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The best memory cards for your camera

The best memory cards [Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash]
(Image credit: Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash)

If you’ve recently invested in a new camera with strong photo and video-shooting capabilities, you’ll likely want the best memory card that can keep up.

In digital photography, a memory card (or media card) is required for a camera to save your pictures. The most common card is the postage stamp-sized Secure Digital (SD) card, while the second most popular is the smaller, fingernail-sized variant known as a microSD. Smartphones and tablets with an expandable memory option usually favour the microSD card. 

Other common forms of memory card include the After Eight mint-sized CompactFlash (CF), which is favoured by older DSLRs for its robustness, and its successor in the newer XQD format, developed to cope with the increasing demands of the latest generation cameras that can shoot very high resolution still images and 4K resolution video and above. This is used by some of the most celebrated current mirrorless cameras, such as the Nikon Z6 and Nikon Z7

Upgrading your camera kit? Take a look at our pick of the best cameras, and the best camera bags and cases.

Choosing the best memory card for your needs

Of course, when choosing the best memory card for your camera, smartphone or tablet PC, you’ll first need to select the one that actually fits it. It's worth noting that microSD cards often come with an SD adapter, and so can be used with a camera that has an SD slot. This could be useful if you want to switch a memory card between your main camera and your smartphone.

Then it’s a case of considering what and how you shoot, in terms of the speed (read/write) and capacity – in megabytes or MD, but more commonly these days, in Gigabytes or GB – that you’ll need from your card. Also, if you’re shooting in more extreme or perilous conditions, it may be worth considering a more ‘destruction proof’ card that can be dropped in water or the dirt, such as one from the Sony Tough range.

The general rule of thumb when buying a card is to go for the highest data storage capacity and the fastest write/read speed available for your budget and camera's capability.

If you’re only shooting on an entry-level camera, with a modest resolution and a low frames-per-second shooting rate, you may not need to opt for whichever is currently the ‘top dog’ amongst memory cards.

To help you decide, we’ve listed our current recommendations for the best memory card you can buy below.

Best memory cards: SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-I

01. SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-I

The best all-round SD memory card

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: 64GB-1TB | Read Speed: Up to 90MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 170MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and/or video (including 4K)

Great rapid fire performance 
Stutter-free results 
Cheaper standard options 
Faster options 

Power users are advised to check out the Extreme PRO SDXC card from long standing card manufacturer SanDisk. Available in capacities from 64GB up to an impressive 1TB, this option offers a speed class 3 rating. The real practical advantage here is not only write speeds up to an impressive 90MB/s – which means that it is able to deal with rapid fire sequential shooting and in both JPEG and Raw – but has an extremely fast transfer speed of up to 170MB/s, which will speed up the workflow of enthusiasts and pros. Aside from making it easier to capture a sequence of Raw photographs, the data crunching on offer here also makes it suitable for 4K video shooting. To sum up, this is one capable contender.

best memory card

(Image credit: Sandisk)

02. SanDisk Extreme Pro microSDXC UHS-I

Promises extreme speed, but huge capacity is perhaps the most striking thing about this card series

Card type: microSDXC | Capacity: up to 1TB | Read Speed: Up to 170MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 90MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: High capacity image taking and creation

Huge storage capacity on a tiny card 
Suitable for a wide range of digital devices
Slow read speed
Easy to lose down the back of a sofa

Another relatively new microSDXC card and larger SD adapter combo for those prolific image makers sticking their cards in a variety of slots; here available in a variety of storage capacities ranging from 32GB all the way up to a whopping 1TB. Imagine that from solid state media the mere size of a fingernail. However, while read and write speeds for these cards are adequate, they’re not quite the quickest on the market at a read speed of ‘only’ 170MB/sec maximum and a write speed of up to 90MB/sec. If it’s speed you want rather than capacity, alternatively look at the same manufacturer’s UHS-II cards in the series, which max out at 128GB capacity, yet offer a transfer speed of a slightly more satisfying 275MB/sec.

Best memory cards: Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X Speed

03. Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X Speed

The best SD card for professional photographers

Card type: SDHC and/or SDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 300MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 260MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)

Fast and efficient 
Limited lifetime warranty
Costly
Efficient rivals 

Lexar has long been the go-to card for photography enthusiasts and professional shooters, and, despite disappearing from the market for a little while, it has bounced back with plenty of Lexar options still available. A solid choice for us is the Lexar Professional 16GB Class 10 UHS-II 1000x Speed, which deploys UHS-II tech to enable transfer speeds up to 300 MB/s and write speeds up to 260 MB/s. 

This ensures that, whether you’re recording full HD, 4K video, or shooting high-resolution Raw files, this card delivers the goods, even if maximum data capacity is 128GB, rather than the maximum 512GB offered by some rivals. A close alternative in terms of specification and performance would be SanDisk’s Extreme PRO SD UHS-II (also featured here), but we feel you can't really go wrong with this one.

Best memory cards: SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-II

04. SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-II

An even faster card than the UHS-I Pro version

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 300MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 260MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Pros wanting to shoot swift bursts of high res stills and video

Unrivalled speed 
Smooth 4K video capture
Expensive 
Biases speed over capacity

Missing that essential shot if you’re working as a pro photographer can be an expensive mistake, and is especially irritating if it’s because your card can’t keep up. Try and avoid the latter ever happening by investing in this ultra speedy, inevitably costlier, example from industry stalwart SanDisk – the SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-II. In offering read speeds of up to 300 MB/s and write speeds of an equally impressive 260 MB/s, it's a class leader among memory cards.

The above specification makes it a must-have option for reportage, sports and wildlife photographers, shooting bursts of rapid fire stills, or videographers wanting the clarity of 4K resolution video, with the inevitable data hungriness that comes with it. As this is an SDXC (‘Extended Capacity’) card too, storage is impressive. Available card offerings are from 32GB up to 128GB, but truly the accent is on speed here.

best memory cards: Sony SF-G Tough SDXC

05. Sony SF-G Tough SDXC

A super-robust new breed of memory card

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 300 MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 299 MB/s | Warranty: Manufacturer’s | Suitable for: High speed burst photography and video (including 4K)

Tough design
Dust, dirt, water and grime proof
Currently only up to 128GB
Inevitably pricier than more basic cards

The bigger the card’s data capacity, the higher the potential worry of losing hundreds, possibly thousands of precious image files should anything untoward happen. Purporting to eliminate some of that stress is the Sony Tough range, supplied in common-use SD format. While arguably no card can claim to be 100% destruction–proof, there come with the boast of being dustproof and waterproof, while possessing ‘bend proof’ strength into the bargain – namely being able to withstand 18KG of exerted pressure (that’s18x greater than standard SD). 

If you need more convincing still, Sony’s Tough has also been tested against drops from 5 metres in height, while the card can simply be washed clean of any grime that gets on it. Speed wise, a further bonus is the card’s ability to cope with the sequential capture of 241-compressed Raw or 362 JPEGs in 20fps burst shooting mode on the Sony A9. If you’re a pro shooter and have the budget, you’ll definitely want to check these out.

(Image credit: Sony)

06. Sony XQD G Series Memory Card

The best XQD card around right now

Card type: XQD | Capacity: 64GB-240GB | Read Speed: Up to 440 MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 400 MB/s | Warranty: Manufacturer’s | Suitable for: High speed burst photography and video (including 4K)

Super-fast transfer speeds
Robust build
Limited compatibility
Expensive

The XQD format is not used in every camera, but has been adopted by Nikon for some of its DSLRs and recent Z-series full-frame mirrorless cameras (as well as Sony’s high-end video camcorders). If you’re a Nikon user in the market for an XQD card, we reckon that the Sony Professional XQD G Series 64GB is your best bet. Its amazingly fast read and write speeds of more than 400MB/s each mean that it will more than keep up even with full-frame RAW burst shooting and 4K video, and the process of exporting your creations from camera to PC will whizz by like a dream. 

The card is built tough too, with a durable outer shell designed to be robust and dust-resistant, so if you’re the type to take your camera into harsh conditions, you can be sure that the card will be able to cope. This is really the crux of the Sony XQD card – it’s able to handle whatever you and your camera throw at it, whether that’s the speed of your shoot or the conditions you find yourself in. High-end Nikon cameras deserve the best in terms of cards – make sure you give it to them.

Best memory cards: Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3

07. Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3

Great for shooting Raw files or high-resolution video

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 64GB | Read Speed: Up to 285MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 180MB/s | Warranty: Five year limited warranty | Suitable for: Pros shooting rapid fire high res Raw stills and high quality 4K video

Blisteringly fast 
Good value for money
Modest capacity
Faster options available 

If it’s Raw files you primarily need to capture, then you’ll want a card that can cope with the highest quality imagery in sequential bursts – as well as one that provides a sufficient storage capacity to avoid having to swap out the media in use at that decisive moment. While the Transcend SDXC UHS-I U3's 64GB maximum capacity (the alternative being 32GB) may initially appear a little small when compared with other options here, the performance is anything but, via commendably quick read and write times of 285 MB/s and 180 MB/s respectively. 

Obviously you will need UHS-II compatible DSLR or camcorder to be able to use this one – so check – but speeds of up to 3x faster than standard UHS-1 SD memory cards can be delivered. These Transcend branded cards are also shock and X-ray proof, thereby providing a degree of certainly for photo and video enthusiasts and pros.

best memory card: Lexar Professional 1800x microSDXC 128GB UHS-II

(Image credit: Sandisk)

08. Lexar Professional 1800x microSDXC 128GB UHS-II

A small card that is big on both capacity and speed

Card type: microSDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 270MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 110 MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both high speed burst photography and 4k video shooting

Quickly play back videos up of to 4K res
Washable (in case of accidents)
Write speed not great
Small and fiddly

Fingernail-sized microSD cards are useful for everything from smartphones and tablets to action cameras and drones; yet while they are small and slightly fiddly to insert and extract, they are increasingly mighty in terms of their functionality. Enter Lexar’s Professional microSDXC card range with 4K video shooting friendly transfer speeds of up to 270MB/sec and, currently, data capacities up to 128GB, which will facilitate an almost innumerable amount of smartphone selfies. 

The beauty here is that this Lexar card also comes with a SD UHS-II adapter so the microSD cards can be used in regular sized (larger) camera card slots for added creative flexibility and practicality. The cards are also backwards compatible with UHS-I devices, and come with a limited lifetime warranty for additional peace of mind.

Best memory cards: PNY Elite Performance SDXC

09. PNY Elite Performance SDXC

Top capacity thumbnail-sized media card for all your digital memories

Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 95MB/s | Write Speed: Not specified | Warranty: Lifetime (limited) | Suitable for: High speed burst photography and video (including 4K)

Water and shock proofed design
Fair price
Faster alternatives available
PNY is a less familiar brand name

Though there are plenty of budget priced card offerings bearing the US-based PNY brand, this Elite Performance series, with capacities from a useful 32GB up to a generous 512GB, currently tops the range. It offers not only a high capacity, but also an industry-standard read speed of 95MB per second from an SDXC format card. The ‘Elite’ moniker signifies that these Class 10 speed, UHS-1 compatible cards are not only suitable for shooting video on a DSLR with, but are also durable with it, being waterproof, shock proof, temperature proof and magnet proof. Thus the brand is able to claim that the Elite Performance range of cards are suitable for advanced photo enthusiasts and even professionals, as well as those recording 4K quality clips. Peace of mind of a lifetime-limited warranty is provided.

(Image credit: SanDisk)

10. SanDisk Extreme

A fantastic budget SDHC card

Card type: SDHC | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 90MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 40MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)

Good performance
Robust
Not as fast as other SanDisk cards
Limited capacity

If you're looking for a great performing memory card with a decent amount of storage capacity, while keeping costs down, then the SandDisk Extreme card is a very good choice. Unlike the 'Pro' versions, this is a budget memory card, and it offers UHS Speed Class 3 compatibility, so if you're taking videos in 1080p – or even 4K – then this card will be plenty fast enough. Best of all, it features water, temperature and shock-proof technology, so you can take it out and about with you without worrying about it getting damaged.

Best memory cards: SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash

11. SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash

There’s nothing retro about a 160MB/s read speed

Card type: CompactFlash | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 160MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 150MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)

Suitable for pro still or video capture
Suitable for both Full HD and 4K resolutions
Can’t match the speed of SDXC format Extreme PRO cards
One of the oldest camera memory formats 

Compact flash cards may be older and bulkier than the newer SD format alternative, but that doesn't mean they can't still deliver sufficient capacity and speed to satisfy today’s DSLR user. A case in point is SanDisk’s CompactFlash range, which offers capacities from a useful 16GB to a power user 256GB, so you don’t have to swap out media cards in the heat of the action.

Also impressive with this one is write speeds of up to 140MB/s at maximum 256GB capacity (otherwise it’s 150 MB/s for the 128GB and lower capacities), which also makes it just as suited to video use, particularly for those DSLRs also offering Full HD capture. In fact, with a minimum sustained write speed of 65MB/s, the claim by its manufacturer is that this one is class leading.

Best memory cards: Transcend CompactFlash 800

12. Transcend CompactFlash 800

Transcend’s CF gives plenty of data storage for your buck

Card type: CompactFlash | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 120MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 60MB/s | Warranty: Five year limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including Full HD)

Swift and easy file transfer
Optimised for video
Slower than competitors 
No lifetime warranty

While it may not be as recognisable to the casual observer as competing card brands, Transcend is one of the longer-term players in the market – and, usefully, still makes many low-capacity cards, holding obvious appeal for those on tighter budget. However, even the higher capacity offerings that may appeal to semi pro DSLR users – such as this CompactFlash 800 series – are hardly expensive for what’s on offer.

Capacities run from a standard 32GB up to a slightly more impressive 256GB. Specification is also solid for a budget card; here we get read speeds of up to 120 MB/s and write speeds of 60 MB/s. Actual performance of course is affected by camera hardware and software, as is the case with any card. However, here there’s even a built-in error correcting code to detect and correct any transfer errors.

Best memory cards: Samsung PRO Endurance

13. Samsung PRO Endurance

The best MicroSD card, suitable for an array of devices

Card type: microSD (With SD adapter) | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 100MB/s | Write speed: Up to 30MB/s | Warranty: Up to 5 years | Suitable for: Action cameras, dashcams, security cameras

Durably longer lasting
Fiddly to handle 
Very easy to lose 

The Samsung PRO Endurance is our pick for the best MicroSD card around right now. It does cost a little more to get a microSD card with larger SD card-sized adapters, although this series is still very reasonably priced.

The draw here includes the fact that the cards are claimed to be able to withstand harsh environments, are longer lasting and are particularly suited to use in action cameras. This is because they can continually record at high read/write speeds (100MB/s and 30MB/s, respectively). Also promised for the highest capacity card is an industry best of 43,800 hours of continuous video recording. Peace of mind comes courtesy of warranties of between two years for the lower capacity cards, to five years for maximum capacity cards.

Best memory cards: Samsung EVO Plus

14. Samsung EVO Plus

Inexpensive microSD cards with SD card adapter

Card type: microSD (With SD adapter) | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 100MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 30MB/s | Warranty: 10 years | Suitable for: Day to day photography

Generous read speed 
Well protected 
Fiddly without adapter
Easily lost 

Arriving with us in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities, these Class 10 microSD cards  handily come with an SD adapter that allows them to be used in cameras just as easily as a smartphone or tablet. Costing less than £20 for the lowest 32GB capacity, this seems like good value considering they manage read speeds of 100 MB/s (albeit a modest write speed of 30MB/s). A bright red design also ensures this jack of all trades option from Samsung won’t readily get lost down the back of the sofa, despite being fingernail sized. Peace of mind also comes via a 10 year limited warranty, plus the fact that the cards are claimed as waterproof, temperature proof, X-ray proof and magnetic proof. 

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