The February 17th posting of Selecting a CompactFlash card for a photojournalist's digital camera, a report describing the cards best suited for use in the Nikon D1, Canon EOS D30, Canon EOS D2000, Kodak DCS 520, DCS 620 and DCS 620X cameras, prompted a number of readers to write in with their own card experiences.
One message in particular caught my attention. From wildlife shooter Moose Peterson, it described his own finding that with the D1, the 256MB 12X was by far the fastest of the Lexar cards in his bag. Based on my understanding of the controllers and Flash memory technology used by Lexar in their higher-capacity cards, I wasn't anticipating performance differences between the 160MB and 320MB Lexar Media cards I did test, and Lexar's 256MB cards, which I did not test.
To find out for myself if in fact the 256MB capacity was the fastest in the D1, I requested late last week from Lexar a 256MB 10X and 256MB 12X. I put the two 256MB cards through the same battery of camera and reader tests that all the other cards had been subject to, and discovered that there were indeed noticeable performance differences, in the D1 especially, but also in Kodak DCS cameras and, to a lesser extent, the D30.
Because the 256MB 10X and 12X cards turned out to be markedly different than the other Lexar Media cards tested, I've updated the report to include them. And since I'd reopened testing anyway (which involves borrowing second camera bodies, card readers and the like from all quarters) I chose to also test and post the results from an Hitachi 160MB CFI. This card had been requested for inclusion in the original report, but it did not arrive until several days after the first round of testing had been completed.
Lexar Media 256MB 10X, Lexar Media 256MB 12X,
Hitachi 160MB (no label) CompactFlash cards
If you've already poured over the CompactFlash report from start to finish and don't relish a reread, a brief summary of the key changes is just ahead. If you've not yet read through the original report, I encourage you to skip the summary below and head right to the revised report.
Interpreting the results - Nikon D1
The original report touts Lexar cards as being the fastest at writing and reviewing images in the D1. That hasn't changed. For example, all five of the tested Lexar cards in the 160MB, 256MB and 320MB capacities remain about 15% faster than all other cards at displaying the clear thumbnails from RAW files on the D1's rear LCD monitor.
The 256MB 10X and 12X, however, boast write speeds in the D1 that are considerably faster than their Lexar brethren. In fact, the speed jump is about 20% for both cards, which means both of them feel noticeably quicker than the next fastest cards. In fact, at a throughput of up to 960K/second, both the 256MB 10X and 256MB 12X make the D1 feel considerably more agile in write operations than any other card I've ever used in the D1.
Since there is no apparent performance difference between the 10X and 12X versions of the 256MB Lexar card in the D1, the 256MB 10X seems to be the logical choice. If you're looking at a card purchase for the D1, you'll be hard pressed to do better than the Lexar Media 256MB 10X.
Interpreting the results - Canon EOS D30
The Hitachi 160MB performance results in all three cameras and all tested card readers very closely tracked the other Hitachi-controller performance leaders. It is as solid a choice as any of the other fastest Hitachi vendor cards in the D30. Note that Hitachi doesn't sell CompactFlash under its own name in North America, though many countries worldwide carry Hitachi-branded cards.
The two 256MB Lexar Media cards delivered performance comparable to the other Lexar cards. In other words, they are slower than all the Hitachi-controller cards and the IBM Microdrive.
Interpreting the results - Kodak DCS 520/620/620X/Canon EOS D2000
If you want to boast you have the fastest card available for your Kodak DCS camera, the Lexar Media 256MB 12X is it. But only by a nose; with only about 3% separating the write speed results of the 1GB IBM Microdrive and Lexar's 256MB 12X, in reality the two cards offer effectively the same write speed.
The Lexar Media 256MB 10X lags behind the two leaders only slightly, and offers almost identical performance to the Hitachi 160MB. As the full report describes, most of the Lexar and Hitachi-controller Flash memory cards, and the IBM Microdrive, offer plentiful write speed in the DCS 520, 620, 620X and Canon D2000.
See the full report for additional information.