FutureFive NZ - How to buy a memory card

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How to buy a memory card

When contemplating purchasing a camera, most people think about the type of camera, the features of the camera, the price of the camera and so on. Very rarely do they stop to consider the memory card they will be using in the camera. Though often overlooked, the memory card is the part that supports all of those great photos you take and is easily one of the most important features. That’s why in this issue of NetGuide, we have some advice on how to choose the right one, based on your specific photography needs and interests.

Cameras these days don’t usually come with an included memory card, and if they do, it might not be the best quality and probably won’t hold many photos.  That’s why it’s a good idea to do some research on memory cards before you get started. 

The first thing you need to make sure of when memory card shopping is that your camera actually supports the card you choose. You’re pretty safe if you choose either an SD or an SDHC, as today almost all cameras across all brands support these formats. The major difference between these two types is that SDHC can hold quite a bit more data than SD (up to 32GB in SDHC compared with up to 2GB in SD).  We recommend going with SDHC because it won’t limit the amount of photos you want to take. With more and more amateur photographers shooting still images in raw format and HD video, higher capacity cards are becoming more popular.

For all SDHC cards, the speed is organised by class (class 4, class 6 or class 10). The class of the card is usually indicated on the front of the memory card and tells you what the guaranteed minimum sustained recording speed will be. In other words, a faster card will allow your camera to work faster. The numbers correspond to the minimum write speed in MB per second. (So for example, class 4 refers to a minimum write speed of 4MB per second, class 6 refers to 6MB per second and so on). A faster card will also ensure quicker transfer of images to the computer.
By choosing a faster write speed, you ensure faster recording of images onto the card, the ability to capture more continuous shots more quickly and a shorter waiting period between shots, which prevents you from missing important images. This is beneficial for people who are looking to capture moving objects or high speed action (such as sports games).

While a class 4 card is usually a safe bet if you are looking for a middle ground in terms of speed, you should always consult your camera’s user manual to see what is recommended, as some cameras require above a certain class. Additionally, if you’re using a camera for high-speed burst shooting (taking more than three shots per second), HD video or a DSLR, we would recommend investing in at least a class 6 card.

The storage capacity you should look for in a card depends on the amount of pictures and video you intend on taking. Obviously, the higher the GB, the more photos and video the card can hold. However, it is sometimes a good idea to purchase a few smaller cards rather than one large one. The reason for this is simply to protect yourself in the worst case scenario, which would be a memory card fail resulting in the loss of all your pictures. If you do choose to use one large memory card. Make sure it is the best quality you can afford and also be sure to back up your photos often (whether it’s onto a computer, a USB memory stick, an external hard drive, a CD or whatever method you prefer).

The average 10-megapixel camera can store around 1000 JPEG photos on a 4GB card, while a 12-megapixel camera can store approximately 810 JPEG photos on the same size card. If you’re planning to record a lot of video on your camera, you should consider at least an 8GB card, which most of the time (depending on the camera) can hold about 90 minutes of high quality HD video.
So if you’re just a regular Joe (not a professional photographer of any sort) and you’re looking for a good memory card that holds a reasonable amount of photos and some video, go for an 8GB SDHC card. In terms of speed, a class 6 is about as fast as any casual photographer is ever going to need. But remember, if you are using video mode then a class 6 is probably the minimum you should aim for. If you are still unsure, bring your camera and user’s manual to the store with you and ask for help from a professional.  Before long you will be on your way to capturing great photos and memories!

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