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Old Oct 5, 2003, 11:01 PM   #1
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Default Compact Flash Memory Cards

There was a time when I thought buying Compact Flash memory cards was like buying memory cards. Buy the size you want, but they all pretty much work the same.

Then, not too long ago, I went to Circuit City to buy a 256 meg card, and they had "SanDisk Ultra 256" cards for a bit more money, but they were supposed to be faster. It seemed like a good idea, so I got one, and then another.

Today, I went to Pitman Photo Supply in Miami to get another card. Dana Mead talked to me for quite a while about memory cards. In his opinion, memory cards come in lots of speeds, and if you're getting a high-performance camera, you really do want to get a "fast" card. The cards he recommended were the Lexar "High Speed Professional WA" cards, which write at 40x. Supposedly that means they write 40 times faster than the original Compact Flash cards.

Some questions:
a) do the "older" memory cards write at 1x (one times) speed?
b) do "micro drives" also write at 1x speed?
c) how do you tell the speed of a memory card?
d) how do I find out the speed of the SanDisk cards I bought?
e) are the Lexar WA cards really a major improvement?

I don't know how much this will help me, but a major problem with my Olympus e-10 was taking enough photos to fill up the buffer, then waiting for the camera to write the files to the memory card, free up buffer space, and allow me to take another photo. My Olympus e-10 (two years old) takes about three seconds between images (SHQ mode), and more like six seconds when the buffer is filled up. It doesn't seem all that much faster (if any) using the Lexar 40x card compared to an old Lexar 4x card.

I'm assuming this is because the Olympus e-10 was designed a couple of years ago, and writes at a speed that the older cards could accept, and the newer 40x cards don't speed things up, as the camera is already working as fast as it can. True?

I'm also assuming (from what I've read here) that the newer cameras (Nikon D2h and similar) can take advantage of the higher speed cards. True?

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Old Oct 5, 2003, 11:09 PM   #2
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I haven't seen any tests using the E10. But, here's the way I look at it.

Even if the bottleneck is in the camera, not in the card. When/if you upgrade your Card Reader to USB 2.0 (along with a new USB 2.0 I/O card for your PC), then your file transfer time will be much faster, regardless of whether or not your camera is faster.

Also, if you buy a camera that can take advantage of a faster card later, you'll already have them.

Phil Askey did run some tests using faster cards (outdated now) with dSLR's here:


Rob Gailbrath has more current tests here (but not with the E10):

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Old Oct 6, 2003, 1:14 AM   #3
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Thanks for the links and for the information. That report on Rob's site is fascinating! Once again, what I "thought" was wrong, as a "40x" card isn't ten times faster than a "4x" card.

I've got a D2h on order, and am still wondering if a D100 might do what I want for much less money. I think both of them would take advantage of the higher speed, so yes, you're right, I'm better off for when/if I get a faster camera than the e-10.
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Old Oct 6, 2003, 1:50 AM   #4
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Default If I'm not mistaken...

Your D2h will be able to wirelessly download images directly to a laptop, PDA or other image storage device. Does the speed of a card really matter?
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Old Oct 7, 2003, 11:07 AM   #5
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That assumes he gets the wireless add-on parts. It also assumes he is with the laptop when he shoots (don't know how/where he shoots.)

What I've like is to have some kind of hard disk based device that could receive the wireless transmission. I'd just keep it in my backpack and then I get the best of both worlds. Huge capacity without having to switch out cards and download them. But I don't have the weight of a laptop to carry around.

Hum... I wonder if someone hasn't made something to get a PDA to receive the signal from the D2h? That would solve the weight problem. Of course, one should realize that the signal is completely insecure. Probably doesn't matter to most people, but it is worth noting.


a) Some older cards where 1x speed. The SanDisk (non-ultra) were for awhile. Don't know if they still are.

b) Micro Drives are not 1X, and I'm not sure they everwhere. Don't know what they compare too, though.

c) You have to trust the manufacturer. Since you've seen Rob G.'s page (I was going to post that link!) you realize that not all are created equal... and its a combination of the camera and card design which make it fast or slow. No card is "fastest with all cameras". Not going to happen.

d) Until recently, all Ultra cards were the same speed. I don't know what it is in the "X" notation. SanDisk just put out faster cards in the last few months. One is just named "Ultra" like before (shame on them, I won't buy them for this reason.) They also put out an "Extreme" and an Ultra II. I know nothing about those (should check Rob's site to see if he says anything!)

e) Depending on the camera (if it supports WA or not) yes, they are a large improvement. On many cameras they won't be 'cause very few support WA (I believe. Anyone?)

Most modern cameras don't benefit from a card faster than between 8-12x. Since you camera is older, it might have a lower point of zero-return. It's simple logic, really. If the camera can't write faster, it doesn't mater if the card can receive it faster.

Although I expect the d2h to take advantage of WA out of the box (it was added to the D100) don't assume that a new camera will by definition be faster with newer cards. The Canon 10D isn't (WA does nothing for it.) It tops out at around 1200K/sec (just recently new SanDisk broke 1300K/sec.) The D100 writes faster than this and its older. The 10D is leaning on deep 9 picture buffer, so they chose to write slower. In the end, it works out. I don't often run out buffer space and have to wait to take more pictures.

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Old Oct 7, 2003, 12:24 PM   #6
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if you have a D2H on order i hope your heavily into HS shooting being that this particular camera is optimized/baised toward that type of situation. it is also a 4MP imager. its a sports photographers tool and a direct competitor to the EOS1D.

a 1GB MD will slow the camera down. this was designed for use with WA cards from lexar ( or similar) at high xfr rates. the RF/WiFi stuff will set you back another $1k and has its own set of issues of power and speed too.
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Old Oct 7, 2003, 7:58 PM   #7
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Sjms, it isn't so much HS (high speed?) shooting, as much as it is being able to quickly take a picture any time I want. With my other digital cameras, I've lost way, WAY too many pictures becaue the camera wouldn't cooperate when I wanted to press the shutter button.

I know better cameras will come along, with 8, 18, and maybe 80 meg images, but I can do anything I know of that I've ever wanted to do with a 4-meg camera, once I get a "good" image. I'm not certain, but from everything I've read, the D2h should be able to get me the images, if I do my part right.

Memory cards... I've been buying them for quite a while now. I know most of what I've got is obsolete (as you point out, it will really slow things down), but with a 40-image buffer, I don't think that's going to be a problem for me.

I never did buy any Micro Drives, but not for that reason - I was worried that if I ever dropped one, I'd lose way, way, WAY too many photos, quite possibly forever.

As to the RF stuff, it sounds great, and I can see where some people might really be able to benefit from it, but I doubt that I'm ever going to be one of them.
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Old Oct 7, 2003, 9:32 PM   #8
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then i wish you well with it.
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