Sandisk Extreme Firewire Compact Flash Reader

Ever since Rob Galbraith updated his Compact Flash/SD card speed update, I have been thinking about getting a faster CF reader.  As there are only three dSLRs that use UDMA technology (1DsMkIII, D300 and D3), previously I hadn’t thought more about the speed of my compact flash cards, mostly because the speed difference between an Extreme III, Extreme IV or a Lexar non-UDMA Professional card was negligible.  But not anymore with the UDMA technology.  The Extreme IV is faster than the III and the non-UDMA Lexar.  I had my eyes on Sandisk’s Ducati cards, but decided to start with the card reader side.

roger-avatarThe Sandisk Extreme Firewire Compact Flash Reader uses either a FW 400 or 800 connection, but is not compatible with a 4 pin FW port, as it uses the power from the FW connection.  I had a free FW 800 port so I used that.

I hadn’t erased one card from Sea World San Antonio, my Extreme IV.  It had 4.2 GB of pictures on it (JPG & RAW), so I used it as a test.  Using Finder (Mac’s version of Explorer/My Computer) I copied all the pictures from the card to a directory on my hard drive.  It took about 2.5 minutes to copy the full 4.2 GB.  I then erased them from the hard drive and did the exact me thing with my USB 2.0 CF reader (non-UDMA).  It took over 7 minutes to copy the same amount of data.

Needless to say I’m impressed; this reader is now going with me on my trips and my portable card downloader (Wolverine ESP) is now going to be used to backup my laptop’s hard drive after I download the pics to the laptop using this reader. 

A few little caveats for this reader however.  It won’t work with the 4 pin firewire port – it uses the port for power, and the 4 pin port drops the power in order for a smaller port, so you’ll need either a 6 pin FW 400 or and 8 pin FW 800 port to use the reader.  Additionally, you probably won’t see a speed increase except with UDMA Compact Flash cards, such as Sandisk’s Ducati and Extreme IV, Lexar’s 300x Compact Flash card (the 133x ones aren’t), the relatively new PNY Pro UDMA, and Hoodman RAW UDMA.  But the UDMA enabled cameras are coming, and I’ll bet that all of the major manufacturers cameras (beyond entry level consumer) that will be introduced between now and Photokina 08 this fall will be UDMA enabled, as they’ll need the speed to keep the buffer clearing.  If you have a firewire port on your computer, I highly recommend that you get one of these readers.

*: According to Rob Galbraith, most of the major UDMA firewire readers on the market right now use the exact same controller that is not made by Sandisk so there is basically no speed difference between them.  For more information, see his analysis at his website.

You can purchase the Sandisk Extreme Firewire Compact Flash Reader  from B&H Photo, where the professionals buy their gear by clicking this link.

sandisk extreme firewire reader sandisk extreme firewire reader

Discuss this article in The Magic in Pixels Disney Photo Forum

Ed. note:  Roger Longenbach is a big-time photography enthusiast and major contributor to the TMIP Message Forums; he also has his own website,

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