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Memory card for D800?

John-Paul Palescandolo , Dec 31, 2012; 01:07 p.m.

I'm wondering which memory card I should buy for my D800, as I got a $50 gift card to Unique Photo for Christmas. I'm definitely going to stick with a 32 GB card, but I'm going to be shooting video as well. The camera came with a 32 GB 400x CF card, which writes at 60 MB/sec. I've also used 200x cards in the D800, which write at 30 MB/sec. Does using a higher rated card, such as a 600x card (writes at 90 MB/sec) help in reducing rolling shutter artifacts, or do you want a card that writes faster to keep up with high speed shutters or image buffering? I'm primarily asking this question about video tho. Will using a card that writes data faster help control rolling shutter, or is that a flaw of using DSLR cameras for video?

Also, since the camera came with a CF card, I'll be buying an SD card for the extra card slot. Why are CF cards more expensive than SD cards tho?


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Pat Cassity , Dec 31, 2012; 01:19 p.m.

The card will make no difference. The only way to reduce 'rolling shutter artifacts' is to use the highest frame rate possible. Unfortunately the D800 only offers 60fps with its 720p format. If your videos are not going to be viewed on a large screen, you probably won't notice a difference between 720p and 1080p. 30fps (in the 1080p mode) will pretty much eliminate it as well since you can't use a shutter speed less than 1/30. I would have thought that Nikon would have made 1080p with 60fps available on the D600 and the D800.

John-Paul Palescandolo , Dec 31, 2012; 01:46 p.m.

So, I'd be fine using 200x, 400x or 600x cards? Why the cards that write data so fast then?

Shun Cheung , Dec 31, 2012; 02:17 p.m.

For video, I think as long as you use class 6 or faster SD cards, you are fine. Today, almost all cards are now class 10.

Even full HD video is 1920x1080, so per frame, the size is actually very small, but the frame rate is high. You need really fast memory cards if you capture a lot of consecutive still frames, such as shooting a D4 "machine gun" style. The D800 is not really a sports/action camera. For most people, you don't need very fast cards.

John-Paul Palescandolo , Dec 31, 2012; 02:25 p.m.

Thanks for the replies!

Andy L , Dec 31, 2012; 02:30 p.m.

I can't speak to the use with video, but with still shooting the faster cards are for clearing the buffer quickly so that you can shoot a longer burst before the camera slows down.

Think of the buffer as a tank that holds water. You're pouring water into the top. There is a pipe leading out the bottom. You are pouring water in faster than it drains. You can pour at full speed until at some point the tank is full and you'll have to slow down. The larger the pipe leading out the bottom, the faster it drains, and the longer you can pour before slowing down. And once it fills, a larger pipe means your slow pouring rate can be faster. A fast memory card is a large pipe. With a 60MB/s CF card I can shoot about 50% more frames before slowing down than with an Amazon brand class 10 SD card.

Shun Cheung , Dec 31, 2012; 03:01 p.m.

Andy, again, my point is that most people don't buy the D800 to shoot in bursts. 4 frames/sec is not exactly burst and you don't need 36MP for sports. To me, the D800 is for slower studio type work or landscape, etc. For those applications, there is no need to spend a lot of money of fast memory cards.

Elliot Bernstein , Dec 31, 2012; 05:02 p.m.

Memory cards are always on sale. I purchase several Lexar Professional 400x UDMA cards for the same price as much slower non UDMA 'generic' cards a while back (I believe UDMA cards are faster than non-UDMA cards). If you are not rushed, wait for a sale and get the exact cards you need speed wise.

While the D800 is not considered a typical sports camera, I shoot primarily sports with it and generally never fill the buffer with the fast cards. But my older, slower cards do. I agree with Andy - a fast card make a big difference when heavy shooting is needed.

John-Paul Palescandolo , Dec 31, 2012; 05:35 p.m.

So random question - why are CF cards more expensive than SD cards of the same spec?

Shun Cheung , Dec 31, 2012; 05:47 p.m.

Generally speaking, CF cards are still faster, but the big difference in these days is that a lot more cameras and other devices use SD than CF, so you get the volume discount from mass production for SD. In fact, among current Nikons, only the higher-end DSLRs still use CF, such as the D300S, D800, and D4. Even the D600, D7000 are SD only and so are all current Coolpix and Nikon 1 mirrorless cameras. SD is a much much larger market.

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