Nikon Z5 Memory Card Recommendations

Here are some practical recommendations on which SD cards will work well in the Nikon Z5 mirrorless camera’s dual SD card slots.

Nikon Z5 Mirrorless Camera
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Nikon Z5 Memory Card Quick Recommendations

Here are some quick recommendations, if you just want to cut to the chase.

  1. Sony TOUGH-G
  2. SanDisk Extreme Pro
  3. Lexar Professional 1667x
  4. Delkin Devices Power V90 UHS-II
  5. Kingston Canvas React Plus
Sony TOUGH-G V90 UHS-II
  • Tough specs: world's first one-piece molded construction with high hardness materials have resulted in...
  • Ribless, no write protection switch design: world's first ribless, no write protection switch design6...
SanDisk Extreme PRO V90 UHS-II
  • Tap into pro performance designed for professional and advanced photographers and videographers.
  • Super-fast write speeds of up to 260MB/s help rapidly clear buffer time to support continuous burst mode...
Lexar Professional 1667x V60 UHS-II
  • Get high-speed performance with UHS-II technology (U3) for a read transfer speed up to 250MB/s (1667x)
  • Captures high-quality images and extended lengths of stunning 1080P full-HD, 3D, and 4K video with a DSLR...
Delkin Devices Power V90 UHS-II
  • Uninterrupted 8K, 4K, 3D, HDR, 360º & high-speed recording
  • Specialized for Simultaneous Recording
Kingston Canvas React Plus V90 UHS-II
  • Ultimate speeds to support professional camera use — Transfer speeds up to 300MB/s and recording speeds...
  • UHS-II standard for reliable high-resolution photography and video recording — Capture 4K and 8K...

Any of these will work well in the Nikon Z5. These SD cards meet the needs of the Z5’s features, have a strong track record of reliability, are readily available, and are usually cost-effective.

Nikon Z5 SD Card Requirements

The Nikon Z5 is Nikon’s entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera. It has the Z6 and Z7 above it.

It has a two SD card slots that take SDXC and SDHC memory cards. And, notably, those SD card slots are UHS-II compatible, which means it can take advantage of the extra speed benefits that UHS-II can bring.

The Z5 shoots 24-megapixel photos and 4K30 video. The 4K video maxes out at 144Mbps, which, while relatively high, is nowhere near the 400Mbps that some of the market-leading cameras shoot.

What that means in terms of choosing SD cards for the Nikon Z5 is that it makes sense to get a fast UHS-II card to take advantage of all the camera’s features, but you don’t necessarily need the fastest SD card that money can buy.

How Many SD Cards Do You Need for the Nikon Z5?

The Nikon Z5 has dual SD card slots, so you can use two SD cards.

But it’s not a requirement that both slots be filled. The camera will work normally with a single SD card in slot 1.

That said, there are advantages to filling both memory card slots. That’s because the second slot gives you extra options. You can use it for storage overflow, so that when the first card fills up, it moves on automatically to the next one. Or you can use it in various ways for creating a real-time backup copy or designated one card for photos (or RAW) and another for video (or JPG). You can also copy between the cards.

So the ideal situation is to use two memory cards and fill both slots, but the camera will still work normally with only one SD card.

Nikon’s Recommendations for the Z5

The Z5’s instruction manual is pretty unhelpful on the topic of which SD card to get. There is a section titled “Approved Memory Cards,” which you can find on page 689. This is what it says:

  • The camera can be used with SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.
  • UHS-I and UHS-II are supported.
  • Cards rated UHS Speed Class 3 or better are recommended for movie recording and playback. Slower speeds may result in recording or playback 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.

None of which is especially practical advice.

So what I’m aiming to do here is provide some practical recommendations on which SD cards to get for the Nikon Z5 so you can spend less time searching online and more time out shooting. I’m not trying to list every SD card that works in the Z5–there are others that will work just fine as well. I’m focusing here on ones that offer a good combination of meeting the requirements of all of the Z5’s features, are readily available at major retailers, are cost-effective, and come from major manufacturers with track records for good-quality cards. I’m also basing this on my own SD speed tests.

Nikon Z5 Memory Card Detailed Recommendations

Here’s more information on the cards mentioned above, along with some other good alternatives.

Sony TOUGH-G V90 UHS-II

Sony TOUGH-G V90 UHS-II SD Card
  • Tough specs: world's first one-piece molded construction with high hardness materials have resulted in...
  • Ribless, no write protection switch design: world's first ribless, no write protection switch design6...

These Sony cards are quick, reliable, and fairly widely available. Sony also has SF-E and SF-M models. The SF-G is the fastest (it has a red "G" on the card next to the storage capacity).

Buy at: Amazon or B&H Photo

Canvas React Plus V90 UHS-II

Canvas React Plus V90 UHS-II SD Card
  • Ultimate speeds to support professional camera use — Transfer speeds up to 300MB/s and recording speeds...
  • UHS-II standard for reliable high-resolution photography and video recording — Capture 4K and 8K...

Kingston is another 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.

But this card is an exception to that. It's Kingston's fastest model in their SD card lineup, and it's very quick indeed. It's available in sizes from 16GB through 512GB.

Buy at: Amazon or B&H Photo

Delkin Devices Power V90 UHS-II

Delkin Devices Power V90 UHS-II SD Card
  • Uninterrupted 8K, 4K, 3D, HDR, 360º & high-speed recording
  • Specialized for Simultaneous Recording

Delkin Devices have actually been around for years, but not too long ago they refreshed their SD card lineup to make it both clearer and more competitive. The Power range is their fastest line. This card is rated at V90 with UHS-II.

Buy at: Amazon or B&H Photo

Lexar Professional 1667x V60 UHS-II

Lexar Professional 1667x V60 UHS-II SD Card
  • Get high-speed performance with UHS-II technology (U3) for a read transfer speed up to 250MB/s (1667x)
  • Captures high-quality images and extended lengths of stunning 1080P full-HD, 3D, and 4K video with a DSLR...

Like the SanDisk Extreme Pro, this one actually has UHS-II, which you don't need with this camera, but it's still a very good, reliable option. It's rated for video recording speed rating of V60. It comes in sizes up to 256GB.

Buy at: Amazon or B&H Photo

SanDisk Extreme Pro V90 UHS-II

SanDisk Extreme Pro V90 UHS-II SD Card
  • Tap into pro performance designed for professional and advanced photographers and videographers.
  • Super-fast write speeds of up to 260MB/s help rapidly clear buffer time to support continuous burst mode...

SanDisk's Extreme Pro range is their top model.

One thing to note with SanDisk cards is that they recycle their model names. So you can find Extreme cards that are older and slower. And, confusingly, you can also find another version of this card widely available. The one I'm listing here is the one that's rated for 300 MB/s and V90--it's a UHS-II card. You can also come across a UHS-I one that's rated for 170 MB/s.

You'll probably find those older versions work just fine--it really depends how far back you go--but you can tell the latest version because it's labeled with both V90 and UHS-II.

Buy at: Amazon or B&H Photo

Making Sense of SD Card Specifications

There are several types of SD card, and you’ll find a range of different acronyms and codes on them. Here’s a quick overview of what to look for.

SDHC vs. SDXC

Most of the cards you’ll see available now have either SDHC or SDXC printed on them. The Nikon Z5 will work with both SDHC and SDXC cards (and, for that matter, just plain SD cards, but they’re hard to find these days and have impractically small storage capacities).

These aren’t performance categories, as such. An SDXC card isn’t necessarily any faster than an SDHC card, and vice versa. But they’re important for compatibility with the camera and also in terms of storage capacity.

They’re categories assigned by the SD Association, which is the organization that oversees and develops the standards for SD and microSD cards. The difference between those two specifications is in the filesystem they’re formatted with–the SDHC specification uses FAT32 formatting, while the SDXC specification uses exFAT–but when it comes to buying memory cards, the practical difference is that cards 32GB and smaller will be labeled SDHC and cards 64GB and larger will be labeled SDXC.

UHS-I vs. UHS-II

The current generations of SD cards also have UHS-I or UHS-II on them (or often just an I or II). This refers to the type of interface that’s used to connect to the cards. It stands for ultra-high-speed bus.

Aside from whatever is printed on the card or packaging, you can tell UHS-I and UHS-II cards apart just by looking at them. UHS-I cards have a single row of contacts on the back. UHS-II cards have a second row of contacts.

UHS-I is the older, simpler bus interface. UHS-II is newer and potentially faster. The catch is that you only get the extra benefit of UHS-II if both the device (host) and the SD card are UHS-II. But the spec is designed to be backward compatible, so you can use UHS-I cards in UHS-II devices, but you will only get the speed of UHS-I.

Video Speed Classes

The SD Association has come out with various rating systems over the years to help buyers choose a card that’s suitable for use in cameras. Because recording high-resolution video (or, more specifically, high-bitrate video) is often the most demanding operation in terms of a camera and its memory card, it’s known as a video speed class rating system.

As a technical matter, the first system was known as Speed Classes (these were Class 2, 4, 6, and 10). The second system was known as UHS Speed Classes (U1 and U3). The third system is known as Video Speed Classes (V6, V10, V30, V60, and V90).

Most cards available now have a mix of old and new speed class codes printed on them. And while it’s helpful, it’s still an imperfect system for judging the speed of an SD card.

As a practical matter in the Nikon Z5, cards that have any of these on them should be fast enough:

  • V30
  • V60
  • V90
  • U3

There’s a separate rating system that you might also see on some cards. They might have an A1 or A2 on them. You can ignore that when choosing an SD card for a camera. It’s designed for the kinds of operations that gaming devices and smartphones do.

What Size SD Card to Use in the Nikon Z5

The Z5 is compatible with SDHC and SDXC cards. That means you can use cards from 4GB all the way to the largest cards currently available, which are 512GB and 1TB cards.

There’s really no right answer when it comes to what size, or storage capacity, to get–it’s mostly a matter of convenience so that you don’t keep running out of space. As is probably obvious, you can fit twice as many photos on a 64GB card as on a 32GB card. And with a 128GB card, you can fit four times as many photos as on a 32GB. And so on. And that’s especially handy when you’re traveling; even more so if you’re shooting any video. The most logical sizes for this camera in terms of convenience and price are probably the 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB sizes. But if you want to use a larger or smaller one, say 64GB or even 1TB, go right ahead–they’ll work just fine because of the way that the SDXC spec is designed.

So Why Get a Good Memory Card?

A better memory card is not going to help you take better photos or improve image quality. But it can let you take advantage of all of the camera’s features. A card that’s not fast enough to keep up with the camera can cause issues like locking up, dropped frames, and overheating.

There’s also the issue of reliability. There are plenty of junk memory cards on the market. Not only do they have flaky performance, but they’re also more likely to fail. And that means the risk of losing your photos and videos.

At the same time, you don’t want to pay extra for a high-performance SD card that’s overkill for the camera.

How to Format SD Cards

When you buy a new SD card, you should format it before use and then regularly after that. If you’re formatting a card that you’ve already been using, make sure that you’ve downloaded any photos and videos you want to keep, because formatting deletes everything on the card.

Here’s some information on how to format the memory card.

How to Format SD Cards in the Nikon Z5

It is best practice to always format memory cards in the camera that you’ll be using them in. That sets the card up with the filesystem, folder hierarchy, and, in some cameras, a database file, so that the card is just how the camera expects. That greatly reduces the risk of unexpected errors and unpleasant surprises.

Always be sure you’ve backed up everything you want from the card, because formatting it will wipe everything. (If you’ve formatted accidentally, it still might be possible to recover data from the memory card, but it’s not always guaranteed, and it can incur the expense of buying recovery software; more on that below.)

On the Nikon Z5, you can find the format function under:

MENU > Setup Menu (wrench icon) > Format Memory Card

How to Format SD Cards with a Computer

Having said that, it is still possible to format memory cards using a card reader and computer. You get a lot more flexibility that way, but also some extra risk if things aren’t set up just how the camera wants them. It’s also sometimes a good troubleshooting step if you’re having issues with a memory card.

There are some things to watch out for, particularly when it comes to choosing which filesystem to use. 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.

FAQs About Nikon Z5 Memory Cards

What type of memory card does the Nikon Z5 take?

The Nikon Z5 takes SDXC and SDHC cards. It has two memory card slots. Both are UHS-II compatible.

Is the Nikon Z5 compatible with UHS-II SD cards?

Yes, the Nikon Z5 is compatible with UHS-II SD cards in both of its memory card slots.

How many memory card slots does the Nikon Z5 have?

The Nikon Z5 has dual memory card slots, which means you can use two SDXC/SDHC memory cards (it will also work with one, but there are advantages to using both).

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2022-09-25 at 02:00. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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