The cost of SD cards varies greatly and at the budget end there are the cheaper brands of SD cards you can pick up for a few bucks, and at the other end of the scale there are the premium brand SD cards costing almost a hundred bucks. When you consider that you can buy around twenty budget SD cards for the price of one premium SD card of the same memory, it is clear that you can spend far more on memory cards than you really need to.
All things being equal, i.e. the memory capacity and writing speed, the premium brand SD cards are a total waste of money, and you’re better off going for the budget SD cards.
Over the years I have used both budget SD cards and top end SD cards, and neither one is better than the other. Whilst the premium brand manufacturers will sell their SD cards as being “more reliable” than budget SD cards, in reality this is utter rubbish. My budget SD cards never fail or suffer more corruptions than my top end SD cards. In fact, I have found a budget brand of SD card that has never failed me (not yet – but I know it will because all SD cards fail eventually) and for general photography this is my go to SD card of choice.
In my experience you only need to spend more on SD cards when you want/need a faster SD card, i.e. one with a higher writing speed. Sports photography, action photography and wildlife photography all require faster cards because you need to use the camera in burst mode to fire off several shots in quick succession. In fact, any type of photography where you are going to be using burst mode requires faster SD cards. I often use fast SD cards for fashion photography and photojournalism too. Fast SD cards are, as you might have already guessed, more expensive. You will also find that only the premium brand manufacturers make fast SD cards, so there is only one choice and you won’t be able to buy budget brands.
Whenever I don’t need to use my camera in burst mode I use slower SD cards, and I use the budget brands at that, saving some money in the process. Just because an SD card is expensive it doesn’t make it any better, no matter what the manufacturers will try and have you believe.
An SD card is used to store the digital information only, and the type of card will have no impact on your photo. A photo stored on a premium SD card will not be any better than the same photo stored on a budget SD card. It is the camera, the lens, and most importantly the skills of the photographer that make an excellent photo, and this is created before being saved to an SD card.
As I have said before a budget SD card will not fail more than a premium SD card, if they are treated the same course. SD cards are sturdy however they will fail if you abuse them too much. Dusty conditions, damp conditions, wet conditions, too hot conditions, icy conditions etc. will all affect the performance of an SD card, regardless of whether it is budget or premium, so you do need to treat them with a bit of respect.
As a photographer, the biggest fear is that an SD card will fail therefore you need to reduce the chances of this happening in the first instance (i.e. by looking after the memory cards) and also having a backup if the worst does come to the worst. I am not a fan of the large high capacity memory cards and loading it full of images as I believe this is a disaster waiting to happen, and if that card failed the whole shoot would be lost. Instead, I use smaller capacity memory cards and spread the shoot across several memory cards. This way, if one does fail I will still have plenty more cards full of photos.
In my experience SD cards are more likely to fail as they get older and used, provided you look after them of course. Whenever I take on paid and commercial shoots I price in the cost of a few budget SD cards and use new ones specifically for the shoot.
So back to the question “Is it worth spending more on SD cards?” If you don’t need to use your camera in burst mode then you should save yourself some money and use budget SD cards. If you do need faster SD cards I’m afraid there is no other option than buying expensive SD cards.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.