That’s not especially illuminating if you’re trying to decide which memory card to buy. It’s not all Nikon’s fault–it’s not practical for them to update the manual as memory card manufacturers release new models. The Nikon D5500 was released in February 2015, after all, and memory card manufacturers have come out with numerous new models since then.
So this page is an effort to provide some practical recommendations based on the current slate of memory cards on offer and my having used them in the D5500.
The good news is that the Nikon D5500 isn’t all that demanding on memory cards—it’s even less demanding than the newer Nikon D3400. The upshot is that most of the memory cards on the market today will work nicely. But there are some things to watch out for.
First, here’s the quick version. Below you’ll find some specific cards that I’ve found from personal experience to work well in the Nikon D5500.
- Size isn’t an issue. Cards from 2GB to 512GB will work.
- SDHC and SDXC cards will work.
- Cards rated as Class 10, U1, U3, UHS-I, and UHS-II will all work (although you might not get any benefit in using the fancier ones in the camera).
These are not necessarily the latest and greatest cards available, but the Nikon D5500 doesn’t need the fancier cards (although they’ll work fine). An advantage of the not-quite-cutting-edge cards is that they tend to be cheaper.
My emphasis is here is on cards that are a fast enough to perform well in the D5500 while also being a good combination of value, reliability, and readily available.
Lexar has faster models now–the 1000x and 2000x models. Those faster models will work equally well in the D5500, but the 633x range makes for excellent value and still works just as well.
It’s available in sizes from 16GB up through 512GB, and Lexar has also made it available in multipacks that represent very good value.
The Ultra range is actually on the lower end of SanDisk’s range these days, but it’s fast enough for the D5500. It’s available in sizes from 16GB through 128GB–all of those sizes will work in the D5500.
The Ultra Plus, Extreme, Extreme Plus, and Extreme Pro ranges from SanDisk will also work well in the D5500. They’re all faster cards than the Ultra. While you won’t see any benefit in the camera from the faster cards, you might see some speed increases when downloading your photos to your computer using a card reader.
As with the other big brands, Transcend has several cards in their ranges that will work nicely in the D5500. This one is a good combination of price and availability. It’s available in 8Gb through 128GB sizes.
PNY Elite Performance
PNY probably isn’t as well known as some of the other memory card manufacturers, but they make good, reliable cards and are often relatively affordable.
They’re available in sizes from 32GB all the way up through 512GB.
Model No. SDA10
Kingston have been around for a long while and have established a solid track record with their memory cards. While they don’t tend to focus on cutting edge speeds and specs and don’t have teh marketing budget of some of the other brands, they do make affordable, reliable cards.
This particular card is available in sizes ranging from 16 to 512GB.
If you’re looking to use a faster card, take a look at the ones that I’ve subjected to speed tests.
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.
What Size Memory Card is Best for the Nikon D5500?
The D5500 is compatible with SDHC and SDXC cards. That means you can use a card with any amount of storage space that’s currently on the market. The most common sizes for now are 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 200GB, 256GB, and 512GB. So if you want to put a 512GB SDXC card in it, knock yourself out.
One of the great features of the Nikon D5500, of course, is the resolution of its 24.2MP images. But that also means that the files are quite large, especially if you’re shooting in the 14-bit RAW mode. At that highest setting, the files will come out somewhere in the range of 25 to 35 megabytes, depending on the compressibility of the individual photos, and you can expect to get roughly 900 to 1000 photos on a 32GB card. If you’re shooting in JPG, the files are smaller, so you’ll fit more of them.
In terms of what size to get, if you’re looking for the sweet spot of practicality and value, 32GB to 64GB is probably it at the moment. But 16GB will work just fine, as will this 512GB card. Larger memory cards mean you can fit more photos and videos on it, of course, but also means that if something goes wrong with the card there’s potential to lose more (all the more reason to backup your photos, of course).
In terms of memory card write speed for recording video, the highest quality movie setting in the Nikon D5500–1080p60 on in the high-quality mode–creates video at a bitrate of about 37 Mbps. That’s not especially high–for comparison, many of the action cams like GoPros, for instance, record at up to 60 Mpbs in their 4K or high framerate modes—which is why you don’t necessarily need a cutting edge memory card with the fastest write speed in the D5500.
What Do All Those Codes on SD Memory Cards Mean?
Memory cards have a bunch of codes and acronyms that are used to describe their capabilities. Here are the main ones relevant to memory cards for the Nikon D5500. (I have more details on these ratings and codes on my Fastest SD Cards page.
SD, SDHC, SDXC. Technicall, this refers, at least in part, to the filesystem that they’re formatted in—FAT32 or the related exFAT. Most current cameras, including the D5500, can read and write both, so you don’t need to worry about it much. But the distinction between SDHC and SDXC has a practical use–it’s useful for determining what size card you need. SD refers to cards 4 gigabytes and smaller. SDHC refers to cards from 8 to 32GB. And SDXC refers 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 card you want. If you want to put in a 32GB, go ahead. If you want to put in a 512GB card, knock yourself out.
Recommendation: Both SDHC and SDXC cards are compatible with the D5500. 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: The D5500’s manual says that it’s compatible with UHS-I. 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 D5500.
Class 6. This is the speed class rating. Class 6 is pretty much superseded now, and most of the cards that are readily available are now Class 10 or U1. The faster cards will work fine–they’re designed to be backward compatible. And, frankly, there’s now a much bigger range of options in Class 10 cards and Class 6 ones are becoming harder to find. If you use a card slower than Class 6 you risk the recording stopping randomly if you’re shooting video.
Recommendation: At the moment, cards with a Class 10 or U1 rating are the most common and offer the best combination of speed and price.
To minimize the risk of filesystem errors, it’s always a good idea to format the card in the camera, not in your computer, and to format it regularly.
And while memory cards are remarkably resilient, just like any electronic product they can and do fail. So regular backups are very much recommended.
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 for recovering photos from a memory card here.