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Beginners Guide to Memory Cards

This guide covers the process of choosing the right memory card for your device and what the most common types of memory card are; from SD and Compact Flash to XD.

What is a memory card?
Memory cards are small devices that are used to store pictures and video clips. Many digital cameras and devices that offer expansion from memory cards also include built in storage. In most cases the built in storage can only handle a limited amount of data and you are soon desperate for more space, this is where memory cards come in.

What to look for in a memory card?
There are many different formats of card, often with many different capacities and speeds available for each format.
Many cameras, PDA pocket computers, Tablet PCs and camcorders will only work with one type of card, if you buy the wrong card it is unlikely it will work in your device.

The speed of cards is often identified by the class of card (an example would be a Class 4 SD Card). Higher class cards can read and write data quicker than cards of a lower class. The class of card becomes much more important when you are looking to shoot HD movies or advanced digital photography.

The other thing to consider is the maximum storage capacity that your device can take. Some devices are unable to handle higher capacity cards or cards above a certain class. If you are not sure of the limitations of your device it is always best to check the user manual or ask CCL for advice.

What types of memory card are available?
There are many different types of memory card available from different manufacturers and intended for use in different devices. They vary greatly in popularity, performance and price so researching the card you need before you buy is crucial.

SD Cards: Also known as secure digital cards these are by far the most common type of memory card. They are compatible with the largest amount of devices including digital cameras, Satellite navigation systems (satnavs), Tablet PCs, PDAs and mobile phones amongst other devices. Different types of SD card are available such as SDHC and SDXC cards. These are normally higher capacity and quicker cards than the standard secure digital cards.
CompactFlash: Compact Flash cards offer very high storage capacities and are very quick. At one point they were the most popular type of memory card but now they are normally only found in professional level equipment such as DSLR cameras due to their increased cost.
Micro SD Cards: Micro SD cards are normally found on mobile telephones and small devices such as tablet PCs. They can be found on some cameras however they are not that common for that use with full sized SD cards being preferred.
xD Picture Cards: xD picture cards are used primarily in Fuji and Olympus digital cameras although they are slowly moving over to SD cards. One of the rarer types of memory card their use in modern equipment is limited to niche products.
Memory Stick Duo: Memory Stick Duo is used by Sony digital cameras and some of its Walkman mobile phones although a lot of the newer Sony devices also boast compatibility with secure digital cards.
Multi Media Cards: Also known as MMC cards they have the same physical characteristics as SD cards although the technology inside them is vastly different. They are usually used as an alternative to SD cards which means that many devices that use SD cards are also compatible with MMC cards, although not all.