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Mark Sincevich

Professional Photography Expert

DSLR Memory Card

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SanDisk and Lexar dominate the market for memory cards, but Kingston is creeping into the space. Kingston has long been known for their high quality computer memory. However, more professional photographers use SanDisk and Lexar cards than any other. They have unique features that are not usually present in other memory cards such as a higher capacity, faster operation and the ability to operate under extreme conditions. When looking for memory cards, you need to consider these options along with selecting the correct type of memory card.

Card Type:
Memory cards come in three main types CFII (compact flash II), SD (secure digital) and XD (extreme digital) and one minor type, Sony Memory Sticks. The majority of digital cameras on the market use either the CFII or SD while the XD cards are only used by Fuji and Olympus. All of the memory cards reviewed in the Best of the Best section will be CFII. Also, CFII cards are used exclusively in medium format and professional DSLR cameras. However, Nikon is starting to make some of their entry-level DSLR’s SD only. While this is good for somebody migrating from the consumer level, it is not ideal for those photographers in the DSLR space. Plus the small size of the SD cards makes them easier to misplace or loose. I recommend you purchase your memory cards separately and never in a kit with your camera. The ‘kit’ memory cards have a lower capacity, are slower and might be an older model.

Most memory cards are rated to last over 10,000 uses and they can usually withstand an accidental dunk in the pool or the full effects of a high-powered washing machine. However, you always need to have a backup card in case you fill the main one to capacity, if it gets damaged or if you loose it. While some people like to purchase the largest capacity card possible, I don’t think it’s the best idea. This means you will be putting all of your images in ‘one basket’ and if you loose the card, you loose your assignment.

Capacity:
For example, it makes better sense to have four different 4GB memory cards than one 16GB card. Again, this spreads the risk and allows you to have backups. However, if you are set on having high capacity memory cards, then you need to exercise a certain amount of discipline. This means transferring the contents of the cards on a regular basis after your assignment or vacation, which could mean after 2-3 GB. Remember you don’t want to wait for the card to fill to capacity.

File Types:
Another way to think about the intended size of your memory card is to consider which types of images you store, RAW, TIFF or JPEG. All DSLRs and a few specialty consumer based digital cameras store RAW and JPEG. TIFF is also an option on some DSLRs, too. The RAW and TIFF files take up more room and thus a larger memory card is needed. JPEG takes up anywhere from 2-4MB per file, so a smaller card is ideal for these types of files.

Speed:
In addition, you want to purchase the memory card with the appropriate speed for your camera. The fastest memory cards (266x – 300x) measured in read/write speed or in a factor of ‘x’ are ideal for medium format cameras or professional DSLRs. Medium speed cards (133x) are best for mid-level DSLRs and the slower speed cards (67x – 133x) are good for entry-level DSLRs or consumer based digital cameras. The winner for Best of the Best memory card is the SanDisk 16GB Extreme IV CFII. It has a capacity of 16GB, nearly the fastest speed on the market, 40-45 mb read/write speed or 266x-300x, and can operate in temperatures ranging from -13 to +185 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 C to +85 C).

Best DSLR Memory Cards by Mark Sincevich

The Best You Can Get

  • SanDisk 16GB Extreme IV CFII

    Mark says: Designed exclusively for high-end professional photographers, this card is the fastest on the market together with the ability of operate under extreme conditions. This card is best used for professional DSLRs or medium format cameras. Comes with RescuePRO Deluxe so you can recover just about any digital file, with ease.

    • Type: CFII
    • Capacity: 16 GB
    • Speed: 266x or 40mb/sec for read and write times (card is listed at 45mb/sec)
    • Temperature Ratings: -13 to +185 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 C to +85 C)
  • Lexar 16GB Professional 300x CFII

    Mark says: The Lexar 16GB Professional is a great medium format or high-end DSLR memory card due to its fast speed. However you must use an UDMA-enabled reader and UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access) camera compatible. UDMA involves a process by which data can be moved from a storage device very efficiently, without laboring the host device’s processor.

    • Type: CFII
    • Capacity: 16 GB
    • Speed: 300x or 45mb/sec for read and write times
    • Temperature Ratings: not specified by the manufacturer
  • SanDisk 8GB Ultra IV UDMA, CFII

    Mark says: The SanDisk 8GB Ultra IV UDMA is another card ideal for the high-end DSLR user. It can operate in extreme conditions and has a high capacity. You must use an UDMA-enabled reader and a UDMA compatible camera.

    • Type: CFII
    • Capacity: 8 GB
    • Speed: 266x or 40mb/sec for read and write times
    • Temperature Ratings: -13 to +185 degrees Fahrenheit (-25 C to +85 C)
  • Kingston 8GB CFII Ultimate

    Mark says: The Kingston 8GB Ultimate CFII packs a fairly high capacity of 8GB. It is ideal for the mid-level DSLR user who uses lots of RAW image files.

    • Type: CFII
    • Capacity: 8 GB
    • Speed: 266x or 40mb/sec for read and write times
    • Temperature Ratings: not specified by the manufacturer
  • Lexar 8GB Professional 300x CFII

    Mark says: The Lexar 8GB Professional 300x is a good mid-level DSLR CFII card. If you want a lower capacity card, try the 2GB Lexar Professional 300x CFII.

    • Type: CFII
    • Capacity: 8 GB
    • Speed: 300x or 45mb/sec for read and write times
    • Temperature Ratings: not specified by the manufacturer

You will be happy with any of these

  • SanDisk 4GB Extreme III, CFII

    Mark says: The SanDisk 4GB Extreme III is a great best value card for entry to mid-level DSLR users. It has a good capacity and has the added bonus of being able to operate in extreme temperatures.

    • Type: CFII
    • Capacity: 4 GB
    • Speed: 200x or 30mb/sec for read and write times
    • Temperature Ratings: -13° F to 185° F (-25° C to 85° C)
  • SanDisk 4GB Extreme III SD

    Mark says: The SanDisk 4GB Extreme III SD (secure digital card) is the exact same card as the best value winner. The only exception is that it is designed for cameras that accept the smaller SD cards. This card is a good value card for the entry to mid-level DSLR user.

    • Type: SD (secure digital)
    • Capacity: 4 GB
    • Speed: 200x or 30mb/sec for read and write times
    • Temperature Ratings: not specified by the manufacturer
  • Kingston 4GB CFII Ultimate

    Mark says: Kingston is been known for providing high-quality memory for years. The Ultimate series is some of the fastest on the market. This is the fastest highest capacity card in this category.

    • Type: CFII
    • Capacity: 4 GB
    • Speed: 266x or 40mb/sec for read and write times
    • Temperature Ratings: not specified by the manufacturer
  • Lexar 2GB 300x CFII

    Mark says: The Lexar 2GB 300x CFII memory card is good for mid-level DSLRs to specialty consumer-based digital cameras accepting RAW files. It operates at the fastest speeds possible and can even be used in higher-end professional DSLR’s.

    • Type: CFII
    • Capacity: 2 GB
    • Speed: 300x or 45mb/sec for read and write times
    • Temperature Ratings: not specified by the manufacturer
  • SanDisk 2GB Ultra II SD (Twin-pack)

    Mark says: The SanDisk 2 GB Ultra II SD (twin-pack) is the ideal memory card for consumer-based digital photography users. It includes a second card for increased photography capacity and backup. This is an ideal product for every consumer digital camera user!

    • Type: SD
    • Capacity: 2 GB x 2 cards (for a total of 4GB)
    • Speed: 67x or 10mb/sec for read and 9 mb/sec for write times
    • Temperature Ratings: not specified by the manufacturer

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