How to tell if an SD card will work in your older camera

Tempting newer cards with terabytes of storage may not be compatible

Published: February 13, 2014 10:00 AM

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Two types of SDHC memory cards

Secure Digital memory card prices have plummeted over the last couple of years. You can get a 16GB SDHC memory card—which can store more than 2,800 JPEG images shot by a 16-megapixel camera—for less than $20. No more out-of-memory messages as you’re about to shoot that Caribbean sunset or frolicking dolphins!

But hold on: It's possible that new high-capacity cards won't work with your older camera. So before you go hog-wild buying gigs of memory, find out just what your camera can accept. Here's a glossary of SD memory-card types, and how to figure out what you can or shouldn't buy.  

For more on digital cameras, check our buying guide and Ratings.

SDXC: price range, $60 to $600; maximum capacity, 2TB

An SDXC card, the newest type, can store as much as 2 terabytes of memory, although there are none yet on the market with that much storage. Since it has the largest capacity, this is also a good option if you shoot a lot of video, since video clips eat up storage space more quickly on your memory card than photos do.

SDHC: price range, $6 to $60; capacity range, 2GB to 32GB

SDHC memory cards were introduced in 2006. It can store up to 32GB.

SD: price range, less than $7; maximum capacity, 2GB

This is the oldest type of card and has a maximum capacity of 2GB. If you see a card with greater capacity, then it's not an SD memory card, but an SDHC or SDXC.

How you can tell

If you buy a new digital camera right now, it's almost a guarantee that you can use any one of these cards. (I'd still double-check, just to be certain.) For a camera that's not brand-new, check the box your camera came in, the user guide, or the manufacturer’s website. They should list the camera's compatible card formats. If you see the SDXC symbol, your camera should work with the two older formats too (SDHC and SD). If you see SDHC, it will also work with SD. And if you see only SD, that's all you can use.  

—Terry Sullivan

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