Choosing the best memory card for your camera can be a daunting task. There are a lot of options available, not only differing in speed and capacity, but also brand and compatibility, not to mention price tag.
While the SD format endures as the most widely used, there are other formats too, including Compact Flash, microSD, XQD, CFexpress and CFast, all of which have different strengths and are compatible with different cameras. We've put together the best memory card deals for this guide, but don't forget there are lots of cheap camera deals around right now too.
As camera technology keeps on improving, and 4K video capture rapidly takes over from Full HD recording (and with 8K just around the corner), storage media has to move quickly to keep up with the demands these new technologies place on it.
Memory cards increasingly need to offer not only large capacities for storing all those images and videos, but also data transfer performance that allows them to cope with crunching all those gigabytes of data. They also need to be able to keep up with blisteringly fast burst-shooting speeds that the latest generation premium cameras provide.
So what's the best memory card around right now? If you're looking for a jack-of-all-trades card that won’t break the bank, we think that the best SD card you can buy for your camera is one within the SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I (below) range.
Some photographers are still using cameras that take Compact Flash cards, of course, so even though this is now a pretty old format, you can still get them with high capacities and high speed ratings, so we also pick out the best Compact Flash cards you can buy today.
Action cam users will need smaller microSD cards, but these now come in similar capacities and speed ratings to full size SD cards. The best microSD card for your camera will depend on its video resolution and frame rate, but we've got a couple of great choices here, too.
The XQD and CFast formats are seen only on higher-end cameras so they're still a relatively niche product for now, but we've still picked out what we think might be the best XQD card and CFast card buys around right now. We've also included our pick for the best CFexpress card, as we're expecting more cameras to be compatible with this format in the future. There's a jargon explainer at the bottom of this post too, in case all these acronyms are doing your head in.
Read more: Why do some SD cards have two rows of pins?
One last thing; the best memory cards deserve a fast card reader to max out image and video transfer speed to your computer - here's our round-up of the best card readers you can buy.
Best SD cards
Though the postage stamp-sized SD card is the format that most digital cameras have adopted (SD has largely succeeded CompactFlash, although the latter is still popular in some pro DSLRs) this has evolved into SDHC and SDXC versions. Most manufacturers offer ranges that give you a choice of SDHC and SDXC, which both broadly do the same thing, just at slightly differing speeds and capacities. You'll find a more detailed explanation of this below. The best memory card for your needs will depend largely on how you want to balance capacity and speed.
1. SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I
The best all-round SD card right now, either for Raw files or 4K video
Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 90MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 95MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)
If you classify yourself as a photo enthusiast who's serious about your hobby, then the Extreme PRO SDXC card from industry stalwart SanDisk is one of the best SD memory cards you can choose. Despite being just the size of your thumb, it runs from a capacity of 32GB up to a whopping 512GB, and sports a UHS Speed Class 3 rating. The real practical advantages here are its write speeds – which reach up to an impressive 90MB/s – meaning it's able to deal with rapid-fire sequential shooting in both JPEG and Raw, while its extremely fast transfer speeds of up to 95MB/s will speed up the workflows of both enthusiasts and pros. Aside from capturing Raw photographs, the data crunching on offer with this memory card also makes it suitable for 4K video capture. In short, this is a great, reliable all-rounder – and its price makes it hard to beat.
2. Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X
Designed for rapid-fire use and great for reliability and consistency
Card type: SDHC and/or SDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 300MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 260MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)
Lexar always was the go-to card for photo enthusiasts and pros, but it has arguably had its crown taken since it decided to concentrate on more profitable areas of its business than memory cards. That said, there are plenty of Lexar options still available, with this pro card being top of the tree for us, deploying UHS-II tech to enable transfer speeds up to 300MB/s and 260MB/s write speeds. So whether you’re shooting Full HD, 4K video, or high-resolution Raw files, this card is eminently suitable, even if maximum capacity is 128GB, rather than the 512GB offered by some rivals. A close match for SanDisk’s Extreme PRO SD UHS-II (also featured here), in terms of performance and spec, we similarly can’t really go wrong with one of the best memory card options out there right now.
3. SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-II
A blisteringly fast SD card, even faster than the UHS-I ‘Pro’ version above
Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 300MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 260MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Pros shooting rapid fire high res stills and video
If you’re a professional photographer, missing the crucial shot can be costly indeed. Negate the possibility of that ever happening by investing in this ultra speedy, albeit pricier, example from the ever reliable SanDisk. Offering read speeds of up to 300MB/s and write speeds of an equally impressive 260MB/s, is very much top dog among media cards. This kind of spec makes it the best memory card for sports, wildlife and news photographers, shooting bursts of rapid fire stills, or videographers recording the moment in eye-poppingly clear 4K resolution. As this is an SDXC (Extended Capacity) card too, available storage is impressive, ranging from 32GB up to 128GB, but really it’s all about speed here – and reliability with it – in preference to anything else.
4. Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3
Arguably the best-value card for shooting Raw files and videos
Card type: SDXC | Capacity: Up to 64GB | Read Speed: Up to 285MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 180MB/s | Warranty: Five year limited warranty | Suitable for: Pros shooting rapid fire high res Raw stills and high quality 4K video
If you’re shooting raw files you want a card that can handle sequential bursts of the highest quality imagery, as well as a capacity that allows for sufficient storage to avoid having to swap the media in use every five minutes. The Transcend SDXC UHS-II U3 is a belter of a Taiwanese card that can deliver, whether you're shooting raw files or high resolution video. While the 64GB maximum capacity (the alternative being 32GB) may appear a little modest at first compared with other options here, the performance is anything but, with blisteringly swift read and write times of 285MB/s and 180 MB/s respectively. Capable of working with an UHS-II compatible DSLR or camcorder, speeds of up to 3x faster than standard UHS-I SD memory cards are possible. These Transcend branded cards are also shock and X-ray proof, giving enthusiasts and pros added peace of mind.
5. Lexar Professional 633x SDHC / SDXC UHS-I
One of the best SD cards for shooting Full HD and 4K video on offer
Card type: SDHC and/or SDXC | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 95MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 45MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K) at pro level
If you’re shooting high-resolution video, you’re always going to need as much storage space for digital data as you can get your hands on. The Lexar Professional 633x SDHC/SDXC UHS-I is the cream of the SD memory card crop when it comes to capacity, and, unsurprisingly, is designed for DSLR owners. The trade off is that the read and transfer rates are a little more modest than the lower capacity yet higher speed cards also aimed at professionals. As usual, this means you have to decide which is more important to you: having the space to store many hours of video, or having the potential to transfer it between devices even more rapidly than usual. Ultimately the fact that there is the choice makes the consumer the winner.
6. SanDisk Extreme
This budget SDHC card has high capacity and speed for what it costs
Card type: SDHC | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 90MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 40MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)
US media card manufacturer SanDisk is long and well established when it comes to removable media solutions for digital cameras. Its Extreme range of cards offers both standard and Pro versions; naturally, the ‘Pro’ versions are slightly more expensive, but not by much. Even the standard Extreme cards feature UHS Speed Class 3 compatibility to be able to cope with both Full HD and 4K recording capability. For a 16GB SanDisk Extreme card, data read speeds are up to 90MB/s, while write speeds of up to 40MB/s are also possible, which will satisfy most photo/video enthusiasts. They’re also water, shock, temperature and X-ray proof. This is probably the best memory card to choose if you don’t need blisteringly fast read/write speeds, just a sensible jack-of-all-trades option.
Best CompactFlash cards
There are still lots of cameras around that use the Compact Flash format, and it still gets plenty of support from memory card makers. The new and upcoming formats for pro cameras are XQD, CFexpress and CFast, but the Compact Flash memory card format looks like it will be around for a while yet, and we've chosen a couple of the best memory cards in the CF format.
7. SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash
Old school perhaps, but a great option if your camera sports a CF slot
Card type: CompactFlash | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 160MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 150MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including 4K)
The media may be old school, but there’s nothing nostalgic about the SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash’s 160MB/s read speed. Sure, it’s the size of an After Eight mint, and like those 1980s dinner-party favourites, CompactFlash cards may be long in the tooth compared to more recent SD alternatives, but that doesn't mean they can't pack enough capacity and speed to satisfy today’s DSLR users. The range offers capacities from a useful 16GB to a whopping 256GB, so you don’t have to keep swapping cards in the heat of the action. Talking of action photography, here a write speed of up to 140MB/s at maximum 256GB capacity also impresses (otherwise it’s 150MB/s for the 128GB and lower capacities), which also makes it eminently suitable for video use, particularly for those DSLRs also offering Full HD capture. In fact, with a minimum sustained write speed of 65MB/s, its manufacturer is able to claim this one as class-leading.
8. Transcend CompactFlash 800
Our pick of the best budget CompactFlash cards gives plenty of storage
Card type: CompactFlash | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 120MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 60MB/s | Warranty: Five year limited warranty | Suitable for: Both photography and video (including Full HD)
Taiwanese company Transcend is another long-term player in the memory card market – and still makes many low-capacity cards, meaning they’re accessible to those on a tight budget. However, even the higher capacity offerings – such as this CompactFlash 800 series – are hardly expensive for what’s on offer to semi-pro DSLR users. Capacities run from a standard 32GB up to a suitable-for-power-users 256GB. Specification is also impressive for a budget card, with read speeds of up to 120MB/s and write speeds of 60 MB/s, although actual performance, of course, is affected by camera hardware and software. Durable and reliable, there’s even a built-in error-correcting code to detect and correct any transfer errors.
Best microSD cards
Smaller cameras like action cams, drones and even smartphones and tablets use the microSD format. Technically, it's just the same as the SD format, with similar capacities and speed ratings, just in a much smaller form, so choosing the best memory card means balancing up the same decisions about cost, capacity and speed.
9. Samsung PRO Endurance
The best microSD card for your camera that you can buy right now
Card type: microSD (With SD adapter) | Capacity: Up to 128GB | Read Speed: Up to 100MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 30MB/s | Warranty: Up to 5 years | Suitable for: Action cameras, dashcams, security cameras
OK, so the Samsung PRO Endurance SD memory cards cost a shade more than bog-standard microSD cards with larger SD-card-sized adapter, but the pitch here includes the fact that these are designed to be the best memory cards for harsh environments and are longer lasting – hence the ‘Endurance’ moniker – so they are particularly suited to use in action cameras as they can continually record at high read/write speeds (100MB/s and 30MB/s respectively). Indeed, an industry-best of 43,800 hours of continuous video recording is promised by the highest capacity card. Warranties on the cards vary between two years for the lower capacity cards, to five years for maximum capacity. Nice.
10. Samsung EVO Plus
The best budget microSD memory card on the market
Card type: microSD (With SD adapter) | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 100MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 30MB/s | Warranty: 10 years | Suitable for: Day to day photography
Available in 32GB, 64GB, 128GB and 256GB capacities, these speedy Class 10 Samsung EVO Plus microSDHC and microSDXC cards come with SD adapter that allows them to be used in cameras just as easily as a smartphone or tablet. The smallest-capacity 32GB types won’t break the bank, despite managing read speeds of 100MB/s (although a write speed of 30MB/s is a little more modest), while the bright red design also ensures Samsung’s general use offering won’t readily get lost, despite just being the size of a fingernail. Complete with a 10-year limited warranty for peace of mind, the cards are also waterproof, temperature proof, X-ray proof and magnetic proof. Again, it’s a case of ‘can’t go wrong’ with this choice.
11. Lexar 1000x microSD card
A solid, fast microSD card with adapter included
Card type: microSD | Capacity: Up to 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 150MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 45MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime | Suitable for: Day to day photography
This decent little microSD is available for a really competitive price, especially when you consider that it comes packaged with a USB 3.0 adapter for easy file transfers. Its read and write speeds are perfectly decent, if unexceptional, and it's made with the kind of quality you'd expect from a maker as reputable as Lexar. It comes in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB and 256GB variations, so you should be able to choose whichever size fits your needs and your budget.
12. Kingston microSD Action Camera
Designed for hardy action cameras, this card can take a kicking
Card type: microSD | Capacity: Up to 64GB | Read Speed: Up to 90MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 45MB/s | Warranty: Not specified | Suitable for: GoPros and other action cameras
If you're shopping for a card for your action camera, such as a GoPro or the DJI Osmo Action, then this card from Kingston is absolutely your best bet. It's designed to have the same kind of everything-proof build that a good action camera has, and to that effect it's waterproof, shockproof, X-ray proof, and temperature proof. Available in capacities ranging from 16GB to 64GB, it's not the highest-capacity card around, but is capable of holding plenty of images and footage. Read and write speeds are decent (if unexceptional), and you'll find this a capable companion for your action camera.
Best XQD card
Nikon was the first camera company to introduce XQD cards in digital cameras and a lot of people thought it was a technical dead-end – but with the XQD format gaining ground and shortly to evolve into the CFexpress format, it's now got everyone talking. This, and CFexpress, could prove to be the best memory card format of all for demanding stills and video capture.
13. Sony Professional XQD G Series
The top choice for Nikon's flagship full-frame cameras
Card type: XQD Version 2 | Capacity: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB | Read Speed: Up to 440MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 400MB/s | Warranty: 10 years | Suitable for: 4K video and high-speed action
XQD is one of a number of new-generation memory card formats – promising faster recording speeds. This makes them perfect for the high-speed data rates required from 4K video recording, but also for serving the maximum burst rates offered by stills cameras. Currently XQD is supported by Nikon's recent flagship full-frame DSLRs and CSCs , including the Z7, Z6, D810 and D850. It is also used by some professional Sony camcorders, and will also be used by the Panasonic S1 and Panasonic S1R. Sony has pioneered the format, and for the moment at least, produces the best cards. Check the small print when shopping for these cards - lots of older and slower versions are around. The latest G-series cards offer a blistering write speed of 400Mb per second, and an equally impressive read rate of 440Mb/s (these are the specs you should watch for). The cards have already built an impressive reputation for ruggedness and reliability.
Best CFast card
The CFast format is used mostly by high-end video equipment, so if you're in this market you don't need us to tell you how it works and what to look for... but we might still be able to tempt you with our CFast best buy anyway.
14. SanDisk Extreme PRO CFast 2.0
One of the best CFast cards around
Card type: CFast | Capacity: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 525MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 430MB/s | Warranty: – | Suitable for: 4K video and high-speed action
CFast is a high-speed memory card that looks very similar to CompactFlash. In terms of stills cameras, this type of card is currently only used in the Canon EOS 1-D X Mark II and Hasselblad H6D-100C. But the format is more widely adopted in professional cinema video cameras from Canon, Arri and BlackMagic. Lightning fast transfer speeds make CFast perfectly suited to 4K video shooting. SanDisk are the ones to watch in this format, and this most-recent version offers a staggering write speed of 525Mb/s, along with an admirable 400 Mb/s read speed.
Best CFexpress card
CFexpress is the latest evolution of XQD, a sophisticated format promising blisteringly fast transfer speeds. It's only compatible with a few cameras at the moment, and very much geared towards the pro end of the market. There also aren't many manufacturers selling it currently, but here is our pick for the best one you can get hold of right now.
15. SanDisk Extreme PRO CFexpress Card
One of the first CFExpress cards available
Card type: CFexpress | Capacity: Up to 512GB | Read Speed: Up to 1700MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 1400MB/s | Warranty: Not specified | Suitable for: Pro photography
CFexpress is here, and SanDisk has hit the ground running with its new Pro CFexpress cards. These offer the kind of transfer speeds that previous generations could but dream of, with read speeds up to a frankly astonishing 1700MB/s and write speeds up to 1400 MB/s. It's early days; the Canon EOS C500 Mark II cine camera has dual CFexpress cards, and there's rumors the upcoming Nikon D6 will too. Panasonic meanwhile has now added CFexpress compatibility to is Lumix S1 and Lumix S1R cameras with a recent firmware update. Have patience though, as we're confident we'll be seeing a lot more of this fantastic format in the future.
16. Delkin Devices 256GB CFexpress
Another great option to early CFexpress adopters
Card type: CFexpress | Capacity: Up to 1TB | Read Speed: Up to 1700MB/s | Write Speed: Up to 1400MB/s | Warranty: Lifetime | Suitable for: Pro photography
Delkin are another company that are set to offer a range of CFexpress cards for new pro cameras and video cameras. Its range will include a 1TB card, although this is likely to follow later than the smaller capacity cards. This card can be hard to find at the moment, as not all retailers are currently stocking it.
Memory cards demystified: what are the different types?
To some degree, you don't need to much about the type of memory card to use in your camera or other devices, as this will be dictated by the design of the camera in which they are used. You can't, for example, use a CompactFlash card in a camera that only takes SD media. That said, knowing how the different cards within each category vary is well worth knowing if you're to get the best possible performance out of your kit.
Standard-sized SD cards come in three main types: SD, SDHC and SDXC. Standard SD (Secure Digital) cards are no longer manufactured as technology has moved on since they were introduced. They can still be used in newer cameras, but they don't offer the kind of performance or capacities that suit modern devices.
SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards are those that have a capacity of between 4GB and 32GB. This kind of capacity suits them to everyday use, and they're a great choice for entry-level cameras, be they compacts, mirrorless bodies or DSLRs.
SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) cards offer capacities of 64GB and above. These are typically designed for cameras with many megapixels, 4K video and any other data-intensive applications, although it's important to look at the various speed ratings when buying these for a particular purpose. To get a better understanding of these, read our article on understanding everything written on your memory card
microSDHC and microSDXC
microSDHC and microSDXC cards offer the same kind of performance as their SDHC and SDXC counterparts, although they're much smaller and designed to be used in phones and other devices, rather than in conventional cameras.
CompactFlash cards used to be the format of choice for many DSLRs, although the performance of the smaller and lighter SDHC and SDXC cards has become so good that these have not largely taken over. That said, some cameras continue to offer both kinds of slots.
Looks similar in size and shape to CompactFlash, but is not compatible. This new-generation high-speed memory card is used in a number of professional stills and video cameras.
XQD cards are more niche than the above options, and currently only compatible with selected Sony camcorders and Nikon DSLR bodies. They are slightly smaller than CompactFlash types, but their superb performance makes them great for high-speed shooting and video recording in particular.
A new evolution of XQD, providing blistering speeds but currently only compatible with a limited number of cameras. We'd expect more and more pro DSLRs in the future to move over to CFexpress compatibility though, so this is one to watch.