Can I Use A DSLR Camera Without An SD Card?

It has happened quite a few times where I had to take photos, but the SD card inside my DSLR camera was faulty or I simply neglected to pack an SD card in my camera bag.

Life happens.

So, if you find yourself in this type of situation, can you use your DSLR camera without an SD card? And if so, how?

Luckily, all is not lost when you find yourself without an SD card.

Can I Use A DSLR Camera Without An SD Card?

Yes, you can use a DSLR camera without an SD card, however, in most cases, you won’t be able to save any photos that you take and you will only be able to browse the camera’s settings menu. With that said, certain DSLR cameras support tethered shooting which allows you to take photos and save them directly to a computer connected to the camera via a cable. This effectively allows you to take photos without an SD card.

Some newer DSLR camera models even allow you to connect your phone to the camera via a Wi-Fi connection and use your phone’s internal storage to save the photos.

How To Use A DSLR Camera Without An SD Card

Now that we’ve established that you can use your DSLR camera without an SD card, let’s have a look at exactly how you can achieve this.

I briefly talked about it earlier, but tethered shooting involves connecting your computer to your camera via a cable and then saving your photos directly to your computer’s storage. With tethered shooting, you effectively eliminate the need for an SD card because all the photos are being transferred directly to your computer.

But why would you use tethered shooting?

Well, if you’re like me and you often forget to take an SD card with you, then tethered shooting is your only option. Provided that you have your computer with you.

Even if you do have an SD card with you, tethered shooting does have a few benefits. Let’s have a look at them.

1.) View your photos on a larger screen

This is my favorite thing about tethered shooting. Because you’re saving the photos to your computer, you can preview them on a larger screen and this makes it easier to get an accurate presentation of the end result.

2.) Save photos on external storage

Apart from saving your photos on your computer, you also have the option to save them to an external hard drive. External hard drives have a generous amount of storage space, and this means that you can take many more photos than you normally would with an SD card.

3.) Adjust camera settings and lighting on the fly

Having the ability to view your photos on a larger screen will allow you to spot any issues with your photos easier, and this will enable you to adjust the camera settings or lighting to get the perfect shot.

So, what do you need for tethered shooting?

Well, it’s not that complicated really. You just need the following:

1.) A camera that supports tethered shooting or instant image transfer

To be honest, most DSLR cameras support tethered shooting so there’s a good chance that your camera will as well. It is best to check with your camera manufacturer if this functionality is supported on your camera.

2.) Software for your computer that can receive and save the photos from your camera

You would need software on your computer that can receive the photos from your camera. Most manufactures will bundle this software with the camera when you buy it, but in most cases, it will also be downloadable from the manufacturer’s website.

3.) A cable that connects your camera with your computer

If you’re lucky, your camera might come bundled with a USB cable that can connect your camera with your laptop. If not, check with your local photography store and ask for a USB cable that can tether your specific camera model with your computer.

My Preferred SD Card

If you’re in the market for an SD card, but you’re not sure which one to choose from the plethora of SD cards out there, then I might be able to help you. I have personally been using the SanDisk Extreme Pro 32GB SD Card. It has read speeds of up to 95MB/s and write speeds of up to 90MB/s, so you can safely rely on this SD card to perform well in any situation. It is also shockproof, temperature-proof, and waterproof, so you can rest assured that your photos will be stored in even the most demanding conditions.

Click here to check it out for yourself.

Do DSLR Cameras Have Internal Memory?

Yes, DSLR cameras have internal memory, however, it can’t be used to store photos. Internal memory serves as a buffer between the DSLR camera and the SD card, and photos are temporarily stored in the internal memory before being saved to the SD card.


In certain cases, you can only browse your DSLR camera’s settings menu when there is no SD card inserted into the camera. Your camera does have internal memory, but it can’t be used to store photos.

But, certain DSLR cameras will allow you to transfer photos directly from the camera to your computer. This is known as tethered shooting.

Tethered shooting has many benefits, but the biggest benefit is having the ability to view the photos that you have taken on a bigger screen. It also gives you the ability to store the photos on your computer or on an external hard drive.