What to look for in an SD card in 2022
Whether you’re a casual hobbyist, vlogger, or professional photographer, you need a reliable memory card in your camera. But with all the ratings, numbers, and speed ratings, it’s hard to tell what’s right from what’s okay.
When purchasing an SD or microSD card for your camera, speed ratings are especially important. They will let you know how fast your camera can write data to the card, how many files it can take, and how fast it can shoot. There are four speed ratings to consider when purchasing an SD card: read/write speed, speed class, UHS speed class, and video speed class.
Read/write speeds are probably the easiest to find in an SD card package. “Read” speed is how fast the card can transfer data to your computer when you plug it in, while “Write” speed is how fast the card can record data when taking photos and recording videos. Pay attention to the write speed – it will determine how fast you can take still images in quick bursts and the quality of video you can record to the card without delay.
For casual photographers, a minimum of 30MB/s should be fine. If you’re shooting fast action or 4K video, you’ll want a card with a write speed of at least 90MB/s. Some of the cards on this list get write speeds of over 200MB/s.
The speed class of an SD card will be displayed on the front of the card in a circle, and it will be a number between 2 and 10. The speed class is the minimum speed in MB/s at which a card can transfer data . Class 10 (10 MB/s) is the fastest as of this writing.
However, the UHS speed class is different and will be displayed as a number within a symbol that resembles the letter “U”. UHS stands for Ultra High Speed, a data transfer standard used by SD cards. U1 has a minimum speed of 10 MB/s, while U3 has a minimum speed of 30 MB/s. U3 cards get their higher speed from additional pins that allow them to send larger amounts of data at once.
The video speed class is displayed as a number next to the letter V. As of this writing, SD card video speed classes include V6, V10, V30, V60, and V90, with V90 being the fastest . V6 will let you shoot standard definition video, while you’ll want to look to a V90 card for heavier formats like 4K and 8K video.
Another factor to consider is durability. Many manufacturers make their cards resistant to dust, moisture, X-rays, and more to help protect your data in a variety of conditions. Cheaper memory cards are likely to be easier to fit and offer less protection than more expensive options. This won’t be something most photographers have to worry about, but if you’re a photojournalist shooting in rough terrain, you may want to invest in a sturdier card.
Counterfeit SD cards can be a big problem, especially since they can look so much like the real thing online. A listing might say it’s for a 64GB card, and an 8GB will show up instead. If you’re buying through Amazon or another trusted retailer, avoid third-party sellers. All of our recommendations will be from reputable stores, but make sure the retailer carries them themselves before you buy.
With those parameters in mind, let’s move on to this list of some of the best camera SD cards on the market right now.
- ✓ The highest speed ratings you can get on an SD card
- ✓ It can be used for professional work.
- ✓ Built to withstand the harshest conditions
- ✓ Backwards compatible with cameras designed for UHS-I cards
- ✗ Could be built stronger
The Lexar Professional 2000x SDXC UHS-II offers faster performance than comparable competitive cards for less money. Lexar is a trusted brand in digital memory, so you can be sure you’re getting the most for your investment.
You can get the 64GB size for less than $100, and it’s fast. A U3, UHS-II, and V90 rating along with a high projected write speed mean this card is fast enough for professional photo and video work.
Lexar Professional cards don’t have a metal casing, but are designed to withstand some harsh conditions, including temperatures as low as -13, according to the company. However, if something does happen, the cards are covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
The 64GB size offers enough memory that you won’t have to change it very often, unless you shoot a lot of 8K video. But if you think you’ll need additional memory, these SD cards come in capacities up to 256GB.
If you are just starting out in professional photography or videography, this card will meet all your needs.
- ✓ Great performance for the money
- ✓ Decent amount of built-in protection
- ✗ Only go up to 64GB capacity
The Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3 card gives you performance comparable to SanDisk and Lexar for a great price – around $50 for the 64GB size. If you need speed but your budget is tight, this card is worth a look.
Top speed ratings and a respectable 180MB/s write speed make this a solid card for someone just starting out who needs fast memory. The Transcend card also has most of the protections you’d expect from a good built-in memory card, including static and shock protection.
This SD card isn’t the most rugged form factor, but for the price, it’s hard to beat.
The best budget SD card for cameras
- ✓ Offers decent performance without breaking the bank
- ✓ Handles 1080p footage and slower burst shots
- ✓ Good for photographers just learning the ropes.
- ✗ Not as fast as newer, more expensive options
- ✗ Can’t handle higher quality formats like 4K or 8K very well
Trusted by photographers for years, the SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-I Card may not be the fastest or highest capacity memory card, but it’s a solid all-rounder for beginning or enthusiast photographers.
The UHS-I rating may put some people off as it will write slower than UHS-II rated cards: a minimum of 10 MB/s vs. 30 MB/s. But it will work just fine if you’re using an older camera that isn’t designed for UHS-II, like the Nikon D750.
A V30 video speed means you can record 1080p HD footage without a hitch, though 4K may give you a bit of lag. Moderate burst shooting should also be fine with a real-world write speed of around 84.5MB/s, according to the Wirecutter benchmark.
Honestly, you really can’t beat this reliable level of performance for under $25.
The best SD card for cameras under $25
- ✓ Lots and lots of storage
- ✓ Decent speed rates for photos and videos.
- ✗ not the fastest
- ✗ More expensive than faster UHS-II cards with less capacity
Another entry from SanDisk, the 1TB Extreme PRO UHS-I SDXC Card is a high-capacity card from a reputable manufacturer. It has a slower write speed than UHS-II, but will still be reliable for less demanding work.
Basically, this is the 1TB version of SanDisk’s 64GB Extreme Pro card. The speed ratings are all the same and can be used on any camera that supports SD UHS-I cards. It’ll cost you more money than an external hard drive, but the portability an SD card offers might be worth it if you know you’ll need that much space.
4K video recording can be done on this card as there is more room for the bulky RAW video files it would create, but it could still lag due to the slower write speed. If you’re shooting video, you’ll want to stick to 1080p to record with minimal slowdown.
If you’re looking for something that you know will fit all your vacation photos and videos, this SanDisk card that comes with the same amount of memory as some computer hard drives is worth considering.
Best High Capacity SD Card for Cameras
- ✓ Impressive speed ratings for a micro SD card
- ✓ good value for the price
- ✓ Includes SD adapter and USB reader
- ✗ Not for people who need a full SD card
- ✗ A smaller size can make it easier to lose
Kingston’s 128GB Canvas React Plus microSDXC gives you good performance in a (very) small package with decently high storage capacity. If you’re into drone photography and videography, this card is likely to become a staple in your kit.
Its UHS-II and V90 speed class ratings mean it can handle heavier work, so recording 4K and even 8K video shouldn’t be a problem. This makes Canvas React Plus a good choice for content creators who need to produce a lot of high-quality video with devices that accept microSD cards.
The included SD card adapter allows you to use this card on a larger camera like a DSLR, but it will probably get the most out of drones and action cameras.
The card also comes with a USB adapter that allows you to connect to your computer to download images and videos. Older USB connections may be slower to read files, but reviewers say this card is quite fast on newer USB 3 and 3.1 ports when used with the included reader.
The best Micro SD card for cameras