Sony Alpha a6000 Memory Card Recommendations

In some shooting modes, the Sony a6000 can be picky about what memory card you put into it. Here are some recommendations for which memory cards work best in the a6000.

The memory card is one of the essential features of a digital camera. Without it, you’re not going to be able to take many photos. But the Sony Alpha a6000 doesn’t come with one.1 There are some bundles that retailers put together that might include a memory card, but chances are it’s something you’re going to have to pick up separately. So which card should you get?

Quick Recommendations on Memory Cards for the Sony a6000

If you’d like to cut to the chase, here are some quick recommendations for good memory cards for the Sony a6000. You can find more detailed explanations and more options below.

  1. SanDisk Extreme V30
  2. Lexar Professional 1000x U3
  3. SanDisk Extreme Pro V30
  4. Sony U3

It’s Not as Simple as it Seems

The Sony a6000 manual is pretty unhelpful on the topic of memory cards. If you go looking for it, this is what you’ll find (on page 19):

So get an SD card that’s faster than Class 4, correct? These days, pretty much all the SD cards you can buy are Class 10 or faster, so that’s not particularly hard. So you’re all set, right? If you’re only shooting still images, then yes. Any SD card of any size that’s Class 4 or above will work fine. There are advantages to having a faster one if you’re shooting in burst mode or trying to speed up the process of downloading photos from the memory card, but for the most part, the a6000 is not especially picky about memory cards in the photo modes.

But the catch is the a6000’s video modes are more demanding on the SD card. So if you’re shooting video with this camera, you’ll want to pay more attention to the speed of the memory card. I’ve put together these practical recommendations in the hope that it makes it a little easier to know which memory cards work well in the a6500.

Which Memory Cards Work with XAVC S Video Mode on the Sony a6000?

The catch is if you’re trying to record video. If you’ve tried to record video in the high-quality XAVC S mode, you might have come across this error message:

This memory card does not support recording of XAVC S movies. Change the file format or change the memory card. Refer to the instruction manual for details.

Except that you won’t find any information in the instruction manual. So far as I can tell, there’s no mention of this error in the instruction manual or any information about how to fix it.

It turns out there are two parts to solving this. The first is having a card that’s fast enough for the high-bitrate recording that XAVC S uses. If you try to use a Class 4 card, you still won’t be able to record in XAVC S mode.

The second part is that you’ll need to use a card that’s at least 64GB. Technically, it’s not the size of the card that matters but the formatting system it uses. And because of the specifications set by the SD Association, SD cards that are 64GB and larger use a system known as exFAT that allows for larger file sizes. You’ll also notice that SD cards 64GB and larger also have an SDXC marking on them–that’s referring to the same specification. So you can look at it either way–use a card that’s 64GB or larger or use one that’s marked as SDXC–it’s two ways of saying the same thing.2

Recommended SD Cards for the Sony a6000

The Sony a6000 is compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, so you can use any card with those marks on them. Most of the cards available these days are either SDHC and SDXC. In practice, you’ll find SDHC on cards from 8GB through 32GB and SDXC on cards 64GB and larger.

But if you want to take full advantage of the a6000’s features, here are some cards that work well. My emphasis here is on ones that meet the requirements, are from manufactures of high-quality cards, are readily available at retail, and are cost effective. There are faster, fancier, and more expensive cards that also work well, but those aren’t the ones I’m focusing on here, and many of them will be overkill for the a6000.

And a reminder to be sure to get one that’s 64GB or larger if you want to record in the a6000’s XAVC S mode.

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.

Buy at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Lexar Professional 1000x 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.

Buy at Amazon or B&H Photo.

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.

Buy at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Toshiba Exceria Pro U3 UHS-II

These aren't always as easy to find as some of the other brands, but they're very good cards indeed. Toshiba has been a big player in hard drives and flash memory for a long time, and this range builds on that expertise and reputation.

Buy at Amazon.

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).

Find them at Amazon and B&H Photo.

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.

Find them at Amazon and B&H Photo.

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.

Sony Memory Stick

Sony has their own memory card format known as Memory Stick. It’s the same size and shape as SD cards and broadly compatible with the SD format, with only minor differences.

The Memory Stick XC-HG Duo and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo models are fully compatible with the Sony a6000. The Memory Stick PRO Duo cards are compatible so long as you use the Mark 2 version of them–the older version will create issues with the movie function.

But there’s a catch. Way back when SD cards were a new thing, there were practical benefits to the Memory Stick specification. But that’s no longer true. As SD cards have improved in speed and capacity, the case for Memory Sticks became hard to make, and the Memory Stick system never really took off. That means that they’re often hard to find. That’s especially true of the larger capacities such as 64GB and above. Just as with the SD cards, if you use a 32GB card or smaller you won’t have full compatibility with all of the camera’s video modes.

A further complication is that when you do find them, there seems to be an unusual number of counterfeit cards. So I’d recommend caution when buying them such as sticking to reputable retailers, buying only Sony originals, and steering clear of knockoffs from brands like “Sonyy” or brands you’ve never heard of.

Overall, I’d generally recommend using an SDXC card in the Sony a6000 rather than going to extra effort to hunt down a Sony Memory Stick. But if you want to use only Sony products (they also make SD cards, by the way, and very good ones–see above), you can find 32GB Memory Stick cards at Amazon. Finding the 64GB cards is harder.

Video Bitrates of the Sony a6000

The Sony a6000 records video with a variable bitrate. What that means is that it tries to adjust the amount of data being used to the image in the frame. A moving, detailed scene will use a higher bitrate than a still scene.

When you’re using the highest quality codec, the XAVC S mode, the video is recorded with a target bitrate of 50 Mbps, which is substantially higher than when using the AVCHD or MP4 modes. Sometimes it’s a little more and sometimes a little less–that’s the variable bitrate coming into play–but it averages out around 50 Mbps regardless of which frame rate setting you’re using.

In other modes, the bitrates range from 3 Mbps up to 28 Mbps depending on whether you choose AVCHD or MP4 and then which size and frame rate.

The Memory Card Slot on the Sony a6000

The Sony a6000 takes one memory card at a time (some other cameras take two).

One thing I don’t like is where the memory card slot is. It goes in easily enough, but because it’s so close to the compartment door, it’s finicky to take it out again. If you’re not removing your memory card often and are using the wireless connection or connecting a cable directly to the camera to download images, it’s not something you’ll run into often. But if, like me, you prefer to put the memory card into a memory card reader to download the images and footage, then it’s an annoyance–a minor one, admittedly, but one nonetheless. All that said, there’s not much you can do about it–I just wish the camera’s designers had done things a little differently.

Formatting the Memory Card

It’s always a good idea to format the memory card in the camera rather than doing it with a computer. That reduces the risk of something going wrong, and some cameras, like the a6000, add extra things like image databases that can’t be done on a computer. I’ve put together a separate step-by-step guide on how to format a memory card in a Sony a6000 here

But if that’s not possible or not what you want to do, you can also format cards using a computer. There are some things to know, though, when formatting SD cards to minimize the risks of your camera having problems with them. 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.

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  1. The a6000 is also known as the ILCE-6000, ILCE-6000L, ILCE-6000Y, ILCE6000/B, ILCE6000/H, ILCE6000/S, ILCE6000L/B, ILCE6000L/H, ILCE6000L/S, ILCE6000L/W, ILCE6000Y/B. Seriously.
  2. It is technically possible to format a card smaller than 64GB with the exFAT filesystem using a computer’s disk utilities, but that’s not a solution that works here. To try it, I’ve formatted 32GB cards with exFAT and put them in the a6000. They will work for normal functions like taking photos and the MP4 movie mode, but once you try to switch to the XAVC S movie format you’ll get the same error message, and it won’t let you proceed. So the check isn’t just for exFAT but also for the size of the card as well. And when you go to format the card in the camera again, it will revert to the filesystem specified in the SD Association standards (ie. it will format a 16GB or 32GB card with FAT32 and cards 64GB and larger with exFAT).

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View Comments

  • Does the memory stick pro duo have to be Sony branded to be compatible with camera? Would you recommend using a memory stick pro duo card that is of the brand 'Sandisk'?

    • I don't use memory sticks often, but there are very few brands who make them anymore. Sony and SanDisk are both top-rate manufacturers, and both will be fully compatible.

  • Hello, I was wondering if using a MicroSD card with its adapter would be fine for a Sony a6000. I'm planning to buy this camera, and I already have a spare MicroSD card: Sandisk Extreme 64Gb (not pro or plus - says MicroSDXC / U3 / A1 / V30, red and gold coloured). I'd really appreciate if you can help me by confirming I can use this memory card without problem, even for video recording (but mainly for taking pics)

    • Yes, there should be no problem doing that. I typically prefer not to do it because it adds another layer of potential issues (ie. the memory card could go wrong or the adapter could be faulty), but it should work just fine if that's the convenient option you have at hand. Best bet would be to test it out with the shooting settings you want to use.

  • Hi, you can ignore my last message re: using SDXC card. I went back to the manual to verify. Tried the card again, it works. I think I was inserting it incorrectly.

  • Great information - thank you. My daughter is going to Peru for a month on a school trip - she wants to take los of photos and has a Sony NEX 3NL. Can you advise please on how to charge her camera as she will have limited access to facilities and she is also doing a week long walk up Machu Picchu so wont have any electrical facilities at all. Any advice please will be appreciated.

    • The NEX 3 will charge with a battery inside the camera and connecting the camera to a USB power source. So any standard portable battery pack will do the trick. There are many different ones available, but for the camera you don't need the latest and greatest (and most expensive) because it won't take advantage of the newer charging technology. So a standard USB power brick such as this one will work (she'll need to make sure to take the USB cable too, of course). You can get ones with more capacity that are also a bit larger and heavier, and also smaller and lighter ones with less capacity. An advantage of doing it that way is that it will also work with charging phones or any other device that charges over USB.

  • I have a Canon a6000 and an older Macbook. What memory card reader would you suggest using? I’ve seen some negative things written about the one made by Apple.

    • I haven't actually tried the Apple-branded one, but unless you're going for cutting-edge speed, you should find that just about any basic card reader will work. A basic, inexpensive one like this should do the trick so long as your MacBook is old enough to have a standard USB port. If it only has a lightning port, the options for Mac-specific ones are much more limited, but you can use it in combination with a Lightning to USB hub or connector. The one I use doesn't seem to be readily available anymore, but there are a number at the usual outlets. Some have built-in card readers as well, which probably makes more sense than pairing two dongles.

  • You have some very useful information here not found on the company website or the provided manual.
    Thank you for making our life easier. It saved me a lot of time.

  • Found your site via Google search for "SD Cards for A6000" after evolving to the point where I want to use XAVC S mode on my A6000.
    No response required, but I wanted to compliment you on your site and your work. Inspirational for sure!
    Cheers,
    Mark

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