Mac computers and digital cameras have been going hand in hand for a couple of decades now. But Apple hasn’t always provided a direct way to transfer images from your camera if you don’t have the right USB cable handy. Let’s not start streaming over Wi-Fi, a nightmare for most cameras even in 2023.
About 15 years ago, almost all digital cameras switched to the SD (Secure Digital) Card format instead of the previous formats. It offers high-density compact flash memory with increased capacity, which comes with the 2009 SDXC (Extended Capacity) update, which increased the maximum card capacity from 32GB to 2TB!
Apple has included or is including an SDXC card slot that can read almost all SD formats on these Mac computer models:
- 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMac models (2010 or newer)
- 13″ MacBook Air (2013 to 2017)
- Mac mini (2011–2014)
- MacBook Pro (2011 to 2014, then relaunch in 2021)
- Studio Mac
SD cards are rated by bandwidth, which has skyrocketed in recent years. The latest widely adopted standards are UHS-I and UHS-II. (UHS stands for Ultra High Speed.) All of the above Macs can read earlier versions of MMC, Default Speed and High Speed, as well as UHS-I and UHS-II. SD cards come in both standard size and microSD format. However, you can use a microSD adapter (sometimes included with the purchase of a microSD card), which is actually a full-size SD card, to use with your Mac or a memory card reader.
However, newer UHS-II cards, three times faster than UHS-I, support higher speeds in only a few Mac models. These are the iMac Pro, the 27-inch Intel iMac released in 2020, and all MacBook Pro models released since 2021.
Chances are you won’t buy a high speed UHS-II card unless you have a specific goal, like recording low compression 4K video directly to your camera, because the cost of that extra speed is much higher. The 256GB SanDisk UHS-I card has a retail price of $40, while the UHS-II version is $280.
If you don’t have a Mac with an SD card slot, it’s easy to add one. You can get simple USB Type-A adapters for just $7 with support for UHS-I bandwidth. Apple sells a $39 USB-C adapter with UHS-II support. Don’t pay for UHS-II support if you don’t need it.
Many USB-C and Thunderbolt docking stations also include an SD card slot as a base feature.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Kevin.
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