Memory card capacity

Secure Digital memory cardsThe question is often asked, “what size memory card should I buy?”  The answer varies greatly and depends on the megapixel count of your digital camera and how many photos or videos you take at given time. Some photographers take only a couple hundred photos a year; others take that many or more in a month.

The actual number of images or length of video you can capture on a memory card depends on other things, too, such as the image resolution and compression settings you select in your camera, or if you shoot RAW.

As a general rule, the following size memory card is a recommended minimum:

  • 512 MB or higher for a 5 megapixel digicam
  • One GB or higher for a 6 megapixel digicam
  • Two GB or higher for an 8 megapixel digicam
  • Four or more GB – if you shoot a lot of video or have a camera with 10 or more megapixels. If you use Secure Digital memory cards, be sure to read about Secured Digital High Capacity cards and Extended capacity memory cards and their special features requirements. There are also high capacity Compact Flash cards.
Memory Card Capacity*
Camera File size* 2GB 4GB 8GB 16 GB
5 MP 1.5 MB 1200 2500 5100 10300
6 MP 1.7 MB 1100 2200 4400 8900
8 MP 2.3 MB 800 1650 3200 6650
10 MP 2.9 MB 650 1300 2600 5200
12 MP 3.4 MB 500 1000 2000 4300
VIDEO 5 Mbps (EP) 45 90 180 360
*average file size for a high resolution JPEG Source: Lexar Media

Memory card at full capacity

The number of files a memory card holds at full capacity varies. Several factors determine the actual size of an image such as amount of detail and number and shades of colors it contains. For example, the file size of a black and white image will be smaller than the same scene taken in full color.

How many memory cards?

Many digital photographers have at least two memory cards, not only for the extra capacity but for security. If one card is lost, or if it becomes corrupted, you have an additional one on hand.

For those who shoot a lot of video with a digital camera, get the largest capacity card you can afford.  Some photographers set aside one card just for shooting video. Most digital cameras made during the last few years can take high speed cards and they are worth the extra cost.

Most memory cards are relatively inexpensive compared to just a few years ago so get the highest capacity you can afford. It’s better to have extra capacity than to run out of capacity.

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12 Responses

  1. Gail Bjork says:

    Lydia, there is probably nothing wrong with your camera. Did the salesperson in the store check it out for you? The faster card should help a bit but only if your camera is capable of a faster write-time to the card. If you haven’t called Kodak tech support, do so. They can verify if there is an actual problem with the camera. If not, try reducing the megapixel count. Your camera is 10 megapixels; lower it by one size and the images may write to the memory card faster. Make sure you format your card (after you remove your photos) once and a while (format, not erase) and that your battery is fully charged.

  2. Lydia says:

    hi, I have a Kodak easyshare m1033, the camera is very slow when storing pictures it says ‘processing’ for a while before i could take another picture, i went into the store where i got the camera and they told me it was the memory card,(optima sdhc 4gb) they sold me another one that is als a 4g but this one says ‘ultra up to 15 mbs, can you please tell me if that is true, im confussed, or is there something else wrong with the camera?? the pictures are great!

  3. larry says:

    Normally, it’s the same as the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin.  There is a formula with 187 variables which gets you close.  Surely your camera displays this as an ‘approximation’ according to your current settings?
    RE:  hold 200 more images than another.
    You seem to be saving JPEGs.  Why you do that or worry about it, I can’t fathom.  Years ago to carry around 1,000 pics required about 30 rolls of film, not a postage stamp!
    Easy to understand UNLESS every photo on both cards is exactly the same.  Most cameras don’t let you set JPEG compression.  JPEG compression varies on every photo,  and a card full of very dark (or very light or same colors) photos (see histogram details) will hold many more pics.
    Enjoy and adapt,,,

  4. Ricky says:

    Hi, I have wrote a comment on a different wall, but i would like to ask you again. How much pictures could i get on a 256MB Kodak XD Picture Card? I would like just an estimate from your opinion. As before you said about it depends on the size and quality settings for the image. Unfortunately this web page doesn’t seem to help me. As again i would just like a simple number of photos i could take with this XD Picture Card. 

  5. Gail Bjork says:

    Even with all camera settings the same, the number of images that can be saved to a memory card can vary. This is due to variations in colors in a photo. Every scene is different. Saying that, I think it would be rare the same sized card can hold 200 more images than another.

  6. Catvi says:

    Is it possible this could happen when putting two 4GB memory cards but different made into the same camera with exactly the same resolution setting and one could only hold a bit over 800 pictures and the other one could hold 1000 pictures?
    If it is possible, why is that?
    Thanks in advance for answering.

  7. Gail Bjork says:

    Have you deleted photos on your card, or are they removed automatically after you download. My suggestion is that you format your memory card. Formatting recreates the file system including new directories and folders. It should also improve the overall performance of the card. If this doesn’t work, contact the card manufacturer as the card could be damaged.

  8. Megan says:

    I have been using a 128MB memory stick. I can normally hold over 300 pictures but now since recently using the camera more often and downloading the pictures on my computer, the memory stick says there is only room for about 85 pictures. Why is this?

  9. Dirk says:

    Well i think the most important is the memory size the camera will take , for example i have a nikon d50 it is 6mp but won’t take higher cards than 2gb ones leaving me approx 240 photos in raw+jpeg basic .

    speed  is a issue a slow card will slow you down , with a faster card the camera will perform better

    so when you are not shure how much the camera will or can take , take it with you to a good photo store and let them help you

    I have experiences with many brands my favorite brand is Sandisk , other favorite brands are apacer , hema, basf emtec , kingston..

  10. Gail Bjork says:

    The information has been updated and should answer your question. Though all numbers are approximate, you will get some idea of what to expect.

  11. beverly says:

    have starter camera, 2gb memory card, how many photos can i take on that card?

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