Best SD Card for the Nikon D3500 – Quick Recommendations
The Nikon D3500 DSLR camera takes a single SD card. But which one is the best SD memory card to get for this camera? Here are some practical recommendations.
I have much more detail below, but if you just want to cut to the chase with the short version, here are some good options that you should have no problem finding at your preferred electronics or photography store and can represent great value:
- Video Speed Class: U1
- UHS Speed Class: UHS-I
- Storage Capacities: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
- Video Speed Class: V30
- UHS Speed Class: UHS-I
- Storage Capacities: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
If you’ve just picked up one of the new Nikon D3500 DSLs, there’s a good chance it didn’t come with a memory card. Some retailers include accessories, including SD cards, as part of bundles they put together, but by default, the camera doesn’t come with one. So you might be wondering which memory cards work best in it.
It doesn’t come with a memory card as standard. There’s a huge number of different memory cards available for cameras. My objective here is to make it easy to pick good ones for the D3500. These recommendations are based on my own memory card tests as well as shooting with my own Nikon D3500.
Nikon D3500 Memory Card Compatibility & Requirements
The Nikon D3500 is an entry-level DSLR that has a 24MP sensor in the DX-format. It’s a very good option for those breaking into the world DSLR cameras, including those upgrading to DSLRs for more control and better image quality. It’s impressive how good these entry-level DSLRs are now. They might not have all the bells and whistles of the higher, more expensive models, but the quality of the images out of them is excellent.
The D3500 has a single SD card slot. The slot uses the UHS-I speed bus. And it’s compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards.
I have more details below on what these technical terms mean, but the gist is that it’s widely compatible, and you can use just about any SD card currently on the market in this camera and have it work well. The larger risk is paying too much for a card that’s faster than the D3500 can make full use of.
So what are the best SD memory cards for the D3500? And which should you buy?
Nikon does not make memory cards, and they don’t announce any officially recommended SD memory cards.
If you tried to find the answer in the instruction manual, you would have come across this rather cryptic guidance:
The camera supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards, including SDHC and SDXC cards compliant with UHS-I. Cards rated SD Speed Class 6 or better are recommended for movie recording; using slower cards may result in recording being interrupted. When choosing cards for use in card readers, be sure they are compatible with the device. Contact the manufacturer for information on features, operation, and limitations on use.
OK, then. That’s not especially helpful. It’s the same kind of vague and broad guidance that Nikon usually includes for their cameras. While it’s accurate, it’s also not very useful if you’re trying to work out which SD card to buy. You’ll have to really go hunting to try to find a card that’s rated as Speed Class 6 these days, and it’s not self-evident how that compares with a U3 speed rating, for example.
So what I’m aiming to do here is translate Nikon’s guidance into something more practical, with some specific recommendations for cards that are a combination of being compatible with the D3500, reliable, easy to find at major retailers, and good value.
What I’m not trying to do is list every single memory card that works with the D3500; there are others not on this list that also work well. But I’m hoping these recommendations will save you some time so you can get out shooting. I spend quite a bit of time testing memory cards, and I’ve put together these recommendations based on those tests and on shooting with my D3500.
The good news is that for the Nikon D3500, you don’t need to buy an expensive card–and the fastest SD cards with bleeding-edge technology are expensive. I’ve seen some recommendations elsewhere to get cards like the SanDisk Extreme Pro or Kingston Canvas React Plus cards for the D3500. I consider that poor advice. Those are excellent SD cards–I’ve got them, use them in other cameras, and have tested them myself, and they’re among the fastest SD cards you can buy–but they’re much faster than the D3500 can make use of. And you pay premium prices for those fast cards. You’d be much better off getting an SD card that’s more sensibly matched to the D3500 and putting any spare change toward building your lens collection or towards a good-quality tripod. In short, you can use a UHS-II card rated for V90 if you like, but it’s overkill for this camera, and you won’t see any extra benefit while you’re shooting. Thankfully, there are plenty of excellent SD cards that are reliable and cost-effective.
And there’s more good news if you happen to be upgrading from the D3400: the same SD card that works well in that will work just as well in the D3500.
What SD Card Should I Get For My Nikon D3500?
Here’s the more detailed version of the cards I mentioned at the top of this post, along with some others.
These aren't necessarily the fastest SD cards on the market, but they're fast enough for this camera. This isn't necessarily a comprehensive list of every SD card that will work in this camera—there are also others that might work well, too.
My emphasis here is on cards that meet these criteria:
- fast enough for all the features of this camera
- from a reputable and reliable brand
- readily available at retailers
- good value for money
If you want to use a faster, fancier card you can, but you won't see any extra benefit in doing so while you're operating the camera (but you might see some faster speeds when downloading the photos to a computer, depending on your computer and memory card reader combination).
SanDisk Ultra U1 UHS-I
- Great choice for compact to mid-range point-and-shoot cameras
- Quick transfer speeds up to 150MB/s (Up to 150MB/s read speed engineered with proprietary technology to...
The SanDisk Ultra line is their cost-effective mid-range option. The latest versions of the Ultra cards are much faster than older versions, and it's a good basic option for cameras that don't demand too much of their SD card. The next level up—the Extreme cards—are also a good option, but the Ultra cards are often priced slightly lower. They're usually very easy to find in stores, too.
SanDisk recycles its model names, and you can still find older, slower versions with the Ultra name. This latest version of the Ultra card is rated for U1 for video recording and uses a UHS-I interface.
It comes in sizes ranging from 64GB up to 512GB.
Buy at: Amazon
Lexar 633x V30 UHS-I
- High-speed, Class 10 performance leverages UHS-I (U1 or U3 depends on capacity) technology for a read...
- Capture high quality images of stunning 1080p full-HD, 3D, and 4K video
The Lexar 633x range has been one of the mainstays of Lexar's SD cards for a while now. There are now faster cards available, but this one is again fast enough for this camera while also representing good value for money.
One distinctive thing about this range is that they're available from 32GB up through `TB.
Buy at: Amazon.
Kingston Canvas Select Plus V30 UHS-I
- Faster speeds — Class 10 UHS-I speeds up to 100MB/s.
- Capture in full HD & 4K UHD video (1080P) — the advanced UHS-I interface makes the card ideal for...
Kingston is a brand that isn't as well known as some of the others, but they've been making reliable memory cards for a very long time. As a brand, they don't tend to focus on the cutting edge speeds but rather on reliable and good-value memory cards.
This particular card (model SDS2 Canvas Select Plus) isn't the fastest in Kingston's range, but it's fast enough to work well in this camera. It's available in sizes from 16GB through 128GB.
PNY Elite-X V30 UHS-I
- Class 10 U3 V30 speed rating with read speeds up to 100MB/s
- Class 10 U3 V30 rating delivers speed and performance for burst mode HD photography and 4K Ultra HD...
PNY is another brand that isn't as well known as some others, but they've been around a long time and make very good memory cards that are usually very competitively priced and good value.
This particular model is available in sizes ranging from 64GB to 512GB.
Buy at: Amazon
Delkin Devices Advantage V30 UHS-I
- Supports 4K & Full HD 1080p Video Recording at High Frame Rates
- RAW Continuous-Shooting Approved
Delkin Devices have been around for a long time, but they've had something of a resurgence in recent years after simplifying their product lineup and updating the performance of their cards up to current specs.
This card is on the lower end of their range, but it works well in this camera without the higher price point of the faster cards. The Advantage card is rated to V30 and has a UHS-I interface. It currently comes in sizes up to 512GB.
There are also a lot of smaller, mostly unknown brands. In general, I'd recommend sticking to a brand you know and trust or one of the brands I've mentioned on this page because they have well-established reputations for putting out high-quality cards. Some of the other lesser-known brands might work, but they also might not be all they claim to be. The ones above should give a good selection of ones you can find fairly easily at retailers near you.
Faster SD Cards
If you're looking to use a faster card, take a look at the ones that I've subjected to my independent SD card speed tests.
Why Does it Matter?
A better memory card won’t help you take better photos. So why get one? It comes down to being able to make full use of all the camera’s features.
It mostly has to do with how quickly the SD card can write the data coming at it from the camera. This is most noticeable when shooting video, because there’s a constant stream of data being thrown at the card. If the card can’t keep up, the recording might stop, or the camera freeze up, and you could end up losing footage.
The Nikon D3500 isn’t especially demanding in those respects compared with some other new cameras. The D3500 doesn’t shoot 4K video. Its highest video mode, which is 1080p60 with the high-quality setting, records at a video bitrate of about 36 Mb/s, which is much lower than some other cameras. But it’s still a large enough data stream that some of the lower-end and older SD cards on the market will struggle with.
You can also notice the speed of the card when it comes to RAW and burst photography, both of which the D3500 can do. When shooting burst-mode photos of fast action activities, and even if shooting timelapse with short intervals, you again need an SD card that’s fast enough to keep up with the data that the camera is trying to write to the card. If the card is too slow, it can lead to errors and problems. So if you want the camera to perform as expected, you need an SD card that’s fast enough.
So you want to focus on cards with write speeds—and specifically, sequential write speeds—that are fast enough for the D3500. Thankfully, that’s pretty easy. If you aim for cards with a speed class U1, U3, or V30, you’ll be all set. You could use SD memory cards with a speed class rating of V60 or even V90, but you won’t get any extra benefit in-camera from those much faster cards. And stick to UHS-I–there’s no need for a UHS-II card in the D3500.
What Size SD Card is Best for the Nikon D3500?
Physical Size / Memory Card Type
Memory cards come in different shapes and sizes, depending on their type. The common ones are microSD, SD, and CompactFlash. Some of the newer ones are known as XQD and CFast. The size you want for the D3500 is SD, and it will be marked as either SDHC or SDXC. (If it said microSDHC or microSDXC, it’s the wrong type.)
Once you’ve got the right SD card type, there are some other specs to look at.
The D3500 is compatible with cards that meet the SDHC and SDXC specs, which makes it easy. That’s basically all SD cards on the market right now. What that means in practice is that you can use a card with any amount of storage space that’s currently on the market (providing those cards properly meet the specs, of course, which the big manufacturers do). The most common sizes for now are 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 200GB, and 256GB. So if you want to put a 256GB SDXC card in it, you can. Or a 512GB card, if you really want.
The sweet spot in terms of convenience and price is probably around the 128GB to 256GB range.
One of the great features of the Nikon D3500, of course, is the resolution of its 24-megapixel images. But that high resolution also means that the files are quite large and take up storage space on your card. The number of photos you can fit on a memory card varies depending on what settings you’re using.
If you’re shooting in RAW format, those files are generally between 20 and 24 megabytes each. If you’re shooting in JPG, the files are smaller.
What Do All Those Codes on SD Cards Mean?
SD cards have several different sets of codes and acronyms that are used to describe their capabilities. Here are the main ones relevant to memory cards for the Nikon D3500.
SD, SDHC, SDXC. While these technically distinguish, at least in part, the filesystem type that they’re formatted in, in practice, it’s useful for determining what size card you need. SD applies to cards 4GB and smaller. SDHC applies to cards from 8 to 32GB. And SDXC applies to cards 64GB and larger. In short, you can use any of them in this camera, so you can safely ignore this rating and choose based on the size of the card you want.
Recommendation: Both SDHC and SDXC cards are compatible. There’s no functional difference in speed—just storage space.
UHS-I. This refers to something known as Ultra High-Speed Bus, which is the technology behind how the camera interfaces with the card. So far, there’s UHS-I (sometimes written, incorrectly, as UHS-1) and UHS-II.
Recommendation: There’s no harm in using a card that’s rated with UHS-II, but it won’t give you any extra benefit in this camera. All else being equal, UHS-I works just fine in the D3500, and they’re often less expensive than UHS-II cards.
U1 / U3 / V30 / V60 / V90. This is the speed class rating. It’s a rating system designed primarily to categorize its speed for recording video at various bitrates. And it’s a code that refers to the minimum write speeds of the card (specifically, the minimum sequential write speed). If a card has V30 on it, for example, it guarantees minimum write speeds of at least 30MB/s.
Cards with any of these write speed ratings will work in the D3500, although the fastest ones are overkill for what this camera needs. The most logical ones to get for this camera will have U1, U3, or V30. You’ll also see a Class 10 rating on them, which refers to an older scale. So long as the card has one of the U or V ratings, you can ignore the Class 10 bit.
Very often when you look at the packaging of memory cards, you’ll see the fastest speed mentioning most prominently. That’s usually the read speeds, and that’s not relevant to shooting with the camera with things like video recording, rapid shooting, or continuous shutter bursts.
Recommendation: Cards with a U1, U3, or V30 rating, especially if you plan to record video.
How to Recover Data from an SD Card
It’s often possible to recover photos and videos from an SD card if you’ve accidentally deleted them. Not always, but surprisingly often. It’s mostly because of the way that the majority of cameras “format” the memory card. Most of the time, the camera uses what’s known as a high-level format. That essentially deletes the index file, but it doesn’t thoroughly wipe the actual data. Some cameras have a more secure “low-level format” option that is more secure, but it’s relatively uncommon.
With a high-level format, there is software available that can scan the card and often recover data from it. The odds reduce, though, if the data is overwritten, so it’s best to stop using the card right away.
There are some free data recovery software options that work well, but the more user-friendly apps tend to be paid apps. But you can usually at least run a scan with the trial version before deciding whether to buy a license to run the actual recovery process.
I have a detailed guide on how to recover deleted photos from an SD card separately.
Things Worth Knowing
It’s a good idea to format the card in the camera rather than using your computer and to format it regularly. I’ve put together a quick guide on how to format an SD card in a Nikon D3500 separately.
But if that’s not possible or not what you want to do, you can also format cards using a computer. But there are some things to know when formatting SD cards to minimize the risks of your camera having problems with them. So I’ve put together guides on how to format SD cards on Mac and how to use the free SD Card Formatter app for Windows or Mac.
And while memory cards are remarkably resilient, just like any electronic product, they can and do fail. So regular backups are very much recommended—here are some ideas.
Avoiding Fake SD Cards
Memory cards are products that attract counterfeiters. And some of the newer ones can be exceptionally convincing. The best defense against getting caught out with a fake SD card. So it’s always a good idea to purchase from a reputable retailer. While it’s not a perfect guarantee that you won’t get a fake, there is at least some recourse if you do. I buy most of mine from Amazon and B&H Photo. Adorama, NewEgg, and BestBuy are also good options.
What If I Accidentally Delete the Photos on a Memory Card?
It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t recover them. There are apps available to help you try to recover deleted photos from a memory card. I’ve put together some recommendations here.
Does the Nikon D3500 Come with a Memory Card?
A memory card is essential to make use of the camera, but like most camera manufacturers, Nikon does not include a memory card as standard with the Nikon D3500 DSLR camera.
Some retailers, however, will include one as part of a special bundle deal. But unless you’ve bought one of those special bundles, the chances are that you’ll need to pick up a memory card separately.
Get an SDXC or SDHC UHS-I card for best performance in the D3500.
Can You Use a Nikon D3500 Without a Memory Card?
No. While there is an internal memory buffer in the camera, it is for temporarily storing images before they’re written to the memory card. There’s no way to use that buffer to save images. In other words, you need to have a memory card inserted to shoot with the camera.
There is, however, one exception. And that is if you’re using the D3500 for live streaming to a computer. When you’re doing that, you use the camera’s HDMI port to output a video signal that bypasses the memory card.
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