Memory Card Buying Guide

Cameras and camcorders tend to max out their memory right when you need it most. A memory card provides a quick and easy solution. This memory card buying guide will help you find the right one for your needs.

Memory Cards 101: How to buy a memory card

When purchasing a new digital camera or camcorder, find out if the manufacturer includes a memory card in the box. Most don't, and even if a card is included you can never have too much storage capacity, particularly if you record HD videos. Next, check to see what type of memory card your device supports. Most new cameras and camcorders use Secure Digital (SD) or Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) memory cards. Some compact cameras use micro or mini versions of SD and SDHC cards. The Compact Flash (CF) format is designed for higher-end DSLR cameras.

Types of Memory Cards


SD Memory Cards

While several different memory card formats are in use, the Secure Digital (SD) family of cards is compatible with the widest variety of brands. There are three SD standards, all the same size and shape. The original, referred to simply as SD, hit the market in 1999 and holds up to 2GB of data (200-400 photos with an average resolution setting of 10 megapixels). However, it has largely been replaced by the more advanced Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and Secure Digital Xtended Capacity (SDXC) standards. If your device is older than five years, it may be compatible only with SD. Newer models that use SDHC or SDXC are compatible with the older SD format.

SDHC Memory Cards

Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) memory cards are suitable for beginner shutterbugs through to professionals. While SD memory cards store a maximum 2GB of data, SDHC cards hold from 4GB to 32GB (800 to several thousand photos at 10 megapixels, or 20-200 minutes of HD 720p video). SDHC cards also offer higher speed ratings. The faster the speed rating, the faster your photos and videos are saved to the memory card. This is an advantage if your device takes large-sized images or if you're shooting long videos.

SDXC Memory Cards

Secure Digital Xtended Capacity (SDXC) memory cards represent another major step forward in both memory and speed. SDXC cards provide between 32GB and 2TB (thousands of photos or 3-20 hours of HD 720p video) and transfer data at extremely fast rates. Designed for professional use, they are compatible only with high-end DSLR cameras

Compact Flash Memory Cards

Compact Flash memory cards are designed to meet the needs of professional photographers. This format rivals or exceeds the top SDHC and SDXC cards in storage capacity and transfer speed. But it's also physically larger and more robust in construction, making it appealing for people who take a lot of pictures and sometimes work in rugged conditions. 

Micro and Mini Memory Cards

If you have a small-sized point-and-shoot camera, you may require either a Micro or Mini format memory card. These cards are simply smaller versions of full-sized SD and SDHC memory cards. Memory card adapters are available to convert Mini and Micro cards for use in cameras designed for full-sized cards.

Memory Card Buying Tips:

  •  Refer to your camera's instruction manual to find out which type of memory card your device accepts
  • The larger the memory card, the more photos and videos it can hold
  • Faster transfer speeds mean a shorter time lag between photos or video recordings

Memory Card Features

Storage Capacity +

Memory card storage capacity ranges from 2GB to 2TB. A 2GB card can hold from 200-400 photos, while a 2TB card can hold thousands of photos or up to 20 hours of HD 720p video.

Transfer Speed +

Transfer speed refers to how quickly information can be written to, or read from a memory card. The SD memory card format uses a class rating system to designate card speed. A Class 1 card is the slowest, and a Class 10 is the fastest.

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Memory Card Usage Tips:

  • Format the card in your camera, not in your computer
  • If a problem develops while you are using your memory card, stop shooting and use data recovery tools to restore your images
  • If using multiple memory cards during a shoot, develop a method for knowing which cards contain data and which are empty
  • Periodically reformat your memory cards
  • Don't remove the memory card from your camera while data is still transferring from the camera to the card
  • Keep food and liquids away from your memory cards
  • Store your memory cards in a plastic case (usually supplied with the card)

Memory Card Readers

A memory card reader is a device that reads the data on your flash memory card and transfers it to your computer. Some memory card readers are compatible with only one type of memory card, while others are compatible with multiple memory card types. If you don't have a memory card reader, you must connect your camera directly to your computer to transfer your image and video. By using a memory card reader, you save your camera's battery power and protect the camera from unnecessary wear and tear.

Did you know?

After transferring the data from your memory card to your computer, you should format the card vs. deleting the photos. This will help correct any disk errors that may have occurred during your last shoot.
Did you know?
You should turn off your camera before removing the memory card. It might still be writing data to the card, and removing it during the writing process could damage files on the card.
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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