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Fast SD cards in the a99 and Nex 7

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Bob J View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob J Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Fast SD cards in the a99 and Nex 7
    Posted: 20 August 2013 at 09:53
As I recently acquired some fast SD cards, I thought I would do a new set of baseline speed tests.



The graphs above show a range of cards from various manufacturers used with the a99 and Nex 7 – cards are SD unless indicated by an (MS). The Y axis is in seconds. Each block in each stack represents the time to take 5 exposures on the fastest drive mode supported (6fps for the a99, 10 for the Nex 7).

Unless you do long bursts on high speed continuous you may never notice a limit imposed by the speed of your cards – which only comes into play if the camera has to wait for a space in the buffer to empty to whatever card is installed. Even with a class 2 card, the a99 will take 8 shots before it slows (but then it will go very s-l-o-w…)

There is no difference between speeds of cards in slots 1 and 2 of the a99 – to check this I took the fastest and slowest SD cards that I had tested in slot 1 and tested them in slot 2, the slot 2 result for the fastest card was slightly faster than that for slot 1, but not significantly – and although it looks from the graph like the slot 2 time for the slower Lexar card was faster as well, it was dealing with a smaller file (despite being aimed at the same target). The MB/s speed for the Lexar in slot 1 was actually slightly faster.

The Sandisk Extreme Pro card has 95MB/s written on it, the Transcend card says 600x (74Mb/s?) and the Samsung is advertised as 80MB/s: but these are read times and even the best of these cards does not get near the quoted numbers while writing. The best speed I clocked for the Sandisk Extreme Pro was 42.9MB/s (43900KB/s), while the Transcend managed 27.8MB/s and the Samsung 27MB/s. From a stand-up honesty point-of-view the Lexar 200x managed 24.6MB/s: not too far off the quoted speed. The Sandisk Extreme 45MB/s card managed over 32MB/s, which out-performed the higher-rated Transcend and Samsung cards. These cards might perform faster in some other devices I guess, but it might pay to take some advertised speed ratings with a small pinch of salt. You may, of course get the benefit of the fast read times when you transfer files off the cards.

On the Nex 7 these fast SD cards hit a hardware wall – it would be interesting to see if the Nex 6 makes better use of UHS1 cards, but the best that any of these fast SD cards could manage was just over 17MB/s. With the Nex 7, the MS cards rule the roost at 22.7MB/s for the Sandisk and 17.5MB/s for the Sony, just slightly slower than what they manage in the a99 (23.9MB/s and 18.6MB/s respectively). The Nex does benefit from a slightly bigger memory buffer compared to the a99 though – note that the third block up is smaller for the Nex in relation to the blocks above it – this is because it is still using available buffer between shots 10 and 15.

On the whole the Sandisk cards come out of these tests very well – even if they don’t get up to their badged speeds, they are fast and affordable: I am also tempted to investigate some of the faster Lexar cards to see if the honesty holds up there.
 



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ABDurbs View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote ABDurbs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 August 2013 at 10:03
Thanks Bob some useful info. I will definitely stick with my Sandisk XP 95MB's    
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Arni Swarni Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 August 2013 at 10:06
Very interesting!

Recently, I found out that the new Sony 94mb/s (read speed...43mb/s write) SD cards are worth to look at! They are marginally more expensive than the sandisk 45mb/s cards, but their speed sits nicely in between the 95 and 45mb/s cards of sandisk.

Price to performance, the sony 94mb cards are outstanding...perhaps something worth to examine in more depth? :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote groovyone Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 August 2013 at 16:56
Interesting data. I am using a couple Sandisk Pro 95MB/s and some Lexar 600x along with the Sonys Arni mentioned. I tend to favor the Lexars but the Sonys were a steal when on sale so I have 6 of them in 16GB. I haven't noticed any real world difference in my shooting with them, but I am rarely in burst these days.

Nice work.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob Maddison Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 August 2013 at 19:10
If you really want to know how your memory performs, download h2testw. It's free and it works. It loads lots of data onto the card and checks the write speed then it reads it back onto the computer to check the read speed. Maybe not strictly accurate in relation to real camera use, but nevertheless very useful to separate the really fast cards from the mundane. It is also revealing to know that the claimed "up to --- Mb/sec is only half that claimed maximum speed.

In general I have found CF and MS card speeds are very good compared to the run of the mill SD cards.

I would query using micro SD cards for anything. Due too their small size they can't dissipate heat as well as any conventional size card and could cause problems for video (especially HD) or long photo sequences. They were designed for mobile phone use and are best used for just that. As for CF card adapters, the CF card uses many more connection pins than any other type and it is this that gives them their performance. Using an adapter to accept any size SD must involve a compromise and the only reason to use one is that is gives you access to relatively inexpensive memory. AS even the most expensive memory is cheap in real terms, why bother. On the other hand, there is no case for using memory cards that are significantly faster that either your camera or your computer can use effectively. They are what will determine the ultimate speed. The program h2testw does effectively test the camera's response as well as the card's.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote k9tales Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 August 2013 at 01:48
B&H has a sale good til August 31st. 32GB SD for $29.00
Thanks for all the information regarding the true speed of SD cards.


Lynn
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob J Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 September 2013 at 13:02
Originally posted by Bob J Bob J wrote:

I am also tempted to investigate some of the faster Lexar cards to see if the honesty holds up there.


I recently bought a Lexar Professional 400x card along with some cheap Kingston class 4 cards (to cater for the times I need to pass someone a card with some images or documents on - they rarely come back..) from a reputable UK supplier (7Dayshop).

I did some further tests, using the Sandisk 95 as a control to make sure I wasn't introducing any extra variables. The unexpected upshot was that the 400x Lexar was slower than the 200x version - 20.7MB/s against 22.9MB/s.

Unsurprisingly the Kingston Class 4 card was slow - clocking 10.8MB/s, but a comparison of the initial burst for all these cards shows that they all manage 10 shots before slowing (ie from the Class 4 Kingston to the Sandisk Extreme 45) - only the Sandisk Extreme 95 gets an extra shot in before the frame-rate drops, so if you shoot less than 10 shot bursts and leave a reasonable gap between, you would not notice much difference between most of these cards.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote jamestux Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 September 2013 at 11:07
Hello, I have the Sony 94mb/s SD cards and in actual use they are significantly slower than the 45mb/s Sandisks at both read (about 30mb/ss vs 41mb/s) and write (9.5mb/s vs 40mb/s).

So I would advise buying the slightly cheaper Sandisks personally!

My Sandisk 95 run at 76mb/s read and 71mb/s write on the same test bench.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dibok Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 September 2013 at 08:43
Hi

Benchmarking is one side of the story.
Built quality and reliability another.

As Sony doesn't give us an indication of the camera's speed, the benchmarking of the card on a PC is quite synthetic in that point of view.

I personally am using Sandisc Extreme Pro (95 edition), Sony (94 edition) and one Toshiba Exceria pro (95 edition).

Some weeks ago the topic came up during a break on a workshop.
Due to lack of time we decided to do a real life test of the cards.
We took my A99, my NEX7 and my RX100 and took a series of 3 seconds.
Afterwards we we filled the cards at the laptop with 5GB images, and copied them back. We used the Laptop's (Sony Z) cardreader and the Win8 speed meter.

Results were quite disillusioning in manufacturers promising versus reality comparison...

In short:
Sandisc and Toshiba are almost equal, the Sony noticable behind but not slow in absolute terms.
In-camera writing showed that the Sony card was a third slower.
This continued to be shown on the Laptop test. The Sandisc/Toshiba wrote in average 45 MB/s and read 60 MB/s, the Sony wrote 35 MB/s and read 50 MB/s.

Comparing the price (indications are German € prices) of the 32GB Versions (Sandisc 65,-, Toshiba 67,- and Sony 38,-!!) it leaves the question whether the plus in read/write speed is worth paying almost double the price.

Fact of the matter is that the manufacturers are using a trick with the specification. Although the cards are indicated as UHS-I conform (maximum of 104 MB/s), it is not an obligation to provide this speed.
The do only need to fulfill the Class 10 speed which almost all SD cards, even the very cheap ones, can reach...

So finally my recomendation is to buy quality cards. There is no difference between the three brands mentioned above. If you are not a sports photographer (meaning no need for high speed series) it is worth to save the money and buy the Sony card. If you have the need for highest speed it makes no difference in choosing between Sandisc and Toshiba.



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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob J Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2013 at 14:59
Revised graph showing how the Sony '94 cards perform in comparison to others...

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Post Options Post Options   Quote thornburg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2013 at 15:43
Originally posted by Bob J Bob J wrote:

Revised graph showing how the Sony '94 cards perform in comparison to others...



Thanks for the chart, but can you label the y axis for us?

Looking it at it, I assume that lower scores are better, but it's hard to be sure, since I'm not sure what the numbers mean.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob J Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 December 2013 at 16:11
Sorry about that... The Y axis is seconds.



Each block shows the time taken between the recording of one shot and the shot 5 frames on - the first 5 are identical regardless of card because the buffer is not yet full - you only notice a difference between cards once the camera buffer is full and the camera is waiting for the first images to be cleared off to the card. From the results above, I reckon that the a99 probably has a buffer for 8 shots, while the NEX7 is probably around 12...

The test is performed by starting an electronic stop-watch and taking photographs of it at the camera's top frame rate (off the top of my head, 6 for the a99, 10 for the NEX 7) - camera is set to a shutter speed over synch speed and a wide aperture, focus is fixed (and manual), so we are just testing the camera-card interface. Thirty shots are taken with the stop-watch values being recorded from every 5th shot after the first.

Edited by Bob J - 19 December 2013 at 16:54
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Post Options Post Options   Quote thornburg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 December 2013 at 21:31
Originally posted by Bob J Bob J wrote:

Sorry about that... The Y axis is seconds.



Each block shows the time taken between the recording of one shot and the shot 5 frames on - the first 5 are identical regardless of card because the buffer is not yet full - you only notice a difference between cards once the camera buffer is full and the camera is waiting for the first images to be cleared off to the card. From the results above, I reckon that the a99 probably has a buffer for 8 shots, while the NEX7 is probably around 12...

The test is performed by starting an electronic stop-watch and taking photographs of it at the camera's top frame rate (off the top of my head, 6 for the a99, 10 for the NEX 7) - camera is set to a shutter speed over synch speed and a wide aperture, focus is fixed (and manual), so we are just testing the camera-card interface. Thirty shots are taken with the stop-watch values being recorded from every 5th shot after the first.


Thanks for the explanation. The graph makes may more sense to me now. Great work.

I'm curious, have you ever tried a "slow" card, like a class 4?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob J Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 March 2014 at 18:26
Originally posted by thornburg thornburg wrote:

I'm curious, have you ever tried a "slow" card, like a class 4?


A class 4 Kingston card takes about 11 seconds to write 5 shots once the buffer is full, so about twice as slow as the Lexar 200x card.



Edited by Bob J - 08 March 2014 at 18:49
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