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With the incredible success of the A7iii - it was only fitting for Sony to develop and release the fourth version - right?
Improvements such as the long-awaited flip-out/ fully articulating screen, 4k60p video, and a 10MP improvement for photos... With all of the improvements aside, you'll need a fast, high-quality SD card to support these improvements.
As you'd expect - choosing the best brand, capacity, and speed is critical in harnessing the power of the A7 IV. To further this statement, there are settings that only support certain cards - making this statement even more important.
No need to worry. By the end of this article, you not only know what the best SD card for A7 IV is - but you'll also why it's the best and why you'd want or need to use it.
That's correct - unlike the A7iii, which only supported UHS-II in card slot 1 - UHS-II is supported in both card slots. This is a significant benefit to the A7 IV over the A7iii.
This is due largely to the fact that the overall speed across both slots was determined by your slowest card. With slot 2 only supporting UHS-I you were limited to UHS-I speeds if shooting redundant.
This led to increased read/transfer speeds becoming the only real benefit of using a UHS-II card in the A7iii.
Let's move on and talk about what's supported by each card slot in the Sony A7 IV.
Sony A7 IV Card Slots (support)
Dual card slots are present on the A7IV.
Much like the A7iii - card slot 2 doesn't support everything that card slot 1 supports.
With that being said, the A7IV supports UHS-I and UHS-II in both slots. This is a significant improvement over the A7iii - seeing as it only supported UHS-II in slot 1 and not 2.
If you have followed the release of the A7SIII - you'll know that Sony's CF Express Type A cards are not only supported by it - but it's supported in both blot 1 and 2.
Well, on the A7IV CF Express Type A is only supported in slot 1. You will not reap the benefits of the write speeds of a Type A card in slot 2.
Let's continue this discussion with the limitations of some of the types of cards on the A7IV.
Sony A7IV Card Limitations
As you may imagine, if you shoot redundant, the overall write speed of your camera will be determined by your slowest card.
Meaning, if you have a CF Express Type A in slot 1 (700/800MB/s R/W) and a UHS-II card in slot 2 (300/300MB/s R/W) - the A7IV won't write any faster than 300MB/s.
This is due to the idea that the camera is writing to each card at the exact same time at the fastest speed possible - seeing as 300MB/s is the fastest speed that both cards can write at the same time... this would leave you limited to 300MB/s.
That makes sense, right? Again, this is only when shooting redundant (or mirroring cards one and two).
If you're shooting on both cards separately (for added space)
Now, if you're using slot 2 for added storage and shooting on each card individually - you'll gain the benefits from each slot independently. Just know that when you switch and start recording on slot 2, you may be limited on what you're able to do (and performance will decrease significantly from a CF Express Type A).
We will touch a bit more on this later on in the article.
This is the most unfortunate aspect of the A7IV
Don't get me wrong, I love Sony and have for years. I've been shooting on an A7III for 3 years now and love everything about it (other than the menu from time to time haha).
But, the fact that slots 1 and 2 don't both support CF Express Type A is such a disappointment. Seeing as the A7SIII supports them in both slots - it only seemed fitting that the IV would do the same... But we all know now, that it isn't the case.
For those that shoot redundant 100% of the time (myself included) - there is very little reason to invest in a Type A card at all.
With all of that being said - I can only assume Sony's reason behind this was cost. While I respect it, it's still unfortunate...
CF Express Type A Is Required (Sometimes)
here are two instances when a CF Express Type A card is required in slot 1 to either harness the benefits from it or for the camera to work at all.
Instance one is if you're recording in S&Q Mode with the file format XAVC S-I 4k in either 25/30p or 50/60p. In this instance, you're required to have a CF Express Type A card. The A7IV won't even allow you to start recording in this mode/frame-rates if you don't.
this setting/frame-rate combo doesn't exceed the performance of a V90 card - so it may be changed in a firmware update. But personally, I highly doubt it.
The other instance when you'd be required to have a Type A card is a bufferless photo shooting in uncompressed RAW. If you're shooting in uncompressed RAW using a Type A card, you'll never reach a buffer limit. The camera can write to the card fast enough that you'll never hit it.
On the other hand, if you're shooting with a UHS-II or UHS-I, you'll hit a buffer very similar to the limits of the A7iii.
The Speed Of CF Express Type A
For those of you who don't have any knowledge about a Type A card - I thought I would do a short overview of its specs. They're actually pretty impressive, in my opinion.
First, do not mistake this card for CF Express Type B. A Type B card is much larger and will not fit inside of the A7IV. With that being said, Type B cards are significantly faster than type A cards - but that's for a different article.
CF Express Type A cards read and write at speeds of 800/700MB/s (respectively). This is significantly faster than even the top tier UHS-II cards which cap around 300/300MB/s.
This performance increase allows for faster data rates for things we've talked about in the previous section. This includes specific recording modes/frame rates, and burst photos with no buffering.
Another significant benefit of these cards is offloading your work. The read speed directly relates to transfer speeds. Meaning, with a compatible card reader, you're able to offload at essentially 800MB/s. This can save you a lot of time after a shoot.
Sony A7 IV Recording Video
If you're wondering, "how much video can I capture on a single card depending on card capacity and internal camera settings?". Well, this section will really help you out.
I have created this chart to only include large differences between settings. For instance - if you have 4k set at 200M - you can assume (and be correct) that 150M would have a longer record limit and lower in file size (for the same amount of time between the two).
XAVC HS 4K
1 h 10 min
1 h 20 min
XAVC HS 4K
1 h 10 min
1 h 20 min
2 h 20 min
2 h 40 min
XAVC S 4K
1 h 10 min
1 h 20 min
XAVC S-I 4K
XAVC S-I 4K
XAVC S-I HD
1 h 10 min
XAVC S-I HD
1 h 20 min
1 h 30 min
Sony A7 IV Card Readers
As you'd imagine - you'll need a card reader that's compatible with the card in your camera!
Now - if you aren't interested in CF Express Type A - and have a card reader that's compatible with UHS-II or UHS-I - you're good!
Just note - if you want to harness the speeds of UHS-II, you will need a UHS-II card reader. Although, a UHS-II card will work inside of a UHS-I camera/card reader... you'll just lose the increased speed (which is what you're paying for).
CF Express Type A is a different story. The form factor, pins, and overall structure is completely different - requiring a compatible device and card reader.
No need to worry - we have you covered in all aspects. Below are the best card readers for CF Express Type A, UHS-II and even UHS-I cards.
I'm currently writing this article on a ~5-year-old laptop (August 2017) - with a GTX 1070 - and an old Gen 3 thunderbolt port. When I'm transferring in the field - even this 5-year-old port utilizes the 800 MB/s read/transfer speeds of this reader/card combo.
You get what you pay for. This reader comes in at the top in terms of cost. But again - you're getting 3 card readers in one, with thunderbolt speeds, by a reputable brand and a great form factor.
The form factor is slightly thicker than the Sony - without a doubt. This is mainly due to the fact that Type A and standard card slots are separate.
This shouldn't be an issue at all (about 5mm added thickness). The plus to this is that you can transfer from multiple cards at the same time (at rated speeds of each card - no need to worry about throttling speeds over USB Gen 3.2 or thunderbolt).
The cost is also a huge plus. Coming in at roughly $40 less than the Sony version... you can't go wrong. The reviews online for this product and Prograde as a whole, speak for themselves.
It's IPX7 rated in both water and drop resistance. It's water-resistant and drop-resistant from 7 meters.
Performace, (based on customer reviews) is top tier as well. It's literally the best you can get at the moment.
The only downside is obviously cost. Coming in around $400 - it's very pricy in terms of cost per GB. At roughly $2.50 per gb - this sits alongside top tier m.2 drives. But again, you're getting the best of the best.
To compare - most memory card manufacturers have a lock switch on the side that, when activated (or locked), prevents the card from being written/deleted. Sony has taken it upon themselves to remove this feature and has made it completely seamless. There are now fewer moving parts and fewer entry points for dust and water.
As you can see - it's about half the write speed - but more than half the cost. You'll save a significant amount of money if you don't need the fast write speed but want to retain the fast transfer speeds.
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07/31/2022 11:41 pm GMT
SanDisk Extreme Pro's are the highest reviewed SD card - by a longshot. With over 120,000 reviews on Amazon alone... they're the kings of SD cards.
It's easy to understand why - they're reliable and affordable.
I've accumulated about 15 of these over the years. They have never let me down. I take care of my gear (which I'm assuming you do as well) - and I don't have a single negative thing to say about these cards.
There are 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 512GB, and 1TB versions of this card available.