Best SD Memory Card For The Sony A7rII

Best Sony A7r II Memory Cards

I’ve put all the popular and latest SD memory cards through my speed test for the Sony A7r II. 

What I’ve learned?  Speed doesn’t matter as much as the little letters and numbers written on the card.

The new Sony cameras are loaded with so many features and many of them require certain kinds of cards to get the camera to do what you need. This guide will show you the basics and list some recommended SD cards that I’ve tested and that work great. 

 

Sensor: 42.4MP Full Frame    

SD Interface: UHS-I       

Video Resolution : 4K 30p 100M       

 

 

Basic Requirements For 4K Video

To shoot 4K video with XAVC S 100M

– SDXC (64GB or larger)

– U3 (But doesn’t work for every card)

 

 

Sony A7r II Memory Card Speed Tests


New firmware 3.20 now allows us to use SDHC memory cards with the XAVC S codec. I’ve tested and confirmed that this does work, although the camera still has issues with compatible cards registering as not being compatible, making buying memory cards for 4k 100M still a crapshoot – more on this later.

 

SD Memory Card Speed Test Chart

Shot with ISO 640, continuous high, 1/100sec f2.8.

SD Memory Cards USB 3.0 Read USB 3.0 Write 4K Video 100M Sony A7r II Write Order
UHS-II  SDHC          
Lexar 32GB 2000x UHS-II 280.9 MB/s 181.4 MB/s No 35.27 MB/s Amazon, Adorama
Delkin 32GB UHS-II 245.1 MB/s 164.6 MB/s No 35.05 MB/s Amazon, Adorama
Sandisk Extreme Pro 32GB UHS-II 257.3 MB/s 109.9 MB/s Yes 34.28 MB/s Amazon, Adorama
Lexar 32GB 1000x UHS-II 145.0 MB/s 60.7 MB/s Yes 34.28 MB/s Amazon, Adorama
UHS-I SDXC          
Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB U3 89.0 MB/s 84.7 MB/s Yes 34.76 MB/s AmazonAdorama
Sandisk Extreme 64GB U3 71.3 MB/s 52.1 MB/s Yes 34.47 MB/s AmazonAdorama
Sandisk Extreme Plus 64GB U3 88.9 MB/s 62.0 MB/s Yes 34.46 MB/s AmazonAdorama
Kingston 64GB Class U3 88.1 MB/s 74.3 MB/s Yes 33.76 MB/s AmazonAdorama
Samsung Pro 64GB Class U1 86.8 MB/s 77.2 MB/s No 33.72 MB/s AmazonAdorama
PNY 64GB U1 86.1 MB/s 54.5 MB/s No 33.61 MB/s Amazon
PNY 64GB U3 87.9 MB/s 61.6 MB/s Sometimes 33.59 MB/s Amazon
Lexar 600x 64GB U1 85.6 MB/s 60.1 MB/s No 33.30 MB/s AmazonAdorama
Sony 64GB U3 87.2 MB/s 71.9 MB/s Yes 32.84 MB/s Amazon
Transcend 64GB U3 87.7 MB/s 64.1 MB/s Yes 31.95 MB/s AmazonAdorama
Samsung 64GB EVO U1 43.9 MB/s 22.7 MB/s No 21.87 MB/s Amazon

 

Speed Chart Overview


Some UHS-II cards do perform quicker in camera, but only marginally. But this is because the camera does not have a UHS-II bus.

I’m really disappointed at how slow Sony still is at memory card write speeds. Other mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm XT1 are almost three times faster and the Canon 5Ds r is significantly faster than that with its CF cards. Sony is WAY behind the competition on this one.

 

Why So Slow?

I’ve been trying to figure this out for over a year now. Like always, some guys in the comments came forward with some interesting ideas that I’ve tested and can confirm are valid.

All these Sony cameras to date only use the USB2.0 interface. When I test SD cards on a USB2.0 slot on a Mac, I get read and write speeds that cap out at around 30MB/s. 

Comment from AlphaDog –

“This is an absolute minefield of conflicting/overlapping terminology mixed with unpublished specs and hard to directly measure values. My understanding is that ‘U3’ is a guaranteed minimum write speed of 30MB/s. This can be supported on both UHS-i and UHS-ii cards. in fact UHS-I cards support several different interface protocols (SRS50/DDR50, which both support up to 50MB/sec; and SDR104 at 104MB/sec). U3 the uses some specific API calls over this transport to tell the card that it really really needs this minimum 30MB speed (eg for 4K vid). So the Sony could (and almost certainly does) use the UHS-I interface (not UHs-ii), and probably only uses one of the 50MB/sec max protocols (not the 104MB one).”

 

So while Sony is kicking ass innovating so many new features and technologies. They’ve left out one of the most basic, simplest features in their camera, one that really hurts the write speed performance. USB3.0.

 

 

Recommended SD Memory Cards For The Sony A7rII


Based on the tests the Sandisk Extreme Pro is the way to go for UHS-I cards. But if you’re concerned about price the PNY and Sony are fantastic cards.

It might be best to order from Amazon just because they have the easiest to use return system.

 

UHS-I

Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB SDXC U3 UHS-I – (Amazon) (Adorama)

Lexar 633x 64GB SDXC U3 UHS-I – (AmazonHaven’t done the speed test in this camera yet, but this card has been working great in other Sony cameras.

Sony 64GB SDXC U3 UHS-I – (Amazon)

I had to remove the PNY 64GB U3 card because I keep getting emails from people having problems with it. I can no longer recommend it.

 

UHS-II is it worth it to you? 

It might be, if USB 3.0 transfer speeds are important to you, then try UHS-II since in camera they perform about the same. Unfortunately I only have SDHC UHS-II cards, so I’m entirely sure how the camera clocks them down. If they clock down to U1 and how it will change video.

 

 

SD Memory Cards Not To Buy


If you’re looking at the list and thinking you want to buy your favorite brand hoping it will work fine. You’re taking a risk. Here is a list of cards I’ve had people personally email / comment about not working with 4k 100M. Now the crazy thing is, all these cards work perfectly fine for my camera at 4k 100M. Except the Samsung, I have them on order. I’m now wondering if it’s an issue with the camera, or an issue with the cards.

PNY 64GB U3

PNY 64GB U1

Samsung 64GB U3 Pro

Samsung 64GB U3 Pro+

Lexar 64GB UHS-II 2000x U3

 

 

SD Memory Cards For Video On The Sony A7r II


You need to use SDXC (update: firmware 3.20 supporst SDHC) U3 memory cards if you want to shoot the best video on the Sony A7r II.

A U1 card should let you shoot XAVC S HD, or even XAVC S 4K 60M but not 100M.

Video is a little bit more demanding of bandwidth than photography, since the buffers fills up very quickly.

There are a few different codecs you can shoot on the Sony A7r II and I recommend sticking with XAVC S 4k or XAVC HD.

 

Here is list of codecs you can shoot in and the type of SD card that is recommended for each.

XAVC S 4k 100M – UHS-I SDXC or SDHC  U3

XAVC S 4K 60M – UHS-I SDXC or SDHC U1

XAVC S HD – UHS-I SDXC  or SDHC U1 or U3

AVCHD – UHS-I SDHC U1 or better

MP4 – UHS-I SDHC U1 or better

 

Since I own just about every SD memory card, I’ve already been playing around with a few and have discovered some interesting things.

In XAVC S 4k, I was using an SDXC Samsung 64GB EVO U1 card and the camera told me to use a U3 card and would not let me record. Now I know this card should be fast enough to allow for 100mb/s recording (12 MB/s) but the camera wasn’t going to have it. 

I then switching to an SDXC PNY 64GB U3 card and everything was fine – 100mb/s recording with XAVC S 4k. Then I switched back to my Samsung U1 card and it now let me record video on that card even though it was only a U1 card. Once I reformatted that card, it would no longer let me shoot video and I would again get the notice that I need to use a U3 card. I know most of my U1 cards are fast enough and this is kind of annoying, but whatever, U3 cards it is.

Also, it seem to get different error messages when using U1 cards and sometimes my U1 cards work fine. A reader also just emailed me saying they purchases a U3 PNY card and the camera would not let them use it for video. 

It seems the Sony A7rII is already in need of a firmware update.

 

 

Continuous Shooting Hi vs Continuous Shooting Lo


In Continuous Lo the camera takes a lot longer to fill up the cache so it seems that the write speed is slower. The reason is, the camera will still use all the settings like autofocus, image stabilization, face detection, etc, between each shot. Continuous Hi should ignore most of those features for faster speeds.

I’ve also noticed that files sizes are the same between continuous hi, continuous low and single shot. This debunks the theory that shooting burst lowers your bitrate. 

Burst Hi: 42,991,616 bytes

Burst Lo: 42,991,616 bytes

Single Shot: 42,991,616 bytes

 

 

Sony A7R2 Firmware 3.20


Sony has improved memory card support with firmware 3.20. This now allows us to use SDHC memory cards when using the XAVC codec. Read more here.

This firmware still does not solve the issue with some compatible U3 memory cards not registering correctly with the camera. 

 

 

Best SD Memory Card For The Sony A7rII Conclusions


The best performing card is actually the Lexar 2000x, but by a fraction. I would say UHS-II cards aren’t a bad idea for transferring data from card to your computer, but you won’t see a real benefit in camera.

I really hope this was helpful to you, I learned a lot from doing this and I hope it saves you some trouble. Buying anything after clicking through those Amazon links, (even baby diapers) earns me a few bucks from the sale. This allows me to rent or buy cameras like this to test out. So if you want to help me help you, click-through any of those Amazon links for your next purchase.

 

Need Accessories For You Sony A7rII?

Check out the Sony A7rII accessories and gear page!

Shoot Better Video On The Sony A7rII

 

I’ve also started building a memory card guide for the Sony A7sII.

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  • Devo

    Thanks so much for all your effort here, this was probably the most useful thread I have come across and you have saved me lots of $$$$.

  • http://alikgriffin.com/ Alik Griffin

    Thanks Devo, glad it was helpful!

  • Don’t Forget To Move

    We had no idea the SD card played such a big role in what you could and couldn’t shoot. I mean we knew we needed something fast, but not so technical. Thanks a lot for such a comprehensive guide. We’re getting ‘system error’ when we try to shoot video on our 7Rii and really hope it’s related to the card and not the camera. Cheers!

  • http://alikgriffin.com/ Alik Griffin

    I haven’t heard about the System Error before. You might want to do a factory reset on your camera then try again, then update firmware. But it could be the card too.

  • Don’t Forget To Move

    Yeah unfortunately it ended up being a technical error with the camera. At least that’s what Sony said. Brand new out of the box and it doesn’t work… go figure! We’ll send it back for a replacement to save any future problems. Still ended up buying a SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB SHXC UHS-I U3 V30 (not exactly sure what the V30 means). Cheers.

  • http://alikgriffin.com/ Alik Griffin

    The v10, v30, v60, v90 is the new way of distinguishing speeds. V30 means that it will have a guaranteed minimum write speed of 30mb/s, v60 means 60mb/s etc. They use to do class 5, class 10 (which is u1), then u3, and now there are faster, so the Vxx sort of standardizes it all.

  • Don’t Forget To Move

    Ah ok, got you. So the card we’ve got should be ok for shooting 4K? Thanks a lot.

  • http://alikgriffin.com/ Alik Griffin

    Yes, the Sandisk Extreme Pros are what I like to use.