A real-world comparison between all the best XQD and SD (UHS-II) memory cards for the Nikon D850. All cards are tested in-camera to see which cards are the fastest and perform the best.
Nikon D850 Stats
Sensor: 45.7MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor with EXPEED 5 Image Processor
Auto Focus: 45-Point All-Cross Type AF System
Video: 4K UHD Video Recording at 30 fps
Screen: 3.2″ 2.36m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
Continuous Shooting: 7 fps
Estimated Buffer Size: 2GB
RAW Uncompressed Shots Until Buffer Fills: 30 – with Lexar 2933x XQD
Time To Clear Buffer: 21.5 seconds
Best Memory Cards Nikon D850
An in-camera speed comparison between all the most popular memory cards in the Nikon D850.
When I first tested the Nikon D850 memory card write speeds back in 2017, I ended up with very slow memory cards. The buffer would just not clear quickly.
The image preview was turned on. If you’re doing continuous burst photography, you’ll want to turn off Image Preview to gain maximum performance. With image preview turned on, each image displays for a second before the next image can be written to the card.
So now I’ve retested the D850 with Image Preview turned off and while I was at it I tested both 14-bit Lossless Compressed, Uncompressed, and Uncompressed with Image Preview on.
USB 3.0 read and write speeds are tested using Crystal Disk on Windows 10 with an old MacPro. Similar performance was obtained using USB 3.0 speeds on a new MacBook Pro.
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|Sony G 400MB/s
|Sony M 150MB/s
|Sony M 80MB/s
|Sandisk Extreme Pro 300
|Toshiba Exceria Pro
|Fujifilm Elite II
|Sandisk Extreme Pro 280
|Hoodman Steel 2000x
|Sandisk Extreme Pro U3
|Delkin 633x U3
|Sony U3 – Old Model
|Samsung Pro+ U3
|Samsung Pro U1
|Samsung Pro U3
|PNY Elite Performance U3
|Sandisk Extreme Plus U3
|Sony U3 – New Model
|PNY Elite Performance U1
|Lexar 633x U3
|Sandisk Extreme U3
|Lexar 600x U1
|Sandisk Ultra U1
|Samsung U1 EVO
For whatever reason my Transcend UHS-II card didn’t perform well with the second test and I’m not able to retest it as I’m leaving the country. The card is fine, I think it had a bad connection since it performed much better in the previous test – this happens sometimes. Don’t let those numbers scare you. The Transcend UHS-II cards usually perform the same as the Fujifilm cards and is a great card to buy.
XQD read and write speeds with Windows or Mac could potentially see better performance if future card readers took advantage of USB-C or Thunderbolt.
Best XQD Memory Cards – Nikon D850
There aren’t many options for XQD cards, just Sony and Lexar.
Although XQD cards are rated faster than UHS-II SD Memory cards, UHS-II cards are still very fast and if you only want to use one card, you could get away with a single UHS-II card.
Recently, XQD cards have come down in price, so they are now a pretty good buy.
Sony XQD G Series Memory Card – 287.36 MB/s
This is Sony’s best XQD Memory Card. This is not to be confused with the older model that just says G 400. Get this card instead. Available in four sizes. 32GB / 64GB / 128GB / 256GB – Amazon / BHphoto
Lexar 2933x XQD 2.0 Memory Card – 288.97 MB/s
This is Lexar’s best and only XQD Memory Card. Lexar is doing away with its memory card business, so grab these while they are still available. However, I’m not sure what happens to the warranty when Lexar is discontinued. When testing the cameras with USB 3.0 readers, The Lexar performed slightly faster.
Best SD UHS-II Memory Cards – Nikon D850
If you’re shooting with an XQD card in your primary slot, but use an SD card for backup, or shooting with an SD card as your primary, it’s important to have the fastest memory card you can buy so you don’t slow down performance too much. This is where UHS-II memory cards come in.
The Nikon D850 will bottleneck its memory card write speed to the slowest memory card if using a dual memory card setup.
If you’re shooting RAW+JPEG and the JPEG shots are going to slot 2 then performance won’t matter as much, since JPEG files are much smaller and take up less of less bandwidth. However, shooting RAW+JPEG usually slows the write speeds slightly since it requires more processing overall.
These are some of the most popular memory cards with the best performance, Toshiba and Delkin UHS-II cards are also great, especially since the Toshiba cards have come down in price.
Sandisk Extreme Pro UHS-II – 204.27 MB/s
Sandisk makes one of the best all-around and most compatible Memory Cards. The Extreme Pro 300MB/s is one of the best SD memory cards for your Nikon D850. Available in four sizes. 32GB / 64GB / 128GB / 256GB – Amazon / Adorama / BHphoto
Sony G Series UHS-II – 155.21 MB/s
Early in 2017, Sony released a very fast UHS-II memory card with the same specs as the Lexar 2000x, and the Sandisk Extreme Pro UHS-II. These have been performing very well in tests. Available in three sizes, 32GB/ 64GB / 128GB – Amazon / BHphoto
Lexar 2000x UHS-II – 153.54 MB/s
Not All XQD Memory Cards Are Equal
XQD memory cards have been around for a while and there are a few things to know.
Older XQD memory cards or XQD 1.0 cards are much slower at read and write speeds. The newest and fastest XQD type cards or XQD 2.0.
Sony designates their fast cards as G cards and their slower cards as M cards. M cards are slightly slower at write speeds but are a less expensive alternative for 4k videographers who don’t need the high write speeds of the G cards, which are suited more for burst photography.
Lexar does what they always do by listing a speed rating. In this case, it’s 2933x. That is the fastest Lexar XQD card right now.
If you’re looking to get the best performance out of your Nikon D850, then you’ll want to get these new Sony G cards or the 2933x.
XQD vs. UHS-II Memory Cards In The Nikon D850
To compare XQD cards to UHS-II cards there are a few things to talk about.
First, XQD cards are faster, by about 100MB/s based on the rated speed and it shows in these tests.
XQD cards are bigger but not by a lot. They also feel more rugged, almost like mini CF cards. They don’t have pins on the back rather they function more like an old Nintendo cartridge.
Shooting 4k Video With The Nikon D850
The Nikon D850 defaults to formatting memory cards to 32bit. I’m not sure if larger cards get formatted to exFat like with the Canon 5D IV, but this does cause some problems with video shooters. With a 32-bit memory card, file sizes will be broken up into 4GB chunks. You can get around this in the Canon 5DIV by manually formatting the cards to exFat before inserting them into your camera.
How I Perform The Tests
Testing UHS-II Cards
I test the USB 3.0 read and write speeds of the UHS-II and UHS-I SD cards using sequential tests with Crystal Disk in Windows 10.
With Crystal disk you have many options, I use two of these options, either Seq Q32T1 or Seq.
With UHS-II cards, some cards perform better with Seq, like ADATA, Fujifilm, Delkin, and Transcend, other cards perform better with Q32T1. I take whichever is faster and list that in my data.
To test UHS-II Cards, I used the Lexar SR2 UHS-II memory card reader. It’s the fastest based on my UHS-II memory card reader comparisons.
Testing XQD Memory Cards
Windows 10 and Crystal Disk do not give me good results when testing XQD cards (even with the latest drivers), so I switched to OSX and the AJA System Test, which is vastly superior to the BlackMagic test.
To test the XQD cards, I use the Sony XQD USB Adapter.
Best Memory Cards Nikon D850 | Bottom Line
There aren’t a lot of options for XQD memory cards and the choice is fairly straightforward. Sony or Lexar.
Since Micron announced it was terminating Lexar, it may be better to just stick with Sony for now so that you don’t run into any warranty issues with Lexar in the future. Although, I believe Sony only offers a 1-year warranty on their cards anyway, but knows, maybe Micron will sell Lexar and it will stay a productive company.
In terms of SD cards, you still need to buy the best and fastest card possible. The fastest SD cards (UHS-II) are almost always the Sandisk Extreme Pro or Lexar 2000x, but Toshiba, Delkin, and Sony UHS-II cards are also a great buy for the Nikon D850.
I recommend you use UHS-II and XQD cards in the Nikon D850 to get the best performance out of your camera.
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