Which memory cards will work best in the Nikon D5500? Here are some practical recommendations.
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.
These aren't necessarily the fastest SD cards on the market, but they're fast enough for this camera. It's also not designed to be a comprehensive list of every SD card that will work.
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; and 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).
The SanDisk Extreme line is a good option when the emphasis is on video recording. They have faster write speeds than SanDisk's Ultra line but still make for good value without getting in the faster (and more expensive) Extreme Plus and Extreme Pro models.
SanDisk recycles its model names. This latest version of the Extreme card is rated for V30/U3 for video recording and uses a UHS-I interface. It's faster than this camera technically needs, but because the Extreme line is so popular, they're generally easy to find and competitively priced.
It comes in sizes ranging from 16GB through 256GB.
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 16GB up through a whopping 512GB.
Buy at Amazon.
PNY as a brand 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 32GB through 512GB.
Delkin Devices have been around for a long time but have been relatively quiet in recent years. But they're freshed their entire lineup of cards recently to simplify the range and bring the cards up to current specs.
The Advantage card is rated to V30 and has a UHS-I interface. It currently comes in sizes up to 512GB.
Transcend isn't as well known as SanDisk or Lexar, but they've been making solid, reliable memory cards for a long while now and their SD cards are often competitively priced.
This particular card is faster than this camera needs, but it is still a good option. It's available in sizes from 64GB up through 256GB.
Buy at Amazon.
Though not always as readily available as some other brands, Sony memory cards are very good, which won't come as much of a surprise.
This particular card is available in sizes from 16GB through 256GB.
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) 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.
Buy at Amazon.
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.
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.
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.
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