Exclusive: Today we received test samples of the largest capacity Compact Flash cards currently available. Pretec recently announced 1.5, 2.0 and 3.0 GB Type II CF cards, we have the 1.5 and 3.0 GB for testing. The 1.5 GB can be used in almost any digital camera that supports CF Type II, the 3.0 GB requires a digital camera which supports FAT32 (in our case we tested it with Canon's EOS-1Ds). Performance was up there with some of our faster cards and the 3 GB card appeared to work without any problems on Canon's latest D-SLR.

UPDATE: Thanks to a note from Pretec confirming the current list of digital cameras which support FAT32 filesystem (and are there compatible with the 3 GB card):
(we have tested it with the EOS-1Ds and PowerShot G3)

  • Canon EOS-1Ds
  • Canon PowerShot G2
  • Canon PowerShot G3
  • Kodak Pro Back
  • Kodak DCS 14n

Pretec 1.5 and 3.0 Compact Flash Type II Tested

At this stage we do not have pricing for these cards, sufficient to say that they're likely to be fairly pricey. Note that due to diffences between the way hard disk manufacturers label storage and computer operating systems the labelled capacity of these cards is slightly lower in reality (for more information see our Digital Film Comparison). The 1.5 GB card has 1.4 GiB of storage, the 3.0 GB card has 2.8 MiB of storage.

Below you will see an image of each card, below that the capacity of the card as reported by Windows XP and below that a shot of the rear of an EOS-1Ds showing the capacity of each card as it sees them. Note that the available frames (280 / 563 were at ISO 640).

Capacity

The 3.0 GB card offers huge capacity which is especially welcome for users of the new double-figure megapixel digital SLR's. As you can see from the table below the 3.0 GB card offers up to 233 RAW and 734 JPEG images on the EOS-1Ds at ISO 100 (estimations). Also note that this card is not compatible with cameras that don't support the FAT32 filesystem.

  Pretec 1.5 GB CF Type II Pretec 3.0 GB CF Type II
EOS-1Ds JPEG ISO 100 * 365 734
EOS-1Ds RAW ISO 100 * 115 233
EOS-D60 JPEG 595 (not compatible)
EOS-D60 RAW 202 (not compatible)

* The EOS-1Ds changes its predictions of available space depending on the
current ISO sensitivity (because higher sensitivity leads to larger images).

Read / Write performance

We measured the performance of the cards against Viking's excellent 512 MB CF Type I and the industry standard IBM Microdrive 1 GB Type II CF card. Tests were carried out firstly using our standard Firewire reader tests and then shooting a burst of 10 JPEG and 10 RAW files on an EOS-1Ds. Note that these last set of timings will also include camera processing time.

  Firewire
write
Firewire
read
EOS-1Ds JPEG write EOS-1Ds RAW write
Viking 512 MB CF Type I 1875 KB/sec 3190 KB/sec 1406 KB/sec 1675 KB/sec
IBM Microdrive 1 GB CF Type II 3247 KB/sec 3432 KB/sec 1043 KB/sec 1677 KB/sec
Pretec 1.5 GB CF Type II 1718 KB/sec 3622 KB/sec 1266 KB/sec 1550 KB/sec
Pretec 3.0 GB CF Type II * 2210 KB/sec 3537 KB/sec 1449 KB/sec 1719 KB/sec

* FAT32 only

Other devices

As noted above both cards worked perfectly well with our Firewire Compact Flash reader and was also compatible with a Compaq IPAQ 3870 with a CF sleeve.