Steve's Digicams

High Capacity Memory Options

Updated 11-September-2008

Today's choices in flash memory storage devices for digital cameras and other devices is mind-boggling.   It's no wonder the consumer is totally confused.   Just figuring out which options your camera should have is tough enough.

Then you discover that there are all kinds of memory storage options -- SmartMedia (SM), CompactFlash (CF), MemoryStick (MS), MultiMediaCard (MMC), Secure Digital (SD), eXtreme Digital (xD), Microdrive ... and none of them are compatible with the others.

Only recently have Secure Digital, Memory Stick and xD cards gotten above the 1GB capacity mark -- CompactFlash (CF) devices offer capacities of up to 12 Gigabytes, they're the main focus of this report.

We are also expanding our SD card coverage - SD cards are now the most popular flash media type and getting bigger (up to 32GB) and faster (up to 150x speed and beyond) all the time!

Click here to jump to the SD/SDHC Card Section.

CompactFlash Type I

Popular 1GB CF Cards
Popular 1GB CompactFlash Type I cards

CompactFlash cards are the standard media for most all digital SLR cameras from the consumer-priced Canon Digital Rebel XTi and Nikon D70s all the way up to the $9000 Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II.

There are no compatibility problems with any device certified to use a CF Type I card, any brand will work. CF cards over 2GB in capacity will work in all dSLR cameras made after 2004 - to be sure check our list on the Microdrive review page.

Canon EOS-1D Mark II Pro SLR.

Until year 2005 CF cards were the -only- media used in digital SLRs. The Canon EOS-1D Mark II and the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II can use both CF and SD cards -- however the new Nikon D40 and the Pentax K100D use SD cards exclusively - the times they are a changing...

The Largest and Fastest

MILPITAS, Calif. September 11, 2008 - SanDisk Corporation today announced the 32-gigabyte SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash (CF) card, the latest addition to its award-winning SanDisk Extreme III line. Combining world-class storage capacity with fast data transfer rates, SanDisk's new memory card is designed to meet the demands of professional digital videographers and photographers. For many cards, an increase in storage capacity often comes at a cost to speed, but the 32GB SanDisk Extreme III CF card at 30 megabytes per second (MB/s) offers customers the best of both worlds.

MILPITAS, CALIF., May 30, 2008 - SanDisk Extreme flash memory cards swept performance ratings in seven of the current top professional-level digital single lens reflex cameras from Canon and Nikon, according to the latest tests conducted by Rob Galbraith, renowned imaging consultant, digital photography trainer and photojournalist. The SanDisk Extreme CompactFlash and SD cards outperformed all competitors in the tests.

Galbraith, who offers the results on his website,, tested multiple brands, models and capacities of memory cards with each camera to determine the fastest write times. He measured speeds involving both JPEG and RAW images and, in six camera models that use CompactFlash cards, the SanDisk Extreme Ducati CompactFlash Card took the top honors. Named after Ducati Corse, the Italian manufacturer of high-performance motorcycles, the SanDisk Ducati line was introduced last summer and is the fastest CompactFlash card that SanDisk produces.

Rob's CompactFlash Performance Database

Fremont, CA, September 9, 2008 -- Lexar Media, a leading global provider of memory products for digital media, today announced the Lexar Professional UDMA 300x 16GB CompactFlash (CF) card, a new memory card that provides an ideal combination of increased capacity, professional-level performance and reliability. Designed for professional photographers and photo enthusiasts, this lightning-fast card is UDMA-enabled (Ultra Direct Memory Access), resulting in exceedingly fast performance. Speed-rated at 300x, which represents a minimum sustained write speed of 45MB per second, the new Lexar Professional UDMA 300x 16GB CF card dramatically reduces post-production time thanks to an improved card-to-computer transfer rate when working in conjunction with a UDMA-enabled device. In addition, the very high capacity of the card allows photographers to store more images and shoot for longer periods without interruption.

CompactFlash Type II

The IBM/Hitachi Microdrive is undoubtedly the most well-known CompactFlash Type II device in use today. These are not flash media, they are miniature hard disk drives and most professional photographers prefer the security of solid-state flash media for obvious reasons.

IBM sold its disk drive business to Hitachi and they've now begun making even larger capacity 2GB, 4GB, 6GB and 8GB Microdrives.

Both Seagate and Western Digital have announced production of one-inch drives in CF Type II factor (aka Microdrives) with capacities of 5GB and higher although most seemed destined for use in MP3 players.

Read my in-depth Microdrive Report

CF Type I ... Type II ... what's the difference?

Physically a CF Type II card looks like a CF Type I card in every dimension except thickness, CF Type II cards are 5mm thick compared to a Type I card at 3.3mm.

Flash memory
CompactFlash Type II and I cards compared

CompactFlash Type II devices can NOT be used in cameras that have the thinner Type I card slots. Pictured above you can see the height difference between Type I and II cards, this precludes their use in older cameras.

Cameras That Can Use The Microdrive

The most current list of compatible digital cameras from Hitachi.

SD High Capacity (SDHC) Cards - SD 2.00

SDHC (SD High Capacity) are the newer SD cards larger than 2GB that adhere to the SD 2.00 specification - a design that is required for cards and hosts to support 4GB to 32GB capacities. The specification was developed by the SD Association, which also defined three speed classes for speed and performance capabilities.

SDHC cards adhere to the SD Speed Class Rating specification which defines a minimum sustained transfer speed and use the FAT32 file system. The SD Speed Class Ratings specify a minimum sustained write speed for SDHC cards (Class 2: 2 MB/s; Class 4: 4 MB/s; Class 6: 6 MB/s) - that's MegaBytes not MegaBits.

Most cameras made after 3Q 2006 support SDHC but the majority of the currently available external card readers) DO NOT - consult your user manual or manufacturer's web site before purchasing a SDHC card for your camera, camcorder, netbook or MP3 player. Many manufacturers provide downloadable firmware updates for their cameras and are adding SDHC support.

Click here to read the SDHC specifications (Adobe pdf format).

SanDisk Boosts SD Card Speed By Fifty Percent - Sets New Speed Record

TOKYO, JAPAN, August 27, 2008 - SanDisk Corporation today set a new speed record of 30 megabytes per second1 for SD flash memory cards with the introduction of the SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s Edition line of SDHC Cards. The new cards, expected to be available worldwide in September in 4-gigabyte (GB)2, 8GB and 16GB capacities, are designed to deliver peak performance when used with the new digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, Nikon D90.

High Capacity MS Pro Cards

Sony and SanDisk now have Memory Stick PRO cards that boast 4GB and 8GB of capacity.

Manufacturer's Links

ATP Inc.

Delkin Devices

Hitachi Global Storage - Microdrives

Kingston Memory

Lexar Media



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