A memory card is an essential accessory to make the camera work, but the Nikon COOLPIX P950 doesn’t come with a memory card as standard. Some retailers put together a deal bundle that might include some accessories, including a memory card, but chances are you’ll have to pick up a memory card separately. Or maybe you want something bigger with larger storage capacity—the cards that are included in bundles are often on the small side and might fill up quickly, especially if you’re on a trip.
But what type of memory card should you get for the P950? That’s where this post comes in—hopefully, to help you get out shooting sooner and taking full advantage of all the features of your new camera rather than spending your time searching the web and trying to make sense of cryptic technical codes. I’ve been buying and testing numerous SD cards for several years and have put many of the most popular SD cards on the market through their paces.
Quick Recommendations on SD Cards for the Nikon COOLPIX P950
If you just want some quick recommendations, here you go. Any of these will work well in the P950. These SD cards meet the needs of the P950’s feature, have a strong track record of reliability, are readily available, and are usually cost-effective.
Nikon COOLPIX P950 SD Card Requirements
The headline feature of the Nikon COOLPIX P950 is its massive 83x optical zoom (2000x in 35mm full-frame equivalent). That requires a large lens, which gives the P950 its distinctive shape. But with a fixed lens, it still falls in Nikon’s COOLPIX point-and-shoot category.
The P950 has a 16-megapixel sensor that shoots photos that measure 4608 x 3456 pixels. And it shoots video up to 4K30, which is an upgrade over the 1080p maximum in the P900. It has a single UHS-I SD card slot and is compatible with SDXC, SDHC, and SD cards.
With its 4K video capabilities and burst photo shooting of up to 7 frames per second, the P950 requires a relatively fast memory card. But the good news is that it doesn’t require the fastest SD card that money can buy, and there are plenty of good, reliable, cost-effective options available.
Because of the way that cameras interface with memory cards, once you have a card that meets the requirements of the camera, you don’t get any extra benefit by inserting a card with high specs and performance that exceeds the camera’s capabilities.1 And, naturally, high-performance cards are more expensive. So why pay extra for high performance that your P950 can’t use? By all means, if you already have a fast SD card on hand, you can use it in the P950, but it won’t get you any extra performance in the camera (it might when downloading the photos and videos to a computer).
That said, in the recommendations below, I’m factoring in cost-effectiveness as well. And because memory card manufacturers are coming out with newer, faster models all the time, it’s quite possible that the most cost-effective cards are faster than your camera needs. But that’s a case where it makes sense to go with the cost-effective option even if its performance exceeds the requirements of the camera.
So which SD card should you get for your Nikon COOLPIX P950? Here’s the more detailed version.
If you go looking in the P950’s instruction manual, you won’t find much useful information to help you choose a compatible memory card. This is what it says in the relevant section, which you’ll find on page 40.
Nikon does have a webpage of approved memory cards for COOLPIX cameras, but it’s not much more helpful. For starters, it refers only to brands and storage capacities and not to speeds or card model numbers.
So what I’m aiming to do here is provide some practical recommendations on which SD cards to get for the Nikon COOLPIX P950 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 P950–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 P950’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.
So here’s more detailed information on these cards, along with some others.
SanDisk Extreme V30 UHS-I
SanDisk's Extreme range are good bets for many cameras, and that's true here too. SanDisk has faster ranges like the Plus and Pro lines, but the Extreme line is both quick enough for most cameras and usually less expensive than those faster lines.
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. 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 U3 and V30, both of which are speed ratings specifically related to recording video. These cards are often good value, and you can sometimes find them sold in 2-packs.
Lexar Professional 1667x V60 UHS-II
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.
PNY Elite Performance U3 UHS-I
PNY aren't as well known as some of the other brands, but they've been around for quite some time and make reliable, cost-effective memory cards. The packaging on this card hasn't been refreshed to include the newer V30/V60/V90 video speed rating system, but the real-world performance of the card is very good. It comes in sizes from 32GB up to 512GB.
Buy at Amazon
Delkin Devices Advantage V30 UHS-I
Delkin Devices have recently come out with a range of new SD cards of varying speeds and specs. This is one of their mid-range cards that is rated for V30 video recording speeds.
Canvas Select Plus V30 UHS-I
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.
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 512GB.
Buy at Amazon
Sony U3 UHS-I
These Sony cards are quick, reliable, and fairly widely available. Sony also now has another much faster model that works well but is a bit overkill for this use.
SanDisk Extreme Pro U3 UHS-II
This is SanDisk's top-of-the-line range, and they work well in this camera. This latest version is somewhat overkill however, because they use UHS-II, which most cameras can't fully take advantage of. Older versions of the Extreme Pro cards are UHS-I and will still work well (ideally, stick to ones with the U3 rating on them).
Making Sense of the SD Card Specifications
You’ll find a range of different acronyms and codes on SD cards. Here’s a quick overview of which ones to look for.
SDHC vs SDXC
Most of the cards you’ll see available have either SDHC or SDXC printed on them. The Nikon COOLPIX P950 will work with both SDHC and SDXC cards (and, for that matter, just plain SD cards, but they’re hard to find these days).
These are 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.
There’s really no right answer when it comes to what size 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 that’s handy when you’re travelling. 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–the SD Association has designed the SDXC spec so that they’ll work with a camera that supports SDXC.
UHS-I vs. UHS-II
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.
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 the device is also UHS-II. But the spec is designed to be backward compatible, so you can use UHS-II cards in UHS-I devices, but you will only get the speed of UHS-I.
The Nikon COOLPIX P950 has a UHS-I interface, so, as a practical matter, there’s no benefit to using UHS-II cards in it (but it’s perfectly fine to do so).
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.
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 COOLPIX P950, cards that have any of these on them should be fast enough:
V90 is also fine, but it’s overkill for the P950.
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 COOLPIX P950
The P950 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.
The current sweet spot for a combination of convenience, being readily available, and being cost-effective is probably around the 128GB to 512GB range. But you can use larger or smaller ones if you prefer–it’s mostly a matter of convenience of how much video footage or photo data you can store on the card before it fills up, and you have to download to a computer or some other device.
So Why Get a Good Memory Card?
A better memory card isn’t 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). Here’s some information on how to do that.
Before starting, though, make sure you’ve saved any data you want to keep from the card, because formatting the card will delete all of the data on it.
How to Format Memory Cards in the Nikon COOLPIX P950
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.
On the Nikon COOLPIX P950, you can find the format function under:
MENU > Setup (the wrench or spanner icon) > Format card > OK
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.
- Depending on your computer and memory card reader setup, you might get some speed benefit when putting a faster memory card into your card reader and downloading images to your computer. ↩
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