Sony a6500 Memory Card Quick Recommendations
If you just want some quick recommendations, here you go. Any of these will work well in the Sony a6500 mirrorless camera.
- SanDisk Extreme V30 UHS-I SD Card
- Lexar Professional 1066x Silver V30 UHS-I SD Card
- Kingston Canvas Go Plus V30 UHS-I SD Card
- Delkin Devices Advantage V30 UHS-I SD Card
- Type: SDXC
- Video Speed Class: V30
- UHS Speed Class: UHS-I
- Storage Capacities: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
These SD cards meet the needs of the a6500’s features, have a strong track record of reliability, are readily available, and are usually cost-effective. Any of these makes for a good choice for the a6500, and if you’re after more detail, you can find it below.
Sony a6500 Memory Card Requirements
A memory card is an essential accessory for the Sony a6500. Without it, you’re not going to be able to take many photos or shoot much video. 1
But the Sony a6500 doesn’t come with a memory card as standard. 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. 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. So which card should you get?
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. You can find my main SD card tests here.
The Sony a6500 is a 24-megapixel camera in Sony’s Alpha line of APS-C interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras. Like the exceedingly popular a6000, and also the a6400, it combines powerful video and photo capabilities in a surprisingly small and mobile package. It’s a camera I really enjoy shooting with, and you can see some of the photos I’ve taken with it here.
The a6500 has a single UHS-I SD card slot, and it’s compatible with SDXC, SDHC, and SD cards.
There are several variations when referring to the Sony a6500. You can also see it referred to as the Sony α6600, Sony Alpha 6500, and Sony ILCE-6500. All refer to the same camera.
Sony a6500 Memory Card Detailed Recommendations
So which SD card should you get for your Sony a6500? Here’s a more detailed explanation.
The a6500’s instruction manual is pretty confusing when it comes to guidance on a memory card for this camera. That’s partly because it provides different guidance for the various video shooting settings, and partly because it includes Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick format.
For our purposes here, though, I’m focusing on memory cards that will let you use all of the a6500’s features. It doesn’t make much sense to me to get a memory card that will only let you use some of the a6500’s features.
I’m also focusing here on Secure Digital (or SD) cards. The a6500 is also compatible with Sony’s own Memory Stick format cards, but I consider them less useful for three reasons. Firstly, they’re not widely available–they’ve just never taken off. Secondly, even the top Memory Stick (the Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo) doesn’t work for the highest bitrate video that the a6500 can record. And, thirdly, Memory Stick cards tend to be much more expensive gigabyte-for-gigabyte compared with SD cards.
By contrast, it’s quite easy to find SD cards that will work well in the Sony a6500 and allow you to use all of the a6500’s video modes. They’re faster, more widely available, better value, and there’s much more choice.
So what I’m aiming to do here is provide some practical recommendations on which SD cards to get for the Sony a6500 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 a6500–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 a6500’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 1066x Silver V30 UHS-I
This card from Lexar, one of the leading makers of memory cards, is a fast, reliable option. It's rated for video recording speed rating of V30. It comes in sizes up to 512GB.
Buy at: Amazon
Kingston Canvas Go Plus V30 UHS-I
- Type: SDXC
- Video Speed Class: V30
- UHS Speed Class: UHS-I
- Storage Capacities: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
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 SDG3 Canvas Go 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
PNY Elite-X V30 UHS-I
- Class 10 U3 V30 speed rating with read speeds up to 100MB/s
- Class 10 U3 V30 rating delivers speed and performance for burst mode HD photography and 4K Ultra HD...
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. It comes in sizes from 64GB 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.
Making Sense of 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 now have either SDHC or SDXC printed on them. The a6500 will work with both SDHC and SDXC cards (and, for that matter, just plain SD cards, but they’re hard to find these days and have impractically small storage capacities).
These aren’t performance categories, as such. An SDXC card isn’t necessarily any faster than an SDHC card, and vice versa. But they’re important for compatibility with the camera and also in terms of storage capacity.
They’re 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.
UHS-I vs. UHS-II
The current generations of 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.
Aside from whatever is printed on the card or packaging, you can tell UHS-I and UHS-II cards apart just by looking at them. UHS-I cards have a single row of contacts on the back. UHS-II cards have a second row of contacts.
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 Sony a6500 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 if you already have a UHS-II card on hand).
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.
As a technical matter, the first system was known Speed Classes (these were Class 2, 4, 6, and 10). The second system was known as UHS Speed Classes (U1 and U3). The third system is known as Video Speed Classes (V6, V10, V30, V60, and V90).
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 Sony a6500, SD cards that have any of these on them should be fast enough:
V90 is also fine, but it’s overkill for the a6500. But if you happen to already have one on hand, or find one an especially good deal on one, then, by all means, you can go ahead and use it in the a6500.
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 Sony a6500
The a6500 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.
There’s really no right answer when it comes to what size, or storage capacity, 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 with a 128GB card, you can fit four times as many photos as on a 32GB. And so on. And that’s especially handy when you’re traveling; even more so if you’re shooting any video. 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–they’ll work just fine because of the way that the SDXC spec is designed.
Sony has put together some estimates of how many photos and how much video you can fit on SD cards ranging from 8GB to 64GB; you can find those on pages 45-48 of the manual. But my inclination would be to aim in the 128GB to 512GB range–you can find cost-effective options in those sizes quite easily.
Do You Really Need a Good Memory Card?
A better memory card is not 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 video 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. If you’re formatting a card that you’ve already been using, make sure that you’ve downloaded any photos and videos you want to keep, because formatting deletes everything on the card.
Here’s some information on how to format the memory card.
How to Format SD Cards in the Sony a6500
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.
Always be sure you’ve backed up everything you want from the card, because formatting it will wipe everything. (If you’ve formatted accidentally, it still might be possible to recover data from the memory card, but it’s not always guaranteed, and it can incur the expense of buying recovery software; more on that below.)
On the Sony a6500, you can find the format function under:
Setup (Yellow tab) > Format
I have a more detailed guide on how to format an SD card in a Sony a6500 separately.
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.
Backing Up Images & Videos
While memory cards are remarkably resilient, just like any electronic product, they can and do fail. So regular backups are highly recommended. Ideally, that should include a mix of local backups and off-site or cloud backups.
FAQs About Sony a6500 Memory Cards
What type of memory card does the Sony a6500 take?
The Sony a6500 takes SDXC, SDHC, and SD cards, anywhere from 4GB to 1TB in storage capacity. It has a UHS-I interface and a single SD memory card slot.
How many memory cards does the Sony a6500 take?
The Sony a6500 has a single SD card slot.
- The Sony a6500 doesn’t have internal memory that is directly user-accessible. It does technically have internal memory, but it’s used for storing settings and as a buffer for writing data to the memory card.
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