Choose Your Memory Card (And Keep It)

All the photographers have one day asked themselves the question of the memory card they had to choose: what capacity, what speed, what brand, … Especially since the prices vary from 10 € to several hundreds, and the hieroglyphs inscribed on The cards do not help you at all in your choice. I will help you to choose well, this article being the Rosetta stone of the memory cards!

So I’ll start by helping you in the most important: choice. You will even have summary tables, which you will be able to download in the form of a pdf at the end of the article, to take to stores if needed. But after choosing, I will also give you some tips to keep your memory cards long, make good use of them and not lose your photos. Because making a smart purchase is

Choose Your Memory Card (And Keep It) 1

good, but making a happy purchase is better!

Choosing your memory card

The format

According to percomputer, there are mainly 2 types of cards used on cameras: CF (Compact Flash) and SD (Secure Digital).

The CF cards are the most rapid and efficient, although a bit cumbersome. They are mostly used on high-end and pro SLRs, due to their performance still clearly above the SD (although the gap is tending to narrow).

The SD cards are smaller, but less efficient than CF cards Only very high-end cards can get closer to the CF. These are by far the most widespread, especially for their compactness. They are present in all compacts, bridges, hybrids and reflex input / mid range. You will see SDHC and SDXC, which are signs of capacity: SD for a capacity less than or equal to 2GB, SDHC for a capacity between 4 and 32GB, and SDXC for more than 32GB.

It was worth specifying, but in any case the card format depends on your camera, so on that you will not have much choice.

The capacity

This is the first question that arises when choosing a card: what capacity to choose it so as not to be too limited in number of photos, without spending more money than necessary?

It will of course depend on the size of the files produced by your camera, but also of your use: how many photos do you take, and do you have the ability to copy the photos on your computer regularly?

So, in concert I do not necessarily need such big memory cards, because even if my housings produce relatively large files (a little less than 30MB for the 5D Mk III), I do not make 1000 pictures during a Concert (fortunately), and when I arrive at the next concert I of course had time to copy my pictures on my computer. The situation will be quite different when traveling of course.

I gave you a small table summarizing the number of files that can be saved on your memory card according to the size of the sensor. Be careful, this is only an indication, because the size of the files varies according to the devices (even with equal sensor size), and also according to the images. It’s just to give you an idea.

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Reading and writing speeds (and classes)

As much for the capacity you generally manage to choose quite easily, but for the speed it is more complicated, because the prices can vary from the simple to the triple according to the speed, and in addition it is in this area that the manufacturers have decided To write in a totally cryptic way. Pierre de Rosette, then.

There are 2 things to consider:

  • The playback speed, which influences the speed at which the files will be copied to your computer. It can be quite important, but it’s not dramatic if your files take 15 minutes to copy: you can always do something else in the meantime.
  • The writing speed, which influences the speed of recording images on the card. It will be very important in burst mode and video.

The indications on the cards refer to the writing speed, but in several different ways:

  • The simplest is to express the speed index in MB / s, for example 30 MB / s or 60 MB / s. For example, if your RAW file is 30 MB, a card with a bitrate of 30 Mo / s can record one per second, and so on. It’s pretty intuitive.
    Expressed thus, it is the maximum speed that is given. It is important to say this because this flow rate may also be lower. In practice, the observed rate is relatively close to the maximum recording speed of photos.
  • An equivalent to this index in Mo / s is the speed expressed in “x”. It is the same thing, knowing that 1 X = 0.15 Mo / s. Below is a table of conversion between the two
Speed (MB / s) thirty 40 45 60 90 120 150
Rate (X) 200 266 300 400 600 800 1000

A last hieroglyph is present on SD cards only, it is the class, which is in the form of a circled number. It indicates the minimum flow (and not maximum like the 2 previous ones), in the worst possible situations.
A Class 2 card corresponds to a minimum throughput of 2MB / s, and a Class 10 card at a minimal rate of 10MB / s. This measure is most relevant for recording videos.
Note that recently came the technology called “UHS-1”, and with it a new symbol (as if there were not enough like that!). You will simply have a number either in a circle, but in a U. For now, there is only one UHS-1 class, as fast as a class 10 class. The difference is that the technology is not the same, and therefore some devices will not know how to use it. Check in your manual!

That said, the speed displayed is theoretical, and it is useful to know what the actual flows are. You can find out for a good number of Canon and Nikon SLRs on Rob Galbraith’s website. This is in English, but just select your camera in the list at the top, and you will see the cards models sorted by actual writing speed. A very useful tool to choose the best card available for your device.

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Concretely, how to choose?

There I imagine you have understood the different hieroglyphics, but you are still wondering what is the right speed for you.

First of all, you should know that devices are limited in writing speed, so there is no point in taking a very high-end card that writes to 90 MB / s if your device can not reach This flow rate. Here, it’s actually common sense: the more you have a high-end case with fast bursts and heavy RAW files, the more you need to take a quick card.

In a very indicative way, here is my advice:

  • For acompact or a bridge, a class 4 card should suffice widely.
  • For amid-range SLR or hybrid, a Class 6 card will suffice.
  • For a high-end DSLR and for video, take a class 10. Knowing that most high-end DSLR cameras have CF cards. In this case, do not skimp if you use the burst and / or the video: you have not spent 1000 or 2000 € in a device to grab 30 € on a memory card, it’s ridiculous. Take a good card.
    If you do not use the burst, you can afford to take a small step below it, but also not a rotten entry-level card.

The brand

The two best brands on the market are Lexar and Sandisk, without a doubt. They are both the fastest and the most reliable. They really offer a wide range, from entry-level cards for compacts, to extremely fast CF cards for multi-hundred-euro DSLRs.

As you will necessarily find your happiness in one of these 2 brands, I do not really see any reason to look for maps elsewhere. If you insist, take Kingston or Transcend to the limit, but do not pity ” no name ” cards (with some exotic marks or that of the store). The risk may be low, but the day you lose your photos because the card buggera, you will regret saving 5 or 10 € 2 years ago

Maintain and use memory cards

Good practices

There are several good practices to adopt with memory cards. It may seem obvious to some, but I know it is a useful reminder.

  • Do not put all your eggs in the same basket
    It is safer to have several “small” memory cards than one gigantic card. So, if it ever has a concern, you do not lose all your photos, but only a part.
    Do not go in the extreme by taking only 4 GB cards if you have to change every 30 minutes, and miss some good moments to photograph because of that. Again, it all depends on your practice
  • Take care of your card
    It seems obvious, but avoid exposing it to dust, liquids (like the Gremlins: D), and do not put your fat fingers in contact with the electrical parts (the golden contacts you see on The photo opposite).
  • Format the card in the device
    There are plenty of ways to empty a map of its images, but only one is the right one: format it in the device. Do not erase the pictures on the camera one by one, or on the computer, and do not format the card on the computer either.
    Do this also if the card is new before its 1st use, and if you change it from another device (especially a different brand).
  • A little patience
    Do not remove the card without turning the camera off first. Do not remove the battery without turning off the power.
    As long as the small red light flashes, it means that the device writes to the memory card. The power must not be turned off before this writing is complete. Fortunately the devices have a security device that prevents them from shutting down if they are recording an image. On the other hand, if you remove the battery or the card, it is sayonara!

Do not worry too much: the cards are relatively strong, and you should not have a problem. It can always happen, but it’s rare. That said…

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In case of problem

  • First, to avoid losing pictures (which is often much more serious than losing the value of the card in euros), you have to back up your images. So as soon as you go home, copy the images to the hard drive. If the card makes the soul, you will have the majority of your images, which will not be the case if you do it every 3 months …
    Think also not format the card if you do not need it: if Never your hard drive makes the soul, you will have at least all the photos that are on it.
    Oh, and by the way, never work your images directly on the memory card, it could shorten its life.
  • If the card falls into the water
    DO NOT PANIC!Surprisingly, it is quite possible that it survives. Dry it superficially with a soft cloth, and let it dry in the open (not on a radiator). When it is completely dry (wait 1 or 2 days to be completely sure), try to read it, chances are it works.
  • If you erase images accidentally / if there is an error message
    If you are worried about losing pictures, stop everything and remove the card from the camera. Do not make any more photos with, at the risk of writing “over” the lost images (which may not be totally erased). You may still be able to save your photos with data recovery software. Sandisk offers one, and I havesuccessfullyused the Recuva software to retrieve data on my hard drive, so I guess it must work well also for memory cards.

As promised, to download the memory card memo with the 2 tables of the article, you only have to put your first name and your mail below to subscribe to the newsletter. If you are already registered in the newsletter, the link is in the email you received about this article.

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