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memory cards: CF vs. SD

Allan Armstrong , May 19, 2010; 01:07 a.m.

I'm wondering what the difference is between SD and CF cards. My D90 has an SD card as does my Canon G10. I notice the pro cameras -- Canon and Nikon -- use CF cards. Why? The D300 can accept either.
CF cards are physically larger. Do they write faster for sports? Is that why pro cameras use them?

Allan is apparently referring to the Nikon D300S, which can accept one Compact Flash and one Secured Digital memory cards. The original D300, non S, can only accept one CF card; it is not compatible with SD cards. -- Shun Cheung


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kiatchun sin , May 19, 2010; 01:12 a.m.

I think the technology (read/write speeds) for CF cards progress faster than SD, but this might change in the future.

Homer Arment , May 19, 2010; 01:20 a.m.

Until recently the CF cards were faster than the SD cards in R/W speed. They were also available in larger storage sizes than the SD cards. I doubt that it is a valid reason but I think the smaller SD cards are much easier to misplace.

Just my opinions though.


Dave Lee , May 19, 2010; 01:36 a.m.

SD cards are fragile compared to CF cards. I think it's relatively easy to damage an SD card by accident. I had a cheap SD card fall apart in my hands once.

Stuart Moxham - Finland , May 19, 2010; 01:46 a.m.

I would put both cards in the D300s and have the piece of mind that I would have a backup card.

Bjorn Rorslett , May 19, 2010; 03:33 a.m.

Inside the camera and seated there, the practical differnece is negligible. Outside the camera, CF has all the advantages of a human finger-adapted size and robustness. Longevity for a SD card you try to replace in the field is very short: once you drop it or misplace it, it's gone (I clocked the longevity to about 5 minutes under real-world situations).

So I prefer CF. We really don't need anything smaller.

Peter Hamm , May 19, 2010; 06:52 a.m.

Some people think that SD cards have fewer problems, probably because EARLY CF-cards and CF-card-equipped cameras had some real regular issues But today there's really no difference in reliability at all, as both are very mature mediums. In the D1 days, every now and then we'd have a card just stop working forever. With the Kodak DCS we had the same thing happen once or twice. We never were able to determine whether it was the camera or card at fault. Cameras and cards in use now aren't going to be a problem.

CF has MUCH faster throughput possibilities, but even for sports, the really fast SD cards can often keep up (at least they can on my D90 shooting what seems like forever in jpeg mode with an Extreme III Class 10 card). SD is more fragile (although the slot is, imho, a far better design than CF) and easy to lose (I've never lost one, however), but on the other hand the CF slot in the camera is also potentially super-fragile, but usually not a problem.

We may get, sometime in the near future, a new standard that has the robustness of CF but the "slot-robustness" of the SD cards. It matters nothing to us now, since no cameras will take them.

For now, just use what your camera requires and don't worry about it. And if you have a D300 and use only one card, use CF if you can.

Phil Evans , May 19, 2010; 09:58 a.m.

I only own CF cards so I don't really know what I am talking about. I have never had a single problem with a CF card, knock on wood.

However the contacts of the CF card have always made me nervous. The possibility of bending a pin is there. I like how the SD card contacts. The contacts are accessible so they can be cleaned if necessary and there is nothing to bend. But that is all just theoretical.

Shun Cheung , May 19, 2010; 10:04 a.m.

I used to think the connection pins for CF cards are vulnerable (those pins are inside the camera). I have bent pins on some cheap card readers, but I have never done so on an actual DSLR after 8 years of shooting digital.

Last year, I bought some SD cards to test the D300S with, and in no time I broke one older SD card my wife has been using; it cracked on the side of the card. That whole package is fragile.

Read/write speeds on CF cards are faster, or at least the fastest CF cards are faster than the fastest SD. But technology is changing rapidly so that it may not hold true.

Matt Laur , May 19, 2010; 11:11 a.m.

My fingertips are larger than SD cards. I like the CF card's form factor (for handling) and survivability.

Untold hundreds (thousands, no doubt) of CF card swaps later, I've never had a single CF card (or socket pin, on cameras or readers) fail.

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