Compact Flash VS. SD Cards

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by scooter0071, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. I am picking up a D800 today and I have a D300 running compact flash and D50 running sd cards. Now the D800 will take either or both. Is there any advantage of one over the other? Someone at one time said CF is faster but I have never confirmed this. Anyone have any opinions on this?
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Unless you have really huge CF cards for your D300, the much larger files from the 36MP D800 will fill up those old CF cards quite quickly.
    In these days, SD cards can be very fast also, and they are generally cheaper than equivalent CF cards. My main issue with SD is that they are physically fragile. They are too thin and I have cracked a few of them.
  3. Hi Shun. Out of curiosity, did you crack them putting them into or taking them out of your camera or just handling them? regards, cb :)
  4. In my experience CF cards deliver on their promised speed in more situations than SD cards, which often transfer files slower than the CF card even if nominally the SD is (claimed by the mfr to be) faster. Also I think the CF cards are more robust than SD, and the latter are more easily misplaced due to the small size. However, SD cards are less expensive for the storage space they provide.
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I started using CF cards with my D100 from 2002, and I started with SD cards with the 2010 D7000. Therefore, I have used CF for much longer.
    So far I have never lost any CF card, but I too have lost a couple of SD cards; one of them was during my trip to New Zealand last November. Somehow I misplaced it during travel and never saw it again. It must still be on the South Island somewhere. Fortunately, I have only lost the cheap ones so far and I don't really care.
    I have cracked 3, 4 SD cards over the years. Once I think I left one in my pocket and then sat down. But I have cracked them just from inserting them into cameras.
    The problem with CF is the vulnerable pins on the camera side. While I have never done that myself, I have seen people bending those pins on the camera. Those repairs tend to be costly.
  6. pge


    Bill, the advantages to one or the other in your case is really not important. The D800 takes one of each so you have to use both. No choice. Decision made.
    Shun is correct when he says that cards which were satisfactory for the D300 stop being appropriate for the D800. I have never used large cards because I do not take hundreds of photos at a time, but when I put an old card from my D200 days into my D800 and it says I can take 20 photos I feel a bit limited.
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Since I have never lost any CF cards, I still have one 256M (please don't laugh) CF card I bought back in 2002 for the D100. I inserted that card into the D800 and it actually works with the D800. However, after formatting it, the D800 shows a capacity of a grand total of 3 frames. That is far worse than a roll of 12-exposure film.
  8. I have a Canon 5DMk3, and I noticed a definite difference in write speed with the SD cards. They were much slower than the CF cards I usually use, and, when shooting sports where things happen quickly (as in surfing), I missed action with the SD cards I would have liked to catch.
  9. Phil, If I understand your comment correct are you saying on the D800 you have to have both a CF and SD card in all the time? While I obviously do not know, not owning the camera yet that just does not sound right to me.
  10. pge


    Shun, no the 8 on this card is not gigs.
  11. pge


    Bill, sorry if I implied that. You do not have to, but if you have two slots why would you not use both. That's all I meant.
    I have reread my comments where I say "you have to use both" and I can see how that is confusing on my part. What I meant was that, if you are going to use 2 cards you have to use one of each. Sorry for the confusion.
  12. If you do live view shooting on the D800 (and, in my experience of trying to get the AF system to lock perfectly, you will), bear in mind that the camera is unresponsive until the image is written to card - i.e. the buffering doesn't work in live view. This is a really good reason to get the fastest cards you can to put in the camera. Also bear in mind that large cards, for some reason, seem to take longer to review - for example, the 32GB card I had in my D700 was substantially slower than any of the 8GB cards despite being allegedly equivalent in speed. (I believe others have noted this phenomenon.) This doesn't affect write speed so much, but it significantly delays the camera when trying to chimp images.

    My solution is generally to set the camera to store JPEGs to the SD card (which is relatively easy to read into many laptops and similar devices if I need access to an image in a hurry), and simultaneously store raw images to the CF card. From my D700 days, I have several spare CF cards, so I can swap them out when my main card gets full - and because JPEGs are smaller, the SD card rarely fills. If you're more worried about writing to both cards as back-ups (which it sounds like you're not), this won't help much. Bear in mind that the D800 waits for whichever card is slowest to finish writing, so pairing slow and fast doesn't get you far.

    My definition of "the fastest cards I could" was a SanDisk 16GB 95MB/s (read - 90MB/s write) UHS-1 SD card and a Lexar 16GB UDMA 7 1000x (150Mb/s read - 95Mb/s write) CF card. Rob Galbraith has a (slightly elderly, but I don't blame him and I can't find a better one) database of performance figures here. This indicates that my Lexar card is only hitting 59MB/s (maybe I should have gone to the 32GB version... now they're cheaper, I'll consider it) but, assuming SanDisk's definition of "Extreme Pro" hasn't changed since his test, it's still outperforming the higher-specced SanDisk CF card and, by a larger margin, the SD card. Lexar appear to have some "1066x" (160MB/s) cards coming. For some reason, my Lexar card seems to read slowly in my USB3 reader - I may have to find another one.

    Summary: I'd buy new cards, and keep your old ones as back-up. You might also like to consider Eye-Fi for the SD slot, although I kind of wish they'd get on and make a UHS-1 version. They'd be pretty painful for anything but JPEGs at the moment.
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I have a Canon 5DMk3, and I noticed a definite difference in write speed with the SD cards. They were much slower than the CF cards I usually use, and, when shooting sports where things happen quickly (as in surfing), I missed action with the SD cards I would have liked to catch.​
    Stephanie, you need to specify exactly which SD cards you are referring to. I assume the 5D Mark III is UHS-1 (Ultra High Speed) compatible. If so, you should get fairly fast write speeds with e.g. the Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards that are 95 MB/sec. I use those on the Nikon D7100, which is 24MP, more than the 5D Mark III, and the D7100 can write 3 frames/sec onto those Extreme Pro cards.

    Extreme Pro are the two on the left, with the gold band
  14. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    SD cards in the 5D Mark iii max out at 133x. Canon has never explained why.
    However, I have found even shooting pro sports that I get the shots I want at slower speeds. I shot sports back when cards didn't even get to 133x and it wasn't a problem. Just don't machine gun.
    One reason I like SD cards is that laptops and some other devices typically have a slot for SD cards. One less device and/or cable to carry around.
  15. I have had CF cards since the D70 - I got SD when the D40 came along and we needed a smaller body for vacations.

    I've never "lost" a cf - and yes - I do still have some 64 mb and such laying around... I haven't put one in my d800 yet, but just based on the few images that a 1gb card gave it - Shun's result isn't that shocking.
    My experience with SD cards has been less than favorable - I've broken or bent the pins on at least 3 - just from normal insertion and removal from the camera. Pretty rendered them unusable. I've had one 16 gb one DOA out of the box. (SanDisk) and managed to lose one with a ton of images from a road trip stop in Metropolis Il.
  16. Hey Bill, I have a D300 and D800, and have always tried to use high capacity fast cards, but not the largest or the fastest. One notch down in both areas, and a watchful eye on these things going on sale, have given me large dividends.
    What I normally do with my D800 is to use a 64GB CF card for photos, and a 64GB SD card for video. I tend to shoot 95% images and don't like to intersperse photos and videos on the same card. The CF card is 400x and the SD is just a bit slower. I own two of each (along with a host of smaller cards, 32, 16, and smaller. 16GB seems to be my threshold of pain for even putting in the camera. I think you can get much faster CF cards (1000x!) for a lot more money and moderately faster SD cards.
    As far as brands go, I've had good success with Sandisk and Transcend. I've used a bunch of Kingston, but also have had their cards go bad (mainly 16GB CF cards.) I've never had a single issue with Sandisk or Transcend. For downloading I use a USB 3 CF card reader from Transcend and just stick SD cards in the side of my computer.
    I hope that this info is somewhat helpful. Congrats on the D800. I find it to still surprise me with just how great it can be - and in ways I don't always see coming. I loved my D300 when I got it, but I struggle to find a reason to use it now. I can tell you that the D800 has completely eliminated my NAS in the body area for quite some time now, although I do make up for that in lenses. Cheers!
  17. Thank you for all the feedback. I will be doing a lot of shooting with the D800 this weekend and will try a few different options based on your feedback.
  18. I us both SD and CF media in cameras that take both, or Cf+CF in cameras that Have two CF slots; I've never owned a
    camera that took two SD cards but if I did I'd use two of those as wreck.

    The primary reason is that I'm a working photographer and I set the camera up to record to boh media, whatever the form
    it takes, simultaneously as this gives me an in camera back up. Others might set their cameras up to have the second
    media take over when the first fills up, and others might have raw files go on one and JPEGS or movie files go to the

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