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Compact Flash Speed Comparision Test

April 9th 2010

June 20th 2012 Added 2 more cards

Having recently bought a Canon 7D camera and needing to buy some Compact Flash cards I scoured the web for information on which card would be best for this fast camera.

I found the following tests:

Lexar rejoins speed race with Pro 600X CompactFlash

High Performance CompactFlash Benchmarks on Canon 1D Mark IV

I then decided to cary out my own tests.

Background and explanation

All DSLRs including the Canon 7D take photogaphs and process the pixel data in an internal buffer.

The buffers uses fast memory and can hold a number of frames.

After processing the data needs to be stored on a slower flash card.

Hence in the case of the 7D it can manage to take a burst of about a dozen frames (raw + jpeg) at 8 frames per second then has to wait to empty some buffer space before taking another frame.

Or to look at it another way, if you take 12 frames of one event, you may have to wait a minute before you can take the next burst of 12 frames.

This is why most photgraphy forums recommend that you buy the fastest most expensive flash cards available.















Test method jpeg:

  • Camera on tripod
  • Lens Canon 100mm F2.8L IS Macro.
  • f stop f3.5
  • Shutter 1/200s
  • ISO 200
  • Jpeg (Fine) only
  • Focused in manual at 10m on a garden bench and hedge.
  • Format each card in camera.
  • Press shutter for 15 seconds (timed by wristwatch)
  • Record number of frames taken.
  • Record total time to write to card.

Test method jpeg+raw:

  • Camera on tripod
  • Lens Canon 100mm IS Macro.
  • f stop =3.5
  • Shutter 1/200s
  • ISO 1000. (Later in the evening)
  • Jpeg + raw
  • Focused in manual at 10m on a garden bench and hedge.
  • Format each card in camera.
  • Press shutter for 15 seconds (timed by wristwatch)
  • Record number of frames taken.
  • Record total time to write to card.

Compact Flash Cards used:

Card Price Store Case
Hama 4GB High Speed Pro £19.99 Local camera store No case
Kingston 4GB £9.56 ebuyer.co.uk No case
Kingston 8GB 133x elite pro £20.91 ebuyer.co.uk Case
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 233x £36.34 ebuyer.co.uk Case
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 300x £47.47 ebuyer.co.uk Case
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 600x £100.69 ebuyer.co.uk Case (Not tested)
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 400x £---- ebuyer.co.uk Case
Kignston 16GB Ultimate 266x £19.99 (Jun 2012) ebuyer.co.uk No Case
Kingston 32GB Ultimate 266x £37.98 (Jun 2012) ebuyer.co.uk No Case

Test Results jpeg:

File size 7.9MB per jpeg, per frame.

CF Card Speed Frames Total Time Frame Size MB MB/S Frames/S Cost
Hama 4GB High Speed Pro 200 78 35 7.9 20.2 2.2 19.99
Kingston 4GB 50 55 75 7.9 6.7 0.7 9.56
Kingston 8GB 133x elite pro 133 67 37 7.9 16.5 1.8 20.91
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 233x 233 87 30 7.9 26.4 2.9 36.34
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 300x 300 97 25 7.9 35.3 3.9 47.47
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 400x 400 105 23 8.8 40.2 1.9 ----
Kingston 16GB Ultimate 266x 266 81 35 8.8 23.8 5.4 ----
Kingston 32GB Ultimate 266x 266 37.98

Test Results jpeg + raw:

File Size jpeg 9.1MB, raw 24.8MB, 33.9MB per frame.

CF Card Speed Frames Total Time Frame Size MB MB/S Frames/S Cost
Hama 4GB High Speed Pro 200 20 42 33.9 16.1 0.5 19.99
Kingston 4GB 50 16 96 33.9 5.7 0.2 9.56
Kingston 8GB 133x elite pro 133 22 47 33.9 15.9 0.5 20.91
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 233x 233 26 32 33.9 27.5 0.8 36.34
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 300x 300 28 26 33.9 36.5 1.1 47.47
Lexar 8GB Professional UDMA 400x 400 29 25 35.5 41.2 1.9 ----
Kingston 16GB Ultimate 266x 266 81 30 35.5 23.3 1.5 19.99 (June 2012)
Kingston 32GB Ultimate 266x 266 37.98 (June 2012)

Conclusion:

Well in general it looks as though the more you pay the faster the card will be.

Only you can judge how much the extra speed is worth to you.

Plotting on a graph shows 2 things, 1) The Hama advertised speed is greatly exagerated (it is more like 130x. 2) The Canon 7d can run at much grater speed than 300x.

As you can tell £50 for one CF card was my limit and so I did not buy the £100 600x one and hence was not able to test it.

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