Choosing the right SD or CF card for your camera

Choosing the right SD or CF card for your camera

When it comes to choosing the right memory card for your camera, there is no shortage of choices. SD, CF, CF Express, MicroSD, SDXC the choices seem endless and there is a lot of conflicting information about the best type and brand to choose. Even worse, in online reviews, it often feels like the reviewers have spent little or no time with the products. First, head to Google and type in your camera make and model to check your manufacturer’s website so you can determine what kind of storage your camera is compatible with. Next, let’s talk about sponsored content.

This is not a sponsored article, there are no affiliate links and I do not have anything to gain by recommending one card manufacturer over another. I have been shooting with digital cameras since they hit the market, and I have had a lot of experiences – good and bad with expensive and budget memory cards. Any brand suggestions in this article are based on me owning the mentioned card and having purchased it with my own money. Do other people have different experiences? Yes. So, with all that being said, let’s delve into the world of camera storage.

The basics

Not all memory is created equal. When shopping for these cards, you can find compatible products for your camera ranging widely in price from a few dollars to a couple of hundred. It can be extremely confusing when you see a 64 Gigabyte (GB) SDXC card for 9 USD surrounded by a bunch of other SDXC cards for 50 USD or more. What makes one card so expensive compared to another?

Read Write speeds

When you take a photo with your camera, that data is written to the memory card at the speed limited by a combination of the write speed of the card and the write speed of your camera. How long it takes for your camera to write that information on the card is a factor that goes into when the camera will be ready to take the next shot. There are other factors, like internal camera buffer and the resolution you are shooting at, but that latter two will depend on your camera make and model. When you click that review button on your camera, it will read the data and bring up the photo you took. The resolution of the files you are shooting, the megapixels of the camera you are using and the read speeds of the card you are using all go into factoring how quickly the image is displayed. Read speeds also determine how quickly you can transfer the images from your camera to your computer. As you can see, the read write speeds of the card your purchase go a long way to determining your overall shooting experience when using your camera.    

Size matters

With memory prices being very reasonable, you may be tempted to always buy the largest cards (most gigabytes) but before you buy that awesome 256GB card, be sure to check your camera’s compatibility for larger cards. The brand, model, age, and firmware for your camera can all be limiting factors for compatibility with a larger size card.  Since capabilities can change with firmware upgrades, the manual that came with your camera might not be the best source for card compatibility. It is always best to check with the manufacturer or knowledgeable online forums that are geared toward your camera make and model.  

Another consideration for the size of the card you should be looking at is your shooting style, and what you are shooting. If you are photographing sports or birds, and tend to rapid fire your camera, then you may want to get a larger capacity card with fast read and write speeds, especially if you are shooting RAW. Do be aware that RAW files are large and when shooting a lot of them in a row, your camera can bog down depending on the size of the internal buffer. If you are shooting portraits, you may think that a slower budget card might be an ok choice, but slower cheaper cards should be used with caution.

Crash and burn

Depending on the make and model of your camera, some cards can have issues keeping up with the demands of shooting. Some cards can also just outright become corrupted with heavy use. Budget memory cards are often prone to exhibit write errors, especially when shooting fast. Budget larger cards may seem tempting because they hold so much but imagine shooting a wedding all day with one card, then having the card become corrupted when removing the images. Larger capacity cards means more chance to lose data. This isn’t to say that more expensive cards never get corrupted, any card can become corrupted. I learned the hard way when trying to recover images from a corrupted budget card.  

Card Types

Secure Digital

The Secure Digital (SD) is one of the most common types of storage, and are used in a wide variety of devices. They are used in everything from cameras to solid state computers and have the price advantage in the market. A 64GB SD card can cost less than 20 USD. Their read and write speed limitations mean they usually perform well but are not as fast as other SD cards. SD cards comprise a family which is delineated by their capacity.

SD – Up to 4 GB

SDHC – Between 4 and 64 GB

The Secure Digital High-Capacity card (SDHC) was created to meet the high demands for high-definition photography and video. These are the same physical size and shape as standard SD cards but fit the specifications of version 2.0.

SDXC – Anything higher than 64 GB

The Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC) card is essentially a beefed-up SDHC card. These cards start at 64 GB and can reach a size of 2 TB.


A Micro Secure Digital (MicroSD) card is a micro version of the SD card. Their physical size is 15 x 11 x 1mm. Micro SD cards are also available in Micro Secure Digital High Capacity. The Micro Secure Digital High Capacity (MicroSDHC) card is the same as the SDHC card, with storage capacities up to 32 GB.

MicroSD – Up to 4 GB

MicroSDHC – Between 4 and 32 GB

MicroSDXC – Anything higher than 32 GB


CompactFlash (CF Card) and CF Express cards are often considered the choice for professional photographers, because of their speed, reliability and most high-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras alike use these cards. The CF family of cards are significantly larger in size than SD cards, and often have larger capacities and read/write speeds. Because they are not used as widely in the market, they tend to be more expensive than the SD family of cards.

Extreme Digital Picture Card

The Extreme Digital Picture Card (xD) is removable flash memory designed for use in digital cameras. It has a compact size of 20 x 25 x 1.7mm, and was created by Fujifilm and Olympus.

What kind of cards do I recommend?

When I suggest a brand of memory card, it doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to try other card manufacturers. I’m always willing to test and honestly evaluate a memory card, even if I have had a poor experience with it because manufacturing defects happen, methods of manufacturing change and design tolerances change. The recommendations below are based on reliability, speed and perhaps more important the likelihood important images can be recovered from a failed card.

Sandisk Extreme pro

My number one go-to brand for memory cards. I use the CF and the SDXC cards in all my cameras. The Extreme Pro level offers compatibility with most cameras and even when shooting fast I seldom have issues with buffering or sluggishness. The times I have had card failures, I was able to recover most of the images from these cards.  

Lexar and ProGrade

I put Lexar and Prograde in the same family because ProGrade was created by ex Lexar execs. Both of these card brands are extremely reliable and the only reason they aren’t my go-to at this time is they are not always as readily available.

In testing

I always love to try new cards. At the moment I am actively testing the reliability of Samsung Pro and EVO SDXC cards in a few different cameras. Once my testing is complete, I will write a dedicated article covering my experiences with these cards.

My avoid list

Manufacturing defects happen and I never judge a card by one bad experience. The brands that have made my avoid list are there because they were consistently unreliable. Note should be taken that most of my testing was done on Canon, Sony and Panasonic camera bodies. These card families as of this writing I cannot recommend.   


Their early cards were slow and priced equally with faster products. Their new elite cards seem to be a bit more reliable, but recovery of images on a failed card were poor.


Known for their computer memory, the SD family of Kingston cards has earned a spot on my avoid list for slow performance, consistent write errors and poor image recovery from failed cards.

Sony SD cards

Shortly after digital hit the market, I started shooting with a Sony Cybershot camera which used their memory stick technology. It worked reliably and after I moved away from Sony cameras for a while I still used their SD cards in other camera bodies with poor results. Over the years Sony cards have had a tendency to fail repeatedly, and even lock up many camera bodies.


I use Transcend cards in my MacBook Pro every day, but their performance in cameras make the camera feel sluggish. Recovery from a failed card is good, but the sluggish responsiveness for writing and reading earns them a spot on the list.

As stated earlier, I’m always happy to review new units from these manufacturers with an open and objective mind.


There are so many choices when it comes to choosing a memory card for your camera. I gravitate toward those that are consistently reliable. If you have a brand of memory card you would like me to look at, or have had great or poor experiences with, I’d love to hear about it. Please feel free to drop me a message on my social media links or the contact page here.

Get out there and create some amazing images!

“Ted’s journey into the landscape of the human body is a marvelous celebration of all that is physical, sensual and diverse

About the author

Ted Tahquechi is a Denver Colorado based professional landscape and travel photographer, disability travel influencer and is almost completely blind. You can see more of Ted’s photography at: 

Ted operates Blind Travels, a travel blog designed specifically to empower blind and visually impaired travelers.

Ted’s body-positive Landscapes of the Body project has been shown all over the world, learn more about this intriguing collection of photographic work at:

Questions or comments? Feel free to email Ted at: