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 (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 400x (8GB): 96
Ridata 600x (16GB): 95
Purchasing links for top-rated cards (support this site):
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
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
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
Grade: B (80-89)
Lexar Pro 300x UDMA (4GB): 89
Transcend 300x UDMA (4GB): 89
PhotoFast 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)
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.
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 667x, Transcend 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.)