Understanding the Difference between CF and CFast Memory Cards
In the world of data storage media, several types of devices exist that make it difficult to choose the best one. There are hard drives, SSDs, flash drives, and many types of memory cards. Within each category, again you will find numerous options that make the selection process even more complicated. For instance, if you need a memory card, the next thing you need to do is decide what type of memory card- SD card, Micro SD card, CFexpress, CF card, or CFast card. Most people are familiar with SD and MicroSD cards but know little about other types of memory cards available in the market. There is also a misconception among people that CF cards and CFast cards are the same things. However, this is not the case. CF card and CFast card are two different types of memory cards introduced by the CF Association ( CompactFlash Association). These are the latest standards of the memory card, also known as the smallest SATA solid-state drive in the world. To understand the difference between these two types of memory cards, we will explain each type with specifications. So, let’s find out what CF card and CFast card are.
CompactFlash Card (CF card)
A CompactFlash card, in short, known as a CF card is a memory card format introduced in 1994 by SanDisk. This memory card is developed using flash memory technology which means it has no moving mechanical parts. This card stores data on a very small portable device that doesn’t require a battery to retain data. The first CF card was based on the NOR flash memory that allows executing programs directly from flash. It means there is no need to copy data in a device’s system RAM. Later, due to the advantage of NAND for storing massive amounts of data, this technology became the default type of flash memory. At present, NAND is used in all removable memory cards.
The improved technology of CF cards makes them fast, durable, and portable. It is because of these qualities, most photographers and filmmakers prefer CF cards. These are used as removable memory for high-end cameras. The non-volatile flash memory stores and retains data even when a device’s power source is turned off or lost. The solid-state construction of these cards makes them more durable and rugged than other traditional storage devices.
Technical Specifications of CF Cards:
The size and speed of a CF card are usually mentioned on the front label. This type of card is available in a variety of sizes from 4GB to 512GB. There are two types of Compact Flash cards- “Type I” and “Type II.” The physical size of Type I cards is 3.3 mm thick, while the thickness of Type II is 5 mm. These cards are available for different prices ranging from $10 to $900- based on the size and speed of the card. The read speed is the rate at which a device or computer can retrieve the information from a card. The write speed specifies the speed at which data can be written onto the card. Both read and write speed is important but for professional photographers, write speed is the main concern. Typically, most memory cards have read speed higher than write speed. If you need to write speed closer to the read speed, look for a high-end, best CF card. Most of the memory cards have a standard speed of up to 150 kbps.
Professional photographers may consider a high-end Ultra CompactFlash (Ultra CF) that has a fast transfer rate. You can check the read speed on the label which is usually mentioned in either MB/s or “x”. If you’re unsure about your speed requirement, consider the resolution, codec, and camera you are using. You can find some CF cards with write speeds of up to 155MB/s. These cards don’t have built-in cryptographic or DRM features. CF cards are more reliable than other types of data storage media because it lacks moving parts. However, a CF card may get damaged if it is improperly inserted into a device. Misuse and physical damage may cause data loss.
The operating shock rating of a CF card is 2,000 gauss (G). This rating indicates the height from which a device can be dropped without getting damaged. The shock rating of mechanical devices is 100 G to 200 G. It means that you can drop a CF card from 10 feet without any damage. SanDisk is one of the biggest producers of CF cards but other companies are also offering high-quality CF cards such as Kingston Technology, Lexar and Transcend Delkin, and more.
CompactFlash, popularly known as CFast card is a successor of the CompactFlash format. It combines the CompactFlash card form factor with the Serial ATA (SATA) interface to offer reads and writes faster than typical CF cards. As far as appearance is concerned, the CFast memory card has the same size as CF cards. The primary purpose of developing this format is to achieve higher speeds. CFast memory card is increasingly replacing the previous CF cards and is being used in high-end cameras, as well as industrial products. The CFast cards are also available in two types- Type I and Type II.
Technical Specifications of CFast Card:
Professional photographers and videographers shoot high-resolution images and 4K videos which need a lot of space and faster write speeds. To meet their storage capacity and speed demands, CFast was introduced that uses the Serial ATA (or SATA) similar to bus used in PCs. This makes CFast different from a typical Compact Flash that works on a dated Parallel ATA (or PATA) connection. The CFast cards are perfect for 4K video and heavy applications because they can provide a data transfers speed of up to 600 MB/s. This format provides significantly higher data-transfer speeds that result in clearing out memory buffer when shooting multiple sequences. The CFast 2.0 supports a SATA-3 interface which makes it ideal for high-end cameras to record 4K videos. Unlike the CF card which is connected through 50 pinholes, the CFast memory card consists of a SATA compatible 7-pin signal connector and a 17-pin power.