Finding the right memory card for your digital camera

Different memory card types and how many pictures can be stored on them

Emily Price on October 14, 2010

memory card

th-300-canon-powershotThe majority of digital cameras save photos and videos taken with them onto a memory card. Memory cards are reusable and can be switched out when they become full or even taken to a drug store for printing photos, similar to what you may have previously done with a roll of film. Not every memory card will work in every digital camera, so it's important to check the packaging for your camera and determine what type of card it uses before you buy one.

SD (Secure Digital) cards are the most common type of memory cards used in digital cameras. The small cards are about the size of a postage stamp and are also used in some other portable electronics such as MP3 players and GPS units.

Traditional SD cards come in sizes ranging from 1GB to 4GB. There are also miniSD cards available in sizes up to 16GB, SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards available in sizes from 4GB to 32GB, and SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) cards available in sizes from 32GB to 2TB (1TB equals 1,000GB).

Not all devices that use SD cards are compatible with miniSD, SDHC, and SDXC cards. If you want to purchase one of those cards, you will want to doublecheck the packaging for your camera and make sure it is compatible with them.

xD Cards
xdxD cards are slightly smaller than SD cards and were used in Fujifilm and Olympus cameras. While you still may find cameras available in stores that use xD, as of spring 2010, all new Olympus cameras hitting the market now use SD cards. xD cards are available in sizes ranging from 1GB to 2GB.


CompactFlash is considerably larger and thicker than both xD and SD cards. The cards were once the most popular choice for consumer digital cameras but now are used almost exclusively in professional DSLR cameras. CompactFlash cards are currently available in sizes ranging from 1GB to 128GB.

Memory Stick
memory stickThe Memory Stick is used primarily in Sony products, though in 2010, Sony began releasing cameras that can also use SD cards. In addition to the traditional Memory Stick, Sony has launched a variety of additional versions of the card, including the Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick Micro, and Memory Stick XC, each offering a higher capacity than its predecessor. As of September 2010, Sony Memory Sticks are only available in sizes up to 32GB; however, the technology allows for the cards to theoretically be made in sizes up to 2TB (1TB equals 1,000GB). Not every Sony camera will be compatible with every type of Memory Stick. You will want to check the packaging for your camera to determine which of the cards are supported.

How many photos will your memory card store?
The number of pictures your memory card will be able to store depends on the resolution of the pictures or video you are trying to save. For instance, a memory card will be able to store twice as many 5 megapixel pictures on it than it will 10 megapixel pictures, because the 10 megapixel pictures are double the size of the 5 megapixel ones.
Here's a look at common memory card sizes and how many pictures you can expect to be able to store on each card size:grid


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