What Are the Different Types of Memory Cards for a Camera?

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What Are the Different Types of Memory Cards for a Camera?

Memory cards allow photographers to store photographs and videos taken using a digital camera. The type of memory card purchased will typically depend largely on the brand and model of the digital camera. While certain memory cards can be used in a variety of devices, others are manufactured for a specific type or model of digital camera. In addition to considering the type of digital camera, the desired use and performance will play an important role in selecting a memory card. This often makes selecting a memory card a personal choice. Each type of memory card delivers varying degrees of storage capability and performance. In addition to influencing the quality of the photograph and general performance when taking photos, the capacity and data transfer capability of a memory card will impact the cost of the card.

About Memory Cards

Memory cards are used to store information from digital cameras and other devices, such as mobile phones. They are a form of flash memory, which is a stable or non-volatile form of memory that requires no power source to enable data transfer, recording and storage. Memory cards are available in a variety of sizes and shapes with different amounts of storage space.
While some memory cards are manufactured for specific types of digital cameras, others can be used in a broad range of digital cameras under various brand names. Similarly, certain digital cameras and other devices such as personal computers feature multiple card slots. These allow users to use different memory card formats on one device.

Purchasing a Memory Card

A number of considerations must be taken into account when purchasing a memory card for a digital camera. These include capability of the memory card vis-a-vis the device, storage space, memory card speed, and price.


Memory cards are designed to fit in a slot found on the digital camera and other devices, such as a mobile phone or personal computer. Older devices may not support newer types of memory cards. It is important to check which cards are compatible with specific devices. A memory card must be compatible with the digital camera. To identify which memory cards are supported, check the digital camera’s user guide or the device itself for information on the type or types of memory cards that may be used. If using a computer to transfer and store files from a card, verify which memory card formats used on a digital camera are also supported.

Storage Space

Before purchasing a memory card, consider how often the digital camera will be used. A memory card with large storage may be convenient for a long trip or a special occasion, such as a wedding, where it is anticipated that hundreds of photographs may be taken. Similarly, high capacity memory cards are ideal when taking high definition photographs or when using digital cameras for making videos. Having a memory card with a large amount of data storage capacity will reduce the likelihood of running out of space and having to carry multiple memory cards.
Memory cards are typically identified by the amount of gigabytes (GB) that is available for data storage. Generally, memory cards are available in 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variations. Storage may also be measured in terabytes in newer, high-capacity cards. For everyday use, a 2GB or 4GB card is typically sufficient for many users. Lower storage levels, such as 512MB and 128MB, may also be available on compact and subcompact memory cards used for smaller devices.

Speed and Class

Each memory card quotes speed, which identifies the data writing/transfer speed or the efficiency of the memory card in recording and storing data. Speeds are quoted in megabytes per second or with an x or X suffix. For example, speed can be identified as 1.5 Mbps or 100x depending on the memory card. Mbps and X ratings vary greatly depending on the type of memory card.
In some cases, a class system is used to identify memory cards rather than a speed rate. Typically, speed classes include Class 2, Class 4, Class 6, Class 8 and Class 10. Each class corresponds to a data transfer rate or speed. For example, a Class 4 memory card transfers at a speed of 4 Mbps while a Class 10 card can transfer up to 10 Mbps. SD cards are typically Class 2 cards, while high-performance cards used for DSLR digital cameras are Class 10 memory cards.

Security and Data Protection Features

Understanding additional features of a memory card may also impact what type of card is purchased. Added features can enhance the functionality of the memory card. For example, certain memory cards include recovery software. This additional capability allows users to retrieve images that may have been inadvertently deleted. Other features can include protective measures such as shockproof technology that protects data in case a digital camera is dropped. Data protection and security features may also include safeguards for magnetic fields and X-rays as well as dust and water protection.


The price of a memory card varies depending on the manufacturer or brand as well as the retailer selling the card. The cost will also be affected by any standard or special features the card may have, including the speed, amount of storage space, and security features. Shopping online, such as through eBay, is a great way to compare prices and options to find the most affordable memory card.

Types of Memory Cards

Memory cards are available in a wide range of formats. Each type or format of memory card is classified further depending primarily on the speed and capacity of the card, as outlined above. The main types of memory cards are summarised in the table below.

Secure Digital (SD)

According to the SD Card Association, SD cards are used in more than 400 brands and over 8,000 device models. SD memory cards are available in a broad range of formats, including the standard SD card. Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and Secure Digital eXtended Capacity (SDXC) cards are also available, offering greater storage and faster data transfer speeds. Smaller cards for smaller devices are also manufactured, including miniSD, microSD, miniSDHC, microSDHC, and microSDXC formats. SD formats support up to 4GB, while the SDHC format supports up to 32GB. The SDXC format has capacities of over 32GB up to 2 terabytes. All SD formats have a distinct and common logo identified on memory cards and compatible devices.


Compact Flash

In addition to SD formats, CompactFlash are one of the most popular digital camera memory card formats. They are available in CompactFlash I and CompactFlash II variations. Type I devices are 3.3 mm thick, while Type II devices are 5 mm thick. Most Type II devices are also known microdrives, while Type I are flash-only devices. CompactFlash memory cards range in capacity from 2MB to 256GB, although some high-capacity cards store up to 128 petabytes. A variation of CompactFlash is CFast.



MultiMediaCard formats are compact and include MMC, RS-MMC/MMC Mobile, MMC plus, and MMCmicro. MMC are slim and small and found primarily in digital cameras, while RS-MMC/MMC Mobile and MMC plus cards are compact for smaller devices such as mobile phones. All three provide up to 128GB storage space. MMCmicro are sub-compact cards with storage space of between 16MB and 4GB.


Memory Stick

Memory Stick formats include Standard, PRO, Duo, PRO Duo, PRO-HG Duo, and Micro M2. Standard and PRO variations are slim and narrow with storage of up to 128MB and 4GB, respectively. The PRO variation delivers faster speeds than the Standard card. Duo and PRO Duo are compact with up to 128MB and 32GB storage capacity. While PRO-HG Duo cards are also compact and store up to 32GB, it provides faster data speeds than PRO Duo cards. The Micro or M2 variation is Memory Stick’s sub-compact option with a capacity of up to 16GB.



The XQD card is a high-capacity and high-speed memory card typically used in high-definition and high-resolution devices. Transfer speeds are higher than many memory cards, from approximately 125 Mbps to 1000 Mbps. XQD formats feature storage space of up to 2 terabytes. These cards use a PCIe or Peripheral Component Interconnect Express interface.



Extreme Digital or xD memory cards include Standard, Type M, and Type H formats. Standard cards feature storage space of up to 512MB, while M and H cards offer up to 2GB capacity. Type H cards feature faster data transfer speed rates compared to M variations. Although xD memory cards are still manufactured, this format is not widely supported and are typically found in older digital cameras.


Buying Memory Cards on eBay

To purchase a digital camera memory card, visit the eBay homepage. From the All Categories tab, select the Cameras & Photography link. Click on the All Categories link on the Cameras & Photography link, and select the Memory Cards link for all available items. Refine search results by select the desired brand, speed, storage amount, and other features from the options on the left side of the page. Search bars on any eBay page can also be used to find memory cards by using specific keywords, such as memory card types and brands.
Since counterfeit memory cards are known to be in circulation, it is important to consider the reputation of a buyer when purchasing a card. Look at the profile and customer reviews of eBay sellers when considering a purchase. Also, undertake some internet research to verify that the type of card being offered matches the manufacturer’s specifications. For example, compare photographs and specifications of memory cards in the eBay listing and information on a manufacturer’s website to identify any inconsistencies that may indicate that the card is a counterfeit product.


When buying a memory card for a digital camera, a number of factors will influence which card is purchased. It is important to check a digital camera’s specifications to identify what type of memory card format is supported. Overall, the indented use and desired optimal performance are key considerations when selecting a memory card. Storage space and speed will also help determine the type of card that is selected. High storage and speeds are best suited for high-performance and fast-action photography as well as the use of high-definition video and photographs. Individual budgets will also help inform the type of memory card that is purchased. Buyers should focus on memory cards that are best suited for their individual needs and budgets.

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