Compact Flash Camera Cards Get Faster

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ExtremePro_angled_64gb_hiresIt appears to most of us that the memory card industry has gone to smaller physical formats while boosting capacity. But if you mention that to a pro-sumer or professional photographer, he or she might tell you otherwise. That’s because some higher-end digital SLR camera bodies still use the venerable Compact Flash format for storage. My Canon EOS Rebel T1i uses an SD card, but if I stepped up to the next Canon body, the 50D, I’d be using a CF card.

SanDisk (s sndk) isn’t neglecting this higher-end camera market. It just released information on its new SanDisk Extreme Pro line, which offers fast reads and writes of up to 90MBps. That helps reduce the delay between shots, although many cameras these days can buffer frames to a point. These new Compact Flash memory cards are now shipping in capacities of 16, 32 and 64GB. That sounds like quite a bit of memory for a digital camera, but RAW image files at high resolutions can eat up space quickly. And with some of these cameras, like my Canon T1i now offering high-definition video recording, what sounds like “too much” memory soon becomes “not enough.”

Canon says the price range for the three Extreme Pro capacities is between $300 and $800, with exact pricing set by retailers. If that’s too rich for your blood — or your camera — SanDisk has a less expensive line that might work for you. Dropping the Pro label is the SanDisk Extreme series. These slow the read and write throughput to 60MBps and offer 8, 16 or 32GB of storage. While the speeds drop by 33 percent from the Pro line, the pricing can drop even more. Expect to see the Extreme series cost between between $130 and $375, depending on the retailer and capacity.

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I have used many cards with my D200; mostly the 2GB Extreme III version of this card. These are my first Extreme IV series cards in 4GB. My expectations for this card ran something like, same performance as my 2GB cards, maybe a little faster on computer downloads. I was not disapointed.

One interesting little bonus has shown up with these cards and my D200. While shooting on a long trip across Glacier National Park I averaged 700 shots per battery when using these cards. While using the older and slower cards I averaged 400 shots per card. I have shot thousands and thousands of pictures with my 2GB cards and I average between 400 and 500 per battery charge consistantly. This is the first time I have seen 700+ from a single charge on my D200. More shoots are required to establish the actual performance difference but so far there has been a noticable reduction in battery use with this card and the D200.

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