Macs and digital cameras have gone hand in hand for a couple of decades. But Apple hasn’t always provided a direct way to transfer images from a camera if you don’t have the correct USB cable handy. Let’s not get started on Wi-Fi transfer–a nightmare with most cameras, even in 2023.
Nearly all digital cameras switched to the SD (Secure Digital) Card format about 15 years ago from previous formats. It offers compact, high-density flash memory storage, with higher capacities coming with the 2009 SDXC (eXtended Capacity) upgrade, which increased a 32GB maximum to up to 2TB in a card!
Apple included or includes an SDXC Card slot that can read nearly all SD formats on these models of Macs:
- 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMac models (2010 or later)
- 13-inch MacBook Air (2013 to 2017)
- Mac mini (2011 to 2014)
- MacBook Pro (2011 to 2014, then restarting in 2021)
- Mac Studio
SD Cards are rated by throughput, which has increased dramatically over the years. The latest widespread standards are UHS-I and UHS-II. (UHS stands for Ultra High Speed.) All the Macs above can read the earlier MMC, Default Speed, and High Speed flavors, as well as UHS-I and UHS-II. SD Cards come in both standard and microSD sizes. However, you can use a microSD adapter (these are sometimes included when you purchase a microSD Card) that is effectively a full-sized SD Card to use it with a Mac or card reader.
However, the newer UHS-II cards, three times faster than UHS-I, only support their higher speeds in a few Mac models. These are the iMac Pro, the 27-inch Intel iMac model released in 2020, and all MacBook Pro models released from 2021 onward.
You likely won’t buy a UHS-II speed card unless you have a particular purpose–like recording low-compression 4K video directly on a camera–because the cost for that added speed is much higher. A SanDisk UHS-I 256GB card has a street price of $40, while the UHS-II version is $280.
If you don’t have a Mac that comes with an SD Card slot, it’s an easy matter to add one. You can get straightforward USB Type-A adapters for as little as $7 with UHS-I throughput support. Apple sells a $39 USB-C adapter with support for UHS-II. Don’t pay for UHS-II support unless you need it.
Many USB-C and Thunderbolt docks also include an SD Card slot as a basic feature.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Kevin.
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