One of the most important pieces of your photography set up, even more so than your camera, is your memory cards. I can hear many of you out there now gasping, “How can you say that? The camera HAS to be THE MOST IMPORTANT part of a photographer’s arsenal!”
Well, you would be wrong. As I mentioned in my earlier blog post titled It’s Not ONLY About the Camera, your camera is not nearly as important as you might think or as camera sales people would have you believe. Your camera is your primary tool as a photographer, but even more important than your camera is the memory card that you use.
Why is the memory card so important? Because your camera has what is known as a buffer, which is the amount of internal space in memory that the camera can hold images in before it has to start writing them to the memory card. If you are someone that shoots sports or anything else with action, like wildlife and have your camera on continuous shooting, you can only snap so many shots before your camera starts blinking that it’s “Busy” and the little red light that indicates that it’s writing to the memory card starts flashing like mad. When you reach this point, you cannot snap anymore images until the camera is done emptying it’s buffer.
Your wait time can be seriously shorter if you make sure you only buy FAST memory cards. Now I know the next thing you are all saying is “I thought ALL memory cards are fast, they are faster than hard drives!” Well, you would be right in that respect, except for SSD or Solid State hard drives, which are basically massive memory cards used in place of a conventional hard drive. However, not all memory cards are created equal and you need to be aware of this when you are buying them for your camera so that you can get maximum performance when you really need it.
Whether your camera uses SD cards or CF cards, you need to make sure you are buying the fastest ones you can afford so that you spend more of your time shooting and less time waiting on your camera to write those images to the memory card. Trust me, if you are shooting sports and you miss an awesome shot because your buffer is full and your memory card is so slow it takes 30-60 seconds for your buffer to clear, you will not be a happy camper! Memory cards do have different write speeds and as a result, the faster cards cost considerably more than the slower ones do. If you walk into say your local Walmart and buy an SD or CF card in the photo department, you will get say a 32GB SD card for $12 or maybe even $10, or that 8GB CF card is only $8 and think, “Man that is a great deal!” It’s not such a great deal when that $8 or $10 memory card costs you a once in a lifetime shot.
When you are buying memory cards, look closely at the label and see what the write speed is. For CF (Compact Flash) cards, you really want once that have a write speed of 120-160Mbps, which means Mega-bytes per second. For SD cards, look for ones that are class 10 only and XC with 900x for the speed are some of the best. With either of these kinds of cards, you buffer will empty in a few seconds instead of 30-60 seconds or longer. Now these memory cards won’t be cheap, but they don’t have to break the bank either. Look on sites like Amazon and wait until they go on sale to “pull the trigger” so to speak. The Sandisk Extreme Pro CF with 160Mbps speed is $79.99 for a 64GB model or $44.95 for a 32GB one. The same model in an SD card is $42.99 for a 64GB model and $24.95 for the 32GB one.
Now that you are better educated on memory cards, hopefully you won’t miss that shot! And remember, you don’t HAVE to get them as big as 32GB or 64GB, 8GB or 16GB will do, unless you shoot thousands of shots at a time.