Sunday, July 19, 2009

Transcend 600X UDMA 6 Extreme Plus CF Cards

A few days ago, Transcend quietly announced the fastest CompactFlash cards to date. Offered in 8GB and 16GB sizes, the new cards take advantage of the latest UDMA 6 specification, offering 600x read/write speeds. This translates roughly to a 90MB/sec transfer rate (150Kb x 600 / 1024 = 88MB). In other words, this is very, very fast. Faster than most hard drives, in fact.

While some may not need this extreme speed boost, others like sports photographers shooting at full burst speed might enjoy never hitting the buffer. This kind of speed also promises to cut data transfer times in half between card and computer, provided you have a fast reader (PCIe-based Express Card or Firewire 800) connected to a compute with either a very fast hard drive or one of the latest SSDs (solid state drives).

And while I don't shoot sports at 9fps in RAW, I am excited about these cards for another reason. Back at the PMA show in March, I learned that the Leica S2 is fully compatible with UDMA 6 and will support speeds up to 600x. And while no cards existed at that time, by the time we reach the September launch of the S2, these cards should be readily available (and certainly at Dale Photo & Digital).

The S2 shoots at 1.5fps. Each DNG RAW file is 75MB. So, the S2 is pushing over 112MB of data per second. One, this is pretty incredible unto itself and a credit to the performance of the dual-core Maestro chip. Two, if you have a decent 133x card (like a Transcend 133x or a SanDisk Extreme III) and want to shoot in a burst, the 1GB buffer will fill in ten seconds after 15 shots, as you'll have a bandwidth deficit of 94MB/sec. It would then take the camera 55 seconds to clear the buffer to the card. Now, if we use the 600x card, which writes at a minimum of 88MB/sec, our buffer wouldn't fill up for 42 seconds. Then, easing off the trigger after our 64-shot burst (4.8GB worth), the buffer would clear in just 11 seconds. Pretty incredible difference in performance.

The S2 might very well be the most memory hungry camera out there due to both its high megapixel count (37.5MP) combined with its fast (for MF) burst rate. Remember that the S2 is capturing 14-bit files. Compare this to the Nikon D3x. The Nikon top-dog shoots 24MP NEF files at a rate of 5fps. Sounds great, right? The catch is that this frame rate is for 12-bit file capture. Crank it up to 14-bit (same as the S2) and the frame rate drops to 1.8fps. What this means is that the Nikon is only pushing about 85MB/sec, while the S2 is cranking about 30% more data per second. It also means that photographers who are frustrated with the 28 frame buffer depth (15 sec) of the D3x, can now use the 600x Transcend cards and keep up with the camera, providing the D3x supports the UDMA 6 spec. Otherwise, the card will run at UDMA 5 and top out at only 300x (45MB/sec).

What's even more impressive is that while a card like the 16GB SanDisk Extreme IV (45MB/sec) costs $200, the new Transcend offers twice the performance for only $75 more.

Needless to say, I will definitely be stocking up on these before our first shipment of Leica S2s come in sometime in September. You can always pre-order them now on our website or give me a call to reserve you some cards to go with your camera. Personally, I think I'm putting myself down for three. That'll give me about 600 shots, which seems like plenty for a full day of shooting.

$275 for 16GB. $142 for 8GB. Available starting in August.

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At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David you should know better than to take Transcend's word for their speed. See for a test. they certainly won't write at 90mb/sec, - I doubt you'll get even half of that in S2 reality.
I appreciate you're here to sell stuff in your store, but lets 'keep it real' and objective!

At 5:29 AM, Anonymous dsi r4 said...

These 600X CF cards raise the bar with blazing fast transfer speeds of up to 92MB/s read and 87MB/s write, which makes them the ideal choice for professional photographers and enthusiasts who use high end digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras.


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