For many years the most complete collection of comparative data on memory cards and card readers I know of has been Rob Galbraith’s “CF/SD Performance Database.” This was the place you could find out which card would yield the best performance in a particular camera body and what reader would give you the shortest download times. As the card market matured (more brands, higher capacity, faster speeds, lower prices), updates to the database happened less often. There comes a point for most users where the differences are less important. But cards continue to evolve.
A short while ago Lexar announced their latest high-end CF card, the Lexar Professional 1000X, and now Rob has put it to the test; in a nutshell, it’s far faster than any other memory card they’ve ever tested. The numbers are laid out in tables for in-camera write values with Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3S bodies, and for card-to-computer transfer rates using top-end readers in four different connection protocols. An interesting note is that the quickest download speed was achieved using a USB 3.0 card reader.
If you use a camera that’s UDMA 7 capable (currently the fastest data timing protocol in the CompactFlash specification) and you actually need the fastest CF card on the market, right now this is it. In addition, Lexar’s USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader (the one with the latest firmware available in March) will give you the fastest download times possible (until someone comes up with a Thunderbolt card reader). For Mac Pro users, CalDigit can supply a USB 3.0 PCIe Card and drivers to provide a USB 3.0 interface. This card will also work in a Windows computer, and in addition they build a USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ExpressCard for any laptop with an ExpressCard/34 interface (such as the Apple 17” MacBook Pro).
Memory cards are not the bottleneck in the digital imaging process they used to be. Capacities are now sufficient for nearly any purpose, and prices have plummeted to the point that having several cards no longer is a serious crimp on most budgets. While in day to day practice few need the incredible speed the fastest cards now provide, it’s nice to know they’re available.