If you are a photographer or filmmaker, then you have likely heard of CFast memory cards. CFast cards are popular with cinema cameras like the BlackMagic URSA and Arri, and made their way into many DSLR markets. Learn more about what a CFast card is, its advantages, disadvantages, and the types of cameras that can use it here.
Fastest CFast Memory Cards – Benchmarks
To find the fastest CFast 2.0 memory cards we used a Lexar thunderbolt reader using the USB 3.0 interface on a MacBook Pro using the AJA System Test.
The fastest card came out to be the Transcend 128GB card which has a read speed of 534.7MB/s and a write speed of 395.3MB/s which came out quite a bit faster than the Sandisk Pro when it came to writing speeds.
The second fastest card was the Lexar brand of cards.
CFast Speed Chart
|CFast 1.0 / 2.0 Cards||Thunderbolt – Read||Thunderbolt – Write|
|Transcend 128GB||534.7 MB/s||395.3 MB/s|
|Sandisk Pro 64GB||513.6 MB/s||180.1 MB/s|
|Lexar 64GB 3500x||475.4 MB/s||364.7 MB/s|
|Lexar 128GB 3600x||478.9 MB/s||364.6 MB/s|
|Super Talent 64GB CFast 1.0||463.9 MB/s||83.5 MB/s|
|Delkin 128GB CFast 1.0||447.9 MB/s||196.8 MB/s|
|Atomos 64GB CFast 1.0||239.5 MB/s||91.4 MB/s|
Recommended CFast Cards
While clearly CFast 2.0 memory cards are much faster at reading and write speeds than CFast 1.0 cards, some of the CFast 1.0 memory cards still showed some nice read speeds, and one in particular, the Delkin CFast 1.0 cards managed to put out some decent write speeds as well.
Comparing write speeds the CFast 1.0 cards were significantly slower than CFast.
The Best CFast Memory Card – Read & Write Speeds
Fastest All Around Card – Transcend 128 GB
The all-around best-performing card with both read and write speed goes to the Transcend.
Second Best – Lexar 3500x
Close behind the Transcend were the two Lexar cards. Both the Lexar 3500x and the Lexar 3600x performed very close in performance.
I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with the Sandisk card. It was reading very quickly but write speeds seemed to suffer. Perhaps this is an issue with the way the Aja system test works or the Sandisk card is not fully compatible with the Lexar reader used.
Memory Cards Do Not All Perform The Same In Every Camera
Based on the results it might look like Transcend is the way to go. However, in-camera different memory cards perform differently and in cameras such as the Canon 1DX II, the Transcend does not perform the best.
Other devices such as the Atomos Ninja, Arri or the BlackMagic could also perform differently compared to a MacBook Pro with the Lexar CR2, but we don’t have a way to benchmark those devices. In the Canon 1DX II, the Lexar cards and the Transcend all showed very similar performance.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments. But for now, these are some popular questions I get asked.
What’s The Fastest CFast Card?
Right now on the MacBook Pro with the thunderbolt connection, it’s the Transcend. However, on your device, you’ll likely get similar results with the Lexar cards.
Are Cheap CFast Cards Any Good?
They can be good, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be fast. In other words, if you need to save some cash and you don’t need to read or write at 300MB/s, then some of the slower cards or even CFast 1.0 cards might be fine for you. Just be sure to check compatibility with what you’re using.
Should I Buy One Big CFast Card Or Several Smaller Cards?
This is a really popular question and there is a correct answer – it depends. The philosophy is that it’s better to buy a few smaller cards than one big card.
That is of course if the smaller card is going to meet your needs. The idea behind this is that if you have your media from a shoot spanned across several cards and one of those cards starts going bad or having issues, it will only corrupt the data contained to that one card. It will also be easier and cheaper to replace it later.
This happens with even the best cards and unfortunately, I do get those emails from people that have had cards get corrupt and they have to send the card to data recovery specialists. I have also had issues with cards and it’s not fun.
I’ve also talked to photographers that have used several small cards on their trips and shoots, and have lost one after filling it with a full day of shooting.
Today I’m in the camp of just having one big card.
Finding The Best CFast Memory Cards For Your Camera
Since testing CFast memory cards is very difficult in cameras that don’t shoot insanely fast burst rates like the Canon 1DX II, I’ve put together a benchmark of how the CFast memory cards perform in a PC.
You can use this list or see how they perform in the Canon 1DX II to get a sense of which Cfast cards are the best for your camera.
List of cameras that support CFast memory cards
Canon 1DX II
Canon XC10 4K
Canon XC15 4K
Canon XC10E 4K
Canon C300 Mark II
Phase One can also be equipped to use CFast cards, as well as many cinema cameras.
Best CFast 2.0 Memory Cards – The Bottom Line
While there are bargain CFast cards out there, based on the results, it pays to go with the better brands when it comes to storing your video and stills. One of the cards, the Super Talent, was behaving strangely and performed very slow with write speeds and I would not trust such brands.
Stick with Transcend and Lexar for now until I can get better performance out of the Sandisk or until they upgrade their cards. If you’re on a budget you could go with Delkin, their cards including their SD, and CF cards have always performed well and their prices are a little more affordable.
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