Compact Flash: It Keeps Getting Better

by James Duncan Davidson

I'm a big fan of my IBM 1GB Microdrive. It fits nicely in my Canon D30 digital camera and gives me the ability to store lots of pictures. And because it is a hard drive rather than solid state, it used to run rings around other CF cards when it came to performance.

That was a year ago when I bought the Microdrive. Yesterday, I was at Keeble & Schucat, a photographic store in Palo Alto, with a friend of mine who is interested in buying a D30 for himself. While he was busily snapping pictures, I suddenly became quite jealous. The camera in the store was saving pictures noticeably faster than mine does. After snapping off a couple of frames to verify that it was cycling faster than mine, I popped the CF card out and found one of Lexar's new high performance Professional 16x cards.

What a difference a year makes when it comes to solid state devices. I own a 64MB 8x Lexar card that the Microdrive trounced in performance, not to mention storage space. Now, you can get these new fast cards in capacities of up to 512MB. From the little bit of research that I've done on the net in the last few hours, the Microdrive is probably still faster than solid state for long operations, but the Lexar cards win for in-camera use when you are writing out a image file from memory because they don't have to spin up the hard drive to start writing.

Now I'm plotting to sell my Microdrive and pick up one or two of these new Lexar cards. Digital photography -- it's an expensive habit for sure.

What have your experiences been with Compact Flash "digital film"?


2001-12-30 10:06:56
Which is Safer Do You Suppose?
I've been reading about the new Compact Flash cards too, and I'm wondering about their stability. Since I've been using the Microdrive, I haven't had any read/write problems at all (and dread the thought of that dark day). One of the downsides to this much capacity, however, is that if the media goes bad, I could lose A LOT OF PICTURES. In the past I've had two Compact Flash cards die on me. So I'm wondering, which is more stable: the new Compact Flash cards, or the Microdrive?
2001-12-30 15:40:35
Which is Safer Do You Suppose?
I've always worried about the moving parts in the Microdrive as well -- even though I've not had a lick of trouble with it. The solid state CF cards have always appealed based on not having moving parts, but the capacity hasn't been there till now.

Rob Galbraith has done a lot of work over time looking at different CF cards and recommends using many smaller cards instead of one large one. His latest article comparing various flash memory for use in the Nikon D1X gives some interesting insights.

What kind of CF cards died on you? I haven't had a any problems with any of mine (mostly Lexar), although they haven't gotten a workout since I got the Microdrive. SanDisk has an amusing press release that talks about various mishaps that their cards have lived through.