Best SD Memory Card For The Sony A7rII

Best Sony A7r II Memory Cards

An in-camera speed comparison between all the most popular UHS-I and UHS-II SD memory cards in the Sony A7rII.

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. 

 

Camera Stats

Sensor: 42.4MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor

Processor: BIONZ X Image Processor

Memory Card Interface: UHS-I       

Video Resolution : 4K at 30fps 100M with S-Log Gamma 

Continuous Shoot: 5fps

Buffer Size: 900MB

Shots to fill buffer (Uncompressed RAW): 23

Time taken to clear buffer: 23 seconds (Sandisk Extreme Pro)

 

Sony A7rIIAmazon / Adorama / BHphoto

 

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
Delkin 32GB UHS-II 245.1 MB/s 164.6 MB/s No 35.05 MB/s Amazon
Sandisk Extreme Pro 32GB UHS-II 257.3 MB/s 109.9 MB/s Yes 34.28 MB/s Amazon
Lexar 32GB 1000x UHS-II 145.0 MB/s 60.7 MB/s Yes 34.28 MB/s Amazon
UHS-I SDXC          
Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB U3 89.0 MB/s 84.7 MB/s Yes 34.76 MB/s Amazon
Sandisk Extreme 64GB U3 71.3 MB/s 52.1 MB/s Yes 34.47 MB/s Amazon
Sandisk Extreme Plus 64GB U3 88.9 MB/s 62.0 MB/s Yes 34.46 MB/s Amazon
Kingston 64GB Class U3 88.1 MB/s 74.3 MB/s Yes 33.76 MB/s Amazon
Samsung Pro 64GB Class U1 86.8 MB/s 77.2 MB/s No 33.72 MB/s Amazon
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 Amazon
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 Amazon
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

Lexar 633x 64GB SDXC U3 UHS-IAmazon Haven’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-IAmazon

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.

  • 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 $$$$.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • Nate Opgenorth

    My a6300 won’t shoot 4K 100M XAVC with the PNY 64GB UHS-I U3’s. It’s a problem across a handful of Sony’s and not just the alpha’s. PNY reached out to me via Amazon and email. I think Sony needs to do an firmware update for the A7II, A7SII, A7RII, a6300, and a6500 where it suggests a UHS-I card but doesn’t outright block it because I’ve seen fast cards buffer out on my Canon or on a Nikon in video while cards that were not UHS anything handle high bit rate stuff just fine. The PNY that won’t allow 100M 4K XAVC on my a6300 has amazing speeds for still images, my buffer clears out 2x as fast vs the regular Sandisk Extreme’s (not the Pro though). And my Extreme Pro’s are very very fast but they max out Sony’s buffers. PNY has said they have and will again reach out to Sony about this….for Sony’s sake, I hope they do. If a card can handle 12.5MB/s or higher write speed for more than just a burst it is probably a safe bet and a U3 rating is what should matter, not UHS-I necessarily. Not gonna bother with UHS-II just quite yet seeing as I don’t have a UHS-II device!

  • Nate Opgenorth

    The V rating is specific to video too. Sandisk has a full explanation on their website. V30 should be fine. It is in megaBYTES per second and 30MB/s is 240Mbps and Sony’s XAVC 100M is 100Mbps so its WELL within the specs! Sony could and maybe should offer a 4:2:2 mode at 160M or 200M because it’s not a giant jump. I have recorded ProRes HQ to SDXC cards on my MacBook using a capture card before with ease.

  • Nate Opgenorth

    Also the speed difference between 32GB and 64GB when you are at UHS-I U3 isn’t too much of a difference. I had thought the SDHC to SDXC spec bump would be bigger but in reality I only see a speed bump when going to 128GB UHS-I cards. On Sandisk’s Ultra cards which I don’t suggest as they only support 60M and if you shoot burst photo’s they suck, but on the Ultra’s the write speed on the 64GB goes up 1.5x vs the 32GB, I learned this when I was originally using Ultra’s with my Canon and GoPro cameras and found that the video would buffer out on 32GB’s but not on 64GB’s when shooting high bit rate video (either using Magic Lantern on my Canon or ProTune mode on the GoPro).

  • It seems Sony cameras are a little too aggressive with determining if a camera is U3 capable or not. Sometimes you can trick those cards that don’t work (like PNY), into working, if you put something like a Sandisk Extreme or Sony card in that does work, then put in a PNY without turning off the camera or formatting, they’ll then work fine. So it’s definitely a camera issue.

    For me and my cameras all the cards work except most Samsung cards, which are amazing cards in every other camera.

    I’ve also noticed that the A99 II seems to be handling memory cards different, it has much faster write speeds, so hopefully that technology will trickle down into the next generation of Sony cameras and memory card performance will be comparable to other cameras.

  • I also wouldn’t count on a firmware update. Sony won’t even update our cameras with the better menu layout found in the A6500.

  • Nate Opgenorth

    Well a button layout that is “better” would be an upgrade and not really a patch. They issued a patch to fix the overheating issue and it really helped from all reports. Crazier things have happened, Canon issued an update to the 5D Mk.II to offer 23.98 and 29.97 instead of just 30p for example 😀 But seriously, PNY has apparently reached out to a handful of people, apparently even one of Sony’s own UHS-I V-30 cards is having troubles!

  • Nate Opgenorth

    I’ve put in the PNY after taking out the Extreme Pro and it worked for 2 or 3 videos and it worked initially before I formatted the card. I think a “warning: This card isn’t UHS-I, it may stop recording” would be better than “You MUST have a UHS-I card”, but oh well. With Canon DSLR’s the responsibility was sorta mostly on you to have fast cards or your video stopped recording so I embraced that.

  • Doper Dan

    Great Blog. Thanks for all the wonderful info and knowledge!
    Alik Griffin Photography ROCKS!!!

  • Thanks Dan!