So you'd like to...

know which Compact Flash card is the fastest

A guide by Dver (USA)

Products sampled from this guide:
There has been a long standing debate regarding the speed of Compact Flash cards and which one truly is the fastest versus which company markets their products as being the fastest. The company that stands out the most as being one that markets their products as being the fastest Compact Flash cards is Lexar Media. Lexar is the company that started actually rating their cards using the speed ratings given to CD-ROM drives. They state that their latest cards can actually have read and write speeds greater than 24X. What does that imply exactly? Considering each 'X' equals 150KB, it implies that a 24X card should be able to read and write at 3.6MB per second.
Several test sites have rated the top name brand flash cards such as SanDisk, Lexar, Viking and SimpleTech. They have even rated the lesser known brands of flash cards such as Kingston, Pretec, and Delkin. What these test sites have proven is quite shocking. They have proven that the read and write speeds of the different cards:
A. Are vastly different from brand to brand.
B. Can vary vastly depending on whether you compare write speeds or read speeds.
C. The fastest brands are not necessarily the brands that market themselves as being the 'industry leader' or 'fastest card'.
One site that does a superb job of comparing the different test results is DPReview.com. You can find their comparisons to be unbiased, thorough and user friendly for the novice digital camera user or the technical high-end professional user. I highly recommend you take about an hour sometime to look at DPReview's site. Go to their digital film comparison page and read the information very carefully. Click on the different links for different chart layouts to compare the several different brands listed on the site.
If you don't have an hour to compare the different brands of cards, I have taken the time to highlight one portion of the DPReview site for you below.
For example if you go to the page:
http://www.dpreview.com/articles/mediacompare/default.asp?sort=fwwrite#fwperf
You will note that the IBM 1 GB Microdrive CompactFlash with PC Card Adapter, Pretec, RiData, and SimpleTech STI-CF/512 512MB CompactFlash Card cards are rated faster than the Lexar Media 512 MB 16x High Speed CompactFlash Pro (CF512-16-278), SanDisk 512 MB CompactFlash Card Ultra and Viking CF256M 256 MB CompactFlash Card cards even though Lexar, SanDisk, and Viking market their cards as high performance cards.

Read vs. Write Speeds
You will note that on the DPReview.com site that there are both write speed comparisons and read speed comparisons. It is important to note that a card that has a fast write speed doesn't necessary have a fast read speed. The write speed will be the most important as a card with a slower write speed won't be able to write the picture you take to the card as fast, thus forcing you to wait until you are able to take your next picture.
The read speed in comparison will only be used when you want to few your images either on your camera or to transfer them to your computer for viewing. While it may be quite frustrating waiting for your images to transfer from your card to your camera's view screen or to your computer, it is not nearly as frustrating as missing a shot because you were forced to wait for your camera to finish writing an image to your flash card.
Again, write speed is far more important than read speed.

Consumers are Seeing Through the Smoke and Mirrors or Marketing
In conclusion, it appears that the brands offering the fastest ACTUAL performance are not the companies that market themselves as high speed. The trick is whether or not the public is seeing through the marketing and purchasing the cards that actually perform the best. I have noticed that here on Amazon the SimpleTech STI-CF/256 256 MB CompactFlash Card is currently the top selling CompactFlash card while the Lexar Media 256 MB USB 12X High-Speed CompactFlash Card (CF256-12-251) or even the Viking CF256M 256 MB CompactFlash Card don't even appear on the top sellers lists. This tells me that the Amazon shopper is seeing through the smoke and mirrors of marketing. Hopefully this guide will help to continue that trend.

Products mentioned include:
1.  IBM 1 GB Microdrive CompactFlash with PC Card Adapter  by IBM
Used & New from: $25.00
3.6 out of 5 stars   (11)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
2.  SimpleTech STI-CF/512 512MB CompactFlash Card  by SimpleTech
Out of stock
3.6 out of 5 stars   (25)
  Add to wishlist
3.  Lexar Media 512 MB 16x High Speed CompactFlash Pro (CF512-16-278)  by Lexar
Out of stock
  Add to wishlist
4.  SanDisk 512 MB CompactFlash Card Ultra  by SanDisk
$34.95
4.7 out of 5 stars   (6)
Add to cart  Add to wishlist
5.  Viking CF256M 256 MB CompactFlash Card  by Viking
Used & New from: $19.99
3.7 out of 5 stars   (209)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
Consumers are Seeing Through the Smoke and Mirrors or Marketing
6.  SimpleTech STI-CF/256 256 MB CompactFlash Card  by SimpleTech
Used & New from: $25.00
3.8 out of 5 stars   (75)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist
7.  Lexar Media 256 MB USB 12X High-Speed CompactFlash Card (CF256-12-251)  by Lexar
Out of stock
4.7 out of 5 stars   (49)
  Add to wishlist
8.  Viking CF256M 256 MB CompactFlash Card  by Viking
Used & New from: $19.99
3.7 out of 5 stars   (209)
  See buying options  Add to wishlist

More Actions

Discover more about this author
 See all of their So You'd Like to...guides
Make your own guide
 Create a So You'd Like to...guide
View your page on Amazon.com
 Go to Your Profile page

About this Guide

 

Author

Dver (USA)
Qualifications: Digital Camera Enthusiast
Last updated: 3/11/02
Report abuse
    

More So You'd Like to...

 

   

More Listmania!

 

My Photography  (photojournalism) Gear My Photography  (photojournalism) Gear

My Photography (photojournalism) Gear: A list of 12 items by Blythe Dresser

Wedding Photographer Starter Kit Wedding Photographer Starter Kit

Wedding Photographer Starter Kit: A list of 13 items by Andrew

I Have a Canon XT Body, Now What? I Have a Canon XT Body, Now What?

I Have a Canon XT Body, Now What?: A list of 17 items by G. Foster Kerrison

Javthrowr's Camera Inventory Javthrowr's Camera Inventory

Javthrowr's Camera Inventory: A list of 25 items by Jennifer House

Wedding Equipment Wedding Equipment

Wedding Equipment: A list of 13 items by Brett Whitling "Mr. Brett"