My Gear Product Review: Compact Flash Cards
Friday, January 8, 2010

Occasionally I get a question about the equipment I use so I figured I would review my gear for those interested. I am by no means saying I know everything about photography and equipment, I am just writing my opinions and what I have found in using the equipment I have. I have made a lot of mistakes along this path of photography, so maybe this info will helps just one person along the way.

If anyone has any technical questions add a question in the comments or shoot me an email.

I thought for the first blog post I would start off with the basics....

Compact Flash Cards
At the rate these cards change I won't review an individual card but discuss the cards I have, why I have them, and how I buy them.

First thing, watch out for fake cards! If the price seems too good to be true it probably is. Always check with the usual suspects, Calumet Photo, B&H Photo, etc. These vendors will tell you what the average price point is and are typically competitively priced and always seem to have manufacturer's rebates. I have bought all my cards from one of these three sellers and have had zero issues.

I have also bought from one of those 'to good to be true' sellers and it ended with me sending the product back and putting a stop payment on my credit card (be very careful with eBay). Always use reputable vendors because there is a lot of fraud in electronics and when you get into professional photography equipment you start to talk real dollars.

There are a lot of cards on the market so how do you decide which one to use? The answer to this question is answered by knowing why you might need a faster (and more expensive) card or why you really don't need a faster card.

As cameras become more advanced they want to transfer more data more quickly. So, if you have an advanced camera you could be slowed by a card that can't receive data fast enough (a simple Internet search will show recent timed transfer rate tables for your camera and your cards).

Most photographers that I work around, including myself, use SanDisk Extreme III Compact Flash Cards. I also have one SanDisk Extreme IV Compact Flash Card but only purchased it because of a great rebate and curiosity. The Extreme III and Extreme IV transfer at rates of 30 MB/s and 45 MB/s per second respectively.

I believe, with some exceptions, that card transfer speeds will really become an issue in the emerging generation of digital cameras. For example the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is shooting 21.1 mega pixels. That's a lot of information to transfer to a card. I have personally had no noticeable speed issues shooting with my Canon 40D or my Canon 5D.

Now if you're wondering if you should buy a more expensive card anticipating the future transfer rate demands I would say no. Card technology changes so fast that even if you can use your faster data transfer card in the future the price of GB's (gigabytes) falls so quickly the card would be of questionable value within a couple years.

In the end it comes down to personal preference but stick with quality cards. I have had lower end cards fail. The price of these cards fall on a monthly basis. My price point is typically 'less than $100 per card' and at that point I buy the highest quality.

Here is my Amazon store where you can see current prices of most everything listed here:

I think I will continue to do some more Q+A type blogs. I will even include posts on topics like wardrobe choices, and best locations for family shoots. This is going to be fun, so be sure to check back for more!!!!



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