I get this question a lot, so I thought the most sensible thing to do would be to just write an article on it. Basically, a quick-stop guide to answer the question: “How many pictures can 16GB / 32GB / 64GB hold?”
Unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as just telling you the answer.
The actual amount of photos you can store on a SD card (or hard drive, for that matter) can vary wildly depending on your camera and your settings.
Read More… 9 best cameras for astrophotography
What affects how many photos your SD card can hold?
RAW files are much bigger than JPEG files, and some photographers (like me) store both JPEGs and RAWs so that pushes the file size up even further. Then there’s the different settings with RAW and JPEG themselves to consider.
Many cameras give you the option to shoot RAW Compressed or RAW Uncompressed, while most cameras allow different quality JPEG settings.
So, to avoid making this article into something resembling a very boring textbook I’m going to make some assumptions:
- If you’re shooting RAW, you’re using Compressed RAW
- If you’re shooting JPEG, you’re using JPEG Fine.
- If you’re shooting both, you’re storing both of the above.
Got it? Okay, now I’m going to provide some average file sizes for a number of popular DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras.
The only way to truly pinpoint how many pictures your 32GB SD card can hold is by knowing your specific camera’s file sizes, but this will at least put you in the right ball park:
- Nikon D5200 file size (24MP) – RAW = 24.6 MB / JPEG Fine = 12.2 MB
- Canon EOS 77D file size (24.2MP) – RAW = 29.4 MB / JPEG Fine = 8.6 MB
- Sony A6500 file size (24.2MP) – RAW = 24 MB / JPEG Fine = 7.5 MB
- Sony a7R IV file size (61MP) – RAW = 61 MB / Extra-Fine JPEG = 46 MB
- Nikon D850 file size (46 MP) – RAW = 51.6 MB / JPEG Fine = 22 MB
- Canon 5D Mark IV file size (30.4 MP) = Raw = 63.9 MB / JPEG Fine = 8.7 MB
That should give you a rough idea for how big your camera’s file sizes are, and we’ll use these ballpark figures in the table below.
Very roughly speaking, we’re looking at about 1 MP per megapixel for RAW files and between 0.3 and 0.5 MB per megapixel for JPEG Fine files.
How many pictures can my SD card hold?
As you can see, results can vary wildly depending on your camera and settings so it’s a crucial factor when deciding what SD card to buy.
In fact, with some Uncompressed RAW files topping 100MB, it becomes a deciding factor when deciding on everything from your next camera to your next external hard drive.
How to choose the right SD card
There are a few key things to think about when choosing a SD card:
- Size – Use the table above, but generally speaking I wouldn’t settle for anything that held fewer than 600 images.
- Speed – Newer cameras are bringing us unprecedented file sizes and increased burst speed. If you use burst mode a lot then a faster SD card can help ensure you don’t hit any buffering limitations.
- Reliability – This is the big one for me. Always stick to the trusted brands to minimize any risk of SD card failure. Losing a card full of hard-won images due to corruption is heartbreaking.
With that in mind, I tend to stick to 32GB plus SD cards from tried and trusted brands like SanDisk and Lexar. I don’t often shoot in burst mode, but when I do I make sure to take either a SanDisk Extreme PRO card or a Lexar SDXC UHS one.
You can also find my personal choice, the SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO, here on Adorama.
Read more from Click and Learn Photography:
- 5 must buy lenses for your Nikon
- F-Stop chart and cheat sheet
- Best DSLR cameras for beginners
- 10 must buy lenses for your Fujifilm X-Series
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.