Wednesday, March 5, 2014

SanDisk ULTRA 15MB/s SDHC Class 4 SD Card (8 GB) - Excellent For HD Video

Before digital camera and camcorder manufacturers settled on SD cards, there was a lot of variety of standards in use. As a result, I have a Sony camera that uses Memory Stick cards, Fuji F20 that uses xD cards, Canon dSLR that uses Compact Flash (CF) and now a Canon HF200 that uses SD/SDHC cards. The cameras I tested in the past used SD cards most of the time and, therefore, I switched memory cards frequently. With cameras, if you don't record video, the capacity of 1-2 GB was enough. I mostly used the Kington Elite Pro 1 GB Secure Digital (SD) Card, and the 2-Gygabyte Kingston Elite Pro SD card.

But for the new Canon camcorder, I needed an SDHC card of at least class-4 speed and of capacity enough for at least 1 hour of full 1080p HD video. Since I read only that at least some Canon camcorders (mine included) can be picky when it comes to media and may refuse to work with memory cards of some manufacturers, even if the speed is adequate, I decided to go with a card from one of the manufacturers listed in the camcorder's manual as tested to work. SanDisk card were listed and this is what I got: SanDisk ULTRA Class 4 SDHC 8 GB card.


I remember having to pay $40-50 for a 1-2 GB memory card. This 8 GB card was only $16 with free shipping and no sales tax. You can get cheaper cards of the same or higher capacity and/or speed, but I don't want to take chances with my videos.


This SDHC card has size that is standard for SD cards - 24mm x 32mm x 2.1mm. The card came with a semi-transparent case made of plastic - a useful item for card storage. The case is about twice larger than the card itself. The card seems to be well-built, but, as with any electronic device, I would not recommend to put it in extreme weather conditions or apply strong bending forces to it.

Write Protection 

The card has a mechanical switch that provides write protection. I never use since it is pretty difficult to erase all pictures at once or format the card in my camcorder accidentally. Besides, the card is cumbersome to remove from the camcorder, so I keep it there most of the time. I transfer pictures to my computer as soon as feasible, using the card reader I have. Using the USB port of the camcorder to transfer photos is cumbersome and wastes the battery power.


The card belongs to ULTRA line of SanDisk cards and class 4 means guaranteed 4 MB/s write speed (and higher read speeds). The card has a label stating 15 MB/s. I did not formally test the maximum transfer speed, but it is more than enough for my uses since class 4 is adequate for use in my camcorder in two of its 1080p full HD modes, including the 24 Mb/s mode that is higher than most camcorders have (most full HD camcorders can go up to 17). I usually use 17 Mb/s mode, so there is a significant safety margin there. And if the claims of 15 MBps read/9 MBps write speed are true, this card could probably be labeled as class 10.

Perusing the Internet reveals that SanDisk class 4 cards that state 15 MB/s were tested to be able to write at 15 MB/s provided files were large enough. For smaller files, the speed was about 6 MB/s and for medium-sized, around 10. So the card probably qualifies as class 6 for photo and class 10 for video.

I used this card first with the Canon VIXIA HF M300 HD camcorder, then with Canon HF200 HD camcorder.


The 8 GB capacity is enough to record a crazy number of pictures. Video is another matter. Depending on what you are recording (since the camcorder uses variable bit rate), you can record about 1 hr in 1920x1080 full HD at 17 Mb/s. If you need awesome quality of higher bit rate mode, and if your camcorder allows it (quite a few don't), you will get a proportionate decrease in time recorded: about 40 mins. And if you use lower bit rates or resolutions, the time you can record grows. One hour is enough for me before I move data to my computer and then to an AVCHD DVD disk.

8 GB card recording times:
HD High 24 Mbps: 40 mins
HD High 17 Mbps: 1 hr
HD High 13 Mbps: 1 hr 20 mins
HD Standard 9 Mbps: 2 hr
HD Extended 6 Mbps: 3 hr

Number of photos
5 MP 1.4 MB: 4,800
12 MP 3 MB: 2,000


Since the card has no moving parts, I expect high reliability and durability, especially taking into account the fact that I don't abuse it. My previous cards, for instance, have no signs of use on the exterior and work as well as new. I am using this card in the camcorder for recording video.


The card can be used in devises that accept Secure Digital HC cards (e.g. digital still cameras, camcorders, MP3 players, etc.) You can also use this card for backups or data storage/transfer using a memory card reader, although it might not necessarily be the most cost-efficient way of doing so.

Bottom Line 

The SanDisk ULTRA Class 4 8 GB SDHC card is an excellent, fast and compatible card. I am using it for video recording and highly recommend it. For the price, its performance, capacity and quality are hard to beat.

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