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Data Storage Hardware

Is It Worth Paying Extra For Fast SD Cards? 164

Posted by timothy
from the depends-what-they-cost dept.
Barence writes "Are faster grades of SD memory card worth the extra cash? PC Pro has conducted in-depth speed tests on different grades of SD card to find out if they're worth the premium. In camera tests, two top-end SD cards outshone the rest by far, while class 4 cards dawdled for more than a second between shots. However, with the buffer on modern DSLRs able to handle 20 full-res shots or more, it's unlikely an expensive card will make any difference to anyone other than professionals shooting bursts of fast-action shots. What about for expanding tablet or laptop memory? A regular class 4 or 6 card that's capable of recording HD video will also be fast enough to play it back on a tablet. The only advantage of a faster card for media is that syncing with your PC will be quicker. However, a faster card is recommended if you're using it to supplement the memory of an Ultrabook or MacBook Air."
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Is It Worth Paying Extra For Fast SD Cards?

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  • As an avid amateur photographer I once tried lower-end, slower SD cards. The wait between shots of ~1 second (disregarding the camera buffer) means you cannot even preview your shots during that time. Instead you get to wait with a nice blinking LED on the back of the camera until the preview is ready. I found this nearly unbearable after only a dozen or so shots and when I got a chance I immediately spent the money on a faster card that allows previews basically immediately. NOTE: I am using a D800, so your mileage may vary on this... with 36mp RAW files I was waiting several seconds to just preview a shot.
    • by maz2331 (1104901) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:04PM (#42992079)

      I use a D5100, and even with its 16mp RAW files, I always use a Class 10 card to make its responsiveness decent when shooting more than one shot. Cards are cheap, time and missed shots are more important.

      • by jools33 (252092)

        I think it really depends on the capabilities of the camera you are shooting with. I only use San disk extreme or Lexar pro cards - with My Nikon D800 (36MP). You cannot afford the dropped shots - and for video a high end card is even more critical. That said though in the D800 the SD card is my backup card the other slot is for my compact flash card - which is faster (and more expensive) again due to the built in memory controller.

        • by Shoten (260439)

          Quick test:

          Using your own camera, since this is where it will matter, and empty, freshly-formatted cards...
          Turn off autofocus (you don't care if the pictures are blurry; you just want them to happen as fast as possible)
          Turn on continuous shooting
          Hold down the button until the time between shots increases (sign of a full buffer in the camera)
          Check how many pictures you shot off. Keep in mind that you'll need to have the same number of slow shots as well, lest you skew the results slightly; I find that 3-5 s

    • by Trepidity (597)

      A lot of newer DSLRs have big buffers, and let you preview/etc. out of the buffer, so SD card speed becomes mostly irrelevant to user experience. It only really becomes an issue if you're doing burst shooting that fills up the buffer, at which point the camera does have to pause to wait for writes to complete, to free up buffer space. Normal single-shot, or even 3-burst bracketing types of shots, should never hit that point, though.

      • by rusty0101 (565565) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:53PM (#42992365) Homepage Journal

        So I guess the question then is do I want to spend the premium on several memory cards, move the images off of them when I set up my 3-2-1 backups of the images and re-use them, or do I want to spend 10 or more times that to replace the camera I'm using with a camera with a bigger buffer?

        If I'm already going to get the new camera for other reasons, that's one thing. Getting a camera because I want to save on SD cards seems counter-intuitive to me.

        Likewise I'm more likely to take an older camera with me on vacation to shoot with, and carry a few extra high speed storage cards rather than run the risk of my new high end camera going swimming or taking a walk on me. Sure insurance may help me, but I'm a bit more comfortable with having something I am less concerned about being damaged if something goes wrong. But that's me. To each their own.

      • by EvanED (569694)

        ...so SD card speed becomes mostly irrelevant to user experience

        I've got a T2i for hobby photography and have definitely hit the buffer limit on a number occasions. I virtually always shoot RAW for the increased flexibility in lossless postprocessing, so it doesn't take much; if I set it to continuous shooting and hold down the shutter release, I get six shots before it pauses to write, and that is with a class 10 "PNY professional" card. (I just tried it.)

        The most recent time I've hit it was when I was tak

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      Well, it's the same amateur cameras that use SD cards that don't necessarily include enough buffer space either.

      My Canon EOS 7D uses CF cards and includes a fairly hefty buffer as well. The people doing the article are idiots if they think that it's acceptable to have images sticking around in the buffer longer than necessary. The buffer is susceptible to going away instantly if the camera loses power for any reason, whereas the card itself is much more durable.

      I personally, wish that camera manufacturers w

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @10:24PM (#42993345) Journal

        Both CF and SD include the controller: CF cards actually look like PIO IDE drives, on a mechanically different connector, and SD is its own thing. Now, for whatever strange reason, the SD spec guys really skimped on maximum size(there are a few oddball 4GB, with some quirks in certain devices, with 2GB or less being the rule), while the CF spec didn't(not sure about 48-bit LBA in older devices; but that much Flash used to cost more than a new car, so who's checking?)

        If they'd just found an extra penny or two in the budget for a higher capacity ceiling in the first place, the whole 'SD'->'mechanically identical and wholly incompatible SDHC' transition could have been avoided.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          I'm an embedded developer and I agree with the original decision to make SD cards only support up to 4GB. They used a really nice flat address space that makes accessing the cards from an embedded system with very low RAM much easier.

          The new SDHC cards add additional overhead. It isn't merely that the addressing scheme is more complex, it is the fact that you must now query the card and be able to handle a variety of block sizes and sector counts. For that reason the embedded data loggers I work on only sup

    • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @07:43PM (#42992611)

      Never mind cameras, try hauling a few gig of files on or off your ebook reader on anything less than a class 10. Yes indeed, my time is worth a lot more than the few bucks extra, if it finishes at all.

      • by Solandri (704621) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @05:17AM (#42994451)
        Class 10 is a measure of sequential write speed. Nothing more. Cards which are tuned for high sequential write speed (i.e. class 10 cards) suffer from low random 512k and 4k read/write speeds. And cards which are tuned for better random 512k and 4k read/write speeds suffer from lower sequential write speeds. It's a trade-off made when designing the card.

        Here are the CrystalDiskMark scores I got for a 32 GB class 4 card I have:

        seq: 22.9 MB/s read, 4.3 MB/s write
        512k: 22.0 MB/s read, 1.3 MB/s write
        4k: 3.3 MB/s read, 1.3 MB/s write

        And here are the benchmarks for a 16 GB class 10 card I have:

        seq: 21.8 MB/s read, 12.0 MB/s write
        512k: 21.5 MB/s read, 0.9 MB/s write
        4k: 5.7 MB/s read, 0.008 MB/s write (not a typo)

        So if you're recording video or a burst of photos from a camera, yes you want class 10 (or one of the "pro" cards which write even faster). But if you're going to be using the card to read/write lots of small files, like on a phone or tablet, you don't want class 10. For those devices, the sweet spot is around class 6, or maybe a good class 4.

        try hauling a few gig of files on or off your ebook reader on anything less than a class 10

        I've actually done something similar on both the above cards. I have an ~4 GB sheet music library (put it together when it wasn't clear if IMSLP would survive the copyright challenges). Most of the files are 100k to 1 MB PDFs, with a smaller number of 1-10 MB PDFs (small in number, but not in total MB). Average size is just under 1 MB. Copying the whole thing to the class 4 card took about 30 minutes. Copying it to the class 10 card took about 4 hours.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        It's a shame everyone concentrates on raw read/write speed because I have noticed that different cards in the same class have big variations in response time. If I stick a Sandisk class 4 in my phone I can browse the contents and open apps moved to it much faster than I can with a cheap class 6 card.

    • by thephydes (727739)
      I have found the same with my Canon 60D, the faster cards are worth the money. In addition the "extreme" cards are worth the extra imho
    • High speed is definitely worth it for cameras. I went for the "small" 8GB version in favor of speed. Space is so abundant these days that it isn't a priority for most people.

      Think about it: When you use the SD card in the camera you're either taking snaps, or copying existing images or videos from or to the card. You want all this to happen as fast as possible. Once you've copied the files over you can delete everything. The rest of the time it does nothing.

      On a tablet you're using it as computer storage, s

  • I bought an 8 GB Sony U-1 card for $12 USD retail. Rated at 94 MB/s. Writes at about 16 MB/s loading Raspberry Pi images vs 3-6 MB/s for Class 4, real world. It was worth the 4 dollar premium over other name brand flash considering i will be using it for a boot drive for R Pi.
  • I used to have an old 7" netbook for my daughter to use (I've updated her since). I used the biggest, slowest SD Card I could find. Took forever to fill up the card on a single copy operation, but it played back just fine, and overall it was a great buy. On the other hand it would have sucked for a camera.

    This isn't even a real discussion question. Consider what you need the card for and pay for the one you need. If the better than what you need card happens to fall in your range get it instead.

    • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @07:46PM (#42992629)

      I used to have an old 7" netbook for my daughter to use (I've updated her since).

      Ah pubescence 2.0, them were the days.

      • by pecosdave (536896)

        Yeah, the on board SSD was 4GB. The factory installed version of Linux couldn't even update the day I took it out of the box because the drive was full. I put eeeBuntu on the thing and it worked out great. You would be surprised how many kids movies compressed to PSP size in stereo you can fit into a 32GB SSD card. She would watch movies and even play a few video games on that thing in the back seat. I gave it to my niece and nephew when I got her a newer Acer with a 10" screen.

  • they forgot about transfering the files to the PC, if you have a lot of really large files, a card that is a power of ten faster, will be far far far better for syncing with a computer via USB, especially if its a USB3 card reader.

    imagine filling a 32GB card, and trying to transfer all those files with a class 2 card?

    then wiping it securely, and then reformatting it for use somewhere else.

    I don't have the time for that. I need fast memory.

    today I want 30 mb/s

    eventually I want 300 mb/s

    the future(15 years) we
    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Did you just get bored half way through TFS and decide to post?
    • by Tx (96709)

      They didn't forget about it. FTA; "A regular class 4 or 6 card that’s capable of recording HD video will also be fast enough to play it back. The only advantage of a faster card for media is that syncing with your PC will be quicker." I don't really blame you for not making it all the way though the article though, it was at least three times as long as it needed to be to make it's point.

  • by alen (225700) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:11PM (#42992107)

    If the interface to the sd card only supports slower speeds then a fast card is useless

    And for things like watching movies or listening to music the slow cards should be enough

    • And for things like watching movies or listening to music the slow cards should be enough

      Music? Yes. Even lossless stereo audio rarely exceeds 1 Mbps. Standard-definition movies? Yes; DVD Video's maximum bit rate is 10 Mbps. High-definition movies? Not so much. BD Video's maximum bit rate is 54 Mbps. To rip in real time, you'd need at least 7 MB/s of write throughput, or something faster than a class 6.

      • by imsabbel (611519)

        Those class definitions refer to write speed. Even class 4 cards are typcially >>10MB/s when reading.

        • by tepples (727027)

          To rip in real time, you'd need at least 7 MB/s of write throughput

          Those class definitions refer to write speed.

          Exactly. Who would want to sit around all day copying the rip to the card?

      • by emt377 (610337)

        To rip in real time, you'd need at least 7 MB/s of write throughput, or something faster than a class 6.

        7MB/s is pretty slow by today's standards though. Most of my CF cards for my pair of D800E's are 30, 45, 90MB/s write. Faster cards provide for generally more responsive interface speeds for review, delete, reformat, focus checking, etc. Less time spent writing saves battery since the time between sleep modes is reduced. I rarely fill the buffer though, even on a camera not made for continuous action shooting. However, when the buffer does fill card speed is very noticeable. To a photographer nothing

        • by emt377 (610337)

          It's also worth noting that a faster cards will give a few more shots before the buffer fills, simply because fill_rate = in_rate - out_rate. If in_rate is camera specific dependent on settings and continuous shooting speed, then increasing out_rate reduces fill_rate, making the buffer last longer.

  • Uhm, yes and WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maxwell (13985) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:14PM (#42992115) Homepage

    "However, with the buffer on modern DSLRs able to handle 20 full-res shots or more, it's unlikely an expensive card will make any difference to anyone other than professionals shooting bursts of fast-action shots"

    UHm, no. Top of the line SLR can't handle 20 shots in buffer, and any consumer grade is 1-2 max. You won't get you 3-5 FPS (mid tier) or 5-9FPS (high end) without a fast card. And don't even think about recording 1080p or 720p@60 without a class10 UHS1 type card. The whole PC PRo exercise is a useless article apparently trying to convince consumers to buy slower things because 640k is enough for anyo....oh wait we've heard this before, haven't we :). I'd love to see them record HD video on Class4 card. Not happening.

    Buying a class 4 or 6 card is just stupid these days. That is the PC equivalent of actively seeking out a USB1.1 portable HDD instead of USB3. Because USb 1.1 is all the speed you'll ever need really.

    You will never regret buying class 10, but you will almost certainly regret a class 6 so why bother? Heck, in a year or two there won't be any class 6 available anyway - it is too slow...

    Cameras: Canon EOS550d, S90.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "And don't even think about recording 1080p or 720p@60 without a class10 UHS1 type card."

      Do it all the time with a class 6 in a T4i DSLR and many of my GoPro 3 black edition cameras. In fact Gopro recommends only Class 6. You are simply parroting the camera sites that are wildly incorrect.

      I can even record 4K on the gopros to a Class 6.

      • Unfortunately, 'class' ratings on SD cards are like wattage ratings on PSUs... Most people don't actually need as big a number as they think they do; but damn is there ever a lot of crap with 'optimistic' labels slapped on it in the marketplace.

      • You are simply parroting the camera sites that are wildly incorrect.

        Nope, I'm with the grandparent (even the same camera), buying a class 6 nowadays is just dumb. I replaced my day-to-day class 6 cards with class 10's last year and I've never regretted in performance improvement. You can use a class 6 for HD video - but that's right at the bottom end of the recommended range. Cards are cheap (watch for the price wars that pop up now and again), so there's no reason not to upgrade.

    • UHm, no. Top of the line SLR can't handle 20 shots in buffer, and any consumer grade is 1-2 max. You won't get you 3-5 FPS (mid tier) or 5-9FPS (high end) without a fast card.

      Definitely not a top-of-the-line camera, but still fairly decent - Canon EOS 7D. With the latest firmware, mine claims to have a 22 shot buffer in RAW, 80 shot buffer in large JPEG. 8fps. Plus it'll potentially shoot for even longer depending on how fast the memory card is - but it does take CompactFlash rather than SD.

      • by EvanED (569694)

        His numbers are a bit low; my T2i will shoot 5 or 6 RAW photos at full speed before getting delayed by the buffer (at which point it slows to about 2 seconds per shot even with a class 10 card), and I definitely consider that a consumer grade DSLR. But I feel like the sentiment of his post is pretty correct.

        • But I feel like the sentiment of his post is pretty correct.

          Indeed - I find I very rarely use continuous shooting on my own cameras, and I don't think I've ever hit the buffer limits in a real-world situation, but faster memory cards are still bloody useful simply for copying stuff over to a computer afterwards.

      • by emt377 (610337)

        Definitely not a top-of-the-line camera, but still fairly decent - Canon EOS 7D. With the latest firmware, mine claims to have a 22 shot buffer in RAW, 80 shot buffer in large JPEG. 8fps. Plus it'll potentially shoot for even longer depending on how fast the memory card is - but it does take CompactFlash rather than SD.

        22 shots is merely the size of the buffer though. If you shoot 4 fps continuous and it takes 1 second to flush each raw image, then it will take 5 seconds for you to get to shot #22. In those 5 seconds the camera will have flushed the first 5 shots though and you have only 17 in the buffer. So you can shoot 5 more. Now at shot #27 the camera with have flushed one more and you can squeeze in shot #28 before it slows down to match the flush rate. The # of shots you get before it slows down is reciprocal

    • by nadaou (535365)

      You will never regret buying class 10, but you will almost certainly regret a class 6 so why bother? Heck, in a year or two there won't be any class 6 available anyway - it is too slow...

      see thread here (or maybe on the Raspberry Pi forums?) about how different SD card levels are tuned. For photography and other sequential write applications indeed class 10 is great.

      But for random access like the Pi might use, that sequential write speed is done at the expense of the random access, so in whosever's tests th

    • But there's this whole other class of cameras, video cameras, that write a continuous stream to the SD cards. AVCHD cameras are SD based. There your options are to get a card that's fast enough or to have to turn down your detail (or simply not record at all).

    • And don't even think about recording 1080p or 720p@60 without a class10 UHS1 type card

      Erm no. 1080p video or 720p@60 comes out to under 3mb/second. A class 4 card can theoretically do the job. Nikon recommends a maximum class 6 for unimpeded performance on their top of the line video cards. Also my new prosumer camera supports 13 frames in the buffer and my 6 year old DSLR supported far more as well and even with a piss-poor cards of yesteryear behaved admirably when taking fast action shots at sporting events in continuous release.

      The reality is that we were taking 1080p videos and shooting

      • by Maxwell (13985)

        And don't even think about recording 1080p or 720p@60 without a class10 UHS1 type card

        Erm no. 1080p video or 720p@60 comes out to under 3mb/second. A class 4 card can theoretically do the job. Nikon recommends a maximum class 6 for unimpeded performance on their top of the line video cards. Also my new prosumer camera supports 13 frames in the buffer and my 6 year old DSLR supported far more as well and even with a piss-poor cards of yesteryear behaved admirably when taking fast action shots at sporting events in continuous release.

        The reality is that we were taking 1080p videos and shooting fast paced sporting events long before Class10 cards started coming out. Your comment is similar to those "professionals" who say that you can't photograph sports without vibration reduction, and piezoelectric focusing drives. Well I have sporting photographs from 40 years ago that prove otherwise.

        Erm, yes. Sorry, but it's just math. Bitrate*compression*framesize*FPS. Raw reate at 1080p is 6.22M/s w/o compression. There is a little overhead so use 6.5 to be safe

        1) Short of a very intense 60% compression you won't get down to 3M. Post processing yes, but in the camera on the fly? Pretty rare. In most cases you are looking at about 5.0M/s for 1080p. That is why many cameras have a 12minute limit on HD recording - at 12Min you've hit the 4G maximum file size. The Canon line which I am most familiar wi

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:16PM (#42992127)
    In my Canon I have to put a pretty fast card in to take more than about 10-20 seconds of video. I don't need the fastest but a 10 is pretty well the minimum. I would say that this test would be best if they had some older model cameras. Older being pretty common because if you bought a good camera even 5 years ago there is a pretty good chance that it still meets your needs and is still going strong.

    My personal suggestion is for everyone with a halfway serious camera to not only get fast enough SD cards but to go on ebay and buy a spare battery and charger. When you suddenly need them it is too late to get them cheap on ebay and paying full retail price can really sting.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Exactly. But the toy palmcorders will not use anything more than a Class 6.

  • by david.emery (127135) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:24PM (#42992177)

    There's no point buying a Class 10 card if your camera's write speed is no faster than Class 6. Unfortunately, though, some camera makers don't provide this information, or they make make it hard to find the write speed. Thus you may have to do some web research for your specific camera.

    That being said, you'll never complain (after you have bought the card) if your card is faster than your camera.

    As a side comment, I think it's better to have 2 16gb cards than a single 32gb card, purely from the perspective of "no single point of failure." My goal on vacation/shoots is to have at least one card unused at the end of the trip. (I learned the hard way what can go wrong when I ran out of cards, erased a card I thought was copied to my computer, and then discovered the backup program saw the erased card and said, "Oh, you didn't want that data after all!" No one to blame but myself for that operator headspace error.)

    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's why you should use a utility like teracopy to do the copy. I use it to verify that the files have been copied and then immediately delete the files on the card. That way, I know that they made it to the disk. I wish that it supported MD5 rather than CRC, but it's better than nothing and much faster than individually verifying each file is the same one.

      • by emt377 (610337)

        That's why you should use a utility like teracopy to do the copy. I use it to verify that the files have been copied and then immediately delete the files on the card. That way, I know that they made it to the disk.

        I'd recommend leaving them on the card until you've backed up the disk so you have two copies at all times. When out traveling I import everything new on a card to Lightroom on my laptop, but leave it on the card. When the card is close to full I move on to the next. When I get home and have safely copied everything from my laptop to my main NAS I reformat the cards. I also leave the images on the laptop; when the 480GB SSD on it fills up I delete old images. The NAS gets backed up to disks that are st

    • by fufufang (2603203)

      There's no point buying a Class 10 card if your camera's write speed is no faster than Class 6.

      Well, with a faster card, you can copy the data out of the card quicker.

      • Well, with a faster card, you can copy the data out of the card quicker.

        iff the device you're using to copy supports reading the card at a faster speed! I've observed anecdotally, and read many reviews about the (usually poor) quality/speed of most 3rd party flash card readers. (Not an issue on my 2011 MacBook Pro, but it was a consideration using an external reader on my earlier MB Pro.)

  • by RedBear (207369) <redbear@@@redbearnet...com> on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:24PM (#42992179) Homepage

    It's very odd to me that they seem to have left out Lexar completely from this little test. Back when I was really into digital photography I spent a lot of time on DPReview and Amazon and B&H Photo looking for the best deals on the fastest CompactFlash and SD cards. The top competitors seemed to always be the SanDisk Ultra/Extreme lines and Lexar's Professional cards. Kingston has usually done well also, but the most prominent/popular over the years have always have seemed to be SanDisk and Lexar.

    Even 2-3 years ago I remember Lexar having "300x" cards competing with the SanDisk Extreme lineup. Just now doing a quick search on Amazon shows Lexar "600x" SD cards available, so it's not like they've dropped out of the market.

    Maybe somebody at Lexar pissed off the editor of PC Pro? I can't imagine why else you'd leave one of the fastest cards on the market out of a speed test. Hmm...

    Oh, yeah. PC Pro. Why the f**k am I even reading Slashdot anymore?

    • by macraig (621737)

      You mean Lexar, the same company that had deliberately misleading advertising for some of its USB Flash products in the last year or two during the transition to USB 3.0? Lexar had advertising and product descriptions for some of its USB 2.0 thumb drives that conveniently didn't even mention that they were USB 2.0, not 3.0. You had to read the fine print in a PDF document to find out the truth, and only then because of the appearance of the USB "High Speed" logo in the margin of the document. Apparently

      • by davmoo (63521)

        Yes it is the one I want to depend on, and in fact do depend on. Because Lexar 1000x CF cards are the fastest cards out there in both read and write speeds. And that's by my actual experience and testing*, and not their advertising. I don't give a rat's ass what their PR department does.

        *I shoot high school gymnastics with a Canon 7D. It is not unusual for me to shoot 4000 or more shots during a 2 hour event.

        • by macraig (621737)

          CF cards by design are faster than the SD cards being discussed here. SD was such a gawdawful spec right from the beginning. If you're using CF cards you're better off even using a lousy one.

          But kudos to you for not giving a damn about ethical practices just because you think you benefit.

    • by RDW (41497)

      There's some rather more useful and still reasonably up to date testing on Rob Galbraith's site for a few high-end SLRs (unfortunately no longer updated):

      http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=6007 [robgalbraith.com]

      Lexar cards are included, up to 600x SDHC, and 1000x CF. XQD cards are the real speed demons now, of course.

    • It didn't seem like a good test at all to me, they also left out some other cards that people might be likely to encounter in shopping (like Duracell).

      Also, of course slower cards are going to be slower - compare all cards with the same speed rating against each other please, not class 4 against class 10!

    • by emt377 (610337)

      It's very odd to me that they seem to have left out Lexar completely from this little test.

      The Lexar 1000X CF cards are still the gold standard for photography.

      Back when it was still updated, Rob Galbraith's card performance database [robgalbraith.com] was the place to look.

  • by Murdoch5 (1563847)
    Don't even bother with cards less then class 10, there not really worth the investment. "slower" or lower class SD cards are perfectly find but for the slight price difference you may as well spend the extra $5 and by the better card, it is faster, has better overall predominance and just lasts longer.
  • "... with the buffer on modern DSLRs able to handle 20 full-res shots or more, it's unlikely an expensive card will make any difference to anyone other than professionals shooting bursts of fast-action shots."

    I have seen a number of reviews for inexpensive video cameras that said a 4x card was not fast enough and caused choppy video, but a faster card fixed it.

  • by AxemRed (755470) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @06:43PM (#42992291)
    While modern DSLR cameras might have large buffers, normal consumer-grade or even enthusiast-grade point-and-shoot cameras don't necessarily have them. IMO it makes sense for an average person to buy a higher speed card. They're probably only buying one card anyway, and the price difference between a slow card and a fast card is small enough to make it worth it.
  • by joeflies (529536) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @07:13PM (#42992473)
    I once went to frys to pick up some extra cards, and the sales rep told me that if I buy the more expensive cards, it will improve the quality of my pictures because they will be sharper and more colorful. I am still trying to figure out how he justifies that statement.
  • by David_Hart (1184661) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @07:17PM (#42992491)

    The class ratings from reputable vendors tend to be reliable, but you don't always get this from lesser known manufacturers. Most Class 10 cards get at least Class 6 performance.

    A Class 10 32 GB SDHC card costs $33 or less. The same card at Class 6 costs $25 or less, a whopping $8 in savings. Most people buy one card and leave it in their camera except to transfer photos to the PC to upload to Facbook, etc. Is it really advisable to recommend that people save $8 for a one-time purchase of a memory card? I think not!!

    • by adolf (21054)

      Is it $8 more, or is it 32% more?

      To restate your rhetorical question:

      Is it really advisable to tell folks to spend 32% more for features that they may or may not find useful?

      (I'll let you answer the question yourself, since you seem to be very good at synopsizing the needs of the general public.)

    • by deimtee (762122)
      I know a few people who never erase their cards. When full they keep the old SD card as a backup and put a new one in the camera. For them it might make sense to buy the cheapest one that works.
  • by rusty0101 (565565) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @07:23PM (#42992523) Homepage Journal

    For Photography, work out your budget, figure out what you need for your style of taking pictures, and buy the best memory you can afford for your needs. If you can get by with class 4 or class 6 memory, great. If you find that you need class 10, try out some of the budget options noted above and see if they serve your needs.

    For other uses, you may very well find that a slower card actually works better for you than a 'faster' card. Class 10 is great for streaming large volumes of data onto the card, but experience has shown in the microsd cards that if you need to do a lot of small file manipulations, read and write, etc. a class 4 may outperform a class 10 card. This is of interest to people doing cyanogen mod implementations running off of the sdcard, but is a completely different use case from a photographer shooting high res photos, or a videographer shooting HD video.

  • by MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @07:41PM (#42992599) Homepage

    I've learned through trial and error what cards actually work on my camcorder. For still photography, I've always been a SanDisk fan. But every class 10 SanDisk SD card I have used is unable to support the highest quality recording on my Canon camcorder. Oddly, class 10 Transend cards work fine. It appears the class 10 rating is a read-speed rating - not write-speed. I've tried 6 different SanDisk cards over the years and they continue to disappoint.

  • So, from the summary, it sounds like the article states that slower-rated SD cards are just as good as faster-rated ones, except when they're not.

    OK.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      On my 7MP superzoom I can shoot continuous on a class 4 card, if it's a good one. But I'm told that anything higher-resolution (or RAW) and it's a no-go. And if you want to shoot HD video you want a class 10, or continuous RAW, or anything else high-bandwidth really. So in short, if you have a cheap consumer camera and you're taking cheap consumer pictures (resolution-wise anyway) then it doesn't matter, and for playing music it doesn't matter, but for high res, RAW, or HD video you should pony up for a rea

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        With that said, it's twice the money for a real card! Class 4 is seven bucks on eBay, class 10 can be had for 12 but is more often 14, if you expect a lifetime warranty.

        It just occurred to me, that's a great deal.

        $14 for what, like 16gb of solid state memory?

        You're probably old enough to have shot on 400 speed Kodak (or Fuji) film back in the day. What would it have cost to have bought the film and processing (or chemicals for processing in your own darkroom) to shoot and process the number of pictures yo

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You're probably old enough to have shot on 400 speed Kodak (or Fuji) film back in the day. What would it have cost to have bought the film and processing (or chemicals for processing in your own darkroom) to shoot and process the number of pictures you can get on one of those 16gb SD cards?

          Yeah, I shot lots of 100 and 400 Kodak. And much later, after I'd already got digital PandS cameras (I had a Casio QV-10, even! those were the days) I took a B&W photo class so that I would understand more of what I was doing. Can't say it helped my composition much, but now I do understand the camera much better. Frankly, even on my super zoom, which is so old that it won't even take SDHC, I really never worry about running out of space while taking snapshots. Video is the only case where that might be

  • I wonder how the write times change when they become over-write times, and sectors have to be erased before they can be written.

    • by hankwang (413283)

      I wonder how the write times change when they become over-write times, and sectors have to be erased before they can be written.

      I'm surprised no one else responded to this; TFA didn't mention it either; I recall having experienced a significant performance difference between a new and a used USB stick in the past.

      I happened to have an unused USB stick (SanDisk, 4 GB) lying around, so here are the test results I get right now. Out of the box, it takes about 4 seconds to write 40 MiB, using the command

      time

  • I have a Canon T3i and have tried to shoot 720P 60FPS video with cheap class 10 cards and the camera pukes after a second or so.

    It only works well with a Sandisk class 10 card.
  • by maxbash (1350115) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @08:43PM (#42992903)
    I always buy Class 6 SD cards, why because there slightly cheaper then Class 10 nearly always a smiler or identical card when from the same brand. Do I sound illogical? Study the specification, Class 10 has a less rigorous testing metric, they don't do any random access tests on Class 10 cards. So far I've had the best performance with Sanddisk Ultra class 6 cards. I admit I do push the random access on some of my uses, like using it has the system drive for a Nook Color, booting UBCD4win on a ISOSTICK. and as a system drive for a couple ARM Developer boards.
    • I always buy Class 6 SD cards, why because there slightly cheaper then Class 10 nearly always a smiler or identical card when from the same brand. Do I sound illogical?

      Yes, you do sound illogical, and a bit incoherent. You buy one class of cards because they are cheaper and smile at you? Class 10 cards are faster, which is what makes them Class 10 and not Class 6, though I've never seen one smile, so maybe you're onto something. Personally, I like frowner and scowler cards better than smiler cards - that tough look means business.

      • by Guppy (12314)

        Yes, you do sound illogical, and a bit incoherent. You buy one class of cards because they are cheaper and smile at you? Class 10 cards are faster, which is what makes them Class 10 and not Class 6, though I've never seen one smile, so maybe you're onto something.

        The problem is, many Class 10 cards boosted their ratings by over-optimizing for long sequential reads/writes, causing random-read/write speeds to suffer. I think the gap has shrunk with newer Class 10 cards, but a few years ago the effect was pretty dramatic. Lower-class cards could be significantly faster for non-contiguous workload patterns (such as running apps directly from a card):

        For instance: http://forums.anandtech.com/showpost.php?p=33007926&postcount=26 [anandtech.com]

  • Brand name cards for reliability & speed. I've seen more than a few cheap cards fail but never a good brand name card.

    Lower classed cards of a good brand are usually faster than higher classed cheap brands too. About all a cards class rating really means is that at some point it passed a very specific write throughput benchmark. Slow cards are near useless for many purposes. If you ever want to use the card outside of a shitty camera, you'll appreciate any extra speed.

    Note that most benchmark ignor

  • Raspberry Pi? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Matt_Bennett (79107) on Saturday February 23, 2013 @09:15PM (#42993051) Homepage Journal
    Since SD cards are the standard storage medium for the Raspberry Pi, what about a speed comparison for that?
  • At work, we use them as the boot device and main mass storage device for our embedded systems. We build systems that deal with lots and lots of real time data. You're damn right it makes a difference.
  • Don't all the high-end cameras still use CF? So much easier to work with. All my camears use CF.

  • I recently replaced my SDHC cards for my now aged Nikon D90 with Sandisk ultra 90MB/sec cards. The camera can't take advantage of them at all and I knew that going into it. I did it because it improves processing. Moving photos from a shoot went from a 20+ minute chore to something that is done in a minute or two on the PC. That makes it worthwhile to me. Fast cards really aren't all that expensive. Even though I shoot everything in RAW+JPEG fine, I have never filled a 16GB card in a single shoot.
  • by FLaSh SWT (233251) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @12:02AM (#42993655)

    Professional testing has shown that the cameras I currently use (Canon EOS 1D Mark IV) top out around 66 MB/s when writing to the fastest CF cards.

    But in-camera speed is only half of what matters. As a photojournalist and sports photographer who works on tight deadlines most days, I also have to consider how fast I can download the images off the CF cards onto my computer for editing. With the right card reader you can download at up to 97 MB/s.

    This is why I always use the fastest cards I can, currently Sandisk Extreme Pro 90 MB/s, because even though the camera can't take advantage of that extra speed it will definitely save me time when it comes to editing.

    For people not on a time crunch or those who always download to their computer by plugging their camera in with a USB cord it is probably wise to save money and not buy the fastest cards out there.

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