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 classifications, numbers, and speed ratings, it’s hard to tell what’s good from what’s just alright.
When shopping for an SD or microSD card for your camera, speed classifications are particularly important. They’ll let you know how fast your camera can write data to the card, how many files it can take, and how fast you can shoot. There are four speed classifications to consider when buying an SD card: read / write speed, speed class, UHS speed class, and video speed class.
Read / write speeds are probably the easiest to find on an SD card’s packaging. “Read” speed is how fast the card can transfer data to the computer when you plug it in, while “write” speed is how quickly the card can record data when you’re shooting photos and video. Pay attention to write speed — it’ll determine how fast you can shoot still images in quick bursts, and the quality of video you can record to the card without lag.
For casual photographers, a minimum of 30 MB / 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 90 MB / s. Some of the cards on this list get write speeds of over 200 MB / s.
An SD card’s speed class with be shown on the front of the card in a circle, and will be a number anywhere from 2 to 10. Speed class is the minimum speed in MB / s that 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 inside a symbol that looks like the letter “U.” UHS stands for Ultra High Speed, a standard of data transfer that SD cards use. U1 has a minimum speed of 10 MB / s, while U3 has a minimum rate of 30 MB / s. U3 cards get their increased speed from additional pins that let them send higher quantities of data at once.
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 record standard-definition video, while you’ll want to look for a V90 card for the more heavy-duty 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 will likely be easier to snap, 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 rugged terrain, you might 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 one will show up instead. If you’re buying through Amazon or another reputable retailer, avoid third-party sellers. All of our recommendations will be at reputable stores, but make sure they’re being sold by the retailer itself before you buy.
With those parameters in mind, let’s jump into this list of some of the best SD cards for cameras on the market right now.
- ✓ Highest speed ratings you can get in an SD card
- ✓ Can be used for professional work
- ✓ Built to withstand harsher conditions
- ✓ Backward compatible with cameras designed for UHS-I cards
- ⁇ Could be built sturdier
The Lexar Professional 2000x SDXC UHS-II offers faster performance than comparable cards from the competition for less money. Lexar is a reliable brand in digital memory, so you can be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
You can score the 64GB size for under $ 100, and it’s fast. A U3, UHS-II, and V90 rating coupled with a high projected write speed mean this card is fast enough for professional photo and video work.
The Lexar Professional cards don’t have a metal housing, but are built to withstand some harsh conditions, including temperatures of down to -13, according to the company. If something happens, though, the cards are covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
The 64GB size offers enough memory that you won’t have to change it out very often unless you shoot a lot of 8K videos. But if you think you’ll need the extra memory, these SD cards come in capacities of up to 256GB.
If you’re getting into pro photography or videography, this card will serve all your needs.
- ✓ Great performance for the money
- ✓ Decent amount of protection built in
- ⁇ Only goes up to 64GB capacity
The Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3 card gives you comparable performance to SanDisk and Lexar for a great price — around $ 50 for the 64GB size. If you need speed but your budget is very tight, this card is worth a look.
Maxed-out speed ratings and a respectable write speed of 180 MB / s make this a solid card for someone just starting out that 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 doesn’t have the most rugged form factor, but for the price, it is hard to beat.
Best Budget SD Card For Cameras
- ✓ Delivers decent performance without breaking the bank
- ✓ Handles 1080p footage and slower burst shooting
- ✓ Good for photographers learning the ropes
- ⁇ Not as fast as newer, more expensive options
- ⁇ Can’t handle higher-quality formats like 4K or 8K very well
Relied on by photographers for years, SanDisk’s Extreme Pro 64GB SDXC UHS-I card may not be the fastest or the highest capacity memory card, but they’re a solid all-rounder for entry-level or enthusiast photographers.
The UHS-I rating might put some people off, as it’ll write more slowly than cards with a UHS-II rating — a minimum of 10 MB / s versus 30 MB / s. But it’ll work just fine if you’re using an older camera not built for UHS-II, like the Nikon D750.
A V30 video speed means you can record 1080p HD footage without a problem, though 4K might give you some lag. Moderate burst shooting should also be fine with a real-world write speed of around 84.5 MB / s, according to Wirecutter’s benchmark test.
Honestly, you really can’t beat this reliable level of performance for under $ 25.
Best SD Card For Cameras Under $ 25
- ✓ Lots and lots of storage
- ✓ Decent speed ratings for photos and video
- ⁇ 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’s got a slower write speed than UHS-II, but will still prove 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 it can be used in any camera that will take UHS-I SD cards. It’ll run you more cash than an external hard drive, but the portability an SD card offers could be worth it if you know you’ll need that much space.
Recording 4K video can be doable on this card since there’s more space for the bulky RAW video files it would create, but it might still lag due to the slower write speed. If you’re shooting video, you’ll want to stick to 1080p to shoot with minimal slowdown.
If you’re looking for something you know will fit all your vacation photos and videos, this SanDisk card is worth considering it comes with the same amount of memory as some computer hard drives.
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-fledged SD card
- ⁇ Smaller size might make it easier to lose
Kingston’s 128GB microSDXC Canvas React Plus gives you good performance in a (very) small package with decently high storage capacity. If you’re into drone photography and videography, this card will likely become a staple of your kit.
Its UHS-II and V90 speed class ratings mean it can handle heavier work, so 4K and even 8K video recording shouldn’t be a problem. This makes the Canvas React Plus a good choice for content creators that need to turn out a lot of high-quality video with devices that take microSD cards.
The included SD card adapter lets you use this card in a larger camera like a DSLR, but drones and action cameras are where you’ll probably get the most out of it.
The card also comes packaged with a USB adapter that lets you connect to your computer to offload images and video. Older USB connections might be slower to read the files, but reviewers say this card is plenty fast on newer USB 3 and 3.1 ports when used with the included reader.
Best Micro SD Card For Cameras