In a previous article, I persuaded you with 3 reasons to get the Sony a7S III. In another article, I convinced you that the 12 MP was more than enough! Today I want to solve one more problem for you by helping you decide what memory cards to get for your Sony A7SIII.
With the Sony a7S III comes a new memory card type and more decisions to make. The card slots are compatible with the new CF Express Type A card as well as SD cards. So what to choose?
This article might get a little nerdy so if you want the short and quick answer, get two V90 Sony Tough cards 128 GB. If you want to know how I came to that conclusion, keep reading. I’ll dive into some different considerations when it comes to memory cards and video formats. There are a lot of choices and understanding the pros/cons can be helpful to make sure you get the most out of this camera.
Breaking Down the Memory Card Options
First, let’s break down your memory card options. As I see it, you have three main options and you’ll end up making your choice based on price and frame rate requirements as well as how much storage space you have on your cards and hard drives. You’ll see that my choice, the V90 Sony Touch cards, are the middle-of-the-road option here.
1. CF Express Type A
If you’re looking for the memory card that does everything, you want the CF Express Type A. The CF Express Type A is $400 for a 160 GB card or $200 for an 80 GB card. Note that you’ll also need to buy a special card reader, so add $120.
As you can see, that starts to get a little pricey which is why my recommendation above wasn’t simply to get the memory card that does everything. If money isn’t an issue great, otherwise let’s analyze a few other options. The reality is that you don't have to sacrifice much to save some money.
2. V90: Sony Tough Cards
The V90 does almost everything except when using certain S&Q mode frame rates which I will break down below. The V90 Sony Tough Cards are $210 for a 128 GB card.
3. V60: Sony Tough M Series, ProGrade Digital, Lexar
The V60 card does almost everything except All-Intra Modes. The price range is $40 to $130 depending on the brand you get.
If you’re leaning in this direction, I would probably go for the middle of the road and get the Sony M Series for $70. While price is a factor, I don’t really want to just get the cheapest option out there. It’s vital that your card doesn’t fail on you. Even if you have two card slots, a card failure is a very frustrating experience and can be a major time suck. Additionally, if one does fail, it can create a lot of stress if you have to continue the shoot without a backup!
Choosing Your Memory Card
Something to think about when choosing cards is how long you’ll be recording, how many cards you want to buy, and how much storage you have on your computer. Then you can evaluate pricing and capabilities.
You’ll notice that I don’t list anything below a V60. Below a V60 rated card, you may run into issues. I used my V30 cards to record up to 10bit 4:2:2 4k XAVC-S up to 60p but couldn’t get 120p. If you're planning to spend the money on the Sony a7S III, it's worth spending a little money on memory cards to unlock all the features.
A quick note on card readers: As I mentioned, you’ll need a special card reader for CF Express Type A which comes in at $120 from Sony. If you stay with SD, highly recommend the ProGrade Digital Dual SD Card slot reader. I also recommend getting a backup card reader if you are working on time-sensitive work. Redundancies are good to build into any aspect of your workflow so that if something breaks you have a backup and don’t have to wait for the pony express to arrive with your new equipment. Therefore, you should definitely be using both card slots on your camera; redundancy. If one card fails you have a backup. In a pinch, you can directly connect the camera to your computer with a USB-C cable but this isn't ideal in my opinion.
Anyone who was professionally shooting before dual card slot cameras knows the stress of a card failing and the fear that comes with potentially losing all your files. Back when I was using the Canon 5D Mark II, I would shoot on 16 GB cards so that if a card failed, I wouldn't have lost all my data (just a portion of the shoot). Now, dual card slots take that stress away.
I also love shooting with large-capacity memory cards so I never have to take a card out of my camera. If I keep my camera on me, I know I have all the files secure. One time I dropped my card wallet on a shoot and thought I lost all the data. It was later found and returned but was very stressful. Because of this, I prefer to use two large SD cards and leave them in the camera until the shoot is finished.
As you know, I went with the middle-of-the-road option here, the V90 Sony Tough Cards. They came in less expensive than CF Express Type A especially considering the need for a new card reader. The compromise was on the S&Q frame rates, so let’s talk about that.
S&Q mode stands for slow and quick. Slow and quick mode records files at high or low frame rates (i.e. 120 or 1 fps) and plays them back at 24 or 30p without needing to adjust the playback speed in post. Basically, the V90 cards can do most things except when you use the XAVC S-I format. You can check out the Sony website for the charts if you want to see exactly what modes you can choose for each type of memory card. It can be a little confusing to read but I mainly looked for the modes that weren't covered to evaluate if that was a feature I needed.
For file format, the simple answer is that I’m choosing XAVC S 4k 4:2:2 10 bit. Let’s break that down a little more.
Codecs: this will appear as XAVC S vs XAVC HS or XAVC S-I
- XAVC HS or H265 is more space efficient but takes more computing power to edit
- XAVC S H264 is older and has larger files but will take less computing power to edit
- XAVC S-I All intra easiest to edit but largest files sizes, also requires high bit rate memory cards V90 or above for normal recording modes.
When it comes to record settings, I recommend always choosing the highest bit rate if you want the best quality. 4:2:2 10bit — gives you substantially more colors in your video file. It also gives you much more latitude when color grading your footage in post.
In summary, my recommendation is to get two V90 Sony Tough cards 128 GB. It will save you some cash on the cards and from getting a new card reader as compared to the CF Express Type A. I'm sure over time we'll see some third-party manufacturers producing CF Express Type A cards as more people get the Sony a7S III but for now, SD cards are much more cost-effective.
The limiting factor of the V90 Sony Tough cards is the S&Q frame rate which precludes you from using the XAVC S-I format. To get around that, you can just use the XAVC S 4k 4:2:2 10 bit.
Let me know if my choice and logic makes sense to you and what other questions you have.
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Not persuaded and not convinced.
All I know is that after I bought Sony cards, actually quite basic model card on sale, that was the end off any type of error messages. Never will I use anything else. The touch line comes with a rather huge premium, In my experience the ordinary version is great. Thank you Sony :)