How Many Photos Can a 32 / 64 / 128 / 256 GB Memory Card Hold?

 
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choosing the right memory card

When it comes to digital photography, one of the most crucial components is the memory card. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur enthusiast, understanding how many photos your memory card can hold is not just essential, but empowering. 

This guide will explore the capacities of various memory cards—32 GB, 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB—and explain how many pictures each can store, depending on the image format and camera settings. With this knowledge, you can confidently choose the right memory card for your needs, ensuring you never miss a shot.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Memory Cards in Photography

As a photographer, your gear isn’t just about cameras and lenses. One often overlooked, yet crucial component, is the memory card. Think of it as the unsung hero of your photography kit. 

Without a reliable memory card, even the best camera can’t save your masterpiece shots. Here’s why memory cards are so essential and how understanding their capacities can make a big difference in your work.

Memory Cards: The Digital Film Roll

 

Back in the day, film photographers had to carry rolls of film, carefully choosing shots to avoid running out of frames. Today, our “film” comes in the form of memory cards, and while they offer the luxury of thousands of shots, choosing the right card is just as critical. 

A good memory card ensures that your photos are stored safely and can handle the high data rates required by modern cameras, especially when shooting in RAW or 4K video.

Understanding Image File Formats

understanding image file formats​

JPEG vs. RAW vs. DNG Image Files

JPEG Compression

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) compression is widely used for its ability to reduce file sizes significantly while retaining reasonable image quality. This makes JPEGs ideal for everyday photography and online sharing.

RAW Image Files

RAW files, in contrast, capture all the data from your camera’s sensor without compression. This results in larger file sizes but provides greater flexibility in post-processing.

Each camera manufacturer typically has its own RAW file format, such as CR2 for Canon and NEF for Nikon cameras.

DNG (Digital Negative)

DNG is an open RAW format developed by Adobe. It offers the same benefits as proprietary RAW files but with better compatibility across different software and devices.

File Format File Size (MB) Compression Image Quality Color Depth Editing Flexibility Open Format
JPEG 2-8 Lossy Lower (artifacts, reduced details) 8-bit Limited No
RAW 20-50 Lossless Higher (more details, no artifacts) 12-bit or higher Extensive No
DNG 20-50 Lossless Higher (more details, no artifacts) 12-bit or higher Extensive Yes

Size Differences Between JPEG and RAW

The file size difference between JPEG and RAW images is substantial. File size refers to the amount of space a file takes up on your memory card. JPEGs, being compressed, are much smaller, averaging between 5 to 10 MB for a 20 MP (megapixel) image.

RAW files, on the other hand, can be around 30 MB for the same resolution, as they retain all the data captured by the camera.

File Format File Size (MB) Compression Image Quality Color Depth Editing Flexibility
JPEG 2-8 Lossy Lower (artifacts, reduced details) 8-bit Limited
RAW 20-50 Lossless Higher (more details, no artifacts) 12-bit or higher Extensive

How Many Photos Can a 128 GB Card Hold?

memory card capacity

A 128 GB card can hold around 4,368 RAW photos or 18,800 JPEG photos, depending on the file format and camera settings. Understanding these capacities can help you choose the right card for your needs, ensuring you never run out of space during critical moments. 

The capacity of a 128 GB memory card varies greatly depending on the file format:

  • RAW Photos: Approximately 4,368 photos (at 30 MB per photo).
  • JPEG Photos: Approximately 18,800 photos (at 7 MB per photo).

How Many Photos Can a 32 GB Card Hold?

 
  • RAW Photos: Approximately 1,092 photos.
  • JPEG Photos: Approximately 4,700 photos.

How Many Photos Can a 64 GB Card Hold?

 
  • RAW Photos: Approximately 2,184 photos.
  • JPEG Photos: Approximately 9,400 photos.

How Many Photos Can a 256 GB Card Hold?

 
  • RAW Photos: Approximately 8,736 photos.
  • JPEG Photos: Approximately 37,600 photos.

Memory Card Capacities

Card SizeRAW PhotosJPEG Photos
128 GB4,368 photos (at 30 MB per photo)18,800 photos (at 7 MB per photo)
32 GB1,092 photos4,700 photos
64 GB2,184 photos9,400 photos
256 GB8,736 photos37,600 photos

Understanding these capacities can help you choose the right card for your needs, ensuring you never run out of space during critical moments.

Choosing the Right Memory Card

Selecting a memory card depends on several factors, including your camera’s compatibility. This refers to whether the memory card is designed to work with your camera model. 

Using an incompatible memory card can lead to issues such asslow performance or data loss. It’s also important to consider the size of the card and its speed when making your selection.

Memory Card Size

 

Larger memory cards can store more photos, which is advantageous for extended shooting sessions. However, they also come with higher risks of data loss or corruption, which refers to the potential for your photos to become inaccessible or damaged. 

It’s important to regularly back up your photos to avoid losing them if your memory card fails.

Memory Card Speed

 

A memory card’s speed determines how quickly it can read and write data. Faster cards are essential for burst shooting, a feature that allows you to capture a series of photos in rapid succession. 

This is particularly useful for sports or wildlife photography. However, not all cameras can utilize the maximum speed of the highest-end cards, so it’s important to consider your camera’s capabilities when choosing a memory card.

Types of Memory Cards

how many photos can a 32 / 64 / 128 / 256 gb memory card hold?

CompactFlash (CF) Cards

 

CF cards are physically larger and commonly used in professional DSLRs and camcorders. They offer high capacities and speeds but are gradually being replaced by newer formats.

Secure Digital (SD) Cards

 

SD cards are the most widely used memory cards due to their small size and versatility. They are supported by most cameras, smartphones, and laptops.

MicroSD Cards

 

MicroSD cards are even smaller than SD cards and are used in devices like action cameras, drones, and smartphones. They can be used in SD card slots with an adapter.

CFexpress Cards

 

CFexpress cards are the latest in memory card technology, offering extremely high speeds and capacities, suitable for high-end cameras and professional use.

Comparison of Memory Card Types

Card Type Physical Size Common Uses Capacity Speed Other Features
CompactFlash (CF) Cards 42.8mm x 36.4mm x 3.3mm Professional DSLRs, Camcorders Up to 512GB Up to 160 MB/s Gradually being replaced by newer formats
Secure Digital (SD) Cards 32mm x 24mm x 2.1mm Cameras, Smartphones, Laptops Up to 2TB Up to 300 MB/s (UHS-II) Widely used, versatile
MicroSD Cards 15mm x 11mm x 1mm Action Cameras, Drones, Smartphones Up to 1TB Up to 160 MB/s Can be used in SD slots with an adapter
CFexpress Cards 38.5mm x 29.8mm x 3.8mm High-End Cameras, Professional Use Up to 2TB Up to 1,700 MB/s Latest technology, extremely high speeds

Choosing the right memory card depends on your specific needs and the devices you use. Each type has its strengths, and understanding these can help you make an informed decision to ensure you have the best performance and reliability for your photography.

UHS-I and UHS-II – What’s the Advantage?

how many photos can a 32 / 64 / 128 / 256 gb memory card hold?

So, you’ve probably picked up that Speed Class 10 is currently the highest speed class for memory cards. But guess what? It’s not the fastest one you can get.

Besides the usual speed classes, there’s another category called UHS Speed Class. These cards operate on different bus interfaces, which is the way devices read and write data.

You have three options: a normal bus (slower speed), a high-speed bus, and an ultra-high-speed bus. Regular speed classes use normal and high-speed buses, while UHS speed class cards use the ultra-high-speed bus.

Why Choose UHS-I?

 

UHS-I (Ultra High-Speed Phase-I) cards are a game-changer with data transfer speeds up to 104MB/s, thanks to their ultra-high-speed bus. To check if your card supports UHS-I, look for the Roman numeral “I” on the front of the card.

Types of Memory Cards: What’s the Best Choice?

 

UHS-II (Ultra High-Speed Phase-II) takes it up a notch with speeds up to 312MB/s. These cards are marked with the Roman numeral “II” and offer even faster performance.

Although the U1 class guarantees a minimum speed of 10MB/s (U3 guarantees 30MB/s), they typically perform much better. Just make sure your device supports the UHS standard to get the most out of these cards.

The good news? UHS-I and UHS-II cards are completely compatible with each other. You can use a UHS-I card in a UHS-II slot and vice versa without any issues.

Conclusion

Choosing the right memory card for your photography needs involves carefully balancing capacity, speed, and compatibility with your camera. 

Whether you’re capturing moments in JPEG format for quick sharing or in RAW format for extensive post-processing, understanding the storage capacities of different memory cards is essential.

A 32 GB card can hold approximately 1,092 RAW photos or 4,700 JPEG photos, making it suitable for casual or smaller projects. For more extensive shooting sessions, a 64 GB card offers double the capacity, with around 2,184 RAW photos or 9,400 JPEG photos.

A 128 GB card provides ample space for serious photographers or those working on longer projects, accommodating approximately 4,368 RAW photos or 18,800 JPEG photos. Finally, a 256 GB card is ideal for professional photographers or extensive travel, accommodating approximately 8,736 RAW photos or 37,600 JPEG photos.

The type of memory card you choose—CompactFlash (CF), Secure Digital (SD), MicroSD, or CFexpress—will depend on your camera’s requirements and your specific needs. CF cards are robust and reliable, SD cards are versatile and widely supported, MicroSD cards are perfect for smaller devices, and CFexpress cards provide the fastest speeds for high-end cameras.

When selecting a memory card, it’s crucial to consider the storage capacity and the card’s speed. Faster cards are essential for high-speed continuous shooting and high-resolution video recording, although they are more expensive. Additionally, always choose memory cards from reputable brands to minimize the risk of data loss or corruption.

FAQs

JPEG files are compressed and smaller, allowing more photos per card. RAW files are uncompressed and larger, resulting in fewer photos per card.

CFexpress cards are ideal for professional use due to their high speed and large capacity, but SD cards are also widely used and versatile.

 

Yes, with an adapter, a MicroSD card can function as an SD card in most cameras.

 

Look for reputable brands known for reliability and performance. User reviews and manufacturer specifications can guide your choice.

 

You won’t be able to take more photos until you free up space by deleting or transferring existing files to another storage device.

 

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