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Newer DSLRs and UDMA.

Can you benefit from them?

By Peter Kotsinadelis

With many of the newer Digital SLRs now including Ultra Direct Memory Access
(UDMA), we decided to take a look and see how much improvement there really is in
terms of performance. UDMA is a technology that provides extremely fast read/write
access to a camera’s memory card, especially when an UDMA-equipped DSLR uses an
UDMA‑compliant memory card. So, if you are a photographer who is looking to poten-
tially speed up your workflow, this information is sure to be worth your time.
When we last published a review of CompactFlash (CF) cards in May 2008, “Not All
Memory is Created Equal,” there were only three UDMA-equipped DSLRs on the market:
the Nikon D3 and D300, and Canon’s 1Ds Mark III. Also, at that time only four manufac-
turers—Delkin, Hoodman, Lexar and SanDisk—were offering UDMA-capable CF Cards.
The following tables detail the test results from that article and show the performance
differences between the various memory cards.
The published results were a real eye-opener to those pho- card’s performance to another, when you review the timings shown
tographers who gave little thought to memory cards, and still in Table A, you quickly realize this is not the case.
others who were more inclined to buy strictly on price. When Speed designations refer to the minimum sustainable rate that
you consider the number of digital images a photographer will data can be transferred to/from the memory card. Each card’s rat-
take at an event, ranging from hundreds to several thousand, ing and consequently speed designation is actually based on that
even a small time savings multiplied many times is something manufacturer’s own internal testing. Because the criteria used for
that is sure to benefit a photographer’s overall workflow. As testing differs with each manufacturer, comparing one manufac-
many have said, reducing time in front of a monitor means more turer’s CF card rated at 300X to another’s also rated at 300X is like
time shooting, which in turn means more opportunity to gain comparing apples to oranges. In some instances, a CF Card that
additional revenue. bears a lower speed designation can actually perform better than
one with a higher designation.
Cards and Designated Speeds
Memory cards typically indicate their speed by designations Transfer Rates and Compact Flash Card Testing
such as 150X, 300X, and in some instances 30MB/s or 45MB/s The original methodology for transferring information in/out
(MB per second). To convert the MB/s to a speed rating such as of a CompactFlash card was called Programmed Input/Output,
300X, you should know that 1X equals 150K/sec. Now simply di- or PIO. It is grouped into seven modes, each relating to a specific
vide the maximum transfer rate shown in MB/s by 150K and you transfer rate. Table B shows the PIO modes and their associated
will find that the newest SanDisk Extreme IV rated at 45MB/s is transfer rates. UMDA is a newer technology and offers six modes
the equivalent of 300X. The SanDisk Extreme III rated at 30MB/s shown in Table C. When you look at the tables it is clear to see
is the equivalent of 200X. While many think the speed rating of that UDMA is a technology that provides a much faster means of
200X or 300X is something that they can easily use to compare one transferring information compared to PIO.

Table A: Camera Timings in Seconds

EOS 40D EOS 1D EOS 1Ds Nikon Nikon
Mark III Mark III* D200 D300*

Delkin 305X* 18.5 26 17.5 41 11.5
Hoodman RAW 280x* 19 27 20 48 13.5
Kingston 266x 17 24 16.5 41 10.5
Lexar 300x* 17 24 12.5 40 7
SanDisk Ultra II 25 40 29 59 22
SanDisk Extreme III 19 26 17.5 40 10.7
SanDisk Extreme IV** 14.5 20 11.5 36 4.2
SanDisk Ducati* 14.5 20 11 36 3.9

*UDMA-compliant
**The SanDisk Extreme IV had a speed designation of 40MB/s at the time, the
equivalent of 266X.
The original timings, as published in Rangefinder, May 2008, showing the amount of time each camera
needed to write a set number of images to each CompactFlash Card.
Table B: PIO With UDMA becoming more written to the CF card. We ran more than six passes with each card
commonplace in DSLRs and CF in the camera to ensure accuracy, averaged the timings and placed
Programmed Input/ MB/s Cards, we decided to run a test to the results in Table D below.
Output (PIO)
see just how much improvement Table D compares the speed of each CF card in a given camera
Mode 6 25 one would see in performance and does not compare one camera to another. The rankings shown
Mode 5 20 when using this new technology. were developed using a consistent number of images with each card
Mode 4 16.7 All CF cards included in the test in a given camera. Bear in mind, even if the number of images were
Mode 3 11.1 were UDMA-compliant. Even different between cameras, it does not matter as long as the same
though the SanDisk Extreme III number of images were
Mode 2 8.3 Table C: UDMA
and RiData CF cards were not used when testing each card
Mode 1 5.2
labeled as being UDMA-com- in that camera. Ultra Direct Memory MB/s
Mode 0 3.3 pliant, both the SanDisk and Ri- In terms of sheer speed, Access (UDMA)
PIO (Programmed Input/Output) Data websites indicate they are the Hoodman 300X UDMA
modes and their associated transfer
rates. PIO is the oldest method for
UDMA-compatible. Kingston CF card was the clear winner. Mode 6 133.3
transferring information to/from a representatives stated their CF It was better than the SanD- Mode 5 100
device such as a CF Card. Cards were UDMA-compliant, isk Extreme IV UDMA and Mode 4 66.7
but this is not indicated in prod- Lexar 300X UDMA cards Mode 3 44.4
uct literature or on their website. in terms of speed by 4% to Mode 2 33.3
For our test we wanted to mimic real-world use. To do this we 39%, depending on the cam- Mode 1 25
placed each of the CF cards listed below in a Canon EOS 50D and era used. We were fortunate UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access)
then in a Nikon D3, set each camera to record RAW plus large JPEGs, to be able to test the new modes and their associated transfer rates.
and the motor of each to continuous high-speed operation. We then RiData 300X Supreme Se- UDMA is the newest technology used to
move information to/from a device such
set the lens to manual focus, left the lens cap on, set the camera to ries UDMA card and found as a CF Card.
Manual and used a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 and a small aperture. it to be nearly as fast as the
We fired off 10 images and used a stopwatch to time the results. Lexar 300X when used in the Canon EOS, but the surprise was that
The Canon EOS 50D was simple to time since the red LED il- it was slightly faster than the Lexar when used in the Nikon D3.
luminated constantly until writing to the CF card completed, then For the photographer who has a need for speed and wants to
turned off. The Nikon D3 was more difficult to time as the LED maximize workflow, the Hoodman 300X, closely followed by the
flashed on/off until it completed writing. In the end we opted to Sandisk Extreme IV, Lexar 300X, and new RiData 300X Supreme
shoot 8 to 10 images with the D3 and see how long it would take for Series UDMA cards are the ones to look at.
the camera to write that amount of information to each card. We
also took advantage of the image counter display on the rear-LCD Peter Kotsinadelis is a writer/photographer living in Pleasanton, CA. He may be
display of the D3 that changed incrementally as each image was reached at peterk727@gmail.com

Table D: CompactFlash Card Timings

Canon 50D % of additional Nikon D3 % of additional Avg % based
CF CARD Time in time needed Time in time needed to on Canon &
seconds to write compared seconds write compared Nikon times
to Hoodman to Hoodman compared to
Hoodman

Hoodman 300X UDMA 3.75 0% 11.2 0% 0%
SanDisk Extreme IV UDMA
(45MB or 300X equivalent) 4.2 12% 11.7 4% 8%
Lexar 300X UDMA 5.2 39% 12.4 11% 25%
RiData 300X Supreme
Series UDMA 5.4 44% 12.2 9% 26%
SanDisk Extreme III
(30 MB or 200X equivalent) 5.7 52% 14.4 29% 40%
RiData 266X 7.8 108% 19 70% 89%
Kingston 266X 9.2 145% 23 105% 125%
DELKIN Devices
UDMA 305X 10 167% 26.1 133% 150%
Kingston 133X 11.55 208% 33 195% 201%
The amount of time for Canon EOS 50D and Nikon D3 to write a set number of images to each Compact Flash Card. Also, the additional time required for
each compared to the Hoodman 300X.