The Sony A7sIII has a very unique setup with dual UHS-II sd card slots that can also take the Cfexpress Type A card.
Do you really need CFexpress cards or are UHS-II cards good enough?
It depends on how you’re going to use the camera, and it’s all spelled out in this guide which hopefully will save you some money.
Use this guide to find the best memory cards for the Sony A7sIII.
Table Of Contents
- Best Memory Cards Sony A7sIII
- Memory Card Speed Test | In-Camera Memory Performance Benchmarks
- Best Memory Cards For 4k Video
- What Size Memory Card Is Best?
- Avoiding Counterfeit Memory Cards
Best Memory Cards Sony A7sIII
The Sony A7sIII has a very interesting setup. It allows for two different types of memory cards in the same slot (not at the same time).
The camera will take SD UHS-II cards or CFexpress Type A cards.
What’s the difference between CFexpress Type A and SD Cards?
Quite a bit, but it mainly comes down to size and speed. CFexpress Type A cards are much faster and slightly smaller.
Sony A7sIII Memory Card Recommendations
You only need CFexpress type A cards if you record S&Q at fast frame rates.
UHS-II cards usually have two-speed classes associated with them, V90 and V60.
Which speed class you choose to go with will depend on which format you plan on shooting at. The Sony A7sIII offers two codecs with various bitrate options. These are H.265 and H.264.
H.265 is a very efficient codec and only writes at 35MB/s or 280Mbps. H.264 is not as efficient with less compression so it writes at 600Mbps or 75MB/s to make up for this difference in quality. H.265 will create smaller files with better quality than H.264, so you should use H.265 if you can learn to edit with proxies since they are harder on the computer CPU.
V90 UHS-II cards offer a minimum bitrate of 90MB/s. Good for 600MBps ( 75MB/s ) H.264.
V60 UHS-II cards offer a minimum bitrate of 60MB/s. Good for 280Mbps ( 35MB/s ) H.265.
If you want to shoot S&Q with some higher frame rates, you’ll need V90 cards for some of the frame rates and quality settings, but you’ll need CFexpress Type A cards for 120p at the highest setting.
|Recommended Memory Cards||USB-C Write MB/s||USB-C Read MB/s||In-Camera Speeds||See Price|
|CFe Type A|
|Sony CFe Type A||700MB/s *rated||800MB/s *rated||B&H|
|UHS-II V90 600MBps H.264|
|Sony G Tough||229.1||270.6||184.5 MB/s||Amazon / B&H|
|Sandisk Extreme Pro||242.2||293.7||181.0 MB/s||Amazon / B&H|
|ProGrade V90||218.4||290.5||116.9 MB/s||Amazon / B&H|
|Delkin Black (Tough)||221.6||280.2||183.4 MB/s||B&H|
|UHS-II V60 280Mbps H.265|
|Sony M Tough||103.8||282.3||88.0 MB/s||Amazon / B&H|
|ProGrade V60||92.14||167.6||88.4 MB/s||Amazon / B&H|
This is still untested so I’ll have more clarity once the camera comes in.
Do you need CFexpress Type A cards for the Sony A7sIII?
Only if you shoot S&Q at high frame rates.
What is the S & Q setting and why do you need it?
S & Q stand for slow and quick. It creates a file that will be played back in slow motion set to your base frame rate. So the footage plays back in slow motion inside the camera.
When shooting S & Q you will need to use CFexpress Type A cards for XAVC S-I at high frame rates.
Sound will not be recorded in the S & Q mode.
We typically would not record in S&Q with Sony cameras but it looks like the new A7sIII might be doing something different here that requires a faster memory card. The camera maxes as a bitrate of 280Mbps H.265 or 600Mbps H.264, so testing will need to be done. It is possible that Sony is giving us 280Mbps at 24p taken from a 120fps source, which would mean it is dumping 1400Mbps ( 175MB/s ) to 3000Mbps ( 375MB/s ) to the card depending on the record mode. Our guess is they use some other bitrate special to this mode as they did on older cameras.
This would produce a much nicer image if that is the case that users would likely want to take advantage of. More on this later.
For now, the price of CFexpress Type-A cards are crazy high. You may want to forgo shooting S&Q 120p footage, for now, stick with v60 UHS-II cards and wait for more competition which will force Sony to lower their price. You don’t get sound with S&Q and we don’t know how much better it looks than standard 4k120p.
Sony A7sIII Specs
|Sensor: 12MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor|
Processor: BIONZ XR Image Processor
Memory Card Slots: 2 UHS-II / 2 CFe A
Continuous Shoot: 10fps
Est. Buffer Size: —
RAW Shots To Fill Buffer: 1000 Frames
Max Memory Card Size: Unlimited
4k Datarate: H.265 280Mbps / H.264 600Mbps
To see how each UHS-II memory card performs in Sony cameras, here is a speed test from the Sony A9II.
Memory Card Speed Test | In-Camera Memory Performance Benchmarks
These tests are taken with continuous burst high at ISO 100. The buffer is filled and the time it takes to clear the buffer is calculated against the record times.
|Memory Card||Speed Class||Sony A9 II MB/s||USB Read||USB Write|
|Sandisk Extreme Pro 300MB/s||UHS-II||181.0||293.7||242.2|
|Toshiba Exceria Pro||UHS-II||166.8||259.6||218.1|
|Sony G Tough*||UHS-II||184.5||270.6||229.1|
|Delkin Power v90||UHS-II||183.4||280.2||221.6|
|Delkin Prime v60||UHS-II||88.9||252.8||89.1|
|Fujifilm Elite II||UHS-II||138.7||290.3||173.2|
|Hoodman Steel 2000x||UHS-II||136.4||280.7||169.1|
|Hoodman Steel 1500x*||UHS-II||88.9||289.2||105.8|
|Amplim 1900x V60*||UHS-II||87.8||289.3||104.2|
|Angel Bird V90*||UHS-II||116.0||290.4||219.5|
|Angel Bird V60*||UHS-II||87.7||166.5||104.5|
|FreeTail Evoke Pro V60*||UHS-II||87.0||287.5||103.1|
|Sandisk Extreme Pro 170MB/s||UHS-I||60.9||99.2||88.3|
|Sandisk Extreme Plus||UHS-I||62.8||99.3||88.2|
|Sandisk Extreme U3||UHS-I||48.5||99.3||56.8|
|Sandisk Ultra U1||UHS-I||26.6||99.5||34.3|
|Kingston Canvas React A1 U3*||UHS-I||67.4||99.6||82.5|
|Kingston Canvas Go! U3*||UHS-I||63.9||99.6||74.0|
|Lexar 633x U1||UHS-I||33.1||95.0||54.6|
|Sony Professional U3*||UHS-I||74.7||98.5||60.2|
|Sony U3 94MB/s||UHS-I||56.8||96.7||57.5|
|Sony U3 95MB/s||UHS-I||67.1||96.6||85.4|
|PNY Elite Performance U3||UHS-I||57.1||96.7||66.9|
|Delkin Advantage U3*||UHS-I||67.9||99.6||78.8|
|Toshiba Exceria Pro U3*||UHS-I||66.4||97.8||74.7|
|Toshiba Exceria U3*||UHS-I||30.0||97.2||29.9|
|Verbatim Pro+ U3*||UHS-I||69.7||98.5||83.7|
|Verbatim Pro U3*||UHS-I||56.8||96.6||68.0|
|Amplim 667x A1 V30*||UHS-I||47.1||99.6||52.2|
Best Memory Cards For 4k Video
Sony A7sIII Video Specs & Recording Modes
There are a lot of different record modes with different Sony codecs.
What’s new to the Sony A7sIII is the XAVC HS and the XAVC S-I.
What’s the difference between XAVC HS, XAVC H-I and XAVC S?
All three containers are capable of recording 10-bit 4:2:2. The main difference is H.265 vs H.264.
XAVC HS allows for H.265 recording.
XAVC S and S-I still only record to H.264. The S-I variant is an all intra recording. Meaning keyframes on every frame.
H.265 offers better compression performance at a lower bandwidth which makes it a much more efficient file. So H.265 can produce almost twice the quality at a similar file size as H.264 depending on the scenes.
The disadvantage of H.265 is it is harder on the CPU to decode and it will often require you to work with proxies when editing, which are actually very quick and easy to make.
H.264 is an older codec that was used by all the older Sony cameras. H.264 will support 10-bit at a 4:2:2 subsampling but it’s not as efficient as H.265. You can still get great quality out of H.264 since Sony increased the bitrate to 600Mpbs with H.264.
This will give you similar quality to H.265 (probably still not as good as H.265 at 280Mbps) but with bigger file size. Most computers will be able to edit these files without any issues, so you’ll have to test for yourself the advantages and disadvantages of each system. I personally just edit with H.265, using the proxies in Premiere.
Record Limit: Unlimited
Audio FIle Format: AAC, Linear PCM
4k Recording Modes
Should You Use XAVS HS or XAVS S-I?
You should use XAVC HS with the H.265 recording. It is a better codec and then you should develop a proxy post-production workflow in Premiere to speed up the editing process. It’s incredibly simple to do once you’ve got it all set up. It’s worth the file size advantage and image quality advantage.
I have a guide to proxy editing here
Sony A7sIII Record Times – Memory Card Capacity
Here are the record times for 4k bitrates based on a few memory card sizes.
Use this table to see the memory card capacity with different record settings.
|Sony A7sIII Record Times||64GB||80GB||128GB||160GB||256GB||512GB|
|4k 600Mbps | 75MB/s||14min||18min||28Min||36min||57min||114min|
|4k 280Mbps | 35MB/s||30min||38min||61min||76min||122min||244min|
|4k 200Mbps | 25MB/s||43min||53min||85min||107min||171min||341min|
What Size Memory Card Is Best?
The size of the memory cards you’ll need really depends on record settings and the type of video you’re shooting. You’ll probably want to start with a 128GB card which gives you 61 minutes when recording with the 280Mbps H.265 bitrates. This is going to be enough for short videos that take a few hours to shoot.
If you shoot 600Mbps with H.264 because you don’t want to deal with the additional post-processing labor involved with H.265, then you may want to start with a 256GB card.
On long shoot days or big projects, you may either want to go with a bigger card or clear off the cards midday, which means you have to bring some sort of computer and backup drives. So this all depends on your budget and workflow.
Avoiding Counterfeit Memory Cards
Counterfeit memory cards still plague many of the online retailers and you can end up with them if you’re not careful.
To avoid counterfeit cards there are a few precautions you can take.
First, buy from trusted stores only. BHphoto, Adorama, etc. If you buy from Ebay, or Amazon, make sure that you still select a trusted seller. Even then occasionally you can get mixed inventory. I haven’t had it happen when buying from Amazon personally, but I’ve heard about it happening in Europe. Most of the time these counterfeit cards look too good to be true, or they are extremely popular cards.
How to test for counterfeit memory cards?
Counterfeit memory cards are often made by hacking the memory card controller to report a false capacity. For example, they’ll take a 32GB card, and hack it to read as though it’s a 128GB card.
Everything will work fine for days or weeks until you cross that 32GB threshold, then the card fails.
What you can do with the Sony A7sIII is set the camera to record video at 600Mbps, and let it run on each card you buy until it fills the card. If the card reaches rated capacity then it’s most likely authentic.
Best Memory Cards Sony A7sIII Conclusions
Shopping for memory cards for the Sony A7sIII is a little tricky since it takes two different types of cards. When CFexpress Type A cards come down in price it would make sense to just buy two of those and you’ll have a system that can handle any record mode.
If you’re just shooting fairly casually and you don’t need that S&Q record mode and you’re fine with capturing 120p the normal way, then any UHS-II card will work fine.
The big take away would be to remember
UHD 4k H.265 XAVC HS, you need V90 UHS-II cards.
UHD 4k H.264 XAVC S-I, v60 UHS-II cards are fine.