Review: Lexar 32GB 600X CF card offers tons of speed and storage...

Review: Lexar 32GB 600X CF card offers tons of speed and storage for pros

Lexar 32GB 600X Compact Flash UDMA Card Photo: Lee Thomas

32 gigabytes for the average Joe is a ton of storage; it works out to roughly 1700 raw images with a 12 megapixel camera. The days of digital have brought on the need for massive amounts of storage to keep with increasing megapixels and backing up your digital files. With that said, you as a consumer put plenty of trust in the companies that provide the storage media. While quality varies even from the most commonly known manufacturers, I still buy digital media from trusted and proven companies to reduce the risk; 32GB is a lot to lose if a card was to fault.

The Lexar Professional 600x Series compact flash card is aimed at pros that need the fastest CF they can get their hands on. The ever increasing size and speed of built in camera buffers and FPS demands a reliable, fast solution; the 600x series from Lexar is just that. Boasting a minimum sustained write speed of 90 MB/second, you will find it fast enough to keep up with the fastest DSLR’s on the market today; such as the Nikon D3X, Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III or any UDMA supported camera for that matter.

Lexar priced the 600x 32GB at $499.99. Quite a heftytag for a digital media card, considering the 300x 32GB version goes for half that at $249.99. Half the price, same amount of storage, and double the speed; or is it?

Thrown in to sweeten the deal is some software. Lexar Image Rescue, for recovering files, even if they have been erased or the card corrupted. Now, this isn’t a 100% fool-proof solution, but hey, if it works, you just saved your ass for nothing. You get a 30 day trial of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (my personal favorite) and a $100 off if you dive in to buy the full version.

If you’re not a professional photographer, will you notice the benefits this card has to offer? In short, no. Unless you are shooting high FPS for extensive bursts you won’t likely notice a difference. To test this card for the average Joe photographer, like myself, I compared it against an 8GB 300x card to see if I could notice any difference. The test bed camera was a D300 and backed up on a Macbook Pro. I didn’t notice any significant difference in speed on my workflow.

For the pros, its a no-brainer. Shooting sports with a heavy finger on the shutter you’d easily notice the cards speed. If you want to see how Lexar’s new card fare’s against your old card, I’d recommend checking out Rob Galbraith’s performance database.

I don’t have extremely high rated camera gear, but this review isn’t for the gear junkie pros, its for the average photographer who wants to get the most out of their photography experience. If you want to get down to the nitty gritty you can consult the XBench results below.

Read and write performance from and to the computer through the Lexar Professional Express Card Compact Flash Reader were pretty average, I expected a lot more than it achieved; 2GB of data was pulled off the 600x at 1:46 minutes, only slightly faster than the 300x at 1:51 minutes. I suspect it is hampered by my laptop, and not the card itself. Who knows if faster setups will be able to obtain better results, but most mobile professional photographers use MacBook’s, so this is pretty close to what should expect.

Real World Test (geek stuff):
Equipment used for testing:
Late 2008 MacBook Pro 2.6ghz
OSX 10.6.3
200GB 7200RPM Harddrive
Lexar Professional Express Card Compact Flash Reader

Read/Write time to copy files to card:

DATA: 1.93 GB on disk (1,925,803,995 bytes) in NEF raw file format
Lexar Professional 300x 4GB
Write 300x 4GB – 1:48
Read 300x 4GB – 1:51
Lexar Professional 600x 32GB
Write 600x 32GB – 1:44
Read 600x 32GB – 1:46
Write to Buffer:
The timing started when the data activity light on the D300 came on, to when it shut off, after a burst of 17* RAW shots.

17 Shots RAW (10.2mb per file)
*NOTE: The 600x card allowed for a burst of 18 shots instead or 17. That’s 1 more file per burst than the slower 300x card. Pretty nifty!
Lexar 32GB 600x: 15 sec
Lexar 4GB 300x: 18 sec

XBench Results (Raw data tests)

Lexar 600x 32GB:

Disk Test 12.15
Sequential 84.61
Uncached Write 89.00 54.65 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 105.98 59.97 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 49.44 14.47 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 156.74 78.78 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 6.54
Uncached Write 1.75 0.19 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 26.74 8.56 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 1359.43 9.63 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 464.37 86.17 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Lexar 300x 4GB:

Disk Test 8.38
Sequential 55.25
Uncached Write 61.17 37.56 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 66.31 37.52 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 35.29 10.33 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 79.16 39.78 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 4.53
Uncached Write 1.20 0.13 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 23.98 7.68 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 1397.42 9.90 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 208.33 38.66 MB/sec [256K blocks]

Lexar Professional Express Card Compact Flash Reader Photo: Lee Thomas

Bottom Line

A great buy for professionals who need high capacity and high sustained write speeds. If you shoot JPEG it would be extremely hard to get to a point where the card can’t handle the amount of data coming through the buffer. RAW is a different story, but it would be a long time before you could max out the speed.
For the amateur I’d recommend the less pricey 300x version of the card. Unless you’ve shelled out $5,000+ on a camera you won’t notice the difference. At half the price you still get 32GB of storage, this will allow you to keep shooting for days without having to dump your card. With my D300 I never feel hampered by the speed of compact flash cards these days. If you are looking to upgrade to a faster card, unless you have an old slower card, or a micro-drive, you won’t notice the speed, only the capacity. The Lexar brand is also extremely well revered in the professional community due to its reliability.