The Nikon D7100 doesn’t come with a memory card as standard. Some retailers put together bundles that include a few accessories–sometimes including a memory card–but if you haven’t gotten one of those bundles, chances are you’ll need to pick up an SD card separately.
But you’ll find that the instruction manual isn’t especially helpful in guiding you to a good choice in SD cards. So I’m hoping to make things easier by giving a rundown of what to look for in SD cards for the Nikon D7100, along with providing some practical recommendations.
Best SD Cards for the Nikon D7100: Quick Recommendations
If you’re just after some quick recommendations so you can get on with shooting asap, here you go. These are usually pretty easy to find at major retailers, come from reliable manufacturers, and are cost-effective.
Recommended Memory Cards for the Nikon D7100: The More Detailed Version
First, the basics. The Nikon D7100 takes SD cards. That’s the larger of the SD sizes; there’s a smaller microSD size that often used in action cameras, smartphones, and gaming devices.
The D7100 has two memory card slots (or dual slots), and you have some options in how those slots are used. You don’t have to fill both slots if you don’t want to–it’ll work just fine with only one memory card–but using two opens up some useful features.
For example, the “overflow” option uses them in sequence, automatically rolling over to the card in slot 2 when the card in slot 1 is full. The “backup” option lets you create duplicate copies at the time you take the photo, one on each card. And, finally, Or you can designate a JPEG version of the image to save to one card while a RAW version is saved to the other (the “RAW slot 1 – JPEG slot 2” option). You can also designate which slot is used for recording video.
The D7100 is compatible with both SDHC and SDXC memory cards. When it comes to buying memory cards, the practical difference is that SDHC cards are 32GB or smaller, while SDXC cards are 64GB or larger. In fact, the difference is more technical–those two specifications refer to 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.1
The D7100 is an older camera now, and compared to newer cameras it’s not especially demanding on the speed requirements of the memory cards you put in it. The most intensive process is when it’s recording video. When shooting photos, the camera will take advantage of its own internal buffer memory. This is a temporary memory space where photos can be stored while they’re waiting in the queue to be written to the memory card. Depending on the file format you’re saving the photos in, you can get up to 100 photos in the memory buffer (or as few as 6 if you’re shooting in NEF lossless compressed 14-bit mode). Once the buffer is full, you’ll notice a slowdown as the camera has to wait for images to be written to the memory card (writing to the memory card is much slower than writing to the internal buffer).
With video, it works a little differently. That’s because there’s no opportunity for the camera to stop and wait with video. If the internal buffer were to fill up, there’s no way to slow down the shutter speed to wait for the card to catch up. So you’ll need a card that can handle a constant stream of data being written to it quite quickly (known as sequential write speed).
Put another way, when shooting still photos, having an SD card that’s fast enough is mostly about convenience. But when it comes to shooting videos, it’s essential.
That said, the D7100 was released back in February 2013. Since then, memory card manufacturers have been releasing ever faster cards. The upshot is that it’s easy these days to find a card that’s fast enough, and you don’t need to stress the wallet to do it.
It’s also worth pointing out that there’s no need to get the latest and greatest (and that usually means expensive) SD cards for the D7100. By all means, use them if you want or if you already have them on hand–you won’t do any harm, but you also won’t see much meaningful benefit from it in the camera.2
Nikon’s Officially Approved Memory Cards for the Nikon D7100
Nikon’s instruction manuals (or those from many camera manufacturers, for that matter) are not especially helpful in suggesting which memory cards work best in the camera. It’s not really their fault–they can’t keep the manual updated constantly as new memory cards come out.
For the D7100, this is their guidance for Approved Memory Cards (from p.347 of the manual:
Finding a card that’s class 6 or faster is easy these days because memory card specs have moved well beyond class 6. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a card that’s not at least class 10 now.
Recommended Memory Cards for the Nikon D7100
With Nikon’s guidance in mind, combined with the findings from my own real-world speed tests of SD cards, here are some specific, practical recommendations for memory cards to use in the Nikon D7100. I’ve updated this to account for current models of memory cards that you should be able to find pretty easily.
My emphasis here is on cards that meet the requirements to use all of the camera’s features, are readily available at major retailers, and are cost-effective. But these are by no means the only SD cards that will work in the D7100. My objective here, after all, is to help choose a good card that works so you can get on with the fun stuff, not to catalog every possible card that works in this camera. I have, however, tried to include a few different brands in case you have your own preferences for brands or some are easier to find in some locations than others.
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).
SanDisk Extreme U3 UHS-I
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.
Lexar 633x U1 UHS-I
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 Elite Performance U3 UHS-I
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 Advantage V30 UHS-I
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 V30 UHS-I
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.
Sony U3 UHS-I
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 U1 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) 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.
Other BrandsThere 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 CardsIf 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.
What Size Memory Card Works Best in the Nikon D7100?
You can use cards from 4GB up in the D7100, including some of the larger SDXC cards available these days in the 256GB+ range. Which size you choose to use comes down to convenience, your budget, and your own preferences. The larger the card, obviously, the more you can shoot before filling it up. That is one area where the dual slots of the D7100 come in handy, especially if you’re using the overflow setting. You can quite often find that two smaller cards are less expensive than one larger one.
The size of the photo and video files created by the D7100 depends on what settings you’re using. For instance, if you’re shooting photos in the JPEG Normal setting, the files will be much, much smaller than if you’re shooting in the 14-bit NEF mode.
The same goes for video. The top-end 1080p video modes are recorded at higher bitrates than lower-resolution modes, so those files will be much larger for a corresponding duration of footage.
Here are some estimates. These are based on Nikon’s own figures, but bear in mind that they’re only estimates. Any compressed formats will vary slightly from file to file–that’s the nature of how these types of image compression work. So it’s possible you might get a few more or a few less, and it’s always a good idea to leave yourself some wiggle room. These figures refer to using the DX crop mode, the larger of the two crop modes available on the D7100; the files when using the 1.3x crop mode are significantly smaller.
|Quality Setting||Size Setting||File Size MB (approx)||16GB||32GB||64GB||128GB||256GB||Buffer Capacity|
|NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 12-bit||22.7||191||382||764||1528||3056||7|
|NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 14-bit||28.5||148||296||592||1184||2368||6|
|NEF (RAW), Compressed, 12-bit||20.2||260||520||1040||2080||4160||9|
|NEF (RAW), Compressed, 14-bit||24.9||217||434||868||1736||3472||8|
Do You Need to Fill Both Memory Card Slots in the D7100?
No, it will work just fine with only one SD card inserted–you don’t need to fill both slots. Obviously, though, you won’t be able to take advantage of some of the added features that depend on two cards, such as the overflow or backup recording features.
Do the Memory Cards Have to be the Same?
No, you can mix and match sizes and brands of the SD cards in each slot.
How to Format the SD Card in a Nikon D7100
While it’s possible to format SD cards in a computer, it’s much better practice to format them in the camera. That way the camera can set the card up exactly how it wants it, and it greatly reduces the risk of something going wrong.
There are two ways to format the memory cards in the d7100. The basic way is to use the menu system (Setup / Camera Setup > Format Memory Card).
There’s also a two-button shortcut. I’ve outlined that method in detail for the D7500 here. The process is the same for the d7100, with the exception that you can choose which slot to format on the d7100 because it has two slots to the D7500’s one.
How to Recover Photos if You’ve Accidentally Deleted Them
If you format the card before you’ve backed up the photos from it, it might still be possible to recover them. To do that you’ll need to fire up the computer–it’s not something that you can do in the camera. I’ve put together an overview on how to recover deleted photos from a memory card here.
Is it Normal for the Memory Cards to Get Hot?
Yes, it’s quite normal for the SD cards to get hot after some intensive writing, such as when happens when shooting photos rapidly or recording video.
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- It is technically possible, using a computer, to format a card that’s 32GB or smaller with exFAT or a card 64GB or larger with FAT32, but that goes against the specifications set by the SD Association. It can cause problems with some cameras, though, and you can end up with inconsistent results. And when you format the card in the camera, the camera reverts to the “correct” filesystem for the card. ↩
- The one place you might see some benefit is in saving photos from the in-camera buffer to the memory card more quickly. Depending on your setup, it is also possible that you might see faster download speeds from faster cards when you’re downloading from the memory card to your computer using a fast memory card reader. ↩
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