Lexar 233x CF Cards
23 September 2008
Lexar has just announced a new line of 233x CF cards. This line of 233x cards is a significant upgrade and replacement for Lexar's previous 133x line of cards.
These new 233x cards are UDMA compatible and rated to 35 MB/s, compared to the 20 MB/s rating of the old 133x cards.
The new 233x cards come in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB CF sizes. They have Lexar's standard limited lifetime warranty and will be available in October 2008.
Lexar's top 300x cards, rated for 45MB/s transfer, remain the same and come in 2GB, 4GB, 8GB and 16GB sizes.
Lexar's less expensive 233x cards thus become the deal of the millennium, so far.
Performance back to top
Thankfully I haven't had any card corrupt or lose a file since 2003, so I have no way to rate reliability, thank goodness.
Today, cards perform based on download speeds. We have to wait for cards to download, and with the amount I shoot every day, the faster I can suck my data from a card, the happier I am.
Write, or buffer-clearing, speed, isn't particularly important, and doesn't vary much between cards.
Each card was loaded with 1.82GB (1,953,103,872 bytes) of JPGs and a few NEFs in 13 folders, as shot and foldered on a Nikon D3.
Each was connected to the Firewire 400 port of my 30" monitor. It turns out that this port runs at Firewire 800 speeds if you use Firewire 800 devices, and oddly, ran a little faster than using the dedicated Firewire 800 ports on the back of my Quad G5 Mac.
Read from SanDisk Extreme IV Firewire 800 CF Card Reader
I see no difference between the 233x and 300x Lexar cards, or between the SanDisk Extreme IV card.
The slower SanDisk Extreme III card is a pig. It took over three times as long to download. You'd see this same slow speed with other slower cards; see my older Card Speed Tests for more figures for older cards.
This is why my slower cards stay in my sock drawer. I have no time to wait for files to download.
Read from Lexar Firewire 800 CF Reader
The Lexar Firewire 800 reader is a tiny bit faster than the SanDisk, but I'd never notice it. Another day, the SanDisk reader might be faster. I'd get which ever is styled more to your taste.
Read from Lexar USB 2.0 CF/SD UDMA reader
If you want the benefits of fast cards, forget reading from a USB 2.0 card reader, or directly from your camera via USB. The USB interface is slower than these cards, so your speeds will be limited by the USB 2.0 interface.
Professional cards are for professionals, and to get professional transfer speeds, you need a professional Firewire 800, or at least Firewire 400, reader. All Macs have had Firewire 400 ports since the 1990s and most Macs have Firewire 800 ports; if your Windows PC lacks one, you can get a Firewire card for your desktop machine for about $20 last I checked.
These speeds are three times as slow as using a Firewire reader. Use USB in a pinch, but be sure to use a Firewire reader for these cards.
Shooting Speeds (rarely significant) back to top
Digital SLRs have buffers which allow you to shoot as fast as you want. The speed of your card doesn't matter so long as your buffer, usually many frames deep, doesn't fill up.
Your buffer will never fill up unless you're shooting fast in some goofy format like uncompressed raw. If you're shooting fast in a cumbersome file format, you're probably making a big mistake, because regardless of how fast and fat your cards may be, every other stage of your workflow will be slowed down, too. If you're shooting lots of long, rapid sequences where write speed might matter, shooting raw or TIFF is not a great idea.
To test write speed, I shot a Nikon D3 set to 14 bit uncompressed NEF raw, which makes huge 24.6MB files. TIFF is even bigger.
The D3 has a 13-shot buffer. I made 14 shots at 9 FPS, which means I got off 13 frames, at which point the buffer filled, and shot #14 came a half second later.
I timed from when I first pressed the shutter for the first shot until the green activity light on the back of the D3 extinguished.
Even the slower SanDisk Extreme III is almost as fast for shooting as today's hottest cards. The ancient Lexar 40x Write Acceleration card I dug up wasn't a problem either.
Upload Speeds (not important) back to top
Photographers don't care, but to compare download speeds, I first needed to upload identical data to each card. I measured this while dragging and dropping in my Mac's Finder.
This is for 1.8GB (1,933,824,837 bytes) in 13 folders, and were uploaded using the SanDisk Extreme IV Firewire 800 reader.
The Lexar 233x, 300x and SanDisk Extreme IV are the same. The SanDisk Extreme III was twice as slow.
Firewire 800 Readers top
The Lexar has a flippy card door to keep out dust, but when the card goes in, you can't see it at all. You have to press a button to pop it out. The cards go in sloppily and don't feel precise.
Unloaded, the Lexar reader feels tougher than the SanDisk, but the SanDisk feels better when actually jamming cards in and out.
The SanDisk feels crappier by itself, and has almost no visible activity light, but cards pop in and out much faster. You can see what car is in the SanDisk reader because they are not completely covered.
For travel, the SanDisk Extreme IV reader is smaller.
Recommendations back to top
Would I buy these? You bet! (The card I reviewed was loaned to me by Lexar.)
Performance is the same as the top-line cards, at a better price.
If you get any of these, be sure to get the Lexar Firewire 800 reader and use it connected to a Firewire 400 or Firewire 800 port. These cards are faster than USB interfaces.
I ask myself who needs 8GB cards. Unless you're using it in a second backup slot in a pro camera, it shouldn't be asked to hold more than a day's shooting. If you're shooting 8GB each day, where do you store all this? CF cards double in capacity every week, yet my hard drive has grown from 160GB in 2000 to only 750GB today in 2008.
see also my older Card Speed Tests.
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