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Tuesday, 05 November 2019


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These "best" lists don't always work for me because I like to mix brands or types, for the sake of telling cards apart.

Is that weird?

I wouldn't have to if these tiny things were blank white and ready for Sharpie-ing, but they're not. Or if a particular card came in assorted colors. I'm not going to stick an adhesive label on something that gets popped in and out of my camera all the time, and relying on the case is risky.

Also, as disorganized as I am, and based on past experience, I have to consider capacity risk, i.e. "How many eggs per basket (card)?" I don't want so many cards that I can't keep track, but I don't want to keep everything I shoot on one card, even temporarily--just in case.

So, I narrow it down by specs, capacity, and current market economics, and then choose a card or cards that look nothing like the cards I already have or each other.

I have a bunch of Lexar 32GB 45MB/s cards from when I first bought my camera, and only one has gone bad in 3 years. I recently got a deal on some Lexar 95MB/s cards in 32, 64, and 128 GB size. So far so good. My thinking is that even if there is a gap between camera and card performance for stills only, I am unlikely to ever be in a situation where that's a problem. As for transferring from card to hard drive, I'm with Mike, I go make a tasty beverage while the computer does its thing.

As for losing cards, I have a great little storage thingie, similar to this. https://www.amazon.ca/Slots-Memory-Plastic-Tronixpro-Microfiber/dp/B00UNQT714

I'm no videographer (I could probably pull off the Zapruder film, in a pinch), so I don't need the large-capacity cards, either. The UHS-II cards are very nice for cameras that have that capability, however, and I like to come back to the computer and not spend a lot of time downloading and backing up 300+ images from a busy event, like the People's Vote march the other week. I second your choice of the SanDisk Extreme Pro 32MB 95MB/s cards - those really hit the sweet spot for a Nikon D750 and the like.

But I don't buy either of them from Amazon, for the same reason that I don't eat that sandwich I found on the bus. Too many times, I've had to relay the sad news to another photographer that the SanDisk with the tan tab they bought on Amazon (or Ebay, more often) was a counterfeit, and that may be why their images have been eaten by snakes. I stick to my local camera store (Glazer's) or B&H (which has the SanDisk card for under $13, by the way).

I have shot well over 100,000 images on 5 different digital cameras and only once has an image been corrupted. Only ONE image that's it. And that was done by the camera, a Nikon D5100.

My problem is with the cheap write protect switch on all SD cards. On all my Nikon DX cameras (3) I have had problems with the little stupid switch getting stuck. It is a useless switch and should be removed. Nikon cameras allow you to write protect an image so why bother with a little cheap switch?

PS: I also use only 32GB SD cards. I have purchased many of them because I fear the manufactures may stop making the smaller capacity SD cards.

Like most technology, you pay a premium for the leading edge, so unless you really need it , one or two levels back offer the best deals.
I use 64 or 128 gb cards.
Mike , you do know you don’t have to “fill them up” right? ;-))
And there is no downside to having extra capacity - just in case.

In practice my cards can only be in one of 3 places: in the camera, in the ‘cards in process’ box next to the computer, or formatted and back in the wallet. I use cards large enough so that they rarely have to be changed on a shoot. Just an old habit that I’ve kept up.

As an old film guy, who used to change rolls after every 36 shots and never found that to be much of a handicap, I kinda have to laugh at the "still photographers" who complain about battery life and card size, when we're usually talking about hundreds of photos. I mean, I do believe I could change either a battery or a card in any camera I have in less than, say, five seconds? And I don't really think of that as an inconvenience as much as as I think of it as "having backups."

(I do understand that some specialty photographers and videographers do need bigger cards and batteries.)

That comment I just sent was meant (somewhat obviously) for the enlarger post. I guess I goofed and clicked the wrong link. Could you please put it where it belongs?

[I can't, actually. It's one of the things I can't fix from here. But I'll send you the text back and you can post it in the right spot. --Mike]

I actually *like* the fact that standard Compact Flash cards are sized for human fingers, because I can easily find them when they're loose in a pocket or in a camera bag. SD cards are just too darned small! Drop one in the grass and just try to find it. One of the reasons I keep using Canon D-SLR's is for the easily handled CF cards they use, even if it means a separate card reader at home. The petite size of Fuji's X bodies is wonderful, but their little SD cards are a vote against.
I also completely concur regarding card capacity. I have a few 128 gig Compact Flash and SD cards, but I never come close to filling them. 200 exposures is an extended shoot for me. I'd much rather spend time carefully considering composition and exposure up front than slogging through hundreds of similar exposures at the editing stage.

A 16GB card provides over 800 RAW images on a 24mp camera. The 16GB card used to be a nice price/performance point. Now that's the 32GB card. I use the same one you suggest, and it probably won't be long until the 64GB costs what the 32GB does.

Ah well, I wish cameras had 128GB or 256GB built-in memory like you can get with an iPhone, and a single memory card slot for overflow or back up. I could live without memory cards.

"—those are video cards."

Well, no, they are not. They are general purpose SD flash cards, suitable for any purposes. Because they read and write fast, they are well suited for video.

It appears that you, like so many others, may be mislead by the speeds on the front of the cards. That 95 MB/s on the label is the read speed. The V30 on the label indicates the minimum write speed, in this case, 30 MB/sec.

"What, I'm so special I need better?"

You have answered your own question. But what about the rest of us?

You have a fairly narrow range of things you photograph, situations in which you photograph and ways you do so.

I'm a still photographer who shoots amateur quality video on occasion, mostly occasions when the subject cries out for something more than a still shot.

And yet, I shoot focus brackets of deep subjects, and I shoot burst brackets of moving things like birds. Depending on the camera, it's write speed capability and the size of its buffer, a faster card can make a big difference.

Shooting with my E-M5 II bodies, focus brackets would bog down part way through. Faster cards fixed that.

"I recommend 32's, as I don't like cards that are too large—they take too long to fill up."

Huh? I don't understand. My ideal card size might be 1 TB. When shooting other than very casually, I download the day's images every night. When on the road, as I was for the last seven weeks, I then back those up every night to a portable drive kept in separate luggage from cameras/cards and computer.*

All that a smaller card means is that I have to carry more cards and will occasionally need to switch cards in the field, perhaps in the middle of something important to me.

The only way I've ever lost a card was to such an occasion. Shooting a dance festival out in the middle of nowhere on a grassy field in Bhutan, a card filled up. I switched, put the full card somewhere safe, and never saw it again.

Fortunately, I only lost a few, relatively unimportant shots, but with a bigger card, no loss. Of course, it's my own fault, for not paying attention to the nunber of shots remaining when setting out in the morning, but with a larger card . . .

Like John Krill, I can't remember ever losing an image to corruption on any flash card, and I'm out at ~150k shots. Unlike him, though, I never touch the write protect switches, so have had no trouble from them.

* BTW, really fast read speeds make downloading after a long day ever so much easier.

First of all: I couldn't agree more. People seem to buy from a Top 10 list without thinking about how the list was compiled and whether their own requirements are matched. Makes me wonder how people vote...

On John Krill (write protect switch): it's funny because people seem to scream bloody murder because the Z series XQD cards don't have the switch :-)

Archival storage on any flash-memory media isn't archival. Memory cards, SSDs, and USB thumb drives all use flash memory. The transistors in these memories gradually lose their charge (your data). Persistence depends on several factors, including the number of bits per cell (SLC is best, MLC is worse, TLC is the worst), the transistor size, and the storage conditions (heat and electromagnetic fields are bad).

Newer media are generally worse because their transistors are smaller and therefore store fewer electrons per bit. Exception: 3D-stacked flash memory may have larger transistors than 2D flash memory. But these specs may be hard to find.

Bottom line: I wouldn't trust any flash media to reliably store important data for more than five years. If you're lucky, the data may still be readable after 10 years or more. Just don't count on it.

One other point:
Make sure you get full size cards, not the micro cards with the adapter. I don't know if it is just a Canon thing, but Canon cameras do not like micro cards with adapters. They work fine for a while, but then flake out at the worst time.

This comes up all the time on the Canon Support boards.

Matt said: "It won't work for all shooters, but I think I can see the day coming where we put the card in the camera and never format or delete anything; when it fills up, just buy another one".
That day came a long time ago for me. When a card is full I just put a new one in. Cards are cheap. Label and store the full ones and you have another backup.

I like your World's Most Okayest Card. It's similar to our china cabinet classification: Good China, Better China, More-Better China.

With nest regards,


Before last week I hadn't thought about cards in a long time. The ones I have work and I carry several so why complicate life? Then I read an interview at PetaPixel with Canon’s Senior Technical Specialist Drew MacCallum where they talked about memory cards for the upcoming 1Dx Mk III.

Some argue that SD is capable of incredible speeds, but Canon says they are looking to the future, at what is perhaps out of sight now but coming sooner than you would expect.

“CFExpress is over two times faster than CFast. That’s number one, paramount, is speed,” says MacCallum. And CFast is already significantly faster than even the fastest SD cards. “When you see what the requirements of the cameras are moving forward for the buffer speeds and video capabilities and stuff like that, you’re going to need as much of a card as possible.”

I'm especially interested in the part of the future that is "out of sight now".

About 300 RAW format shots on a card is just right for me. I just don't want to deal with any more. That means a 16GB card for the 24MP camera, and an 8GB one for the 14.6MP camera.

I have at last found a use for the second card slot in the 24MP camera. I'll just leave a card in there so that next time I go out without putting the card back in the camera, I'll still be able to take photos. Not like last week, when I made a 40 mile round trip for nothing.

The 14.6MP camera is older and there's no second slot. Perhaps I can make a pouch to fix to the neck strap, and always keep a card in it.

robert e. commented that he mixes card brands so that he can tell them apart. "I wouldn't have to if these tiny things were blank white and ready for Sharpie-ing, but they're not."

A suggestion: Use a silver metallic Sharpie to mark the black backs of SD cards. I mark my cards, assigning them to a specific camera.

And then there's glass storage.

Microsoft and Warner Bros. have collaborated to successfully store and retrieve the entire 1978 iconic “Superman” movie on a piece of glass roughly the size of a drink coaster, 75 by 75 by 2 millimeters thick.

The hard silica glass can withstand being boiled in hot water, baked in an oven, microwaved, flooded, scoured, demagnetized and other environmental threats that can destroy priceless historic archives or cultural treasures if things go wrong.

Long-term storage costs are driven up by the need to repeatedly transfer data onto newer media before the information is lost. Hard disk drives can wear out after three to five years. Magnetic tape may only last five to seven. File formats become obsolete, and upgrades are expensive. In its own digital archives, for instance, Warner Bros. proactively migrates content every three years to stay ahead of degradation issues.


"That's not a paperweight. That's 20 years of Law & Order."

I am clearly not the target audience... I'm using several 3+ year old cards in my several 3+ year old cameras. The card is never my problem.

I'm baffled by the descriptions and acronyms found on SD cards.

Apart from choosing by way of number of GB capacity, I'm guessing the rest.

I hope someone would run an article on how to decipher the hieroglyphics.

When I shot medium format velvia film, a roll cost me $5.00, and processing cost $5.00, so for 10 dollars I had 15 exposures. Today, for 10 dollars, I buy a 16 gb SanDisk card on sale, and have 700 odd exposures with my m43 camera. When they are full, I set the write protect tab and lock them away. Never format or reuse. Maybe not archival, but they represent one more level of backup and in case of operator error, I can maybe go back to the original.


I agree with what Ken Bennett said. If you have large files, getting them to the computer quickly is worth the expense of a faster card.

Here's a twist on the issue. I purchased a twin pack of 64gb cards in mid-2018. I won't say what brand, but it starts with "S" and ends with "k". After 3 months one of the cards locked up and was no longer useable. I contacted them for replacement and was told that because of the China trade sanctions, they could not honor the warranty and did not know when that would change. So, is this just their corporate response to the issue or are other importers of Chinese goods doing the same?
Part 2 of my comment. If you have experienced overheating problems with the Sony a6300 while shooting video, try using a faster card, like 150MB/s or better. I tried it and it works.

"They actually awarded wee little medals to the top three."

That's "Mike humor".

Subtle, but hilarious.

So, an additional point that likely only sports shooters using mirrorless cameras would notice. The high-speed UHS II cards not only impact write speed, they impact EVF blackout times. And...EVF blackout times impact high-speed C-AF performance, so there is a cascading effect at play here.

For my motorsports work, where I shoot at 11 FPS, there is absolutely no doubt about my requirements for UHS-II 300 mb/sec cards: not only for the reasons Thom Hogan accurately cites above, but also for minimizing impact on EVF blackout times and thereby, high-speed C-AF performance.

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