Best CF Cards for Nikon D300

Nikon’s D300 was the first production DSLR to offer support for the higher transfer rates of UDMA-enabled Compact Flash cards.  While these cards — beginning with the San Disk Extreme IV series introduced in 2006 — have offered exceptionally high card-to-computer transfer rates (in an appropriate reader), only now are photographers able to take advantage of the incredible write speeds these cards offer with the D300 (also with the Nikon D3 and the Canon EOS 1Ds Mk III).  The results of my informal tests of more than a dozen cards are in, and the winner is…

See also:
USB 3.0 Readers: CompactFlash Benchmarks
USB 2.0 Readers: CompactFlash Benchmarks
ExpressCard Readers: CompactFlash Benchmarks

Few laboratory measurements equate to real-world performance.  No photographer judges success by how many megabytes per second his CF card will read or write; success is getting the image on the card when you need it.  Consequently, I’ve developed a new testing regimen as well as a new ‘grading scale’ approach for JPG write speeds.  Simply speaking, I measure how many images a card can handle at 8 fps in a single burst before slowing down due to a full buffer.  I conducted measurements at both JPG-Fine and JPG-Normal, which give a camera-measured buffer of 26 and 37 frames, respectively.  Combining multiple measurements with a scale weighted toward JPG-Fine performance, I evaluate the tested cards as follows.  (Also see the RAW Burst Test article if you’re an NEF shooter.)

Latest Update (11/20/2010): Patriot LX Series 600x.

Grade: A (90+)

SanDisk Extreme IV CF 8GBSanDisk Extreme IV (8GB):  108
SanDisk Extreme Pro (16GB): 106
SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition (4GB):  104
SanDisk Extreme IV (2GB): 100
Lexar Pro 600x (8GB): 98
Transcend 600x Extreme Plus (8GB): 98
Hoodman RAW 675x (4GB): 98
PhotoFast 533x Plus (16GB): 96
Delkin 625x (4GB): 96
Lexar Professional 400xLexar 400x (8GB): 96
Ridata 600x (16GB): 95

Purchasing links for top-rated cards (support this site):

SanDisk 16GB Extreme Pro CF90 Compact Flash Memory Card
SanDisk 32GB Extreme Pro CF90 Compact Flash Memory Card
SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro CF90 Compact Flash Memory Card

Lexar 8GB, Ultimate Professional-Level, High-Speed Performance UDMA 600x CompactFlash Memory Card
Lexar 16GB, Ultimate Professional-Level, High-Speed Performance UDMA 600x CompactFlash Memory Card
Lexar 32GB, Ultimate Professional-Level, High-Speed Performance UDMA 600x CompactFlash Memory Card

Transcend 8GB 600X CompactFlash Extreme Plus UDMA Card
Transcend 16GB 600X CompactFlash Extreme Plus UDMA Card
Transcend Compact Flash 600x 32GB Memory Card

Hoodman RAW 4GB, 675x High Speed Compact Flash Memory Card
Hoodman RAW 8GB, 675x High Speed Compact Flash Memory Card
Hoodman RAW 16GB, 675x High Speed Compact Flash Memory Card
Hoodman Raw 32GB, 675x UDMA High Speed Type II Compact Flash Memory Card

PhotoFast 533x Cards on eBay

Delkin 4GB Pro UDMA 6 Combat Flash Memory Card, 625x, 91MB/s
Delkin 8GB Pro UDMA 6 Combat Flash Memory Card, 625x, 91MB/s
Delkin 16GB Pro UDMA 6 Combat Flash Memory Card, 625x, 91MB/s
Delkin 32GB Pro UDMA 6 Combat Flash Memory Card, 625x, 91MB/s

RiTEK Lightning Series 16GB Compact Flash (CF) Flash Card

Lexar 400x 8GB
Lexar 400x 16GB
Lexar 400x 32GB

Grade: B (80-89)

Lexar Pro 300x UDMA (4GB): 89
Transcend 300x UDMA (4GB): 89
533x PlusPhotoFast 533x (32GB): 89
Transcend 400x UDMA (8GB): 88
Kingston 600x Ultimate (16GB): 88
Pretec 667x (8GB): 87
SanDisk Ultra 30 MB/sec (8GB): 87
SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec (4GB): 86
ATP Pro Max II UDMA (4GB): 84
Sony UDMA 300x (4GB): 84
Pretec 433x (8GB): 84
PNY Optima Pro UDMA (2GB): 82
PNY Optima Pro UDMA (4GB): 82
Patriot LX Series 600x (8GB): 82

Grade: C (70-79)Lexar Pro UDMA 300x 4GB CF

Hoodman RAW 300X (2GB): 78
Pretec 333x (2GB): 74
RiData 300x (4GB): 74
Lexar Professional 233x (2GB): 72
A-Data Turbo 350x: 71
SanDisk Extreme (8GB): 70

Grade: D (60-69)

Super*Talent 600x (8GB): 66
Super*Talent 533x (8GB): 65
Kingston 266x Ultimate (2GB): 64
Transcend 266x (2GB): 63
Ridata 266x Supreme (4GB): 62
Apacer Steno IV 300x (4GB): 62
BiWin 16GB 150-300x (16GB): 60
A-DATA Turbo 266x (4GB): 60
Delkin CF PRO UDMA (2GB): 60
Delkin CF Pro UDMA 420x (8GB): 60

Grade: F (below 60)

Hoodman RAW 280x (2GB): 59
A-Data Speedy 533x (16GB): 59
Calumet ProSpec 420x (8GB): 59
EP Memory 266x (4GB): 58
FileMate UDMA (16GB): 57
Calumet ProSpec 305x (2GB): 56
Ridata 233x Lightning (4GB): 55
Patriot 266x (16GB): 54
Pretec 233x (4GB): 52
Wintec Professional (8GB): 52
Transcend 133x (2GB): 51

For comparison, some non-UDMA cards tested included the Transcend 120x (2GB) with a score of 64, the Kingston Elite Pro 133x (4GB) which scored 53, and the A-DATA Speedy (2GB) which limped in with a score of 50.

Buy SanDisk 16GB Ultra CompactFlash at B&H

Buy Lexar Pro UDMA 300x Cards from Adorama: 2 GB, 4GB, 8GB
Buy Lexar Pro 233x Cards from Adorama: 2GB, 4GB, 8GB

Buy Sony UDMA 300x CF cards from Adorama: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB

Transcend 16GB Compact Flash (CF) 400X Flash Card

Transcend 32GB Compact Flash (CF) 400X Flash Card
Transcend 64GB Compact Flash (CF) 400X Flash Card


Transcend 300x 4GB Compact Flash (CF) Flash Card
Transcend 300x 8GB Compact Flash (CF) Flash Card

Transcend 300x 16GB Compact Flash (CF) Flash Card

Latest update 10/16/2010: Kingston 600x Ultimate.
Updated 10/6/2010: Added Lexar Professional 400x.
Updated 9/15/2010: Added Ridata 600x, Patriot 266x, and Wintec Professional.
Update 9/6/2010: Added results for EP Memory 266x and FileMate UDMA.
Updated 6/6/2010: Added results for the SanDisk Ultra (200x).
Updated 4/12/2010: Added results for the Delkin 625x CombatFlash, Hoodman RAW 675x, and Delkin 420x.
Updated 1/16/10: Added results for Lexar Professional 600x, Transcend UDMA 400x, Super*Talent 600x & 533x, and Calumet ProSpec 420x.
Updated 12/26/09: Added results for the RiData 300x and A-Data 533x cards.
Updated 10/28/09: Added ratings for SanDisk Extreme Pro and Extreme.
Updated 8/27/09: Added ratings for PhotoFast 533x Plus and 533x.
Updated 8/3/09: Added rating for Pretec 667xTranscend Extreme Plus 600x.
Updated 7/14/09: Added recommendations to top of All About CF page.
Updated 4/2/09: Tested Pretec’s 433x and Hoodman’s 300x cards.
Updated 2/15/09: Tested Sony’s UDMA 300x card.
Updated 12/20/08: Tested Lexar’s Professional 233x card.
Updated 11/6: Tested A-Data’s Turbo 350x and Calumet’s ProSpec 305x cards.
Updated 9/12/2008: Apacer’s Steno IV 4GB card claims speeds of 300x while SanDisk’s upgraded Extreme III 4GB boasts 30 MB/sec (205x) read/write speeds.
Updated 8/23/2008: BiWin’s $50 16GB UDMA card has claimed speeds of 150x (write) and 300x (read).
Updated 6/18/2008: Ridata introduces their 266x Supreme CF card, which improves their standing to marginal performance.
Updated 5/11/2008: The Transcend 300x UDMA CF card performs well in all phases of testing.  Transcend’s third UDMA card finally delivers!
Updated 4/5/2008: A reader with ties to the CF card industry reminded me of some fundamental truths about non-real-world ‘tests’ that should probably be reiterated here.  (In fact, those of you who were familiar with my earlier discussion of CF cards on the ‘old’ site will remember I specifically avoided the word ‘test’ in talking about these observations.)

44 thoughts on “Best CF Cards for Nikon D300”

  1. I have a nikon d300 and bought a Lexar Professional 400x 16gb Compact Flash UDMA – when I download to my computer I am having problems with it bringing up only 10 photos and then times out.. I know it can possibly be my computer ( being as old as it is), my card reader, (cheap thing) or could it possibly be my compact flash??? I need to get some advice on a good compact flash reader, any would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Have you tried a Lexar 32MB CF in the D300? Mine seems to write okay but when freshly formatted, it only show 15 exposures available (even after I shot 650). Firmware upgrade?

  3. I need to get a new memory card for my D3s … I’ve been using an Extreme III that I had from my D300, but I’m selling the D300 and including he card. What memory card would you recommend for my D3? (I’m an amateur and shoot everything from high school football and wresting, to horse races, to portraits and macro shots). Thanks for any information you can provide!

  4. I don’t recommend Transcend CF-cards, at least to Nikon. I’ve got Nikon D300S. I bought 8 GB 133x and always about 10% pictures were corrupted. I returned it and bought 16 GB 133x card and it has same problem. Maybe this is just bad luck, but I’m gonna return it and never buy Transcend, even it is cheaper than other brands. Exception is Transcend SDHC-cards which are working fine. Other brand CF-cards are working fine without corrupted pictures, so camera is working correctly.

  5. Hello,
    Anyone else having problem with Transcend CompactFlash 400X 16GB UDMA card in Nikon D300S making AVI files turn into ‘unsupported variant format’? Smaller cards (2, 4, 8 GB) do not have this problem.
    Any suggestions?
    Lloyd

  6. Thanks a lot for your help, thanks to you I already ordered two of these Extreme IV cards, it’s the most reliable photo shop in the country, they have some old stock, so I bought these two much cheaper, than one 8 gb extreme card…

    thanks again,
    cheers
    nycko

  7. hello,

    could you please help me with your experience, which one of these two cards are better/faster?
    CF 4GB Sandisk Extreme IV – Professional
    CF 8GB Sandisk Extreme UDMA 400x
    there are some promotions fot these and two from 4GB extreme IV would be cheaper, than the 8 GB extreme…

    thanks,
    nycko

    1. The Extreme IV’s are definitely faster in the D300, as can be seen from the listing. However, the Extreme IV card has been out of production for some time and SanDisk cards are commonly counterfeited – I’d be careful about where you buy these cards.

  8. I been using the Sandisk extreme III and extreme IV 4gb cards. I wanted to get a few 8gb cards now. I was looking at the Sandisk Ultra(30mb/s) and the new extreme(60mb/s)….After reading this it looks like I would be better off getting the Ultra or finding some of the extreme IV’s.

    Which one would be better to get. Camera is a Nikon D300

  9. Any similar testing you know of or have done for the secure digital cards that the D300s also can use simultaneous with the CF card ?

    1. Not specifically for the D300s; http://www.robglabraith.com has SD performance for cameras like the D80 and D90, but as usual his database tends to fall behind the curve quickly. I’m planning a test of cards for the D7000 soon, but that’s a different beast: D300-like performance with an even larger sensor (and thus files) as well as support for the UHS-I standard.

  10. I ran into some card named Filemate and Wintec recently, and wonder if they are worth to buy. Seem the price is quite cheap and specs are matching those big brands. Have you any experiences with those card?

  11. The D300 is a fine camera. As far as the 1st production camera to offer UDMA, that honor should go the the Sony A700.

    I had my A700 in hand on Sep.26, 2007. I don’t think the D300 shipped for another month or so.

  12. I am buying a D300s this Friday and would like to know what CF card you recommend? I shoot motorsports and high school sports. This will be my first experience with a CF card.

    Great site by the way!

    Thanks!

  13. Thank you so much for your reviews and keeping this up to date! I was looking all over the place for info about Transcend’s 400x cards and you’re the only reviewer I found. Did you get a chance to try any of the larger (32gb/64gb) Transcend 400x cards?

    1. It would get pretty expensive testing all the various sizes, although I appreciate there can sometimes be some differences between different card sizes in terms of speed. That’s one reason why I emphasize general groups of cards by speed, rather than an absolute ranking.

  14. If Delkin makes the Calumet cards – which I strongly suspect – then the 420x cards are even bigger dogs than their old 305x. Very little difference in speed, and Crap List performance overall. Full report coming next week as I test a bunch of new cards.

  15. Hey thanks for the great review of the CF cards. Have you had a chance to review the Delkin 420x CF cards yet? (capacities up to as 64GB). I wonder how they compare to the Photofast cards. thanks.

  16. Now i got the new Transcend 400x 16GB ,it’s a bit slower than Extreme 600x but for same price i got an extra 8GB.I tried Sandisk Extreme IV 8GB on my D300 and i don’t see any magor diffrences between them.Happy 2010 guys!!!

  17. Is the Sandisk Extreme slower than Extreme III on D300 too? I’ve noticed that it’s slower than III on D300s, but I haven’t found any info on the Extreme speed on the D300. This really bugs me as I’m in the market for a new 16GB card and can’t decide between IV and Extreme!

  18. The Extreme is disappointing; the 8GB I’ve tested is not even as fast as the Extreme III 30 MB/sec edition. I have an Extreme Pro on its way along with a D300s, and I’m more optimistic about its prospects. Full results to come.

  19. Sandisk announced two new ranges in their CF line-up Extreme (400x) & Extreme Pro (600x). Have you got any observations on these cards on D300? thanks

  20. I got the Trancend Extreme plus 8GB 600x is two times fast as mine PQI 8GB 233x writes 18 RAW images for less than 18 seconds ,the PQI needs around 40 seconds .I buy another one it’s great for 120 USD.

  21. Have you tested these cards with RAW? This is how I shoot, which I know does slow things down a bit … I currently use SD extreme III cards, but I find that for fast burst wildlife photography they are a little slow. I am considering the Extreme IV cards … I have never used Lexar.

  22. Couldn’t agree more with you on the real world application; but properly done tests can still be useful. I experimented with a variety of test techniques before I came up with the methodology I use, which mirrors my real world experience. The SanDisk Extreme IV/Ducati cards have never missed a frame at 8 fps; the Lexar and PNY Cards miss frames every now and then. You’ll never see me using a card READER to test WRITE speeds as some sites do, much less using some technical gizmo that requires a PhD.

  23. Personally, I only use Lexar CF cards. I have tried Kingston, SanDisk, Transcend and others. The results always seem to be best using the Lexar CF cards. I have the inferior 2GB, 4GB and 8GB cards in reserve, they serve as backup for travel situations and remote locations where frequent [iPod, Laptop] download may not always be possible. People always claim the SanDisk Extreme IV’s perform best. In a test, perhaps. But, unfortunately, I live in the real world, shooting with my real camera and memory. Tests mean very little. My experience means more. Now with “phony” cards saturating the market, it’s best to “go with what you know”. So, buy a card you know works for you, [has a warranty] get it from someone known to manufacture the cards [or a reputable dealer of same], pay a little more, be confident, satisfied and go shoot some great photos. This comes from price being the “do all”, and “be all” of the sale. Simple rule of thumb is; Anytime there is a chance to beat people out of their FRN’s, Euros, Yen, Etc. Scammers will never miss that opportunity, they always find a way. Caveat Emptor or, let the buyer beware!

    peace :)

  24. I’m not 100% sure it was genuine but it came with all the usual fancy packaging sandisk includes. I bought it off amazon (3rd party) The return was accepted without any issue. It was almost half the price it should have been. No more discounts for me I guess. I’ll give them a try again on account of your tests.

  25. I just got a sandisk extreme IV and tested it in the D300 and got terrible results. In fact my Lexar 80x was twice as fast. The Lexar 300X UDMA was several times faster.

    my test was as follows: raw 14 bit + fine jpeg quality preference. The sandisk took over 4 seconds per frame to shoot once the buffer was full. The lexar 300 did roughly 1 fps, the 80x doing about .4 fps Maybe there is something wrong with it. I’m sending it back

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