The SD card market seems to be hotting up, and getting pretty competitive (and fast!). With Lexar seemingly back, ProGrade taking square aim at the high-end market, and SanDisk & Sony releasing new cards boasting big numbers like there’s no tomorrow, who really is the fastest these days?
One of the biggest failings off SD cards is their physical durability. SD cards falling apart is a probably bigger cause of death and image loss than file corruption. Sony plans to fix that with a new line of SF-G series “Tough” SD cards.
It seems the fakes are out in force again at the moment. I’ve seen a number of posts across Facebook and other social media where people have ordered SanDisk and other SD cards only to receive counterfeit cards. These days, we need to be vigilant with memory cards.
Memory cards are made to varying degrees of quality, and these forgeries are often whatever’s cheapest. There’s no quality control, because there’s no backlash on them. The last thing you want in the middle of an important shoot is to lose all your work. Or, worse, your client’s work.
When Micron announced they were quitting the Lexar brand last year, it came as quite a shock. Many long-time Lexar fans were worried about where their future memory cards would be coming from. A short time later, the Lexar brand was acquired by Longsys, a Chinese manufacturer of flash storage. Very little seems to have happened in Lexar’s story since then, though, except for the continued production of Lexar XQD cards.
Now, though, it seems a new company, sort of, is entering the fray. ProGrade Digital is a new brand of professional grade memory cards and card readers aimed at photographers. But while this is a new company, they aren’t newcomers to the memory card game. It’s being headed up by a team of former Lexar and SanDisk executives and senior management.
So this is an interesting idea I haven’t seen before. Called the Memistore, it’s an SD card “wallet”, of sorts. But it’s not like any others I’ve seen. This is a small unit that sits either in your camera’s hotshoe or screws into the tripod socket. The Memistore is being funded through Kickstarter. and has only just launched, so there are plenty of early bird specials for those interested.
A couple of months ago, I asked all of you to email me with ideas for future blog posts. One of the suggestions that came up numerous times was the request for me to explain all the different memory card formats.
I guess that my 12 years in the industry, marketing memory cards for Lexar, makes me slightly more knowledgeable than most photographers about this subject. With that in mind, I am writing this blog post to explain the many different memory card formats, including those from the past, current card formats and what might be the card of the future.
We’ve seen memory cards that have survived the wash, explosions, four years in the ocean and more. But as if memory cards weren’t tough enough already, SanDisk just had to go and make them tougher. Their new line of Industrial and Automotive cards designed to stand up to the intense extremes to which they’re exposed.
The Automotive SD is designed for use within vehicles and drones. The Industrial SD, Industrial microSD and Industrial XI are intended for more mainstream use. The standard Industrual can withstand temperatures of between -13°F (-25°C) and 185°F (85°C). While the top end remains the same, the Automotive and Industrial XI cards are rated down to as ridiculous low of -40°F (which is also -40°C).
Just as Sony hits the “world’s fastest” mark with their new SF-G Series UHS-II cards, the SD Association comes along and moves the goalposts. Well, this card is almost at the theoretical 312MB/sec limit of the UHS-II specification. The SD Card Association have now announced the new UHS-III specification, which doubles this limit to 624MB/sec.
With cards ever expanding in size due to the demands of today’s gear, the speed has to also increase. Even if that increase really only benefits the speed at which you can back everything up to your computer. Of course, there will be real world benefits. Now that the megapixel wars seem to have shifted from stills to video, the SDA specifically cite 8K footage as one of their considerations.
I can still remember the days when a 16X CompactFlash card was considered quite fast at a nippy 2.4MB/sec. It was a good time. Dinosaurs roamed the earth, and we daren’t even think about shooting our DSLRs higher than ISO400. My how times have changed. Of course, they’ve needed to. With the increase in 4K video use, high megapixel cameras, and insane framerates, transfer speed demands have increased tremendously.
Sony’s new offering, though, goes a little beyond extreme (no pun intended. Sorry, SanDisk). They’ve just announced their new SF-G Series UHS-II SD cards, which features read & write speeds of 300MB/s and 299MB/s, respectively. Prepare ship for Ludicrous Speed!
As many of you know, I spent many years of my life as Director of Marketing at Lexar dealing with the ins and outs of the memory card business. And in all that time, I have never written a blog about the do’s and don’ts of memory cards. Now that I have left Lexar and not on that side of the business any more, I feel that I can write this objective piece for you without any conflict of interest.
And if you are taking digital photos on a memory card (and you probably are), YOU WILL WANT TO READ THIS!