Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Transforming my Canon 5dmkII - Why some CF cards are more equal than others

How does one go about 'transforming' a DSLR in terms of shooting speed?

I LOVE my Canon 5DmkII but one of the criticisms I had of it was at times it could feel a little Slow......

You know, hitting the buffer after a mere 12 frames of shooting rapid fire in RAW

Followed by the annoyance of waiting, and watching, and the red 'writing' LED flickering on the back of the camera as the data was written to card

Now I thought that the bottleneck was the camera, not the card, after all I was using the very latest spec cards from some of the biggest names in Compact Flash Manufacture  with the oft mentioned, in camera and card spec, UDMA designation (Ultra Direct Memory Access in case you were wondering) there is an explanation of how it works on Wikipedia

Yesterday I was shooting in a very demanding shoot on set for a BBC television production

I started shooting on a card by 'Big brand A' and sure enough I found the camera was reduced to feeling like someone had poured treacle into it.......buffer.....buffer....buffer....buffer

Soon the card was filled and in its place I put in a Hoodman RAW shooter UDMA 6, 675X CF card and my camera was transformed

It felt like dropping a Silky smooth V6 motor after struggling with an old asthmatic tired 4 cylinder engine

The difference was THAT pronounced

I made some enquiries about buying some in the UK, but I drew a blank

You can buy them direct though, cool if you are in the USA but the shipping and tax could make them a little prohibitive in the UK

What to do?

After a little asking around I found my friends at the Flash Centre were selling the latest and greatest Compact Flash cards from Delkin Devices

My only criticism of this card has nothing to do with its performance but its daft name

Combat Flash (Why.....oh why?)

Complete with camouflage markings

I would much rather it had flowers and butterflies on it, really!

I ran my own unscientific tests back to back between these speed kings and found the Hoodman to be marginally faster in terms of write performance in camera and read performance too, but it was a close run thing.

The other factor one has to bear in mind is that Hoodman claim never to have had a card fail, but they are pricier

You pays your money and you takes your choice...

Either way if you put one of these cards in your camera and you are currently using an older slower card you will get a real speed boost

Highly recommended


mrthorne said...

Hi Drew, that's some interesting info - never thought the card speed could have that much impact on shooting. Might pick up a Hoodman when I'm stateside...

On an unrelated note, I was wondering if you could recommend any products for removing sensor dust, I shoot with a 5D MKII so obviously looking for full frame options.



BigV said...

The CombatFlash cards are built to military specifications. They are rugged and waterproof.

Probably not needed for your average shooter. Although I have heard horror stories about cards going through the laundry.

moop said...

mrthorne - it doesn't have an impact on regular shooting but will start to show an effect once you fill up the buffer a bit...

Drew, I'm curious what were you using before that was so slow? If you don't want to disclose any names, could you at least say if they were UDMA 6 as well and specced with similar speeds? (6**x or ~90MB/s)

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Guys

The mistake I made was when I bought any UDMA designated card.

It is interesting to see that many cards carry the UDMA designation and not the actual write speed

The point of the post was to invite photographers to be aware of the actual write speeds of their cards and not just assume (as I did) that as they had bought the latest and greatest from the 'big' names which are UDMA CF cards that they will give fast and write speeds in their camera

My existing cards were all UDMA spec 45 MB/s cards

It was a real eyeopener to put the Hoodman and Delkin cards in my camera (more money to spend too!) there are others out there but the Hoodman was the one that made the penny drop for me and a tiny bit faster than the Delkin Combat Flash too