What’s the Best SD Card for 4K Video?

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If you don’t have time to read this article, then the best SD card for 4K video is the Sandisk Extreme 256GB, while the best micro SD card for 4K video is also the Sandisk Extreme 256GB.

If you want to record 4K video then you need an SD card that can accommodate your very specific requirements, in terms of a V30 speed class and possibly UHS-II over UHS-I bus type, depending on your camera model.

This article uses my extensive experience of 4K recording with a variety of Canon and Fuji cameras to show you precisely what characteristics matter in a memory card – whether SD or micro SD – and which card will be most suited to you and your video recording needs.


best sd card for 4k video

What to Look For in the Best SD Card for 4K Video

If you are looking for SD cards or microSD cards for recording, storing and transferring 4K video resolutions, then it is extremely important for you to be aware of what to keep in mind and look for in such cards.

Through this section, you can go through certain essential factors to keep in mind so that you can make the most of your SD card.

Read and Write Speeds

Read and write speeds are the two most crucial criteria for evaluating SD cards, as they have the most impact on your ability to record and transfer your videos.

Read speed is the speed in megabytes per second (MB/s) that your SD card can transfer files from the card itself to your computer. This is generally much higher than write speed for most cards, but also is not too important. A slower read speed means that you will be waiting a little longer for your files to transfer, but this is only likely to be a few extra seconds in practice. A low read speed will also not affect 4K video recording itself.

Sandisk Extreme Pro SD card

Write speed is far more important and refers to the speed that your camera can save footage to the card. Measurements for write speed that are often shown by manufacturers are sustained write speed, where a file is continuously recorded, compared to the slower random write speed.

Continuous write speed is the more relevant measure for 4K video recording, although this does depend on how full the memory card is – a fuller card might require more random writes to use available space, even when filming one continuos piece of footage.

Write speed is also heavily dependent on your camera and its internal architecture. The maximum transfer speed that your camera can support is usually stated in the manual. There’s little point in buying an SD card that offers faster speeds than this as they will go unused, although these faster cards can increase the speed at which you can transfer videos from your card to your computer.

Opt for speeds that can go up to 160-170 megabytes per second (for reading) and around 90-95 megabytes per second (for writing). For 4K video recording, you should have at least 30 MB/s write speed, or you will be unable to record 4K video for longer than a few seconds at a time.

Speed Classes

There are various kinds of speed classes when it comes to memory cards or SD and microSD cards. These classifications can allow you to understand the kind of quality and performance of your card.

When it comes to recording a 4K video, you will need higher speed classes or ratings. For instance, a card for a 4K video requires speed class C10, UHS speed class 3 and video class V30.

What exactly do these numbers mean? Let’s take a look.

  • SD Classes: SD classes are essentially 2, 4 and 6 and 10, pointing to the number of megabytes per second. This speed is mentioned within or next to the letter ‘C’. A larger number means a faster speed, as is the case with the other classes.
  • UHS: UHS speed classes are rated as class 1 (10 MB/s) and class 3 (30 MB/s) and are also sometimes incorrectly referred to as UHS-I and UHS-III, which is in fact the bus type. UHS speed classes are found inside or next to the letter ‘U’. These are ideal for recording and capturing videos in 4K resolution, with U3 being a better choice.
  • Video Speed Class: This class describes speeds in the range of 6-90 MB/s to indicate the ability to record and store videos in 4K and 8K. These are usually indicated using the letter ‘V’, such as V6, V10, V30, V60 and V90.
  • Bus Type: This is UHS-I, UHS-II and UHS-III, although there are currently no UHS-III cards. UHS-I cards are the standard SD card that has long been in existence, with UHS-II a new backwards compatible version that has extra pins for even faster read and write speeds. To see faster performance with UHS-II cards, you will need both a camera and card reader that supports the extra pins, otherwise the extra cost of these is wasted.
UHS-II card
UHS-II card showing the extra pins

A microSD card also has A1 and A2 performance classes when it comes to its application.

Only A2 performance cards should be used for 4K videos since these can help ensure quicker usage and loading, cache options, better file management and features like command queuing, making your advanced and complex needs better to deal with.

Capacity

How much storage capacity your SD card has can make a huge difference as well. Since you will be recording and storing 4K videos, the file size is bound to be much higher than other smaller resolutions.

It is, therefore, important to have a high enough capacity that can help you meet your requirements for your videos. Enough capacity can also considerably affect the speeds, so make sure you choose wisely.

You will need at least 256 GB for recording and saving your 4K videos in your camera since this can let you store a higher quantity of such videos. MicroSD cards tend to have a wider choice here.

Brand Name vs Generic Cards

sandisk memory card

Opting for a reliable brand is another important factor to consider here. Choosing reputed and established brands can give you a wider range of options to choose from while also having plenty of customer reviews to look into that can make your decision easier.

Some reliable brand name cards like SanDisk, Lexar, PNY and Gigastone can make for excellent choices in this case rather than cheaper generic brands which might fail and lose your data.

Such brands also usually have better security features in place. Recovery options, customer service, warranty options, product reviews, the range of cards available and more are just a few things that you can look forward to in these cases.

While it is likely that some of these cards might cost you more, this might actually prove to be more cost effective in the long run.


Best SD Cards for 4K Video

Now that you know what makes an SD card good for 4K video, you can go through some options that support these elements.

1. SanDisk Extreme 256GB

SanDisk 256GB Extreme

Features

  • Standard: SDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 70 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 150 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: C10, V30, U3
  • Real World Write Speed: 89.1 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 153.0 MB/s

The SanDisk Extreme SD card can be a good option when it comes to 4K videos. It can provide read speeds of 150 MB/s and write speeds of 70 MB/s, according to Sandisk, but real-world testing puts this even higher, at 89.1 MB/s write and 153.0 Mb/s read – an excellent SD card for 4K video.

This card in particular has a storage capacity of 256 GB, allowing you to store multiple hours of 4K footage.

  • Pros:
  • Waterproof, temperature-proof, shock-proof, making it suitable even in harsh conditions
  • High speed classes and ratings for smooth 4K video recording
  • Ideal for sequential and burst videos
  • Quick transfer rate and secure storage – these cards are unlikely to fail
  • Excellent price to performance ratio
  • Cons:
  • Really nothing
Sandisk Extreme

2. SanDisk Extreme PRO 256GB

SanDisk Extreme PRO 256GB

Features

  • Standard: SDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 170 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 90 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: C10, U3, V30
  • Real World Write Speed: 98.6 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 176.0 MB/s

The SanDisk Extreme Pro comes in a 256 GB option, although you can opt for higher capacities that go up to 1 TB. With write speeds of up to 90 MB/s and read speeds that go up to 170 Mb/s (and even faster in real-world testing), you can expect uniformity, quick and convenient functioning and a good transfer rate as well.

You can also use this card in your devices in harsher environments since it has protective measures in place that can help keep everything secure.

  • Pros:
  • Protects against weather, water, shock and x-rays
  • High read and write speeds for 4K videos and bursts
  • Probably the fastest SD card that you can currently buy
  • Data recovery software available
  • Probably the best SD card on the market, although the price makes it less attractive than the slightly slower Sandisk Extreme
  • Cons:
  • More expensive
  • Extra speed of this card is not really needed by most 4K cameras
Sandisk Extreme Pro

3. PNY 256GB PRO Elite

PNY 256GB PRO Eli

Features

  • Standard: SDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 90 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 100 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: V30, U3, C10
  • Real World Write Speed: 86.3 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 98.2 MB/s

The PNY PRO Elite offers a storage capacity of 256 GB, although you can opt for other options that give you more capacity as well. This memory card is available as an SDXC standard and comes with high write speeds at 86.3 MB/s in real-world testing, although read speed lags behind the comparable Sandisk models.

This SD card can also works well in extreme and harsh conditions without affecting the speed too much.

  • Pros:
  • Reliable and durable due to its resistance against water, weather, magnets and shocks
  • Can store 58 hours worth of HD footage
  • Provides compatibility with DSLR cameras, point and shoot cameras and other basic or advanced cameras
  • Ideal for speed or burst photography and videography
  • Good write speed for the price
  • Cons:
  • Comparatively low read speed
PNY Pro Elite

4. Lexar Professional 256GB

Lexar Professional 256GB

Features

  • Standard: SDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 120 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 250 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: V60, U3, C10
  • Real World Write Speed: 99.6 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 258 MB/s

The Lexar Professional 256 GB is an ideal SD card for shooting professional 4K videos. It makes use of UHS-II technology and has an extremely high read speed of 250 MB/s or 1667x, which is verified by real-world tests.

Write speeds are a little disappointing for a UHS-II card, but if your camera supports this tech, then the Lexar Professional is probably the best card for your money.

  • Pros:
  • High read and write speeds
  • V60 rating is brilliant for 4K video recording
  • Compatible with DSLR camera, HD camcorder and 3D camera
  • Good protection against damage from various environmental stresses
  • UHS-II bus type for the most modern, professional cameras
  • Cons:
  • Some write speed error complaints
  • Expensive
  • UHS-II not needed for most cameras
Lexar Professional

5. Prograde Digital SD UHS-II 256GB

Prograde Digital SD UHS-II 256GB

Features

  • Standard: SDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 250 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 300 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: V90, U3, C10
  • Real World Write Speed: 254.4 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 282.6 MB/s

The Prograde Digital SD UHS-II card is known for its extremely fast speeds in terms of writing as well as reading. These can allow you to achieve maximum efficiency and convenience when it comes to taking multiple 4K videos as well as transferring them to a device.

If you want a super-fast card, and your camera supports UHS-II and you are not too concerned with budget, then Prograde is a fantastic option. This will be overkill for most however, as only top-end cameras can make use of these write speeds.

  • Pros:
  • UHS-II support is essential for certain cameras, like the Fujifilm XT-4
  • Extremely high read and write speeds for quick saving functions and rapid transfer
  • Gives you access to recovery software
  • Laser-etched serial numbers in place for security
  • Ideal option for professionals
  • V90 speed class for enhanced performance
  • Cons:
  • Incredibly expensive as compared to other options
  • UHS-II is not used by most 4K cameras, so you gain no benefit in this case
Prograde UHS-II

Best MicroSD Cards for 4K Video

The following are some reliable and good microSD cards for 4K video. You can go through them and pick one that works well for you. Note that the micro SD card versions are pretty similar in terms of performance to their SD card big brothers.

1. SanDisk 256GB Extreme

SanDisk 256GB Extreme

Features

  • Standard: microSDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 90 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 150 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: V30, U3, A2
  • Real World Write Speed: 88.8 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 94.6 MB/s

The SanDisk 256 GB Extreme is a microSD card that can offer high read and write speeds, allowing you to capture and store 4K videos in a hassle-free manner, although note that read speed is lower than advertised in real-world testing. This microSD card also has an A2 rating which can give you improved performance and access to several useful features.

  • Pros:
  • A2 rating for quick loading, queues, cache and improved management
  • Suitable for harsh conditions with extreme weather, water, shocks and X-rays
  • High read and write speeds to ensure time-efficient functioning
  • Multiple storage capacity options
  • Best price to performance ratio
  • Cons:
  • A few complaints about reported speed
Sandisk Extreme

2. SAMSUNG EVO Select 256GB

SAMSUNG EVO Select 256GB

Features

  • Standard: microSDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 90 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 130 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: V30, A2, U3
  • Real World Write Speed: 87.0 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 96.3 MB/s

The Samsung EVO Select card comes with a storage capacity of 256 GB while also providing other storage options. With in-house production and manufacturing, this microSD card can make it easier for you to access maintenance and help when it comes to its functioning.

This card also comes with a 10-year limited warranty period, ensuring support and durability assurance.

  • Pros:
  • Large space and high speed for easy transfers and storage
  • A2 rating for better app functioning and loading
  • Protection against weather, water, shocks, magnets, X-rays
  • 10-year warranty period
  • Comparable speeds to Sandisk
  • Cons:
  • Speed can be variable
Samsung EVO Select

3. Gigastone 256GB

Gigastone 256GB

Features

  • Standard: microSDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 60 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 100 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: A2, V30, U3
  • Real World Write Speed: 59.9 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 95.1 MB/s

The Gigastone 256GB microSD card can be another great choice for 4K videos on a budget, letting you store hours’ worth of quality footage while also ensuring relatively quick transfer.

Write speed is lower than comparable models from other manufacturers, but is still fast enough for all but the highest bit rate video cameras.

  • Pros:
  • Free data recovery software for up to five years
  • Five-year limited warranty period for accessing support
  • Quick read speeds, making data transfer easier
  • Expandable storage options
  • Suitable for multiple devices like smartphones, PC, Nintendo Switch, GoPro, tablets and more
  • Cons:
  • Relatively low write speeds
Gigastone

4. PNY 256GB PRO Elite

PNY 256GB PRO Elite

Features

  • Standard: microSDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 90 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 100 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: V30, U3, A2
  • Real World Write Speed: 55.3 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 88.1 MB/s

The PNY 256 GB PRO Elite comes with an A2 rating that can provide multiple in-app functionalities with simpler file management technologies. Its 256 GB capacity can allow you to store 4K video footage in a reliable and durable manner, with its high speeds ensuring retention of quality as well.

Do note though, that real-world write speeds are significantly lower than quoted, but are still sufficient for 4K recording.

  • Pros:
  • A2 rating that lets apps function directly through the card
  • Ideal for ultra HD and burst mode videos
  • SD adapter included in the purchase for wider applications
  • Offers resistance against magnets, shocks, temperatures and water
  • Cost effective
  • Cons:
  • Lower write speeds
PNY Pro Elite

5. SAMSUNG PRO Plus 256GB

SAMSUNG PRO Plus 256GB

Features

  • Standard: microSDXC
  • Capacity: 256 GB
  • Write Speed: 160 MB/s
  • Read Speed: 120 MB/s
  • Speed Classes: U3, A2, V30
  • Real World Write Speed: 85.0 MB/s
  • Real World Read Speed: 92.7 MB/s

The Samsung PRO Plus microSD card in a wide range of capacities, but none of them quite hit their promised read and write speeds.

This microSD card still has rapid read and write speeds that can make the functioning of the card much more efficient. In addition, since this card and its components are produced in-house, it can be easier for you to access support if required.

  • Pros:
  • 10-year limited warranty in case you need to make replacements or repairs
  • Provides protection against extreme weather, water, drops, shocks, magnets, x-rays and wear-out
  • Fast read and write speeds that can allow you to store and transfer data with good quality and efficiency
  • Compatible with multiple devices such as phones, tablets, GoPro, gaming devices, drones and more
  • Cons:
  • Might require a specific card reader to achieve the mentioned speeds
Samsung Pro Plus

Final Thoughts on SD Cards for 4K Video

The right SD card for 4K video, whether full-sized SD card or micro SD card, could potentially be any of those above, but which one will really depend on your camera. A camera that supports UHS-II will really benefit from a UHS-II card, while this is overkill on a UHS-I camera.

Ideally, you want to check the maximum write speed that your camera can support, and use that as the basis for the SD card that you buy. Any memory cards that operate faster than your camera’s write speed will essentially be a waste of money, unless you are intending to get a memory card that is future-proofed.

But overall, the Sandisk Extreme line offer the best value for money compared to read and write speeds, and are highly recommended for 4K video recording.

Sandisk Extreme SD Card

Sandisk Extreme SD Card

Sandisk Extreme Micro SD Card

Sandisk Extreme Micro SD Card


Read More:

How much 4K video per GB can an SD card hold?

What’s the difference between U3 and U1 speed ratings?

Sandisk Extreme vs Ultra comparison

Follow Tim Daniels:

Hi, I'm Tim Daniels, photographer and photo trainer, founder of Lapse of the Shutter and creator of the totally free Lightroom Develop System. I've travelled to (probably) 30 countries over the last few years, taking photos and licensing them around the world, and creating lots of free photography learning resources. Read More ...

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