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Best SD Cards for DJI Air 3 – Droneblog


The Air 3 has been hailed by many as “the perfect drone”.

Although having a smaller sensor than the 1-inch sensor found in the Air 2S, the Air 3 takes excellent low-light 12 MP and 48 MP photos from both the wide-angle 24mm lens and the medium tele 70mm lens.

One of the first things any Air 3 owner will want to purchase to capture great images and video footage is SD cards, not only for the Air 3 but also for the DJI RC 2.

We’ll be talking about the best SD cards for the Air 3, how to insert and eject the Air 3 and DJI RC 2 SD cards, as well as format the SD cards in both the Air 3 and DJI RC 2.

The best SD cards for the Air 3 and DJI RC 2 are the SanDisk Extreme and Extreme PRO lines, Samsung’s EVO line, Kingston Canvas Go!, and the Lexar 1066x line, all of which are recommended by DJI.

Additionally, there are other highly-rated cards with similar read/write speeds that will work well in the Air 3.

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DJI’s Recommended List

Oftentimes, we might think of a manufacturer’s recommendations list to be something put in place because the manufacturer of said item benefits in some way.

While that might be the case in some instances (such as a partnership between two companies), going by DJI’s recommendation list for products not produced by DJI for their line of drones is beneficial to the buyer.

This is because, having planned, engineered, built, and tested its products, DJI is in a position to know what 3rd party products work best for its line of equipment and what 3rd party products will help DJI’s products operate to their full capacity, thus benefitting the buyer.

The same goes for SD cards.

DJI would not recommend cards that would be problematic or diminish the final output of the images and videos produced with its drones.

That would be bad for business.

» MORE: How to Fix My Drone Memory Card Problem? (Solved!)

What to Look for in an SD Card

Externally, most SD cards look similar. To the uninformed, they are identical small pieces of plastic with a label and a tiny gold-colored bar on them.

Like with any product, all SD cards are not made equal, nor do they all perform the same or at a high level.

When looking to purchase an SD card, you’ll want to take into account the SD card’s maximum space, read/write speeds, as well as price, if on a budget.

» MORE: Best DJI Mini 3 SD Cards

Space/Size

SD cards are not generally used as a permanent home for data.

The main purpose of an SD card is to temporarily house the images and videos taken from a shoot at any particular time.

After which the images and videos are transferred to a computer or device for editing and sharing.

When considering how much space will be needed for an SD card, consider how you would use the card.

Are you someone that flies a lot, taking tons of pictures and 4k video, only to leave the footage on an SD card for an indeterminate amount of time?

Or, do you shoot a lot of footage and regularly transfer the media to a computer for eventual editing?

If you leave media on the SD card for a while, then a higher-capacity card (256GB+ might be the answer).

Conversely, if you dump content regularly to an outside solution (i.e., computer or portable drive), having lower capacity, cost-effective cards might be the answer (128GB).

Below is a comparison chart of the most used and popular sizes of SD cards, that can help in determining the right-sized card for your Air 3.

The chart is based on the Air 3’s maximum 48 MP photo option at 98MB/photo, rounded up to an even 100MB, and the 12 MP photo option at 25MB/Photo.

» MORE: Best SD Cards for DJI Mavic Air 2

Photo Storage Examples

Card Size (GB) 48MP 100MB Photo 12MP 25MB Photo
32 320 1280
64 640 2048
128 1280 5120
256 2560 10240
512 5120 20480
1024 (1TB) 10240 40960

Below is a comparison chart of how much storage is used in shooting various lengths of 4k 60fps video footage.

Video Storage Examples

Video length Size at 4K/60 FPS – 150 Mbps
60 seconds 1.09 GB
5 minutes 5.45 GB
10 minutes 10.9 GB
30 minutes 32.7 GB
1 hour 65.4 GB
5 hours 327 GB
8 hours 523.2 GB

Read/Write Speed

Now that we have an idea of how much space is needed for Air 3 photos and videos (at their most common usage sizes), it’s good to go over how the speed of an SD card comes into play.

» MORE: DJI QuickTransfer Not Working? (Here’s What to Do)

U1 & U3

On the front of SD cards, there will be a bucket with U1 and U3, these are the UHS speed class ratings.

UHS Speed Class 1 supports 10MB/write speed as a minimum, with UHS Speed Class 3 having a minimum of at least 30 MB/write speed.

These numbers are significant as a U3 card is generally required when shooting 4k videos.

Even if you are not planning on filming 4k+ video, having U3 cards, with a speed advantage over U1 cards, is beneficial at times for taking photographs.

The speed benefit for taking pictures on the Air 3 comes into play when doing 3-5 frame AEB (auto exposure bracketing) and burst shooting, as the images in these modes write very quickly to the card, without the pauses of a slower U1 card.

This all means that you’ll want a UHS-I U3 card for your Air 3.

Without going into all of the detailed and technical information, you’ll basically want to purchase the fastest, best-quality card that fits your budget.

» MORE: How to Edit Drone Photos for Social Media Using Lightroom (Guide)

Pricing

With as many different types, sizes, and speeds of SD cards that are available, there are also many different pricing options.

Some of the varying pricing options can be seen within a single SD card manufacturer.

As mentioned, DJI recommends cards by SanDisc, Samsung, Kingston, and Lexor.

All of these manufacturers have different lines of their cards (regular, pro, extreme, etc), at different prices.

When it comes to SD cards, the higher the storage capacity, the less expensive SD cards get, per GB.

To put this into perspective, a SanDisk Extreme U3 128gb card was selling for $14.99, and the 256 GB version of that card was selling for $22.99.

The 256 GB version of the card was cheaper per GB than the 128 GB, as it was not selling for $29.98.

As you look for SD cards, you will oftentimes find this the case amongst many of the SD card manufacturers, and not just SanDisk.

Likewise, oftentimes, you can find deals where there are 2-packs of SD cards, and combined they are priced less per card than if you purchased both cards separately.

» MORE: How to Transfer Videos from DJI Fly App to Computer (Step-by-Step Guide)

DJI Recommended Cards

Below is a listing of DJI’s SD Card recommendations, as well as useful manufacturer’s product information.

» MORE: SD Cards for DJI Drones (What You Need to Know)

SanDisk Extreme/Pro Lines

The SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro lines are made for the conditions we might find our drones in. They are reportedly Temperature proof, Waterproof, and Shockproof.

The Extreme series has read speeds up to 160MB and write speeds up to 60MB, perfect for 4k video recording and burst shooting on the Air 3.

These features apply to the 128 & 256 GB versions as well.

As regular users of SanDisk, we highly recommend these lines of cards.

Our Pick


SanDisk Extreme 256GB V30 A2 microSDXC

  • Up to 130MB/s write speeds for fast shooting
  • 4K and 5K UHD-ready with UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) and Video Speed Class 30 (V30)
  • Rated A2 for faster loading and in-app performance


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08/23/2023 08:31 am GMT

Recommended


SanDisk 256GB Extreme PRO microSD

  • Write Speeds of up to 140MB/s: Capture fast-action photos or shoot 4K UHD video with write speeds of up to 140MB/s.
  • Load Apps Faster with A2
  • This card is shockproof, temperature-proof, waterproof, and X-ray-proof


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08/23/2023 11:42 am GMT

» MORE: Best Camera Drones Under $2,000

Lexar 1066x

The 1066x line is specifically designed for action cameras, drones, and other high-end end electronics.

For the budget conscience, the Lexar 1066x has SD cards that come in a few dollars less than SanDisk currently.


Lexar Professional 1066x 256GB microSDXC UHS-I Card

  • Professional-level performance for action cameras, drones, or Android smartphones
  • Leverages UHS-I technology to deliver read speeds up to 160MB/s (1066x)
  • Designed for durability in harsh conditions


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08/22/2023 06:27 pm GMT

Samsung Evo Select/Plus Lines

In addition to being waterproof, shockproof, temperature proof, and X-ray proof, the EVO Select and the Evo Plus series are also magnetic proof.

The Evo line has read speeds up to 100MB and write speeds up to 60MB. Additionally, as of this article writing, specific Evo SD cards on currently on sale.


Samsung EVO Select 256GB V30 A2 microSDXC

  • Superfast U3, class 10 rated transfer speeds of up to 130MB/s¹,²and UHS-I Interface
  • Available in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB
  • Complete with water⁴, temperature⁵, X-ray⁶, ⁷magnet, drop⁸, and wears⁹ out protection; Backed by a 10-year limited warranty


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08/23/2023 09:46 am GMT

Kingston Canvas Go Line

Made for action cameras and drones, the Kingston series has transfer speeds up to 170 MB and supports the A2 App Performance Class.

This series of cards is water, x-ray, temperature, shock, and vibration proof.

Inserting/Ejecting SD Cards

Following the design queues from the Mavic 3 and Mini 3 lines, the SD card slot for the Air 3 is no longer trapped behind the right leg or arm of the drone, like was the case on the Air 2S, but has since been relocated to the rear of the Air 3, beneath the battery.

This is a much-needed and appreciated design update, as many of us Air 2S owners were slightly annoyed at the previous placement. Now, SD cards can be quickly removed.

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 Pro SD Cards: How to Insert, Eject, and Format (Video)

Air 3

To insert an SD card into the Air 3:

STEP 1: Pull the rear port cover down and to the right (this houses the USB-C and SD card slots).

STEP 2: With the Air 3 powered down, insert the SD card, with the pins facing upward, until the card clicks into place.

STEP 3: Close the rear port cover.

DJI RC 2

As with the Mini 3 lines DJI RC, the Air 3’s DJI RC 2 also has an SD card slot. Currently, the SD card on the DJI RC 2 is used for storing screenshots and screen recording clips.

If you have used the original DJI RC, you might have been irritated with the fold-down cover that was over the SD card and auxiliary USB-C port.

Thankfully, that has been removed from the DJI RC 2, and there is only an open port.

To insert an SD card into the DJI RC 2, while the DJI RC 2 is off, simply push the SD card into the SD card slot (the left slot), until it clicks.

Note: The SD card slots on the Air 3 and DJI RC 2 are spring-loaded. If you have larger fingers or your fingers slip when inserting the SD card it could cause the card to launch out of the slot, possibly getting lost. It is suggested to use a fingernail to insert the cards, if possible.

» MORE: Is the DJI RC Controller Worth it?

Formatting SD Cards and Internal Storage

The process for formatting SD cards and the internal storage that is in the Air 3 is done within the DJI Fly app, whether you have a DJI RC 2 or the RC-N2 remote controller.

Air 3

To format the SD card or internal storage, after powering on both the Air 3 and your current RC (DJI RC 2 or RC-N2) connected to a smart device:

STEP 1: While in the DJI Fly app, go into your settings and locate the CAMERA tab.

STEP 2: Under storage, press format. You will be presented with an option to format either the SD card or Internal Storage. Choose SD Card and press Format.

To format the internal storage of the Air 3, during Step 2 simply select Internal Storage at the Select location to format screen.

» MORE: How to Format SD Cards in DJI Drones (Quick Steps with Photos)

DJI RC 2

Unlike the SD cards in the Air 3 (removable and internal storage), the Air 3 does not need to be on to format the SD card and internal storage of the DJI RC 2.

To format the DJI RC 2’s SD card and/or internal storage:

STEP 1: Pull down the DJI RC 2’s notification screen by double-swiping it down.

STEP 2: Press the settings/options gear in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

STEP 3: Tap STORAGE

STEP 4: On the bottom of the screen, under Portable Storage, you will see your SD card. Mine is labeled DJIRC.

Tap on your SD card’s name. You’ll see your SD cards used space.

STEP 5: Press Format. You’ll then be asked to format the SD card. If you choose to format at this time, press FORMAT SD CARD or otherwise choose CANCEL

The same steps apply to formatting the internal storage of the DJI RC 2. However, instead of choosing the DJI RC 2 Portable Storage, you would select Device Storage and proceed with formatting the internal storage.

» MORE: DJI Air 3 vs. Air 2S (Here’s My Choice)