Did you know not all SD cards are created equal? Make yourself an educated consumer by understanding the differences. That $10 deal you found for an SD card may not actually be such a “deal”. It was not until I began using a 8gb SanDisk Extreme SDHC card that I realized there’s such an extreme (pun intended) difference between good cards and cheapo cards. Improvements are very apparent in how quickly you can shoot pictures, preview your shots, and upload them to your computer. A better card can also save higher quality video recordings. If you have a DSLR Camera, you are not doing it any justice with a sub-par SD card–you should make the most of it!
Lesson 1: SD Card Classes Explained
All newer SD cards have a card class. The class is the minimum speed a card will perform at any given moment. It’s basically a worst-case scenario speed. The SD Card Class is especially important for camcorders, which continuously transfer footage to the SD card. If the card’s minimum transfer speed can’t keep up with the footage being recorded, the quality is degraded. Card Class is measured in Megabytes Per Second. Currently there are standards for Class 2, 4, 6, and 10. Class 10 being the fastest. There is a class 0 that includes cards that haven’t been rated, including all SD cards older then the class specifications.
Lesson 2: SD vs SDHC vs SDXC
SD = Secure Digital
SDHC = Secure Digital High Capacity (SD 2.0)
SDXC = Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SD 3.0)
All SD cards are physically the same size, and they look the same too. The original SD flash cards are, of course, “SD”. SDHC improves on the classic card in performance and storage capability. SDHC cards have storage capacities above 4GB, and are at least Class 2 (minimum speed of 2MB/s). SDHC cards follow the SD 2.0 specification, which limits their capacity to 32GB. SDXC surpasses SDHC in speed and storage and adheres to the SD 3.0 standards. Their storage capacity can top out at 2TB and they have speeds up to 104MB/s. SDXC memory cards and devices have just began to hit the consumer market, they are very far from becoming mainstream as SDHC cards are more than sufficient for most any consumer gadget out there.
The SanDisk Extreme SDHC Card
The SanDisk Extreme SDHC card is SanDisk’s fastest SDHC card. It is available from 4GB to 32GB. Any professional photographer can confidently shoot knowing they’re not going to run out of storage space shooting in RAW with a 32GB card. The Extreme is a Class 10 memory card (fastest class), and has an advertised read/write speed of 30MB/s. Its specifications exceed the requirements of today’s HD video recording cameras. The card is not just “Extreme” for it’s very fast transfer speeds, but also because it can withstand extreme conditions. The Extreme was built for durability under extremely hot and cold climates; “from deserts to glaciers, guaranteed”.
Continuous Burst Shooting is where most people will be able to pin-point the performance boost the Extreme provides their camera. With a Nikon D90 I was able to take 43 RAW+Fine JPEG shots in 30 seconds with my Extreme card. With the budget card I was only able to take 13 shots in 30 seconds–big difference. Taking just Fine JPEG shots, not RAW, I was able to capture 64 shots in 30 seconds with the Extreme and 54 shots with the budget card. The budget card also took longer before I was able to preview my shots.
SanDisk recommends their ImageMate card reader for optimal results when connecting the card to a computer. Using a regular [cheapo] SDHC card reader, I was able to transfer one hundred 14-megapixel images (288mb) from my card to my computer in just 13 seconds. It took 40 seconds with the budget card. I was able to transfer seven 1GB video clips from the Extreme (7GB total) to my computer in 5 minutes 40 seconds.
The speed tests I ran (using my cheapo card reader) clocked the Extreme’s read speed as 19.2MB/s and the write speed as 15MB/s (on Mac OS). This was not quite the advertised 30MB/s read/write speed, but it still exceeds the specifications of a Class 10 card. A speed test of my Class 0 budget 1GB card yielded a read speed of 9.9MB/s, but a write speed of just 3.2MB/s–a pretty significant difference.
The SanDisk Extreme SDHC card has the speed, reliability, and storage capacity to really make the most out of any photography experience, and it will for at least the next few years. On a DSLR camera or Camcorder the benefits of going Extreme are noticeable. Point and Shoot cameras may not take advantage of the Extreme’s transfer speed, but it can still benefit from the card’s high storage capacity, reliability, and sustainability. Also, transferring hundreds of photos to your computer in a matter of seconds is a true delight.
SanDisk is renowned for reliability among their flash products. Their products cost a little more then their competitor, Transcend, but it’s worth it for the reliability. There are hundreds of Amazon reviews that validate this fact. Fortunately, the SanDisk Extreme prices have gotten much more affordable since their launch. The 8GB model that we reviewed originally retailed for $119.99, but now sells on Amazon for just under $50. The 4GB costs half that, at just under $25. The 16GB sells for $96 and the 32GB for $161.99. They all come with a limited lifetime warranty. Also, as a bonus, all models include a license to RescuePRO, a $40 recovery tool. Should you have any issues with your card, RescuePRO can recovery most any file, even if it’s been deleted. The perfect shot may only last a fraction of a second, don’t miss it because your memory card is not fast enough.
The Good: Affordable, Take Faster Shots, Preview Shots quicker, Transfer files to and from card faster, Big Storage Capacities available, Durable, Lifetime Warrantee, Comes with RescuePRO license
The Bad: Does not come with memory card reader, wasn’t able to get 30MB/s with my card reader (but your results may vary)