How do CF cards differ from SD cards?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by eric_m|4, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. Other than physical size what are the advantages/disadvantages of Compact Flash cards vs SD, SDHC, SDXC cards? How, if at all, do they affect image quality? The only issue I have with SD cards is the small size and flimsy feel. But if you had one of each card with similar file capacity, write speed, etc... what would be the difference? I don't have a camera that uses both so I can't really compare images from the same sensor. Thanks.
  2. There is no difference in memory cards that affects image quality. Card speed affects shooting frame rate and how quickly the buffer can empty, but not image quality.
    SD cards are every bit as robust as CF cards and take much less space. I wouldn't recommend running either through the wash, but I've heard of both types surviving. These days SD cards probably have higher capacities, I haven't shopped lately.
    Given a choice, I'd choose SD only because they're smaller.
  3. SCL


    Don't know where you live, but CF cards are harder to find in brick & mortar stores than SD cards in the midwest USA. SD cards also seem to be available in a wider range of capacities, as they are newer than CF cards. I have cameras which use functional differences I notice.
  4. CF cards are older, use a parallel IDE/ATA compatible interface (that's why they have so many pins). SD cards are newer, use a high speed serial interface and have (seldom used by us) DRM capabilities, as they were originally designed for portable music players. You can actually replace the HDD in a laptop with a CF card and a mechanical adapter (I don't know why you'd ever need to know this, but I have done it and it works)
    CF cards will probably become harder to find and more expensive for the same amount of storage as the SD card seems to be more popular. There's no difference in image quality between the two types of cards -- it's digital storage, and "bits is bits". Write speeds are similar, but SD cards have a number inside a "C" which indicates their "class". A higher number means a faster write speed.
  5. Interesting info but you still have to wonder why would one camera use both CF and SD if there's no difference?
  6. "you still have to wonder why would one camera use both CF and SD if there's no difference?"
    Often it's legacy carryover, cross-compatibility if you already use one or the other, or just to give you a choice if your buying decision hinges on it.

    I have Sony cameras that can use CF cards and memory sticks. The camera will hold both types simultaneously, but you choose which to use.
  7. Ask Shun Cheung over at the Nikon forum. He loves CF cards.
  8. My Sony's use SD cards as does the Fuji P&S I have as a 'carry around camera'. My Olympus E-510 uses CF cards and those weird XD cards too.
    I don't have a camera that uses both types to do a direct comparison, but my impression is that the CF cards could be a bit more rugged and therefore more reliable? But then again the SD cards are certainly cheaper, especially in higher capacity. I think the same rule applies, that if you buy a good quality example of either type, SanDisk, Lexar for example, they are pretty reliable.

    But, I do think that the CF cards days are numbered. I think that the format battle has already been fought and won by SD cards and unless and until somebody thinks up a new and exciting format to replace it, in a couple of years hence all you will see is the SD and MicroSD card format in pretty much all devices, not only Cameras. For example does anybody know of a mobile phone that takes any card other than a MicroSD for example.
    Just my personal opinion
  9. CF cards are sturdier, as the delicate electronic contacts are not exposed the way they are in SD cards.
    This may be changing, but for a long time that was a big reason to use CF cards in cameras where the card would frequently be removed (like for high volume shooting, where you can easily go through several cards in a session).
    Seeing how quickly exposed chips in ATM and credit cards wear out from just normal use (once or twice a week at the supermarket and gas station, the card lasts a year, 2 at most) I don't like having the same technology for my memory cards which get a lot more cycles.
    Having a larger card that's harder to lose in a bag (or worse, dropped on a dusty or grassy area) and easier to find again is also a big plus for a CF card (we've all accidentally dropped a card or two, in tall grass you'd never find an SD card if it lay at your feet and you knew it, especially one of those tiny micro-SD thingies that are so popular in cellphones).
  10. Sandisk just released the SanDisk Extreme Pro CompactFlash 256 GB with speed 160 MB/sec.
    Using UDMA 7, according to VPG-65 specification.
    Taking advantage of transfer via many pins, unlike SD card that will never be as fast as top CF cards.
    Claims like this: "I do think that the CF cards days are numbered" - are just funny...
  11. I have cameras that use both SD and Cf cards. My preference is for CF cards. They are larger and more robust I have broken a SD card in my pocket something that has never happened with a CF card. And I also have a camera that uses the latest and greatest format for speed. XQD is very fast and very robust and it is bigger then a CF card. There are always trade offs.

Share This Page