Nikon’s new “flagship” DX camera, the D7100, boasts a lot of features. Unfortunately, a sizeable buffer is not one of them, and effective RAW shooting speed can suffer greatly if you’re not using a top-of-the-line SDHC card. My RAW burst test shows just what an impact card speed has on high-speed shooting of RAW images.
Note: Effective 12/4/2013, tests have been reformulated. Updated 6/1/2014.
For the D7100 test, I applied “real world” settings that I would typically use shooting sports, including buffer-eating Active D-Lighting. I used the 1.3x crop mode and maximum shooting rate of 7 fps. RAW settings were lossless compressed, 12-bit. 3 test bursts of 10 frames (all cards re-tested with 3 15-frame bursts beginning 12/4/2013) were shot and timed under controlled conditions, with exposure of 1/1000 @ f2 and ISO 400 utilizing the Sigma 50/f1.4G HSM lens. I tested a bevy of UHS-I speed-rated cards, and clear winners emerged.
See below for detailed test results. For another interesting comparison, see The Wirecutter.
Looking for the SanDisk Extreme Pro 280 MB/s UHS-II card?
SanDisk Extreme Pro 95 MB/s (16GB card tested) – SanDisk’s card includes a lifetime warranty, and includes a one-year subscription to RescuePro data recovery software (retail version only).
Transcend Ultimate 95/85 MB/s (32MB card tested) – Transcend’s newest high-end card makes the dean’s list, and includes a download of RecoverRx software (which is already freeware, but Transcend conveniently provides a link).
San Disk Extreme Plus 80 MB/s (16MB card tested) – Newly rebranded with a gold label, this card matches the performance of the “Extreme 80 MB/s” card, and includes a deluxe version of RescuePRO file recovery software.
PNY Elite Performance 90 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Very speedy card, very inexpensive. Highly recommended.
Lexar Professional 600x (16GB card tested) – includes a lifetime warranty, and a license for Image Rescue 4 recovery software.
SanDisk Extreme 80 MB/s (16GB card tested) – This card’s read speeds are just a tad slower than its 95 MB/s cousin. Just be sure you’re really getting the 80 MB/s version and not the older 60 MB/s or 45 MB/s cards.
Delkin Elite 633x (16GB card tested) – This card achieved a throughput of 54 MB/sec in the test, in a statistical dead heat with the other three cards in this group. It is the priciest of the honor roll, includes a lifetime warranty, but no recovery software.
Kingston 90/80 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Kingston’s fastest card yet, with an unassuming lack of a name. U3 rated.
Toshiba Exceria Type I (8GB card tested) – Toshiba’s latest entry, not widely available in the US, claims read/write speeds of 95/90 MB/s, and performs reasonably well, though just slightly shy of the top performing group.
Kingston Ultimate 90/45 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Gold label card with close to rated write speed.
Panasonic 90/45 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Gold label card with close to rated write speed (sounds familiar). U3 rated.
PNY Elite Performance 60 MB/s (16GB card tested) - This card provides a great balance between cost and performance.
SanDisk Extreme 45 MB/s (16MB card tested) – The third-string entry is no slouch at all, turning in decent performance of 40 MB/sec. It also comes with the Deluxe version of Rescue Pro, a nice bonus.
Transcend 600x (16GB card tested) – Transcend’s best offering at the moment, with reasonable performance.
The following cards showed less than desirable performance, though they’re not the worst. I would not recommend using them if RAW shooting speed is a concern.
Toshiba Exceria Type II (16GB card tested) – Another from Toshiba’s new Exceria line is rated with a 60 MB/s write speed, and trails its 90 MB/s brand mate by a full letter grade.
Kingston ultimate 95 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Fell a little short of its claimed 45 MB/sec write speed, but may work for less demanding applications, especially if the read speed holds true to close to the 95 MB/sec claim.
Patriot EP Pro (32GB card tested) – One of a trio of cards that finished at 34 MB/sec, there are better choices.
A-Data 95 MB/s (64GB card tested) – Claiming a 45 MB/sec write speed, this card wasn’t quite the overstatement I’ve come to expect from A-Data. Middling performance of 33 MB/sec with this card.
PNY Pro Elite (16GB card tested) – PNY has never reclaimed its early good standing in my D300 CompactFlash card tests (RAW & JPG), though like the Kingston, their claimed speed of 35 MB/sec is close to their test result of 34 MB/sec.
Kingston UltimateXX 233x (8GB card tested) – While not a top performer, at 34 MB/sec – about “224x” speed – the Kingston comes the closest to its rated speed.
Pretec 567x (16GB card tested) – Not even close to 567x, this is another Pretec card misleadingly labeled as “Class 16″ (there is no such thing), but does clock a respectable 31 MB/sec. Does come with recovery software, which I’ve not tried.
Transcend Ultimate 95/60 MB/s (64GB card tested) – Medicore performance from the slower of Transcend’s new “Ultimate” cards marketed for 4K video recording.
Kingston Ultimate 60 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Came out just about the same as its “UltimateXX” predecessor.
G.Skill (64GB card tested) – More known for computer RAM, G.Skill’s SDXC card is pretty basic.
Samsung Pro (16GB card tested) – Samsung’s best…isn’t, at just 30 MB/sec.
Fuji Elite Performance 85 MB/s (16 GB card tested) – Fuji doesn’t specify whether the 85 MB/sec rating is a read or write speed, and it’s obvious why.
Wintec Professional PLUS (32GB card tested) – “PLUS” as in “D+.”
Polaroid 35 MB/s (32GB card tested) – Not really shaking like a Polaroid picture.
Komputer Bay 600x (64GB card tested) – Achieved closer to 200x write speeds in the test.
Patriot EP (16GB card tested) – A tad slower than its “pro” cousin at 27 MB/sec.
Delkin 600X (8GB card tested) – Pretty big difference between “633″ and “600″ in Delkin’s testing labs, though they do only claim 30 MB/s for this card’s read speed.
Lexar Professional 400x (16GB card tested) – This was a clunker in the D7000 RAW Burst Test, so no surprise to see it pulling just 22 MB/sec here.
Panasonic UHS-I (8GB card tested) – Panasonic’s “black” card will leave you in a black mood at 20 MB/sec.
Wintec Elite 95 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Oddly, this card claims 95/50 MB/sec read/write speeds but performs worse than the “Professional Plus” card above, which claims only 60/40 MB/sec speeds. Not the first time I’ve seen this kind of discrepancy.
Panasonic 25/90 MB/s (8GB card tested) – Panasonic’s “gold” card lags at 19 MB/sec. There is a 45/90 MB/sec card on Panasonic’s web site, but it can’t be found for sale anywhere at the moment.
Hoodman 60 MB/s (8GB card tested) – Hoodman has always emphasized the reliability of their cards over speed. At least they’re honest.
Sony 94 MB/s (8GB card tested) – Sony should stick to their, um, Memory Sticks. This bugger limped in at just 18 MB/sec.
Transcend 45 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Trascend puts out a real dog here at just 12 MB/sec.
Sony 40 MB/s (16GB card tested) – This is, in fact, significantly slower than the “94 MB/sec” version, true to its labeling.
Verbatim 600x (16GB card tested) – Cough. 10 MB/sec? Barely meets its Class 10 rating.
Kingston 30 MB/s (16GB card tested) – Just in case anyone is considering this card, note that Kingston only claims 30 MB/sec READ speeds, and doesn’t specify a write speed. This one meets its Class 10 (10 MB/sec) rating and nothing more.
Samsung Ultra 30 MB/s (16GB card tested) – SanDisk’s Ultra cards usually turn in decent performance, but not this time. This particular card was sold through Best Buy with the “Picstor” sub-brand.
As always, your mileage may vary and conditions will affect burst depth, as well as settings such as RAW compression and bit-depth settings settings, noise reduction, Auto Distortion Control, or ISO settings of H0.3 or higher. But even with faster cards, Nikon really seems to have crippled the D7100 as a high-speed camera for RAW shooters – and buffer depth is similarly troublesome when shooting uncropped DX-mode images at 24MP.