- Review Price: £167.00
With the ever-increasing resolution of digital cameras, the need for bigger memory cards is becoming more of an issue for the modern day photographer. For example, a 1GB CompactFlash card no longer seems as capacious as it once did when you consider that some of the latest digital cameras can produce images up to 10MB in size. However, as the saying goes, size isn’t everything. A camera’s ability to transfer and store large files in quick succession to the memory card can be just as important if, say, you’re shooting high frame rates at a news or sporting event.
This is where the latest Photo Steno Pro II CompactFlash card from memory specialist Apacer comes in. Rated at an impressive 100X (where 1X equals 150KB/sec), Apacer’s latest Type I CF card is, in theory, more than twice as fast as the current crop of high-speed 40X memory cards, and has been specially designed with rapid-fire shooting in mind. Of course, it’s not just digital photographers who demand top-notch performance these days. CompactFlash cards also have their uses in numerous other devices such as MP3 players, PDAs and notebook computers.
The 1GB card supplied to us for review currently retails at around £166.95 (which to me seems a bit pricey since high-speed 1GB CF cards can be found quite readily for around £100 these days). If 1GB isn’t enough storage space for you, and you have a spare £629.95 burning a hole in your pocket, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Photo Steno is also available in capacities of up to 4GB, which should be sufficient for even the most trigger happy photographer.
Unlike some of the ‘professional’ high-speed memory cards on offer from other manufacturers, there’s no card reader or data recovery software included with the Photo Steno. Not that it’s a major issue, but all you’ll find inside the packaging is the CF card itself and a very brief user guide. However, let’s not forget the Photo Steno’s main selling point, namely its 100X transfer rate. With that in mind, I decided to test the Photo Steno card against my own standard speed (10X) Kingston memory card. If the marketing hype is to be believed, the high-speed Apacer card should perform approximately 10 times faster than the Kingston card.
Using our standard set of ‘real world’ file transfer tests, the Photo Steno was indeed faster than the Kingston card but certainly not 10 times quicker. Writing various types of files to the Photo Steno (via a USB 2.0 card reader/writer) typically took about half as long compared with the Kingston card. Read speeds were also about twice as quick with the Photo Steno. For example, reading 205MB of mixed files from the Apacer card took approximately 38 seconds, compared with 71 seconds from the Kingston card.
As a final series of tests, I decided to see how the Apacer card actually performed in a digital camera – well, two different cameras actually. A prosumer orientated Canon PowerShot G2 and a Canon D30 digital SLR. The tests were carried out by shooting several photos in quick succession (in both JPEG and RAW formats) and recording the time taken for the CF access lamp to stop flashing in each case. The total size of each set of files was then calculated separately for each card/camera combination and divided by the recorded time to obtain an average write speed in each case.
Although neither camera is capable of writing to a CF card as quickly as the USB card reader/writer, I was hoping this series of tests would give some indication of the real world performance gain that can be achieved with the high-speed Photo Steno. However, the results were somewhat surprising. In the PowerShot G2, the Photo Steno and Kingston cards both performed near enough the same in both the JPEG and RAW tests, although the results for the Photo Steno are way off the claimed 100X transfer rate.
In the D30 digital SLR, things were worse still, with the Kingston card actually outperforming the high speed Apacer card by some margin. This suggests that there may be a compatibility problem between the Photo Steno and the D30’s CF interface. Read performance in the D30 seemed to be unaffected however, with the Apacer card appearing just as responsive as the Kingston card during general use (for example when viewing images in quick succession on the D30’s LCD screen).
I really did expect the Photo Steno Pro II to perform far better than it did, especially since the Apacer Handy Steno HT203 USB memory key proved to be so blisteringly fast when we tested it. Ultimately, even though this CF card is faster than average, it’s not fast enough to justify the cost.
Ignoring the possible compatibility problem with the Canon digital SLR, the Apacer Photo Steno Pro II is only slightly faster than a standard speed CF card. In our real world tests its performance falls considerably short of the claimed 100X transfer rate, even when used in a USB 2.0 card reader/writer. Everyday users of digital cameras are probably better off paying less money for a slower rated card.
”According to Apacer, the original Photo Steno Pro II 1GB CompactFlash Card was an engineering sample. A final production version was retested using two different USB2.0 card readers (updated graphs below). The new results do show an improvement, although its performance in our real world tests still falls short of the claimed 100X (15MB/sec) read speed and 80X (13MB/sec) write speed. The second updated graph demonsrates this.”
Score in detail
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