Last Updated: April 6, 2019.
As a photographer and tech lover, I tend to gravitate towards the best of the best when it comes to the technology products I own, which is why I found myself on the quest to find the best SD cards out there. I want reliability, speed, and something that will let me push my equipment to its limits.
I use my DSLR mostly for, adventure photos, food shots, and high speed sports photography. Having a SD card that can meet my demands and have enough storage for my 1-2 week travels of photo and video taking all day long is crucial. I went on a quest to find the ultimate SD card to max the allowed space with lightning fast speeds. If you’re interested in Micro SD cards, check out my other research post for the Best Micro SD Card.
Table of Contents
The Problem with Finding the Best SD Cards
UHS, UHS-I, U1, UHS-III, and U3 are all buzzwords and jargon to look for on the packaging. The UHS signifies the speeds up to – up to being the operative phrase. This is important if you’re shooting HD or 4k video. Faster write speeds are needed in order to produce high quality video.
Even if you’re not shooting video, but running apps or games off your SD card, a fast write speed will keep things running smoothly.
A lot of cards are advertised as UHS1 / U1 and support 4k, but this simply is not true. Manufacturers claim 10MB/s write speed is sufficient, but it isn’t! You’re going to start running into overheating problems and video that stops recording before you’re done. I’ve even encountered dropped frames in video I was hoping to be spectacular.
You’ve probably seen UHS-I and Class 10 on just about every SD card you’ve checked out already. The SD association has come out with speed classes relevant towards video, too.
The Difference Between SD, SDHC, and SDXC
SDXC devices are backwards compatible, so they accept SD and SDHC memory cards. SDXC memory cards must only be used with SDXC devices and should never be used in non-compatible devices.
SD Card Speed Classes
SD Card Video Speed Classes
Video classes have been assigned to better support high resolution video recordings. Supported formats for video recordings on SD cards include:
- 4k (V6, V10, V30, V60, V90)
- 8k (V60 and V90)
- 3D (V60 and V90)
- 360 degree (V60 and V90)
The Best SD Card Brands
There are really only 5 brands you should consider when shopping for a SD card. There are faster cards out there, but I like to consider reliability as an important factor. I don’t want a card to become corrupt with a vacation full of video and photos.
Lexar – One of my personal favorites. Nikon also recommends this brand for their cameras.
Samsung – One of my personal favorites, based on speed and price.
SanDisk – Nikon recommends this brand this brand for their cameras.
Sony – This is a brand I’d purchase when on sale, otherwise I’d choose another brand first.
Transcend – Great budget options for the price.
Choosing the Best SD Card
Below are the fastest 512GB, 256GB, and 128GB SD cards. Anything else simply hasn’t made the cut for size, speed, and reliability.
Best 512GB SD Cards
There are currently only three 512GB SD cards out there, and each of them are amazing cards. You can’t go wrong. However, the Sandisk Extreme Pro 512GB is my all time SD card favorite. I’ve used the Extreme Pro line in my DSLRs for many years and have always loved them. For the price, speed, and reliability, these are some of the easiest purchases of my tech life. I happily recommend this card to anyone who has similar demands as my own.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 512 GB SDHC UHS-I Card – SDSDXPA-512G-G46 – $258
90.21 MB/s read in sequential mode.
81.06 MB/s write in sequential mode.
1.484 MB/s 4K read.
3.237 MB/s 4K write.
Lexar Professional 633x 512GB SDXC UHS-I Card – LSD512CBNL633 – $209
152.70 MB/s read in sequential mode.
86.69 MB/s write in sequential mode.
11.52 MB/s 4K read.
1.80 MB/s 4K write.
PNY Elite Performance 512GB SDXC UHS-I Card – P-SDX512U3H-GE – $200
90.44 MB/s read in sequential mode.
54.00 MB/s write in sequential mode.
8.226 MB/s 4K read.
0.773 MB/s 4K write.
Best 256GB SD Cards
Lexar Professional 633x 256GB SDXC UHS-I / U3 Card – LSD256CBNL633 – $105
96.73 MB/s read in sequential mode.
66.92 MB/s write in sequential mode.
5.599 MB/s 4K read.
0.713 MB/s 4K write.
SanDisk Extreme Pro 256GB SDHC UHS-I Card – SDSDXXG-256G-GN4IN – $130
99.50 MB/s read in sequential mode.
90.29 MB/s write in sequential mode.
9.027 MB/s 4K read.
2.979 MB/s 4K write.
Best SD Cards based on Video Speed Classes
I’m still gathering info on v90 and v60 certified SD cards. Some manufacturers have claimed equivalent speeds, but have not received an official certification. If the card doesn’t have the official Video Speed Class mark stamped on the card, I won’t list it here.
Best MicroSD Cards based on video class.
Best SD v90 Cards
Delkin 128GB Cinema SDXC UHS-II (U3/V90) Memory Card (DDSDUHS2128G) – $280
Note: I’ve never used this brand, but apparently they are the only one v90 certified.
Best SD v60 Cards
Best SD v30 Cards
Best SD v10 Cards
Tips on SD Card Care and Maintenance
Deleting Files and Formatting SD Cards
- Format your new SD card as soon as you plug it into the device.
- Always perform future formats in the device, whether phone or camera.
- Format when putting your SD card into new devices.
If you’ve ever had a corrupted SD card, you know how devastating it is to lose all of your data. The absolute best way to ensure your SD cards stay healthy is to only use the device, whether phone or camera, to delete files off the card. NEVER use your computer. The same goes for formatting. Always use your phone or camera to perform the format function. Using your computer to delete or format data off your SD card greatly increases the chances of the card becoming corrupted over time. Just be sure you want to format, as it is not reversible.
Transferring Files off SD Cards from Phone to Computer
I use Dropbox to easily and quickly move files back and forth from my phone to computer. Whether Android or iPhone, this has always seemed to be the easiest method. Dropbox will automatically upload new photos from my phone while on WiFi, then download them to my computer immediately.
Every now and then, or immediately upon returning from a vacation, I’ll hop on my computer and move the photos out of the Dropbox folder and into my Photos folder. Its a couple steps to get used to, but if you’ve tried saving photos off your phone, you know a couple steps is a lot easier than constantly pulling out hair, losing photos, or having to delete photos to make more room on your phone.