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How Many Photos Can a 32 / 64 / 128 / 256 GB Memory Card Hold?

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A memory card is your loyal companion as it stores your photographs. CF, SD, and MicroSD cards are the most common among DSLRs, mirrorless, and other cameras.

You’ve probably always wondered exactly how many photos fit onto your memory card. Today I’m here to answer that.

A pile of different size and type memory cards on a white background - best memory card

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How Many Photos Go On a Memory Card?

 

To answer this question properly, we need to look at the two different shooting settings and how they affect the file size.

The two are jpeg and raw.

JPG Vs. Brand-Specific Raw Vs. DNG

JPG compression is used in a number of image file formats. JPG is the most common image format used by digital cameras and other photographic image capture devices.

These images are ‘compressed’ and only keep the data that the camera deemed as worth keeping. If you’re uploading your images to social media or directly to your archive, good. But because of this, they don’t offer much play in post-processing.

A raw (note the lower case spelling) image contains all the raw data of the scene you’re capturing. This means you have the full dynamic and color range for every single pixel your camera can capture.

Raw image files are way bigger than JPG files. They give you more room to change exposure values, white balance, and to tweak colors using post-processing software.

Manufacturers usually have their own raw file formats. Canon uses CR2 and CR3, Nikon uses NEF, and so on.

A DNG is a Digital Negative. In a non-brand-specific raw format. For all intents and purposes, it is the same as a normal raw file. My Canon 7D shoots in JPG and/or CR2 raw, but my Ricoh GRII uses DNG.

Overhead still life photography shot of a camera, notebook, pen, coffee cup and memory card

Size Difference

There is a considerable difference between the two file types.

JPGs are compressed. They fit perfectly in the 8-bit boundary used for web images. They are usually the end result of raw conversions, too.

Because of the various amounts of compression, JPG file sizes vary. On a 20MP digital camera, they are between 5 and 10 MB.

Raw files, on the other hand, contain all the data your camera captured. Raw files are perfect for extensive post-processing.

Most raw formats are uncompressed. This means that every raw file (at the same settings) has roughly the same size, no matter what’s in the photo. They are usually around 30MP each on a 20MP camera.

So, if a raw file takes 30 MB of space, it can fit in the memory cards as follows:

  • 32 gb = 1,092 photographs
  • 64 gb = 2,184 photographs
  • 128 gb = 4,368 photographs
  • 256 gb = 8,732 photographs

JPG files are almost too much to count at 7 MB each:

  • 32 gb = 4,700 photographs
  • 64 gb = 9400 photographs
  • 128 gb = 18,800 photographs
  • 256 gb = 37,600 photographs

*remember that this digital aspect is 1,024 bytes = 1mb and 1,024 mb is 1 gb*

Memory Cards

Choosing a memory card will depend on your camera. You have the choice over the brand, the size, and the speed of the memory card.

The bigger the size, the more photographs you can take. This is a great way to store more images, but a great way to lose or damage them all too.

The speed relates to how fast the memory card can deal with the data. A faster memory card is more expensive, but it will allow you to use continuous or burst modes. However, your camera may not even be able to utilise the cards full writing speed.

If you want to know more about picking the best memory card for you, check out our article on how to choose your memory card.

CF (CompactFlash) cards are one of the two most common memory cards found in digital cameras. They are the largest in physical size.
They are used in many mid to larger sized digital cameras and digital SLRs.
A SanDisk CF 64gb memory card

SD (Secure Digital) cards are being used more and more due to their small size.

Most laptops even have a small opening specifically for these memory cards. They are a safe bet for manufacturer support in case something goes wrong.

They even have a tab on the side of the memory card that protects your images when depressed.

A SanDisk Secure Digital SD 32gb memory card

MicroSD cards are smaller than their bigger brother. They were designed for smaller cameras and devices such as Go Pros, drones, and cell phones.

Smaller memory cards have a higher chance to be lost. They will work as an SD card when accompanied by an adapter.

A SanDisk Micro Secure Digital SD 128gb memory card.

Size Matters

At the time of this article (March 2018), these are the highest capacities for these memory card systems:

  • CF = 512 GB
  • SD = 1 TB
  • MicroSD = 1TB

Speed Does Too!

At the time of this article, these are the fastest memory card systems:

  • CF = 155 MB/s (read/write)
  • SD = 300 MB/s (read/write)
  • MicroSD = 100 MB/s (read/write)

As you can see, the SD card is already outstripping the CF. There are other, even faster card types too, but you won’t find them in consumer-oriented cameras.

Image of a camera and memory card on a white background.
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