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.