When I shot the LSU vs. North Carolina football game last week, I wanted to take my new 32-gig Lexar Professional 600X high-speed UDMA memory card out, and when I popped it in the camera, I have to tell you—my jaw dropped when I looked at the LCD readout on the top of my Nikon D3, and saw that in JPEG fine mode, I had more than 4,300 shots available on that one card. Seriously—wow! I snapped the shot you see above of the LCD readout window using my iPhone 4 on the balcony of my hotel before I left for the game.

Now, later Paul Abell snookered me into shooting a sporting event in Raw mode, so my number of available shots went down to around 1,200+, but still—that ain’t bad for just one card. By the way—the Lexar 600X card is insanely mondo fast. I had never had that level of speed (or that big a card), but it was really sa-weet. Anyway, I had to share that moment with you guys. I didn’t even know the “shots left on card” readout went that high! :-)

About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.

51 Comments

  1. 1200+ is nice, but there is this thing about putting all eggs in one basket… We were ok once with 32-36 frames per roll… I’d say 300+ per card is a good compromise between comfort and safety.

    • Alex, in my opinion, photography as an expressive medium has changed considerably, specially for the new generation of professional pphotographers. You have the need to shoot high resolution files, most likely with a mixture of high definiton video and you have to do it fast and efficiently, leading to the need of larger and faster cards.
      If it is a question of loss of data, the pro cards have usually a built in safe recovery system that works extremly well, and as far as loosing one, I believe it will be a lot easier to loose a card if you are changing them often enough rather than never, during a photo shoot :)

    • In all the years of shooting digital photography, about 10+ years, I have had two cards fail on me. One of them, lost all the pictures, around 2001 and of course it was trip of a lifetime (Scotland). Second one failed last year, stopped at 4GB when the card was suppose to be 8GB. Didn’t lose any picts, however, did miss a critical pict. So, 2 cards failing over 10+ years… no big deal anymore as I have a backup plan. My backup plan, NextODI device, pop the card out of the camera and slide it into it and copy/move the files. I will go all day taking photos and do this at the end use the NextODI. Do I expect a failure, sure. That is life, no matter how secure I try to make it.

  2. do we need extra device for UDMA?

    • To notice any difference when you’re shooting, you’ll need a camera that can write to the card at that speed (I think for Nikon it’s only D3 and D3s, though I could be wrong. No clue on the Canon side).

      When you’re downloading, you’ll need a UDMA card reader. They do come in USB, but the Firewire 800 is the fastest. I’ve seen a 16GB UDMA card in five minutes or less with this setup :)

  3. Does it really make such a noticeable difference to the write-to-card delay in general? If so is that true for the different cameras, or just the ‘professional’ models eg Canon 1D series vs 5D vs 7D.

    Hmm perhaps that’s a small segment for D-Town TV?

    • I own a Canon 7d and have tried both a cheaper, non-UDMA card and regularly shoot with my Lexar Pro 300x UDMA card and there is a NOTICEABLE difference when shooting in the High-Speed burst mode. I’ve shot upwards of 30 frame bursts with my 7d on UDMA cards and there is zero lag or waiting on the camera to finish writing to the card.

      They’ve made a believer out of me!

  4. Alex, in my opinion, photography as an expressive media has changed considerably, specially for the new generation of professional pphotographers. You have the need to shoot high resolution files, most likely with a mixture of high definiton video and you have to do it fast and efficiently, leading to the need of larger and faster cards.
    If it is a question of loss of data, the pro cards have usually a built in safe recovery system that works extremly well, and as far as loosing one, I believe it will be a lot easier to loose a card if you are changing them often enough rather than never, during a photo shoot :)

  5. Holy crap, that’s a lot of pictures! I can remember my first 8gig card and thinking: “Wow, I’ll never take a thousand pictures!” (Something I do on a regular basis now, LOL!)

  6. I’m starting to wonder more and more about jpeg vs raw. I used to use raw for all of my serious shooting but using lightroom I seem to have almost total control of my jpeg images (non destructively,of course) and I wonder if raw is worth it anymore?

    • I would stick with raw if I were you. I’ve got an exhibition coming up from my autumn pictures from last year and am using two pictures that I shot as jpegs then. I don’t have all the possibilities to develop them that I have with the raw files. HDD and memory card space is certainly an issue and jpegs can to a great extent be manipulated well with today’s software, but raw is much more open to change. Some of my jpegs look good right out of the camera (Sony A700) but when it gets to the point where they have to look GREAT (for an exhibit, book, etc.), then I’d rather start from a raw file.

  7. And it use to be so much fun to throw a body to an assistant during the heat of a game and shout “FILM!!” Carried five bodies back then just to make sure I was always ready, or rather, the assistant could keep up with loading. Man, those days were fun. Now it’s two or three cards and your set for the day. What am I saying, these days are much more fun!

  8. Scott, the only problem with these types of cards is that when use these huge cards like this, you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket and WHEN, not if it fails OR you drop into a small puddle of water on the ground, you lose everything. And imagine if you’re shooting the Superbowl and you lose the entry first quarter or perhaps shooting a wedding and you lose getting ready, the ceremony, the family photos, and probably some of the reception. That would be pretty devastating. My tip is to use multiple small gig cards like 2 or 4gb (if you shooting 21mb), then when you lose something, you only lose a 100 vs 1200. Trust me this has happened to me during a wedding, I lost almost the entire ceremony this past summer. My 8gb card malfunctioned when it was still in the camera, had not been dropped or thrown around, it had an error writing one of the images and then the whole card malfunctioned and lost everything….lucky I was shooting to bodies that day and managed to safe myself from a big disaster with the client.

  9. Scott,
    Better charge that battery, one bar missing! That card should come with a couple of extra batteries. :)
    Ken

  10. I love the Lexar cards! I’ve found them to be very reliable and quite fast. Now, before I get hit with comments, let me say that I’m sure the other brands are great as well. I just have a personal preference for the gold gradient. :-)

    I do have some concerns in general about 32gb cards. For example, over Labor Day weekend I was shooting DragonCon in Atlanta. I shoot exclusively in RAW. So an 8gb card gives me just over 300 frames and a 16gb around 600+. I went through several cards, including some 16gb and 8gb cards. I even had a scary moment when my count went down to zero! Nothing like that to get your adrenaline flowing, as I’ve had issues with card corruption when I don’t pay enough attention to the count. I certainly didn’t have time to chimp my work as a parade is unfolding in front of me. And I surely would have missed some great frames if the card had gone bad. But, I felt relieved that I hadn’t put all my eggs in one large basket. No sweat, I just popped in the next card in my pocket and went about my shoot.

    Someday I’ll have a D3s and experience the nirvana of the 2nd card slot. But for now my D700s are my mainstays. So I’ll forgo using the 32gb card, and make sure if my card or I mess up, I’ll be less likely to lose the whole day. When it comes to weddings, this makes the difference between a happy client and a day in court.

    Oh and by the way, the card that went down to zero loaded just fine, no problems. The brand… Lexar 8gb 300x. Like I said, love that gold gradient!

  11. Call me old fashion, but here we stick to 2 or 4Gb CF cards, then if something goes wrong, it’s relatively easy to recover. Also, this makes post shoot back up easy as 2 x 2Gb = 1 x DVD. We be just simple folk here in Sussex;-) If we were working to game pressure, then the bigger the better!

    I did shoot an 8Gb card on my Canon 50D recently and the frame counter only goes to 999 so I didn’t know how many frames were available!

    • Ok, you’re old fashion, lol! Understand where you are coming from, however, it is nice to take risks. My D200 recognized both 16/32GB cards and that is alot of jpegs. Something like 22k on the 16GB in basic mode. Just a mere 925 with NEF/JPEG Basic on the 16GB card. The 32GB I did not test extensively. Nice and big, however, it is in my PDA right now. Maybe I will pull it out and start testing with it. Look above for another comment I made (if it made it). I had 2 card failures in 10+ years.

  12. you mind sharing pauls thoughts on why to shoot raw? i mean in most circumstances obviously i know why raw is better, but weve talked about sporting events before and decided that Jpeg was better. Paul would obviously have more insight in this so im just wondering what he said

    • I was going to ask why he had to be “talked into” shooting RAW. I don’t ever shoot any sports, is it the norm to shoo JPG for sports? Why?

    • Hey Big Daddy Don:
      So I got the game and I mentioned the whole 4.3K shots in JPEG fine, and then he started teasing me about being “Mr. Raw” and I told him for sports I always shoot JPEG, and he started talking about the indoor lighting in the Dome, and the fluctuations of color from the end zone to the sidelines, and it totally freaked me out so I shot in Raw (raw does much better than JPEG when it comes to adjusting white balance after the fact).

      So, apparently, I cave pretty quick when teased. ;-)

      -Scott

      • ahh! well that makes since. you know the only dome i shoot in and its pretty bight, and I found a Kelvin temp thats pretty darn close to perfect, but i guess that wouldnt work everywhere :) good thing to remember. (plus I do love to have the Raw)

        If i picked on you for using a D3s would you give it to me? haha.

      • I freely admit that I shoot RAW because its much more forgiving of my many white balance mistakes as photographer. Also, I don’t entirely trust in-camera processing, even on my D700. I’m a control freak with my photography and RAW just gives me more control.

      • dont get me wrong, there is no other scenario where i wont shoot RAW, and maybe if I had a 32 GB card I could shoot raw+Jpeg, but when you’re racing to process and get them out on the wire, converting to Jpeg is just another time consuming step :)

  13. I’m a SanDisk user and my largest card is an 8GB. Also have three 4GB cards. I am a bit nervous about having more than 300-400 pics on a card, so I don’t think I would go bigger than the 8GB. I’ve only filled up the large card three times, and that was shooting sporting events. But for a weekend photographer like myself, the added storage space isn’t necessary or very cost efficient. I do think that the large cards are needed for those who are shooting DSLR video, though.

    Plus, aren’t those big cards are a lot heavier???!!! :D

    –John

  14. Does the 32GB card fit in the Nikon D700?
    I know that Nikon does not support the thicker type II cards in the D700
    I looked at the Hoodman 32GB card and it won’t fit due to the physical size of the type II compact flash card.

    • i have a 32GB CF that fits my D200. That said, I think Nikon only supports CF type 1 cards, which my 32GB is. Most 32GB cards today are type 1 these days.

    • Really? That’s good to know. I bought my third Hoodman 16 GB card at PSW, but just couldn’t push myself to get the 32 GB version. Now I’m glad if the thing wouldn’t fit in my camera.

      I definitely love their 16GB 675x cards, though. I filled up one at the After Hours party before I knew it. Never had to slow down and wait on the buffer.

    • You’re right Alan. It does not fit my D700. I didn’t realize that all 32gb cards were type II.

      • Is that the 32 Lexar Card or the Hoodman.
        I couldn’t find any info on the Lexar 32 GB card being a type I or Type II

      • Alan, I know that type II cf cards won’t fit the D700. But I have no definitive (as in from the mfg) information as to whether the Lexar 32gb is in fact, a type II card. Online opinions of it are all over the board. With some suggesting that all 32gb cards are type II. Nothing on the Lexar site so far. So if anyone knows for sure, please chime in.

      • Omar – I just shot with the 32GB Lexar card in the D700 this weekend. Decided to do stick two 16GB cards in the D3 to distribute the memory evenly so I didn’t have to stop mid-song to change cards.

    • Alan, I have the 32 GB 300x and 32GB 600x cards and they all work flawlessly in the D700. They’re a necessity for all my timelapse photography for video that I do. The 600x cards capture 1,200 RAW / 2,900 JPEG shots per card.
      (Not sure why Scott’s D3 shows more. I’ll have to check into that.)

      • My concern is that the HOODMAN 32GB 675X cards. They are type II and will not work on the Nikon D700.

        Nikon D300s/D3s/D700 model cameras will not work with Type II compact flash cards, so the question was, will the Lexar 32GB cards work in these cameras and the answer seems to be yes. So by default the Lexar card is the thinner type I

  15. I have to agree with Alex that putting thousands of pictures on one card is not a very good idea. Recovery systems are not full proof. For photography, having multiple 4GB and 8GB cards is a safer strategy.

    Scott, I remember that in your Digital Photography Book Volume 1 you don’t recommend using even 8GB cards but multiple smaller ones instead. Those 32 and 64GB cards seem better suited for shooting video.

    • Hi Claude:
      It definitely took a leap of Faith for me to shoot with that large a card, because I’m not one (as noted) for putting all my eggs in one basket, but Lexar cards are renown for their reliability, so I felt really good about it, and it worked out great. I have to warn you though—-not have to change cards once for entire 4 hour game is pretty intoxicating. :)

      -Scott

      • Scott,

        The only reason I would use a bunch of smaller cards is if I had a card runner at games…
        which brings me to my next point… you need a card runner and his name is me :)

  16. That is crazy storage. I keep thinking about a bigger card, but I rarely hit the limit on my current card.

  17. Just gotta say I Love Compact Flash Cards. Its just one of those weird loves. its such a great invention. As far as shooting & taking the chance of a malfunction. I have had 4 brands of cards. Lexar-Sandisk-ATP-& Ridata. When i got my D300 the Ridata couldnt handle the speed & didnt work at all. But the other 3 chewed it up & asked for my D3 & still did the same thing. I love Lexar but when the 16G 600x Sandisk cards are 179.00 VS 209.00. I’ll go with 179.00 every day. Because think they are both so evenly matched at this stage. That for me Brand loyalty gives way to my pocketbook.

  18. I’m all for mass storage, but I’m also trying to concentrate on taking fewer pictures that are better rather than just firing away which, at least for me, just leads to a vomit of material. Having fewer and fewer limits from the technological end doesn’t help free me, it causes me to forget what I should be most concerned with.

  19. I used that size when I worked at the newspaper. We emptied it once a month I think.

  20. whoops i meant to make a new comment not reply to that other one ….

    Scott,

    The only reason I would use a bunch of smaller cards is if I had a card runner at games…
    which brings me to my next point… you need a card runner and his name is me :)

  21. Just thought I’d jump in with a bit of info here on the speed of the 600x cards. I did some pretty thorough testing on those cards and found them to be no faster than the 300x Lexar cards. I got my Lexar 600x UDMA cards about 4 months ago and didn’t notice any speed increase so I bench tested them agains my Lexar 300x UDMA cards.

    Tests included:
    * Shooting speed/buffer time both RAW and JPEG separately-
    * Time loading images from card to hard drive in both USB and FW800-

    Stopwatch comparisons between 300x and 600x speeds found them to be almost dead even in every test. I wrote it all down in detail with the file sizes and exact times between both cards, I guess I could post it up if anyone is interested. Doing comparisons isn’t the kind of thing I normally care about or have time for, but the 600x’s were so much more expensive and in the end made little or no difference. Anyway, I’d just say save your money and get 300x cards since the prices are dropping on those now.

    • Matt – Which specific camera(s) and card reader(s) were you using? I’ve seen pretty dramatic differences in performance when shooting with the D3 and downloading with Lexar Professional FW800 CF reader.

      If you’re not using a camera that supports UDMA write speeds, then you won’t see a difference when shooting, but 600x cards should download more quickly than 300x when using a FW800 UDMA reader.

      • I have Lexar 300x & 600x cards. & I’m using a Hoodman 800 cards reader which by the way they no longer make. & The download speeds favor the 600 cards. The real difference comes in clearing your buffer.

        So you hear that Apple Get USB 3.0 on board or lets finnaly see some Firewire 1600 or 3200 ports. Hoodman is coming out with a 3.o card reader. They have kicked aside the 800 FW reader.

      • Hi Brad, I’m using the 5D mkII and tested with both the Lexar Professional FW800 reader and a regular Sandisk usb card reader. I tested both the difference between the 600x and 300x cards, as well as the Firewire reader and USB reader. Using a Macbook Pro running smoothly, and a LaCie Rugged drive as the destination drive for all tests, so that everything was consistent.

  22. Personally I’m a huge fan of the Eye-fi Pro X2 card (http://www.eye.fi/products/prox2). If you have a laptop handy you have in essence unlimited memory as it autoloads pictues to your laptop via an ad hoc connection as you take the pictures.

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