High speed Firewire CF card readers

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by macstatic, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. macstatic macrumors 65816


    Oct 21, 2005
    Getting serious about photography I need a better solution for transferring photos from my CF memory cards to my Powerbook G4 (1.67GHz).

    I currently have a USB card reader (not sure if it's USB 1 or 2) and a (painfully slow) PCMCIA to CF card adapter which is plugged into the PCMCIA slot of the laptop.
    To transfer the photos I first drag them from the memory card over to the desktop. It's frustrating to have to waaaaaiiiiiiiiiiit forever.

    Firewire 800
    a Firewire card-reader must surely be a better solution, but there doesn't seem to be many of them around. According to my Google results they seemed to be more popular a few years ago. What I've found are these:

    - Lexar UDMA Firewire 800 card reader
    - Sandisk Extreme Firewire (400?, 800?) card reader. According to the Sandisk page this is a Firewire 400 card reader, but according to this review page it seems to be an 800 reader (read the test results which give a higher transfer speed when connected to a Firewire 800 port). So what gives? Is it capable of supporting Firewire 800? This page also mentions the "Sandisk FW800" which seems to indicate a Firewire 800 capable reader (which I can't find anywhere).
    - Datafab Firewire 800 card reader. At least this drive claims to be able to take advantage of Firewire 800.
    - Hoodman RAW Firewire 400/800 card reader. This looks very much like a rebranded Datafab reader. There's very little information at their page, so should I assume they mean it can support Firewire 800 speeds (800 Mb/sec), or does it mean that it's just compatible with Firewire 800 connectors, while the actual speed is only 400 Mb/sec which means Firewire 400?)

    That's about all the CF card readers with a Firewire interface that I could find. Another issue is if they can be connected directly to a laptop without an AC adapter. I read somewhere that some of these readers had problems with that. Being able to (quickly) transfer my photos to the Powerbook where there's no AC power to had would be a great bonus.

    PCMCIA CF-card adapter
    I'm very confused now. This review for the Delkin CF Cardbus adapter surely looks very similar to my (cheapo)PCMCIA to CF adapter, but it describes it as being very fast (faster than a Firewire interface!). As far as I can tell from the adapter I have it's only a mechanical adapter -no electronics involved.
    So is "Cardbus" something different from PCMCIA, or is it simply a different kind of interface which works with PCMCIA slots?

    And what about the "Expresscard" slot used in the MacBook Pro (I'm considering replacing my Powerbook with MacBook Pro some time in the not too distant future) -is that compatible with the mentioned Cardbus adapter, or are there better/different solutions for reading CF memory cards in a MacBook's Expresscard slot?

    UDMA CF-memory cards
    Another issue are the memory cards. I've just read about UDMA type CF cards, and from that information I gather that high speed cards together with a card-reader to take advantage of those cards would be a great advantage even if my camera won't take advantage of them (at this stage I'm assuming that UDMA CF-cards are backwards compatible with "normal" CF cards).
    I currently have Sandisk Ultra II CF-cards (according to Sandisk they can handle read speeds up to 10 Mb/sec), so my biggest question now is where the bottleneck is? Is it my memory cards, the USB card reader (or PCMCIA adapter) or something else?
    A benchmarking application would come in handy here -anything like that available for free which I could use to check things?

    Secondly, I'm wondering if a Firewire card-reader would improve on things, with my current CF-cards, or if it would only make a difference with UDMA type CF cards?
  2. SmurfBoxMasta macrumors 65816


    Nov 24, 2005
    I'm only really here at night.
    FWIW, IMHO, CF cards suk bigtime, in any way, shape or form :)

    I've had cameras that used them and never could figure why they were so friggin slow, both in writing images to the cards and/or transfers off the cards. I just assumed thats they way they were.

    Until I tried a friend's new camera that used SD cards......the speed difference was like night & day......needless to say I haven't went within a 100 miles of CF since......

    I realize that CF cards may have improved over the years just like all the other types, but I still have not seen any that approach the performance of the high speed SD cards out there now.....

    To answer your main question though, Firewire (& USB or cardslot etc) readers are only as fast as the slowest link in the chain.

    If you connect a FW800 reader to a computer with FW400 ports, it's only gonna get up to 400 speeds, and same goes for USB 2 vs 1,

    And then there are the cards themselves......a slower card will NOT suddenly speed itself up just because you put it in a high speed reader connected to a high speed port .......
  3. chriscl macrumors 6502


    Jan 4, 2008
    Stuttgart, Germany
    I have the SanDisk FireWire CF Card Reader (mentioned in the first post) and it is *brilliant*.

    It's not cheap (£40 GBP) but it came with both FW400 and FW800 cables; I use it with my MBP with the FW800 cable mostly.

    I have a Canon 30D and always shoot RAW, so a 2GB SanDisk Extreme CF Card when full has approx 220 RAW files; these can be copied to the Mac in a few minutes.

    I tried most of the external Card Readers on the market before settling on the SanDisk one, it's the best choice (IMHO) for an external CF reader for a Mac.

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