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Beware memory speed class myths - Very good card for dSLRs
on September 18, 2010
I just returned from a 2 week vacation in the UK with my digital SLR cameras. My wife's camera used a Class 10 16GB card, and I used the same, until my card died. Thankfully, I had purchased 4 of these Class 4 Kingston 4 GB cards. I used them to take pictures for most of the vacation without problem. Thanks to these cards, I was not forced to buy expensive camera media while 'in the field.'
Does speed really matter?
I have a 15.1 MP Canon T1i digital SLR. My wife's camera is a 12.2 MP Canon XSi. I shoot in burst mode because I do not have image stabilization on my lens (burst mode increases odds of a tack sharp image), and I often shoot in dark rooms (museums) that do not allow tripods. These cards never precluded me from recording a shot during the two weeks and 15 GBs I used them. I shoot in Raw + L mode (meaning I get a largest JPEG and a RAW image for each shutter opening). I never had a problem due to this "slow" memory card.
I researched the issue of memory card speeds before I left on the trip. I had already purchased high class cards (2x Class 10 16GB cards), but found that after I made said purchase, that they were a waste. According to both Scott Kelby and Tom Ang (the two most prolific digital photog authors): A current point-and-shoot camera will NEVER need anything more than a Class 4 card. If there is a delay in saving with a point-and-shoot, it is the camera, not the card. (assuming your card is not faulty) If you have an entry-level dSLR camera, you will ALMOST NEVER need anything more than a Class 4 card, as your camera cannot use the extra speed. I say 'almost never' because as of now the line of entry dSLRs cannot use the higher speeds effectively enough to show a benefit from a faster card (the camera itself cannot write fast enough). But, the entry-level market is growing in its technological capability, so this may change over the next few years.
The only time you will need a higher speed card is if you are using high-end dSLR work and are shooting in burst mode in RAW. This means you've spent several thousand dollars on your camera, and another grand to $1500 on your lens. People who spend that much on their equipment (professional photographers) will not read this review because A- they know the above and B- why buy such a cheap card if they can afford thousands in equipment?
Don't waste your money on higher class ratings of cards unless you have thousands sunk into your photo equipment already.
The most important thing with memory cards are (in priority order): 1- correct format (SDHC, etc), 2- size (how many GBs), 3- brand name (Kingston, Sandisk, PNY, etc) The first two are obvious, but the third item is where the rubber meets the road. Companies without the big names sell for less money, usually, to try and gain market share. To do this, they often use inferior parts and processes (or get the cast offs from the bigger companies), and produce inferior cards. Of the cards I have had fail, all have been non-name cards. Buy from reputable manufacturers and you will be happier.
Video Addendum - The above applies to photography, not videography. If you are shooting HD video (Canon T1i can do this), then you may think about a Class 6 card. Basically you need a minimum speed faster than the data speed (plus an overhead, 10-20% is usually fine). For 720p video @30mpbs (18 min per 4gb file), you need 3.8mb/s minimum write speed. That means a true class 4 card (min 4mb/s) would be cutting it close, and class 6 is a bit of overkill (unless you go for the 45mbps 1080p, then that's getting close too).