If you’re a serious amateur or seasoned professional shooting raw video, you know the world of difference a top-notch compact memory card can make when it comes to transferring and storing photos and video. This type of card was first introduced by SanDisk in 1994, and offered extremely high storage capacity with a fast processing time. Today, they’re found in the most advanced DSLRs. Unfortunately, even with the rather steep price points of digital cameras, the most advanced ones are sold with a compact flash card that has a very small amount of memory, or it doesn’t come with one at all. Either way, you end up needing to buy another flash card later. And if you have no clue which one to chose or simply don’t want to run through the maze of options, we’re here to make this rather strenuous task a whole lot easier by presenting you with the 5 best compact flash cards from 5 top brands.
Our Top Choice
Lexar 1066x 64GB Compact Flash Card
Lexar is a company with numerous award-winning products, which has made it a trusted name in the memory-solutions space for over 20 years.
High performance 64GB compact flash card. Read to transfer rate of up to an astounding 1066x (160MB/s). Comes with Image Rescue software to recover certain photos and video files.
Customer service may be hard to reach
16, 32, 64, 128, 256
SLR or 3D camera, HD camcorder
Transcend 8GB 400X Compact Flash Card
Founded in 1988, Transcend is an award-winning Taiwanese company that’s also a market leader in manufacturing a diverse range of multimedia products.
Up to 60 MB/s (400x); 8 GB to 64 GB sizes available; VPG-20; lifetime warranty
May not be compatible with older DSLR cameras.
8, 16, 32, 64
Mid-range DSLR devices
Kingston 32 GB 266x Compact Flash Card
Kingston took the stage in 1987 with their first product, which was a memory module. Today, it’s a global leader in memory storage products.
You’ve finally stepped up from a compact snapper to the best DSLR camera or DSLR camera for video or, better yet, a full-frame DSLR camera, and now it’s time to see what the hype is all about! So, you pack up the family and head to the countryside, and you’re snapping away to glory, when you notice a “memory full” error. Or maybe you notice a deteriorating performance while in continuous shooting mode. You might be wondering, “What just happened? It’s a new camera and memory card!”
Well, when taking photos and shooting video with the Mercedes of cameras, it needs more space and more time to store whatever you’ve captured. Similarly, it needs more time to upload onto your computer, or other device, because it’s dealing with a lot of data.. This is what a compact flash (CF) card is designed to do, and it’s what you need in order to get the best performance from your advanced camera. If you’re having a hard time sorting through the options, our compact flash card buying guide will be of great help! And, even if you know it all, you may find a few tips that you hadn’t considered!
Compact flash cards can be bought for a wide variety of prices, but the price will go up or down depending on a card’s capacity and the speed. You can buy a cheap compact flash card, but you will perhaps receive mediocre read and write speeds, aspects that are crucial to the performance of your DSLR or other high-end device. High-quality CF cards give you the best of both worlds—superior speeds when processing photos and video from the camera to the card, and ample storage space so that there are no hiccups as your filming or shooting. If you have the cash to splurge on a DSLR camera, the price of a compact flash card really won’t break the bank, but expect to pay anywhere between $15 for a card that will work great for some, and upwards of $150 for a CF card that will work wonders for others!
Compact flash cards have a range of memory variants and features, but it’s important to determine what your needs first before heading out shopping. If you’re aren’t going to be snapping photos often, investing in a massive, 512 GB CF card hardly makes sense when a 128 GB is probably quite suitable.
We’ve rounded up the common features to look for to help you with your buying decision:
Storage capacity – This is measured in gigabytes, and the higher the number, the more data you can store
CF card speed – This determines how quickly data can be written onto the card and downloaded to your computer (also referred to as’ read and write’ speeds)
Types of CF cards - CompactFlash I and CompactFlash II are the two most common types, where the main difference between them is the card depth. Most cameras support both sizes, although the CompactFlash I is more common
UDMA 7 – This is the latest transfer mode technology, and it’s typically only supported by certain new, top-of-the-line cameras, but it may become prevalent in cameras of all types soon
Warranty and reliability – Try to choose a CF card that’s reliable to avoid missing photos or having gaps in videos. Most of the best CF cards are backed by some level of warranty, so it can be repaired or replaced in the event of damage
Construction and Design
As mentioned earlier, compact flash cards can be had in different sizes, but the most commonly used and accepted is CompactFlash I, which measures 43mm X 36mm and is 3.3mm deep. These cards have data pinholes along one edge, and, best of all, most CF cards have a high level of water-resistance (don’t go swimming in the ocean with it or anything!).
When it comes to determining the storage capacity you need, consider the fact that RAW photos and high-resolution videos have larger files sizes and will take up a considerable amount of space. Basically, if you don’t use your camera often, you probably won’t need a high-capacity compact flash card. On the other hand, if you’re going to be using your DSLR or similar high-end camera often, or if you plan to store photos and videos on the card over a long period of time, a high-capacity card will work best!
Performance and Ease of Use
The performance of CF cards mostly depends on their read and write speeds, which is an area that can get confusing, and here’s why! Some manufactures list read and write speeds in multiples of X, so you may often see speed ratings like 400x, 800x, 1066x, etc., but you’ll also see ratings in MB/s. So, which one do you choose? Short answer—they’re the same thing! 1X equals 1.5KB/sec transfer, so if you’ve got yourself an 800x compact flash card, you can just do the math to figure out the speed! Multiply the ‘x’ rating of the card (in this case, 800) with the speed, then divide by 1,000 to convert from KB to MB. You can also make this much easier by just accepting the MB/s speed rating the manufacturer has listed on the product page (if it’s listed it, of course).
What is the Best Compact Flash Card?
Choosing the best compact flash card isn’t as simple as you may think because they have different speeds and different memory sizes. The best card is one that’ll suit your needs perfectly, but—whether you take a few picturesque shots at a lake or make an entire wedding album—you need to think in gigabytes and not in megabytes (MB) because RAW literally gobbles memory just like a Mercedes G-Wagon gobbles gas! Even though compact flash cards are available in massive memory variants (some as high as 512GB, the size of a traditional hard drive), chances are, you won’t be using even a fraction of that amount, especially if you’re just getting your feet wet with high-end photography. Hopefully, our compact flash card buying guide has provided some great insight into the features to look for. Now that you’re ready to roll, here are our top 5 choices!
Our Top Choice
The Lexar Professional is a high-performance 64GB compact flash card that has a transfer rate up to 1066x, or 160MB of data per second. It also comes with Image Rescue Software in case the card gets damaged. If you don’t need the speed, but would still enjoy high-speed performance at the rate of 120MB/s, the Lexar LCF64GCRBNA800 Professional is probably a better option for you.
Lexar Professional 1066x 64GB VPG-65 CompactFlash Card with Free Image Rescue 5 Software
Lexar is no newbie to the memory-solutions space, but it has been a game changer in this area for over 20 years. Today, the company boasts an award-winning portfolio of products, which includes USB flash drives, readers, memory cards, and storage drives for retail and OEM customers. If you need the best of both worlds—superior performance and reliability when shooting video, snapping photos, or watching movies on your phone—Lexar is a name that won’t disappoint!
The Lexar Professional offers a robust transfer speed of 160MB/s, and supports the Video Performance Guarantee specifications, which ensures your video is saved with no interruptions in quality. Its superior speed accelerates your workflow and allows you to capture high-quality video with no hiccups. Backed by unmatched support and a 1-year warranty, the Lexar Professional compact flash card can be ordered in a choice of 5 memory sizes, starting from 16GB and going up to 256GB. You can also purchase these in a pack of 1 or 2, and it comes with Image Rescue software in case the card gets damaged.
The Transcend 400X Compact Flash Card features a speed of up to 60 MB/s and comes in varying sizes, from 8GB to 64GB. This is a great CF card for beginner photographers. If you’d like to double your speed for high-end devices and demanding applications, the Transcend TS8GCF400 compact flash card is worth exploring. It offers low power consumption and a speed of 120MB/s.
Founded in 1988 and headquarted in Taipei, Taiwan, Transcend is a highly reputed name when it comes to digital storage, multimedia and industrial products. Today, the company has a footprint in several key areas of the globe. With myriad awards under its belt, including “Winner of Best Storage,” “Top Consumer Electronics Company of 2017” and the Gold Seal award by Technology-X Canada, you can be certain that any product you buy from Transcend has top-notch performance and is backed by great customer support.
The Transcend 8GB Compact Flash Memory Card is a perfect choice for DSLR cameras and camcorders, especially for beginners and people who don’t need much memory storage. It delivers an impressive 400x transfer speed combined with 4-channel support, and is designed with Video Performance Guarantee (VPG-20) specifications. Backed by a lifetime warranty, this compact flash card is integrated with Error Correcting Code (ECC) to detect and correct transfer errors. It also comes with RecoveRx photo recovery software. It can be ordered in a choice of 4 different sizes, from 8GB to 64 GB, so you can get the ideal fit.
Kingston’s 266x Ultimate 2 Compact Flash Card comes with 16 GBs, 32 GBs or 64 GBs of memory, and has a transfer speed of 45 MB/s. However, if you’re just getting your feet wet with RAW photography or simply don’t large amounts of memory storage, the Kingston 4 GB CompactFlash Memory Card will probably serve as a better option.
Kingston 32 GB 266x Ultimate 2 Compact Flash Card with Auto-sleep mode to preserve Battery Life
Established in 1987 with one single product—a memory module—Kingston today is a leading independent supplier of memory storage products, and is even regarded as one of the best companies to work for by Fortune Magazine. Headquarted in Fountain Valley, California, the company employs more than 3,000 people worldwide to help innovate and manufacture class-leading products, like USB drives, flash cards and wireless devices.
The Kingston 266x CF card can transfer at speeds up to 45MB/s, and features an auto-sleep mode to preserve battery life. Available in a choice of 3 different storage options—16GB, 32 GB and 64GB—and backed by a lifetime warranty, this compact flash card allows you to shoot high-resolution images without any hiccups, and features MediaRECOVER to restore deleted or corrupt files.
The Komputerbay 64GB Compact Flash Card has a super fast, 150 MB/s transfer speed. With this card, you can capture photos and video quickly without interrupting the quality. If you need more storage and compatibility with Magic Lantern—firmware for certain Canon cameras—the Komputerbay 128GB Professional Compact Flash Card is probably a better option.
KOMPUTERBAY 64GB Compact Flash Card with 150MB/s Super Speed
Komputerbay is an electronics company that specializes in a wide range of storage solutions for digital media, mobile phones, gaming consoles, digital cameras and other computer products.
The Komputerbay CF card offers 64GB worth of storage and a speed of 1000X, or 150MB/s. It’s compatible with DSLR cameras, and newer, high-end devices because of its UDMA 7 technology. It’s also backed by a limited lifetime guarantee. If you’re looking to capture superior-quality images and store them without any hindrances, the Komputerbay CF card will not disappoint.
The SanDisk Ultra Compact Flash Card has a transfer speed of 50MB/s and is available in 4 sizes, with 4 GB being the lowest and 32 GB being the highest. For UDMA 7 technology and 160MB/s transfer speed, choose the SanDisk Extreme PRO C Card. It features an RTV silicone coating for extra protection against shock and vibration.
SanDisk Ultra 16GB Compact Flash Memory Card with Speed up to 50MB/s
Conceived over 29 years ago and headquarted in Milpitas, California, SanDisk leads the pack when it comes to flash memory products, like USB flash drives, memory cards and solid-state drives. In terms of numbers, they have a market share of a whopping $18 billion and about 8,700 employees worldwide.
The SanDisk Ultra 16GB Compact Flash Card offers a transfer speed up to 50MB/s, and it can be ordered in 4 different storage variants. The write speed on it is meant to be fast so you don’t experience any lag when taking photos or recording video. Regardless of which one you choose, you can expect to receive a product that’s consistent in its performance, and well worth the money it costs. This SanDisk CF card is an ideal choice for entry-level to mid-range DSLRs because it can handle HD filming. It’s also backed by a lifetime warranty, so you can give it a try and return it if you find it isn’t for you.