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It's In The Cards

Memory cards keep getting faster, higher capacity, and less expensive. The latest generation from Sandisk are the Extreme IV series, along with matching high-speed Extreme card reader. Extreme IV CF cards are available in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB sizes, and the new high speed reader is available in Firewire 400/800, and USB 2 configurations.

I was curious to know whether or not these cards were indeed faster than the Extreme III cards that I regularly use, and also if the new reader would show a marked speed increase. My testing included all three sizes of the new IV series cards, and a 4Gb Extreme III series was my point of comparison. The card reader which I have been using for the past couple of years, a Microtech Firewire 400 device, was my reference. The new high speed reader was tested on both Firewire 400 and 800.

My test directory contained 85 raw files totaling 2.2GB.


Type III Cards Vs: Type IV Cards using the Extreme Reader

A Type III card took 3 minutes and 18 seconds. The new Type IV cards took exactly 2 minutes.

This is a dramatic speed increase for the new Type IV card.


Type III Cards Vs. Type IV Cards using Old Generation Reader

A Type III card took 3 minutes and 8 seconds, while the new Type IV card took 3 minutes and 4 seconds – essentially identical.

What this tells us is that there is a synergy between the Type IV cards and the new high speed Sandisk reader, since the old card reader was not able to take advantage of the new card's capabilities.


Firewire 800

The Firewire version of the Extreme Card Reader comes with both Firewire 400 and 800 cables. Using the Firewire 800 connection on a 17" Macbook Pro, I measured 3 minutes and 22 seconds with the Type III card and a blazing 1 minute and 30 seconds with the new Type IV card. The card used is obviously the limiting factor, and the new cards only offer higher transfer speeds when used with the new reader.



The table below summarizes the results. Clearly the new cards don't offer much when read in an old-style card reader. And the new Extreme Reader doesn't offer any advantage when used with older cards. But when the new Extreme Reader and the new Type IV cards are combined the results show a dramatic increase in speed.

Old Reader – Firewire 400
Extreme Reader – Firewire 400
Extreme Reader – Firewire 800
Extreme III Card
3' 08"
3' 18"
3' 22"
Extreme IV Card
3' 04"
2 ' 00"
1' 30"

And for the ultimate in speedy file transfers, the Extreme card reader plugged into a Mac with a Firewire 800 port is astonishingly fast.

I did not have the USB II reader available for testing, but it likely will show comparable times to the Firewire 400 version.

I did some tests with various cameras to see if the faster cards made any difference. With both a Canon 1DS MKII and a Phase One P45 back I couldn't see any significant shooting speed advantage with the Type IV cards over the Type III. The speed advantage only becomes apparent when transferring files.

November, 2006


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Concepts: Full-frame digital SLR, CompactFlash, Universal Serial Bus, Flash memory, USB flash drive, Solid-state drive, The Card, Canon EOS-1Ds

Entities: Sandisk, Canon, Mac, Firewire, Michael Reichmann, Macbook Pro

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