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Save your money if you don't have a Canon 7D or 1D IV
on July 26, 2011
I've done some write benchmarks on the 16GB version of this card and others with my Canon 40D. Here are the results:
SanDisk Extreme 60 MB/s 16GB (400X)
17 RAW, 17 seconds to clear
SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/s 8GB (200X)
18 RAW, 17 seconds to clear
Lexar 133X Pro 1GB
20 RAW, 16 seconds to clear
Kingston Ultimate 133X 4 GB
19 RAW, 21 seconds to clear
Kingston High Speed 1024 MB
18 RAW, 37 seconds to clear
For this circa-2008 DSLR, no card over 133X improves write speeds. No benefit was expected; cameras of this vintage max out at about 12 MB/s. All but two of the current crop of Canon and Nikon DSLRs perform at near full speed with a 200X (30 MB/s) card. These cameras reach 35 MB/s at best, so a 400X (60 MB/s) card offers only slight improvements, if any. Canon's 7D and 1D IV, both capable of 60 MB/s or more, will clear the buffer as much as twice as fast with a 400X card.
The bump from 200X to 400X has no effect on general shooting speed or movie recording. Movie recording at 1080p/30 takes about 5 MB/s or as much as 8 MB/s with custom firmware. Autofocus, turn-on speed, JPEG writes, image review, and so on are almost completely unaffected. The only benefit to the higher rating with a modern camera is reduced buffer clearing time with continuous high-speed raw.
There are, however, speed variances even among cards of equal rating. Size matters. Cards 8 GB and smaller tend to perform somewhat faster in-camera than larger cards of the same family. Brand also matters. Cameras from Canon, Nikon, and Sony perform best with cards from SanDisk and Lexar. Other brands, even if capable of rated speed in a card reader, tend not to rival those two in-camera. Rob Galbraith's CF/SD database, current as of early-2009, is invaluable in determining which cards work best with which cameras.
Card-to-computer transfer rates will be limited by the card reader interface. USB 2.0, the most common, caps out at about 30 MB/s. Firewire 800 is about three times as fast and will max out this card, as will USB 3.0 and IDE/SATA converters. As well, all CF cards rated for 30 MB/s or more support UDMA, though this is of no consequence in-camera.
In short, this card is for you if you have a 7D or 1D IV and regularly hit a buffer limit in raw, or you shoot so much that card-to-computer times slow your workflow. Everyone else can spend half as much on the 30 MB/s version of same.