How much faster will my camera be with a UHS-II memory card?

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February 16, 2015 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in Gear & Reviews, Q&A by  •  0 Comments

I read an article on the Internet about the new SanDisk UHS-II SD cards. This type of memory card sounds perfect because it’s super fast. How much faster would my Nikon D5300 be with the UHS-II card?
—Grégoire R.

SanDisk and a few other companies have been marketing UHS-II cards for many months now, Grégoire, and they are ideal in theory, but there is one major problem. Only a few current cameras can take advantage of the up to 250 MB/s write speed of a SanDisk Extreme PRO SDHC/SDXC UHS-II product available in capacity from 16 GB to 64 GB (at $120 to $350). At this time, fully compatible equipment includes the Fujifilm X-T1, Samsung NX1 and Panasonic Lumix GH4.

Particularly sports photographers always demand the fastest speed possible when shooting a long series of photos. This makes a high-speed memory card useful, but only if your camera is compatible with the technology used by the media.

That’s because UHS-II media are equipped with an extra row of electronic contact pins. Unless a camera’s memory card slot is suitably equipped (UHS-II compliant), you’ll get only UHS-1 speed. This also applies to a card reader; a UHS-II designated model is required for a read speed of up to 280 MB/s. If you do buy such an accessory as well as a UHS-II card, you would get faster downloads to a computer immediately.

As this photo indicates, the UHS-II card (right) has additional electronic contact points when compared to a UHS-1 card. Use a camera that's designed to communicate with these additional points and you will get full benefit of the UHS-II technology.  © Peter K. Burian

As this photo indicates, the UHS-II card (right) has additional electronic contact points when compared to a UHS-1 card. Use a camera that’s designed to communicate with these additional points and you will get full benefit of the UHS-II technology. © Peter K. Burian

For use with your current DSLR however, I recommend SanDisk’s Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-1 95MBS U3 card, offering up to 95 MB/s read and 90 MB/s write speeds. It’s available in capacities from 16 GB to 64 GB (at $65 to $170). Do note, however, that no card can enable a camera to shoot at a faster framing rate than the manufacturer’s specs indicate; that’s 5 fps with your D5300. The real benefit is in the burst depth: the camera can fire more shots in a single burst when you use a very fast vs. a conventional card. And in Movie mode, it should enable you to record longer video clips at Full HD resolution.

In the future, it’s likely that more cameras will be UHS-II compliant. At that time, the super fast card will certainly be an attractive option for many photographers, especially those who often shoot sports and Full HD or even 4K video.

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