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Digital Camera Memory Cards Explained

Rahul Thadani Jan 1, 2019
With the rapid rise in different types of digital camera memory cards available in the market, users are becoming more and more confused. Here are the different choices available to the consumer.
Owners of digital cameras know for a fact that without suitable memory cards to store clicked images, these devices are virtually useless. Over time these storage devices have evolved in size, storage capacity, and composition, and today it is possible to store thousands of pictures on a simple storage device that is no bigger than a few centimeters.
Digital camera memory cards utilize the concept of flash storage. They do not require an external power source in order to store its contents or even access them, and this increases the startup speed of these cards. Once you have decided on the amount of storage space that you need, you can go ahead and pick a type that is suitable for you.
Most cameras specify which type of memory card they require, but with a few adjustments and accessories you can even make use of other types as well. The latest ones also support multiple formats, so this makes it easier for people who click a lot of pictures and videos.


You can start by exploring the various types and formats that are available.

Secure Digital (SD)

These are the most standard type of storage devices, but they have now been succeeded by SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards. SD cards have traditionally suffered from slow transfer speeds, hence the update.
Cameras which use SDHC are also capable of using SD, since they are backwards compatible, and these are available in sizes ranging from 2GB to 32GB. They are about the same size as a postage stamp, and almost all cameras are capable of reading them.

Extreme Digital (xD)

This is a format that is supported by the Fujifilm and Olympus brands, and in all honesty they are fast becoming obsolete. People want storage devices that are universally compatible, and not just restricted to a handful of brands.
Moreover, the maximum capacity of these, at present, is 2GB, which is unacceptable when you can get a 32GB elsewhere. The fast transfer speeds are a definite benefit though.

Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC)

With the rise in popularity and usage of high-definition video recording by most cameras, the need for more storage space has become incumbent. This is the newest form of SD cards, and their maximum storage space at the moment is 64GB. It is believed that this space will soon rise to an astonishing 2TB in the next few years.

Compact Flash (CF)

When it comes to professional DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras, SD cards are slowly catching on for the sake of universal compatibility. But most DSLRs still make use of the CF format.
The advantage of these is that, they are sturdier and can withstand extreme weather conditions, hence making them ideal for professional photographers, who shoot in extreme weather conditions.
CF cards are larger than SD cards, and they are also available in two formats - type I and type II. Most DSLRs can read both these types. Additionally, in the manner that SDHC is a faster variant of SD, CFast is a faster variant of CF.

Memory Stick

This is another type that is compatible with one selected brand (Sony) only. Sony cameras are now compatible with SD cards as well, but for a long time, memory sticks were the only compatible memory storage devices for them. Again, this is a slightly limited strategy, but Sony have taken the necessary steps to correct this.

Ultra Direct Memory Access (UDMA) CF Card

Most DSLRs that do make use of type I CF, use UDMA in particular. These are highly reliable and fast, and transferring data or loading up images on the screen is very speedy, thanks to the technology used.
The maximum storage space available is 16GB, so it is a worthy competitor to the SD cards. Professional photographers who like to click images at a high speed, regularly propagate the importance and the efficiency of UDMA.


These are obsolete flash storage devices that used to be manufactured by Toshiba. Their maximum capacity was 128MB, and with the rise to prominence of larger storage devices, the need for these became less profound. The advantage of these was their extremely small size.

MultiMediaCard (MMC)

These storage devices were jointly created by SanDisk and Siemens. Even though they have been used in cameras, they are more likely to be found in PDAs, camcorders, eBook readers, and car navigation systems. They are also known for being very sturdy and rugged, but their maximum capacity is also restricted to 128MB.


MicroDrives are rather unpopular for cameras, owing to their fragility and unreliability. Additionally, this card does not work on the flash storage concept so it also eats up a greater amount of power.
A MicroDrive is a mini-hard drive enclosed in a type II CF chassis, and as mentioned, these are almost obsolete as well. Their storage capacity is on par with SD cards, but their slow-speed makes them an unpopular choice.
The storage space and the size that you need, will depend on your photography skills and level, and also the number of images that you will need to store. The price will also play an important role, so you must make a wise decision before you go ahead and buy a camera for yourself.