Lexar 300x UDMA
Lexar 300x UDMA CF Card and Reader
See also CF Card Speed Tests
The reason for these high-speed cards and readers is download speed. A full 2GB card downloads in less than 60 seconds!
These are Lexar's top cards as of mid-2007. They compete directly against the excellent San Disk Extreme IV system I bought for myself last year before I heard about these.
These Lexar cards have the fastest download speeds of any card I've ever used, but not that much faster than the almost as insanely fast San Disk Extreme IV. Nothing else I've used compares to these two.
Card speed makes no difference shooting with digital SLRs.
To get these speeds you need both the new cards (Lexar 300x UDMA or San Disk Extreme IV) and a dedicated Firewire 800 reader. This reader won't make much difference with other cards, and these cards won't read much faster in older readers. To get superfast download speeds you need both a hot new card and a new dedicated reader.
1a.) The Lexar was imperceptibly faster at downloads.
1b.) The SanDisk was 50% faster uploading from a computer, unimportant for photography.
1c.) The Sandisk Extreme IV (and even the older Extreme III) was up to 15% faster in extinguishing the card activity light when shooting bloated raw files. This is meaningless unless you're shooting long, rapid sequences in raw and getting stuck when your buffer fills. Even then, there is little difference between these cards in my Nikon D200 or Canon 5D.
2.) Either of these cards, used in the correct Firewire reader, is much faster than any other card I've used, like my SanDisk Extreme III, for downloads.
3.) Either card works equally well in either manufacturer's dedicated card reader, a pleasant surprise. There's no need to buy a new dedicated reader if you want to try the other brand of hot card.
4.) Firewire 400 may be as fast as Firewire 800. Since I measured the same speeds for each with my Mac Quad G5 I suspect my Quad G5 may have been running at Firewire 800 speeds via its Firewire 400 ports. I'd need a hot new machine with only Firewire 400 to try this again.
I have a BSEE degree in electronic engineering, and even I don't care for what UDMA stands. If you do, people tell me UDMA stands for Ultra Direct Memory Access/33 megabits per second, twice the speed of some previous standard. Likewise, "300x" is only meaningful for comparing to other cards that rate themselves with the same method.
As we say in racing, the BS stops when the green flag drops, so we're off to the track to test this gibberish against SanDisk's ESP technology (the Extreme IV series) in the real world.
These hot new card readers use Firewire, the professional standard. They don't use USB.
As a professional I use only Mac, and all Macs have had Firewire (400) ports since I think the 1990s. Apple invented Firewire so it's old news to professionals. The new Macs have Firewire 800 ports as well as Firewire 400 ports.
If you're on a Windows PC without Firewire, the best thing you can do is upgrade directly to a Mac. If you tolerate crashes, viruses, lost data, reboots and downtime repairing computers (I can't afford to), you can polish a turd and get a Firewire 800 card for a Windows PC for about $75, a traditional Firewire 400 card for about $25 or a notebook Firewire 400 card for about $35. Call me biased, but my friends and I have work to do, so with Apple we never have problems - our Apples just work.
SPECIFICATIONS with commentary back to top
Card Reader Specifications
Supported Formats: CF only, both regular and extra-thick (Microdrives and the old super-capacity cards).
Interface: Two Firewire 800 ports, which means you can daisy-chain this into an existing Firewire 800 line without losing a Firewire 800 port.
Even better, this Lexar reader comes with an extra 6" (15 cm) Firewire 800 patch cord so it's trivial to add this reader into an existing Firewire 800 line. This is much better than the SanDisk reader, which only has one Firewire 800 port and hogs an entire firewire port for itself.
Compatible with Traditional Firewire 400? Yes; just get a cord with Firewire 400 on one end and Firewire 800 on the other end. My 400 <-> 800 cords were included with my LaCie Firewire 800 drives, not this reader. I think my SanDisk Extreme IV reader came with both.
Compatible with USB? NO.
Comes with: Two Firewire 800 cords: one 6" (15cm), the other a few feet long.
Reader Made in: Taiwan.
CF Card Specifications
Capacities: 8GB, 4GB and 2GB. I tested the 8 GB size.
Comes with: Translucent plastic dust case and a promise of free included downloadable recovery software. If the software is "included," why do you have to download it? Lexar used to include the software on the cards until too many of us boneheads, myself included, formatted over the software before we realized it was on the card. I see nothing on the card or in the box except a form with a password presumably used for downloading it.
Cards Made in: China.
PERFORMANCE back to top
Mechanics, Optics and Comparisons
You need to jam the card all the way in, which makes the eject button pop out. At first I pushed the card in and nothing happened: I hadn't pushed it all the way in. The clear button to the left is an eject button that pops out, not just an activity light.
It's a little easier to put the card into the SanDisk reader, but easier to get it out of the Lexar reader.
The activity lights of the Lexar and the SanDisk are both blue. The Lexar's activity light works great while the SanDisk's light is tiny and invisible.
The Lexar reader stacks by clicking together with other identical readers.
No problem: I measured the same speeds both connected directly as well as daisy chained on my Firewire 800 line.
Card Tests and Comparisons
I compared my own SanDisk 2GB Extreme III and 4GB Extreme IV cards against a loaned 8GB Lexar 300x card.
The Lexar card was brand new and my SanDisks have some miles on them.
Tested Shooting Speeds
Let's get this out of the way: shooting speeds are irrelevant with DSLRs because camera buffers write to the card while you keep on shooting.
Times from the first shot to the activity light extinguishing (going out):
Test A: Nikon D200, uncompressed raw + Large Fine JPG, 10 shots @ 3FPS = 210MB.
Test B: Nikon D200, compressed raw + Large Fine JPG, 10 shots @ 3FPS = 150MB.
Test C: Canon 5D, Large Fine JPG + raw, 10 shots @ 3FPS = 211 MB.
Results: Even if buffer flushing and writing times mattered, these are all the same on these two modern DSLRs. If it does matter, the Lexar is a tiny bit slower than either of the SanDisk cards. This could go the other way on another camera, I only tried it on these two.
Tested Downloading Speeds
It's all about download speed. Let's run a few timed tests by dumping a gig of JPGs from my Mac to the cards, and then seeing how long it takes to download these from the cards back into my Mac.
I did this by dragging and dropping in my Mac's Finder. I don't use other software to move or download files.
I clocked the time from drag/drop mouse release to the progress bar box disappearing.
My desktop computer used for all these tests is my Quad 2.5GHz G5 with 4.5 GB RAM and OS 10.4.9 I bought new in 2006. It has one Firewire 800 port as well as Firewire 400 and USB 2.0 ports.
My laptop is a 12" 800 MHz iBook G4 with 1.1 GB RAM and the same OS 10.4.9. I bought it new in 2003. It only has traditional Firewire 400 and USB 2.0 ports.
I collected 12 folders with camera-original JPGs of about 1MB each totaling 1GB (1,046,957,861 bytes). There were about 1,000 files.
I formatted each of the cards in my Nikon D200 before doing this.
1 GB via Firewire 800, Quad G5
1 GB via Firewire 400, Quad G5*
*These speeds are identical to the Firewire 800 speeds, so I suspect that either a.) my Mac Quad G5 may be running at Firewire 800 speeds when connecting to its Firewire 400 ports, or b.) that Firewire 400 is sufficiently fast for these cards. I don't know.
1 GB via Firewire 400, iBook
These speeds are half the Firewire 800 speeds above. I'd need to test with a hot new machine with only Firewire 400 to see if the speed penalty is due to Firewire 400, or to my iBook being a much slower computer with a much slower hard drive.
Downloading from a Camera
This is slow compared to using these special dedicated card readers. I measured one time for comparison. It took 203.9 seconds to download the same 1 GB of data from my D200 via it's built in USB connection (Extreme IV card, but should be similar for the other cards).
In other words, it takes over seven times as long to download from my D200, which is pretty fast as cameras go (much faster than my Canon 5D), than it does to download using these hot new readers with the hot new cards.
Uploading (Industrial Espionage)
Uploading speed doesn't apply to photography, but I did measure it since I had to upload the same 1 GB data set into each card from my Quad G5. This matters if you need suck data out of someone's computer quickly, but not for photography.
Uploading via Firewire 800
Uploading via Firewire 400
I measured the same speeds via Firewire 400 on my Quad G5, specifically, 102.8s to copy to the 300x Lexar card and 151.8s to copy to the Extreme III card, both in the Lexar reader.
RECOMMENDATIONS back to top
I'd go get one of these new systems if you shoot enough to have to wait for downloads. I wonder how I ever lived without it.
For my money, I'd only buy this Lexar 300x UDMA or the SanDisk Extreme IV. These two have been the leaders in memory for years. This is the only thing they do. I've had good luck with Kingston, but I don't know that they make anything this fast and I'm more impressed with Lexar's and SanDisk's history of innovation.
Shooting speeds don't matter, and are the same between the Lexar 300x UDMA, SanDisk Extreme IV and SanDisk Extreme III. (Either of the SanDisk cards are a tiny bit faster if you care.)
Getting these high download speeds depend on using both a hot card and a dedicated Firewire reader. Either hot card works in either company's dedicated readers, which is an unexpected plus. Used in a conventional reader these ultrafast cards run no faster.
The Lexar 300x UDMA and Sandisk Extreme IV are both equally excellent. I see no meaningful difference between them. Either of them will let you download a full 2GB card in less than 60 seconds! If you split hairs, the Lexar 300x card is a tiny bit faster. (The older SanDisk Extreme III is three times slower.)
Better, they seem just as fast over Firewire 400, at least over the Firewire 400 connections of my Mac Quad G5. They are half as fast on my iBook's Firewire 400 connection, which suggests that the Firewire 400 connectors on my G5 may indeed be running at Firewire 800 speeds if they can. My iBook only has Firewire 400 connections so it can't cheat.
My time is more valuable than the cost of these cards. I bought a set of the SanDisk cards and readers to shorten my downloads. I taught a workshop earlier this year and was amazed that people still wait minutes for downloads. Life's short. Go get one of these systems if you're still waiting for downloads.
I'd suggest either brand. I got the SanDisk personally because I saw it first and liked it. Both SanDisk and Lexar are the leaders in memory cards and both have excellent service.
The SanDisk Extreme IV was the clear winner in upload speeds, which is unrelated to photography unless you're carrying your images to print at a lab on a CF card.
Always format every card in your camera (not your computer) every time you use it. This prevents the possibility of data errors and corruption.
If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.
Thanks for reading!
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