fasted one I found) — that speed is only possible in high-speed UHS-II mode, but it bodes well for UHS-I operation as well.

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  4. Alex Petrenko

    For us, shooting mentioned cameras, cards with 95 MB speed is our every day life, not future standard ;)

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Yes this is something the SD Association didn’t dive into much, but it helps to know that those speeds listed are minimum and not maximum write speeds, which means there’s future-proofing to an extent and they’ll push hard.

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  5. Joao Coelho

    Will existing camera models benefit from these new speeds or only new models when released with the new SD certification?

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I have been trying to gain absolute clarity on this myself, but from what I have found existing cameras will not benefit, but I’m hearing conflicting info. I would contact the SD Association myself but I’ve reached out in the past and they’ve been….quiet. From what I can tell compatible devices arne’t out as yet. Just as it happened in 2009, it took a year for SDXC devices to come out.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Some existing cameras will support those speeds. The ratings are really just formalizing what already exists. The SD people didn’t have a way to spec anything faster than a guaranteed 30MB/s write, but any old card you buy today is probably going to tell you its benchmarked speed on writes and reads.

      Some cameras that support the UHS-I bus mode and any camera that supports the UHS-II bus interface (extra row of pins on the card) may be able to write fast enough to benefit from cards up to V90. I really mean “may”, because the UHS-I high speed mode runs at 104MB/s, the UHS-II standard mode runs at 156MB/s, and the UHS-II high speed mode runs at 312MB/s (UHS-I standard mode is 50MB/s). So the hardware can do the job. Does your camera’s image processor, file system management, etc run fast enough? Only way to know is to try it.

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    • Dave Haynie

      I took a quick look at a few existing, very fast SD UHS-II cards. The Lexar 2000x cards did not give any specifications on write speed… curious. The Sandisk Exteme Pro specify “up to 250MB/s writes”, which is certainly possible. But that’s a different measure.. the (speed), U(speed), and now V(speed) designations are all about sustained writes, as you’d demand for video. Manufacturers are happier to quote best case performance. But it’s quite likely that this class of card would pass the V90 certifications just fine, now that those specs exist.

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  6. Herm Tjioe

    Swish, nothing but net.

    Glad this is announced to allay the fears some have expressed when buying high end cameras with huge file size.

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