I've finally decided to settle on Nikon's D7000 -- and it's got me thinking now.... most every camera nowadays uses some variant of the Secure Digital format, be it full sized SD cards in the DSLRs, down to microSD cards in cell phone cameras. SD's versatility and ability to transcend form factors has served it well, in addition to being much easier to insert and handle (in comparison to e.g. CompactFlash and SmartMedia), and being relatively cheap per unit of storage.

About the only other format I see any of is the MemoryStick format, and I think that's more because Sony wants to prop up their proprietary format by incorporating it into their consumer electronics, not because the industry as a whole really enjoys using the format.

However, this has only been the case for the last ~5 years. SD is older than this, but it seems CompactFlash used to be the only thing you'd see in high end cameras. My guess is that for a long time you could not get SD cards nearly as large as CF cards, but nowadays that's not the case, so people have migrated to the much more people friendly SD format. (I still have nightmares about shoving in CF cards and bending pins on things....)

Anyway, SD seems king for now just as CF did a few years ago. Are there major changes anticipated in "digital film" anytime soon that may displace SD?


3 Answers 3


Nothing Lasts Forever, but Some Things Last a Long Time

There are improved versions of SD (SDHC, SDXC).
These are able to store more data than normal SD.
They look the same as SD and can be used in most of the same devices.

Apart from these, there is no obvious successor technology to SD at the moment.

So for now we have to get along with SD and invest in it where appropriate. There will be a replacement technology sooner or later, but it sure doesn't look like anything else will be taking over for a year or two.

Personally, I can't stand SD cards: they're just too small and fiddly.
On the other hand, CF can be up to 2x the price, so I'm not so keen on that either!

NB: This is technology, so this answer will probably be wrong 5 minutes after I post it! (Posted June 2011)

  • \$\begingroup\$ If you can't stand SD cards because they're too small and fiddly, just wait until everything is microSD. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: I don't think that's going to happen in DSLRs for a long time, if it ever happens, for durability problems if nothing else. microSD is subject to the wearing out problem @jwenting was talking about. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm hoping there will just be something like magic so that my shots will just appear on my PC without anything fiddling! Whatever happens, I'm sure technology will surprise us all :) \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Finch
    Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 9:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm: If a given capacity is available in a microSD, it will be possible for a non-micro SD card to offer higher capacity; that will likely remain true no matter how large the capacity of microSD cards grows. In an application where people will want all the capacity they can get, and where size isn't at a premium, I think SD is going to remain superior to microSD. \$\endgroup\$
    – supercat
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @supercat Maybe. Ten years ago, people were saying the same thing about Compact Flash vs. SD. I too think there's really a point at which small enough is small enough, but mostly I agree with AJ -- prepare to be surprised, no matter what happens. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Feb 10, 2016 at 21:55

Nothing lasts forever, and that includes SD.
Personally, I dislike the things greatly, as they're a lot more fragile than are CF cards. The exposed chip can easily get damaged and wears down over time (much like the exposed chip on your ATM and/or credit cards). If you change out the card repeatedly, this can lead to nasty failures (the chip on my ATM card for example lasts an average of only 1 year before the card needs replacement, that's maybe 400-500 times being used, we can only hope SD cards are more sturdy).
Being smaller also makes it a lot easier to lose them, and a lot harder to find them again when you drop them somewhere.

You're correct about Memorystick. It's a failed attempt by Sony to compete with CF and now SD, and only they (and a few companies allied with them or otherwise beholden to do as Sony tells them) have adopted the format. Most non-Sony hardware that accepts them also accepts other formats, the manufacturers knowing that it's not in common use and probably hoping to attract former Sony users with an investment in the things rather than getting people to change over to them.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The "exposed" part of a SD card is no more wear-prone than the pins on a CF card (and worse, the ones for the CF card are in the camera, so when they wear out you have to replace the whole damn camera!). The chip is in the body of the card, not in the pins. (Okay, not for MicroSD, but I don't see DSLRs with microSD coming anytime soon...) (Oh, but +1) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 5:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ not in my experience, Billy. At least not if the contacts on an SD card are created the same as those on an ATM card (where they literally rub off over time). \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 5:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ They're nothing like the contacts on an ATM card. The ATM card has the chip, contacts, everything, all in that little pad. The pads on an SD card are about as thick as the whole chip assembly on an ATM card \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 5:28
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I've seen way more bent CF slot pins then I have damaged SD cards. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fake Name
    Commented Jun 20, 2011 at 5:42

Warning: given the nature of the question, I see no other way of answering it than analysing technology trends, also known as speculating.

Considering the strong development and increasing availability of mobile networking, cloud computing and storage trends in personal computing, I suspect network storage will be the next mainstream storage solution for cameras after (micro)SD. Given the extra cost and hassle of interchangeable memory, I'd expect it to become a niche feature.

For displaying recent photos and buffering unsent ones, it'd suffice if the camera had some internal memory (perhaps a little larger than your current memory cards), but for storing, sharing and universal access to bulk of your photos, uploading them to a storage cloud as soon as possible makes lots of sense.

EyeFi is already here for the impatient. Camera phones are already here, eating the lunch of compact camera market. Embeddable networking modules are here, ready to be plugged into upcoming camera models. Storage solutions are almost ready, the missing friendly user interface is only question of software.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think we're going to have to see a large increase in typical internet connections for this to be feasible. Not even gigabit ethernet can handle 210MB/s decent DSLRs (e.g. the D7000, 35MB RAWs, at 6 frames per second) can produce. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Billy Yes, the conversion will probably start from compacts as they have direct competition pressure and less bandwidth needs. Losing features from pro bodies is usually handled more conservatively. \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 16:47

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