- Choosing the right SD card can be confusing.
- In addition to storage capacity, you also need to consider speed and durability.
- After in-depth research, we found that the SanDisk Extreme Pro 32GB SDHC UHS-I Card is best for most people because it has fast read/write speeds, supports 4K video, and can handle extreme conditions.
The SD card may seem like a good place to skimp on the cost of your camera kit, but a bad memory card can slow down your camera or even risk losing files to corruption. Whether you are shooting stills or video, the best SD card, like the SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-I, allows your camera to reach full speed while safeguarding the files inside.
As a professional photographer, I've used a dozen different memory cards inside my camera. The worst slow-down my camera while the best stash lots of files quickly and have even survived an accidental wash inside a pocket. But, the favorite SD card for a professional photographer may be overkill for a hobbyist with a 12-megapixel camera. That's why considering the card type, capacity, and speed is essential.
When it comes to the card type, the two main kinds you'll want to consider are SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) and SDXC (Secure Digital eXtended Capacity). The only real difference between the two is how much storage they offer. SDHC cards contain 4GB to 32GB, while SDXC cards typically range from 64GB to 2TB.
Chances are, you'll want an SD card with more than 32GB of storage, so you'll be looking at SDXC cards. A 32GB card is fine for casual photographers or people who prefer to have multiple smaller-capacity cards for security (if you lose your card, you don't lose everything). We typically recommend 64GB cards in this guide because you'll want that extra space for high-resolution photographs and video, but you may want to get even more if you're shooting 4K video.
Speed class is where things get complicated. SD cards for your average user come in four speed classes: 10, 6, 4, and 2. Class 2 cards are the slowest and class 10 cards are the fastest. The class number refers to the minimum write speeds in megabytes per second (MB/s), so Class 2 = 2MB/s, Class 4 = 4MB/s, Class 6 = 6MB/s, and Class 10 = 10MB/s.
On the top high-end cards, the speed class rating is designated with a U symbol, instead of a C symbol. U1 supports at least a 10MB/s write speed (like a Class 10), and U3 cards offer at least a 30MB/s write speed. If you shoot in 4K, you need a U3 SD card. All the SD cards in this guide are U3 or U1.
UHS speed refers to the absolute top theoretical speed of each card, instead of the minimum speed indicated by the card class. It's a good way to gauge burst shot speeds. UHS-I Cards have a maximum speed of 104 MB/s, while UHS-II cards have a maximum speed of 312 MB/s. (A new UHS-III theoretically supports up to 624 MB/s, but isn't widely available yet.)
The SD Association also classifies cards by a video speed class standard, which currently ranges from V6 to V90. For 4K, a video speed class of V30 or more is ideal.
It's generally a good idea to get a high-speed SD card, especially if you are shooting in RAW or filming high-resolution video. In that case, you'll want a class 10 SD card or higher with a UHS (Ultra High Speed) classification.
You'll want to check to be sure your camera supports those speeds. Otherwise, you won't get the full effect of the card. Avoid counterfeit cards by sticking with known brands and clicking on our links.
Here are the best SD cards you can buy:
- Best SD card overall: SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-I
- Best rugged SD card: Sony SF-G Tough Series UHS-II SDHC
- Best high capacity SD card: Lexar 1 TB Professional 633x UHS-I SDXC
- Best SD card for fast uploads: Lexar Professional 1000x UHS-II SDHC
- Best budget SD card: SanDisk Extreme UHS SDHC
Updated on 10/2/2019 by Hillary Grigonis and Les Shu: Added new products and updated pricing, formatting, and links. Malarie Gokey contributed to this article.