Choosing a MicroSD card for your Mavic 3 can seem like a daunting task when faced with the seemingly endless variety of choices available today. With a little background knowledge, however, we can help you pick the right card for your needs.
To be honest, the quick answer is to just trust DJI and buy the MicroSD card they attempt to sell you when purchasing a Mavic 3.
The best SD Card for the Mavic 3 is the SanDisk Extreme 128GB, which is the one DJI recommends, although other brands with similar specifications could do the job equally well.
If you were the trusting type, however, you wouldn’t be researching which card to buy, so let’s get into why I think DJI made that choice.
It basically breaks down into a decision based on space and speed.
SD card space
The purpose of a MicroSD card in the Mavic 3 is to provide temporary storage for your images and video and a means to transfer them to whatever device you will use for editing, sharing, and long-term storage.
Your card just needs enough space to handle the footage you gather between transfers. If you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to get home and see what you got, so having a huge MicroSD card isn’t necessary, but a small one wouldn’t be sufficient.
|Size (GB)||Raw Photos|
MicroSD cards range in size from 2GB all the way up to 1TB. A quick check of my files shows that each raw image from the Mavic 3 is typically around 43.5 MB.
This means a 2GB MicroSD card could hold around 50 images and a 1TB card could hold over twenty-five thousand.
Keep in mind that if you are shooting auto exposure bracketing, especially useful in high contrast situations like sunrise and sunset, each press of the shutter produces 5 images.
This means that the 800 images on a 32GB card are down to 160.
Now, most of the time, I’m shooting much less than 160 images per shoot, but I have on occasion shot over 300 images, meaning I would be pushing the limits with a 64GB card. Not unrealistic if you are using all 3 batteries in the fly-more combo.
Video is a little more complicated due to the wide range of formats offered by the Mavic 3, but to simplify things, we will go with the most memory-intensive option, 5.1K/50fps, which produces about a GB of video per minute of recording.
If you’re one of those pilots that presses record when you take off and doesn’t stop until you land, a 32GB card will be maxed out by a single battery.
I used 64 GB cards for the 3 years of flying the Mavic 2 Pro and only a few times came close to filling that space. With the more intensive memory usage of the Mavic 3, it was a no-brainer for me to upgrade to 128 GB.
SD card speed
Video also brings card speed into the equation. Speed is also the more difficult characteristic of a card to discern, as it requires the translation of some pretty obscure symbols.
Cards are characterized based both on write speeds – how quickly data can be added to the card, and read speeds – how quickly data can be taken off the card.
The read speed mostly just determines how long you have to twiddle your thumbs while waiting for your stuff to finish uploading to your computer.
The write speed, however, is directly related to the quality of footage you can obtain. If your card can’t write as fast as the Mavic 3 needs for the video setting you are on, it just gives up and quits on some of the frames creating a stuttering effect known as dropped frames.
The same sort of thing can happen when streaming footage over a less than adequate internet speed.
To complicate things, there are actually 3 different systems for denoting a card’s minimum write speed, which all refer to the same thing, and often more than one is marked on the same card.
There is the “number in a C” or the Speed Class, the “number in a cup” or UHS Speed Class (which, I kid you not, means ultra high speed speed class, and needs to be multiplied by 10!), and the “V number” or Video Speed Class.
So, a card that writes at 10MB/s would be:
Adding to the confusion, the Mavic 3’s max write speed of 200mbps, megabits per second, is not the same unit the cards use, which is MB/s or MegaBytes per second.
The conversion is easy enough, just divide the 200mbps by 8 to get the 25MB/s required. This means a UHS Speed Class of 3 or Video Speed Class of 30 would be required.
In a last bit of confusion, companies offer different models with the same speed designation like the SanDisk Extreme and Extreme Pro. The Pro model offers faster maximum write speeds, but the Mavic 3 isn’t even approaching either card’s minimum so there doesn’t seem much point to upgrading.
SD card cost
As the storage size goes up, the cost per GB goes down. But only to a point, with 256 GB seemingly the most cost-effective.
There are obviously some price differences across brands, but a quick check across several ranking sites confirmed my suspicions – there is SanDisk, sometimes Lexar, and there is everyone else.
You spent top dollar on your flying camera. Now is not the time to try and save a few bucks.
Speaking of shelling out the extra money, here is where I recommend that you buy two. I promise I don’t work for SanDisk or the SD card lobby. If I did, I would have stream-lined that whole speed classification thing.
But seriously, if you’ve ever been on a shoot and had a memory card fail (or just forgot one), you know the feelings of anger, embarrassment, and self-loathing that result.
I find the second card buys not only peace of mind, but also leads to a nicely streamlined file management system.
Lexar Professional 128GB microSDXC UHS-I Card w/SD Adapter Silver Series, Up to 160MB/s Read, for Action Cameras, Drones, High-End Smartphones and Tablets (LMS1066128G-BNANU).
Samsung EVO 128GB Select Micro SD-Memory-Card and Adapter, 128GB microSDXC 130MB/s Full HD & 4K UHD, UHS-I, U3, A2, V30, Expanded Storage for Android Smartphones, Tablets, Nintendo-Switch (MB-ME128KA/AM).
At all times I have an “in drone” card and an “in reader” card. Each time I go out for a shoot, I begin by formatting the “in drone” card. I then fly as many batteries as needed for the event taking both photos and videos as needed.
When I get back to my computer, the card is removed from the drone and replaced by the “in reader” card.
I then plug in the reader to transfer my files and it becomes my new “in reader” card.
That way, by the time I use the card again, I’ve already edited a second batch of photos on the other card so there is a copy of all the images now living on my long-term storage.
I try to keep an eye on Cyber Monday sales and the like for deals on two packs of SD cards to make somewhat annual replacements.
I keep the old cards in a small storage pack in my drone case for the eventuality of a double failure.
Card readers and long-term storage
In case you are wondering, there is a difference in the performance of different card readers, which also correlates to a difference in price. The increase in speed here is mainly just a factor of convenience, so spend the money if you don’t have the patience.
The key is to find a newer reader that can handle the UHS read speeds. I use Anker’s 2-in-1 USB-C device and haven’t ever had an issue.
One standard and one microSD slot let you easily sync, swap, and share files. Use with your smartphone, wherever you are. USB-C 2-in-1 Card Reader, our worry-free 18-month warranty.
When it comes to long-term storage, your computer certainly won’t be able to handle more than a few file dumps to the hard drive as most computers have less than a TB of storage space.
The obvious solution is external hard drives. My recommendation specifically is Solid State Drives or SSDs as they are faster, smaller, and silent when compared with their spinning counterparts.
And not to sound like a fan-boy, but the SanDisk Extreme SSD is a great unit that survives being tossed around in my backpack on all kinds of adventures.
From SanDisk, the brand professional drone pilots worldwide trust to handle their best shots and footage. Back up drone content quickly and easily thanks to compatibility with a range of USB Type-C devices. Help keep private content private with the included password protection featuring 256‐bit AES hardware encryption (2).
I fill them up with both my raw footage and images, as well as my finalized exports. I even edit files in Lightroom and Premier Pro while they are on the SSD.
When it gets close to full, I throw another one in my amazon cart. Seems a little wasteful at the time, but it always pays for itself when someone calls looking for a particular image or clip and I can quickly retrieve the original.
Though at this point it is beginning to look like I might have a problem. These 6 drives represent all my files since 2017. I started with 500GB, but eventually transitioned to the 1TB. They also have 2TB available.
Finally, if you are going to go through all the trouble of taking, editing, and storing these massive files, you are going to want some protection.
Backing up everything to cloud-based storage is the easiest solution, but I find it’s just too much with the cost of storage, so I only back up those RAW images that I select for export (both the .dng and the exported .jpeg) along with any video clips that are worth editing.
I try to remember to start a backup in the evening after a shoot so that it’s done in the morning.
Where is the SD card slot on the Mavic 3?
It is found just above the battery hidden by a small protective cover.
How do you remove the SD card from the Mavic 3?
It works the same as most other MicroSD card slots in that you push in on the card and it pops out slightly. Unfortunately, it’s fairly difficult to grab unless you have extra-long fingernails or more easily, remove the battery first.