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Choosing the Best SD Card for Video – Understanding All the Numbers and Symbols on SD Memory Cards

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All right, you have your camera, you have your lenses; but now you need something to record on. So let’s talk memory cards. Hey everyone, Camber here back with you in Mississippi, and today we were talking about which memory cards are best for video; and if you’re new here, this channel is all about teaching you how to use your camera to make good films so if that’s you, consider subscribing. Now there are many different types of memory cards. You have SD cards, Compact Flash, Micro SD, CFast cards. So what’s the difference? Well, SD cards and Micro SD cards are basically the same except SD cards are used in more consumer level cameras whereas Micro SD cards are used in smaller cameras like GoPros or in drones.

Compact Flash cards are even faster and are used in more expensive cameras like the 5D Mark 4; whereas CFast cards are some of the fastest you can get and are used in more pro level DSLRs and cinema cameras. However, since most cameras have ports for SD cards, we’re going to use that for our example. Now as far as hardware is concerned, the only difference between SDHC and SDXC cards is different filing systems which result in higher memory capacities. The SDHC cards can hold up to 32 gigabytes whereas the SDXC cards can hold up to 2 terabytes; although you won’t find 2 terabytes out on the market yet.

So the first thing we’re gonna look at on these cards is the number on the top left which is the maximum read speed of the card, but before we do we need to understand a few things first. So, 8 bits equals 1 byte, and therefore 8 megabits equals 1 megabyte. Megabits little b, megabytes big B. It’s important to know the difference when we get into understanding read and write speeds because people often see that their camera cords at 100 megabits per second, little b, and think, “Oh, I need a card that records at a hundred megabytes per second.” Big B. When actually 100 megabits per second equates to 12.5 megabytes per second.

Now manufacturers don’t always advertise their write speeds so unless the card’s write speed is explicitly stated, then any number that you see in the top left of your memory card is going to be card’s maximum achievable read speed. And this maximum achievable read speed comes more into play for photography because when you start doing this… the maximum achievable speed of the card will allow you to take more shots without having buffering issues. But in video we care about sustained speeds because if the sustained speed drops below the video’s bitrate, you’ll start getting dropped frames in your video. So the next number we’ll look at represents the memory capacity of the card, which in this case is 64 gigabytes.

And what size card you’ll need really depends on how much you plan on shooting at once. For example, if you’re gonna be shooting a full wedding at a hundred megabits per second, you’ll want a larger capacity card because you’ll fill up a 32 gigabyte card at that rate in about 35 minutes. Another thing to consider is spreading your footage among multiple cards so that if you do have a memory card failure you won’t lose all of your footage.

I like to just use one large card so I’m not switching out cards and don’t risk losing one; however, I haven’t experienced any memory card failure yet. The rest of the numbers you see on the right side of the card are various ways of representing the speed class rating of that card. The letter C with a 2, 4, 6, or 10 enclosed within it represents a minimum sustained write speed of 2 megabytes per second for a class 2, 4 megabytes per second for a class 4, and so on and so on. However, it’s important to note that this is the minimum rate, not necessarily the actual rate. And then you have a U with a 1 or a 3 inside of it, and this represents a minimum sustained write speed with U1 being 10 megabytes per second, and U3 never slower than 30 megabytes per second. So U1 is identical to class 10 in that both of them are certified to never write slower than 10 megabytes per second; however, the difference being that the U card is designed for SD cards that use a UHS 1 or a UHS 2 bus.

Non-UHS cards max out at 25 megabytes per second, UHS-1 cards max out at 104 megabytes per second, and UHS-2 cards max out at 312 megabytes per second. The UHS-2 cards have a second row pins that allows them to achieve this speed, but if your device doesn’t have the second row of pins, the card will revert to UHS-1 speeds. There’s also a V speed that’s being added to memory cards now, and the SD Association created these video speed class ratings in order to identify which cards are capable of 8k, 4k, 360, or 3D video. The V speed is similar to the U speeds in that it represents the minimum sustained speed in megabytes per second that the card can handle. Now, not all cameras are compatible with these higher speed class ratings so you’ll want to get into your manual or look up online and see which cards are compatible with your camera. 4K is becoming the new standard, and camera specs are increasing rapidly. I don’t like having to upgrade things like memory cards so I like to buy the best I can possibly get so that I’ll be able to support future larger video formats without having to buy more support equipment.

I have links down below for what I use for my HD and 4k video, and I suggest getting the fastest card that’s compatible with your camera so that you never have any issues with dropped frames in your videos. And that’s all I have for memory cards so if you made it this far, hit that thumbs up and let me know down below if you have any more questions about memory cards.

Go ahead and subscribe if you haven’t and remember that the only way to get better at something is to practice. So get out there and film something. See you soon..

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