It used to be that your computer had an SD memory card slot, and after a shoot or holiday you could slide your card straight into your laptop and download your images. But those days are gone. Your MacBook these days doesn’t even have a standard USB port, let alone a memory card slot.
But even beyond the limitations of your computer’s design, memory has evolved beyond SD card formats. Many cameras now support memory such as XQD and CFexpress. And, of course, micro SD.
The streamlining of laptop designs and expansion of memory card formats has led to the rise of memory card readers. From memory card readers dedicated to one card type to multi-use, all-in-one devices, there are all sorts of memory card readers out there to suit your needs as a photographers.
In this guide we’ll make our picks for the best memory card reader for photographers, from all-in-one options to the best card readers for SD, XQD and CFexpress cards.
Anker 8-in-1 USB 3.0 SD card reader
Anker’s small 8-in-1 SD card reader supports SDXC, SDHC, SD, MMC, RS-MMC, Micro SDXC, Micro SD and Micro SDHC cards. It’s USB 3.0 connection gives you data transfer rates at up to 5GB per second for all of these supported cards.
What’s more, you can simultaneously read and write on two cards.
The Anker SD card reader is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems, meaning you can plug and play. No drivers are required.
At less than a tenner, the is sone of the best SD card readers you can buy on a budget.
If you’re using a MacBook Pro from 2017 or later, Anker also makes a USB C version.
- Data transfer speeds up to 5GB/sec
- Plug and play for Windows or Mac
Kingston MobileLite Plus SD card reader
Kingston’s MobileLite Plus SD reader supports UHS-II and UHS-I SD cards and delivers fast data transfer speeds thanks to its USB 3.2 technology.
The most compact option on our list of the best SD card readers, the Kingston MobileLite Plus will fit in your pocket and costs just a tenner.
Kingston says the reader gets better performance when used with Kingston memory cards, but it is compatible with SD and micro SD cards from all manufacturers.
- USB 3.2 speeds
- Plug and play
ProGrade Digital SD Dual-Slot USB 3.1, Gen. 2 Card Reader
ProGrade Digital’s SD Dual-Slot USB 3.1, Gen. 2 Card Reader is compatible with both UHS-I/UHS-II. It also includes two 18-inch connection cables: one Type A to Type C and one Type C to Type C.
Other features include a magnetised bottom for connecting it to your laptop and an LED indicator to indicate transfer activity.
The new dual-slot ProGrade Digital card reader is compatible with Mac OS X 10.6 or later and Windows 10.
- 1.25GB/s transfer speeds
- UHS-1 and UHS-II compatible
Transcend USB 3.1 SD card reader
Transcend’s SD card reader features dual slots for both SD and microSD cards, and supports SDHC (UHS-I), SDXC (UHS-I), microSDHC (UHS-I), microSDXC (UHS-I) formats. It also delivers fast data transfer speeds thanks to its USB 3.1 capability.
Transcend’s RDF5 card reader is small and compact, and features an LED light that reassuringly flashes to let you know your files are uploading or downloading.
What’s more, with each purchase Transcend also offers its free data recovery software, RecoveRx, which is designed to locate traces of erased files.
- Fast transfer speeds
- Free recovery software
Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual Slot SD Reader
Lexar’s Professional SD card reader boasts dual slots for SD and micro SD cards in an innovative pop-up design designed to keep the card’s contacts secure when it’s not in use.
Like the other options on our list of best SD card readers, the Lexar Professional offers USB 3.0 technology for faster data transfer speeds.
Other features include an LED light to show when transfers are active and compatibility with Windows and iOS.
- Pop-up design
- Dual slots for SD, micro SD
Best CFexpress card readers
As with the SD card format, there are several different types of CFexpress memory cards. CFexpress Type-B which is the most common for mainstream cameras.
What makes CFexpress memory cards so special is the PCIe 3.0 interface technology which provides 1 GB/s data transfer per lane. Type B features two lanes, so theoretically you could be looking at 2GB/s transfer speeds which is very impressive.
Below we’ll round up some of the best CFexpress card readers offering the best balance of performance and value for money.
Delkin CFexpress USB 3.2 card reader
Delkin’s CFexpress card reader is one of the best mid-range options and uses USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C technology for fast data transfers.
The compact device boasts a durable design with rubber covers on the end to help protect it from being dropped. This also means you can safely store your CFexpress card inside.
The Delkin CFexpress card reader also comes with both USB Type C to Type C and Type C to Type A cables.
ProGrade Digital CFexpress USB 3.2 Ten 2 card reader
ProGrade Digital’s single-slot CFexpress card reader uses USB 3.2 Gen 2 technology and is designed to support the transfer of a large files, namely 4K video.
The compact CFexpress card reader comes with USB C to USB C and USB C to Type A cables. This is one of the cheapest and most efficient options on our list of the best CFexpress card readers.
- 1.25GB/s transfer speeds
- USB 3.2 technology
Lexar CFexpress Type-B card reader
Lexar’s CFexpress card reader enables read speeds of up to 1050MB/s, allowing the speedy transfer of files from card to your machine.
The reader utilises fast USB 3.1 technology and also comes with a USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable.
The compact size and sleek design of the card reader means that it is easy to transport. It also means that it will easily slip into a pocket in your kit bag ready for use when needed.
Read our Lexar Professional CFexpress Type B USB 3.1 Reader Review
- Read/Write speeds of up to 1050MB/s
- Includes a USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable
Best XQD card readers
XQD is a memory card format that was developed earlier this decade as a successor to CompactFlash cards. XQD cards are designed for professional uses, such as recording video or shooting sequences of images in your camera’s burst mode.
In essence, XQD cards offer the complete package of fast read and write speeds together with high storage capacities. As sensor resolution improves and image and video file sizes grow larger, the need for faster cards with higher storage capacities has become imperative.
If you shoot video, or if you photograph sports, news or other fast-moving events, XQD is the memory card format for you.
Below we round up the best XQD card readers for your camera. Also check out our guide to the best XQD cards for your camera.
Sony QDA-SB1 XQD card reader
Sony’s XQD card reader is durable and fast. There aren’t many XQD card readers on the market, but the QDA-SB1 is one of the few that’s made by a known brand, and one that makes memory cards to boot.
Transfer speeds are fast, even with large 4K video files, and the device is thick and durable. However, it’s also slim enough to slip into a pocket.
The Sony QDA-SB1 is the card reader this author uses and is probably the best XQD card reader you can buy.
- Competitive price
- Ultra-fast transfer speeds
Best multi-card readers
Multi-card readers, as you might deduce from the name, are card readers that can accommodate a range of different memory card formats. Typically, these will support SD memory and CFexpress, and sometimes microSD and XQD formats as well.
Below we’ve rounded up our list of the best multi-card readers based performance and value for money.
Lexar Professional Multi-Card 3-in-1 USB 3.1 Reader
- Supported card formats: SD, MicroSD, CF
- Interface: USB 3.1 Type-C
- Operating Temperature: 0° to 40° C
- Storage Temperature: -10° to 50° C
- Dimension (W x L x H): 80.0 x 89.2 x 21.5mm
- Weight: 99.8 g
The Lexar Professional Multi-Card 3-in-1 USB 3.1 reader is compact, sleek and looks pretty good too. It offers slots for CF, SD and micro SD, which covers the most popular memory card types.
What sets this reader apart, aside from the USB Type-C connection, is the build quality and design. It’s a solid, well thought out piece of kit, and as far as card readers go, it’s one of the best we’ve seen.
At over £30 in the UK the Lexar Professional Multi-Card 3-in-1 USB 3.1 Reader is expensive, but then it has the quality and speed that means this card reader will last you for years.
Read our review of the Lexar Professional Multi-Card 3-in-1 reader.
Read our Lexar Professional Multi-Card 3-in-1 USB 3.1 Reader Review
- Ultra fast transfer speeds
- Sleek looks
- Ergonomic design
- No CFast slot
- CF is an ageing format
Sony MRW-E90 XQD/SD Card Reader
This change in memory card type means that many photographers are having to change their memory card reader. The Sony MRW-E90 XQD/SD card reader is an attractive option as it has two slots, one for XQD cards and the other for SD-type media.
The SD card slot is compatible with UHS-I and UHS-II cards.
Crucially, the card reader also has a USB 3.1 (Gen 1) connection which is compatible with lots of computers yet enables speedy file transfer rates.
It also has a durable plastic construction and both SD and XQD cards slip in smoothly. Most importantly, the supplied cable creates a reliable connection to a computer and images transfer swiftly.
If you’ve recently invested in a camera with an XQD card slot, or XQD and SD cards slots, the Sony MRW-E90 XQD/SD Card Reader could be a good addition to your kit.
Buy it on Amazon UK.
- Compatible with all XQD Series and UHS-II SD memory cards
- Up to 60GB/s transfer speeds