Today I’m going to run through my top 5 reasons why you should invest in a new SD card this summer.
Whether you’re a full-time pro or a weekend warrior, trusting your image and video files to the right memory cards should be something you give careful thought to. Choosing the right SD card, and the right card management strategy is something that could save you a lot of anguish on a future shoot day. If you’ve ever had an external drive fail, you’ll appreciate what a downer it is when a memory card fails and you have to go through the hassle of trying to recover files.
1. Your old SD card may not be good for your new camera
If you’ve just invested in a brand new camera, and you’re planning to use an old SD card, it is definitely worth doing your research to make sure that old card is compatible with your new beast. It’s pointless to have a blazing burst mode that can shoot 18 frames per second, like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, if your card can’t keep up. Also, many of the latest cameras can shoot video in hi-res 4k mode, and this is not only intensive in terms of memory consumption, but also in terms of write speed.
2. Newer cards have higher write speeds
There are a couple of limiting factors when it comes to SD card performance. I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of capacity, the amount of data storage available on the card (typically measured in gigabytes). But it’s also important to keep the write speed in mind; the rate at which your camera can transfer data to the card. There are actually two sides to this coin, one being the maximum rate at which the camera can write the data, the other being the rate at which the card can accept data. Camera manuals don’t often talk about write speeds, so it’s left up to us to figure out the write speed of the card and decide if it’s adequate. There are a number of different ways the card speed is presented, the most straightforward being in megabits per second (Mb/s). Most cards are between 80Mb/s and 100Mb/s, but you can also get card with 300 Mb/s. Otherwise keep an eye out for the ’10’ symbol which indicates it’s a class 10 card, and adequately fast for most purposes.
3. Don’t keep all your images on one card
It’s important to give some thought to your card management strategy, especially if you’re planning to shoot weddings for example, where there is a serious responsibility on your shoulders as the photographer to deliver those all-important images that the bride and groom will cherish for years to come. Many photographers recommend using a number of cards with less memory capacity rather than one high capacity card, because if that card should fail, it’s a big headache, so why not just buy a number of smaller cards instead? Also, this will encourage you to adopt one of the most important card management strategies there is: download your images immediately after every shoot. This policy acts as insurance not just against card failure, but also against a lost or stolen camera.
4. Shooting hi-res video
As I mentioned earlier, many cameras nowadays shoot very high quality 4k video, and they often shoot at high frame rates too, like 60fps or even 120fps, which allow you to create awesome slo-mos. These shooting modes produce a lot of data however, and you can very quickly chew through an entire memory card if you’re not careful. This is where you need to strike a balance between choosing multiple lower capacity cards, as per #3 above, and choosing a card with enough memory to let you get lots of great video. So think about what it is that you love to shoot and how that plays into your decision. If 4k and high frame rate video isn’t your jam, then perhaps you’ll do fine with two 16 GB Lexar Platinum II cards.
5. Larger storage capacity
The rate at which memory card capacity has been growing has been pretty phenomenal in recent years. If you just want a super high capacity card, you could go with a SanDisk Extreme PRO 512GB card and back up your files about once a year, because that’s half a terrabyte on a tiny little card! That’s the same as some of my external drives—that’s mind-blowing to me! The advantage of choosing a high capacity card is that you are somewhat future-proofed for something like 8k video, or even RAW video. Currently all video formats (with the exception of some professional video cameras) are heavily compressed. It’s very difficult to crunch all of the information that the sensor can capture and write it to the memory card in real time, and so the camera down-samples the video to something manageable. It’s similar to photography where you have RAW mode or JPEG mode. JPEG files are like compressed versions of RAW files, where RAW files contain all of the available data, and take up much more storage space as a result. The advantage of uncompressed RAW files is that you can tweak them much more in post-production. For example, if an image is very underexposed, it’s likely that you’ll be able to increase the levels to a point where it’s usable. With JPEGs you have a lot less leeway.
Only buy from the best
If I’ve done a good job convincing you that an SD card upgrade is a smart move for you, then let me also encourage you to only buy cards from reputable companies and reputable sources. There are a lot of cheaply made cards out there that are not as reliable, and also a lot of fake cards. Stick with cards by the like of SanDisk, Lexar, Kingston, PNY or Seagate and you won’t go wrong. They offer great warranties, and in the case of SanDisk, recovery software in case the dreaded card failure occurs.