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Which SD Card for a Nikon D3100

Updated on November 17, 2012

The Nikon D3100 DSLR camera requires a high speed SD card to operate at its full potential. There are so many SD card choices available it is easy to choose the wrong memory card for high-speed digital SLR use.

The Nikon D3100 is designed to use three types of storage media including, SD memory cards, SDHC memory cards, and SDXC cards. The camera has only one SD card slot available. Data is stored on the card in a file system compliant with DCF (Design Rule for Camera File System) 2.0. The file structure can be set up in one of three ways including:

  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)
  • EXIF 2.21 (Exchangeable Image File Format for Digital Still Cameras)
  • PictBridge

Nikon recommends a Class 6 or higher SDHC memory card for the camera to keep up with the demanding transfer speeds of RAW format and storage of high definition video. In reality SD cards, up to 2GB, work in the camera. The performance of the camera, however, will suffer when using these older generation cards. SDHC memory cards up to 32 GB in size are also acceptable. SDXC cards offer the largest amount of storage in the D3100 with cards up to 64 GB in size.

Nikon actually tested some memory cards an published the following list of memory cards that work well with the D3100 DSLR.

  • SanDisk: 512 MB, 1GB, and 2GB SD memory cards
  • SanDisk: 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB SDHC memory cards
  • SanDisk: 64GB SDXC memory cards
  • Toshiba: 512 MB, 1GB, and 2GB SD memory cards
  • Toshiba: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB SDHC memory cards
  • Toshiba: 64GB SDXC memory cards
  • Panasonic: 512 MB, 1GB, and 2GB SD memory cards
  • Panasonic: 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, 12GB, 16GB and 32GB SDHC memory cards
  • Panasonic: 48GB and 64GB SDXC memory cards
  • Lexar Platnium II or Professional: 512 MB, 1GB, and 2GB SD memory cards
  • Lexar Platnium II: 4GB and 8GB SDHC memory cards
  • Lexar Professional: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB SDHC memory cards

When D3100 is set to store both the NEF (RAW) and fine JPEG images, each image requires 19.8 MB. Storing this much data requires a high transfer rate between the camera and the memory card. The D3100 has a buffer, but the size of the buffer limits the number of images to about 9 on a high speed card. Slower memory cards limit the transfer rate, which also limits the number of continuous photos they store.

Tips for choosing the best SD card for the Nikon D3100

  • Stick with known SD card manufacturers. The Nikon D3100 DSLR has a purchase price that makes it an investment. Use accessories that are designed at the same high standard.
  • Consider multiple SD cards. The price of SD cards has dropped recently. The Nikon D3100 eats up memory card space, particularly when saving the .RAW format images. Have multiple cards on hand for a day or week long camera adventure.


Nikon D3100 Accessories for Better Photos


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    • Allen Douglas profile image

      Allen Douglas 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Class 10 cards perform better than Class 6 cards. The class 10 cards are capable for 30 MB/s transfer, which is more than enough for HD video.

    • Allen Douglas profile image

      Allen Douglas 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      You are right. The new CMOS sensor in the D3100 is amazing. I wanted a D90, but found out the D3100 was coming out and would be lighter and cost less. I was skeptical since the D90 had such good ratings. It turned out to be a good decision. I would recommend the Nikon D3100 to anyone, particularly at how low the prices are right now.

    • Entourage_007 profile image

      Stuart 6 years ago from Santa Barbara, CA

      I wish I had one of these cameras - I once used my friends Nikon D3100 to take pictures of a sunset as it reflected off the ocean. The result was heavenly. Great hub

    • TrahnTheMan profile image

      TrahnTheMan 6 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

      Helpful hub! Also be mindful to make sure you get a CLASS 10 card (often marked on the card with the symbol of the letter "C" with the number 10 inside it- the picture at the start of this hub shows a Class 10 card) as this is needed for shooting video.