The Best CF Memory Cards for Professionals

Compact Flash Memory Cards are rugged and reliable, and that is quite simply why they are the memory card of choice for professional and ametuer photographers alike.  CF Cards have many great features for photographers, but if you are a professional, or even a budding amateur, what is the be memory card for your dSLR camera?  Here is a helpful guide for selecting the best compact flash memory card for portrait and wedding photographers. 

How much memory do you need in your memory card?

Before the purchase of your next professional compact flash, you must first determine the average RAW file size from your camera, and then you must determine how many photos you can fit on a typical compact flash cards.  Standard professional CF cards hold between 8 and 32 gigabytes while some CF cards on the market today can hold up to 128 gigabytes!  These CF cards are unnecessary for portrait photographers and should be reserved only for those taking movies with their dSLR cameras.

In lieu of purchasing one very large memory card for a wedding or photo session, most professional photographers like to purchase many smaller capacity compact flash cards.  When frantically photographing a wedding, there are just too many moving parts, and if your only large memory card is ruined, you will have a very angry bride at the end of the day.  The old addage "don't put all of your eggs in one basket" certainly comes into play here. 

I personally use 16 GB cards and shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II camera for my weddings.  This is a reasonable card size that holds approximately 500 RAW photos.  I find it best to break up the wedding day with each memory card, and these 500 photos seem to fit nicely with the different stages of a typical wedding day (getting ready, ceremony, reception, and dancing). 

Also, be sure you have enough memory cards on hand, plus at least one extra.  If you are like me, your trigger finger might get a little happy at times, and that extra compact flash card will come in handy on occasion. 

Wedding Photography

How much memory card speed do professional photographers need? 

Most professional portrait and wedding photographers tend to be deliberate and careful with their shooting.  This, then, generally does not necessitate the use of high-speed memory cards.  There may be times when you fire off a few quick shots of your bride in succession, but the internal memory of your camera can usually store these files while the memory card is processing. 

If you also use your camera for sport or live action photography, a high-speed compact flash card is probably required, but it is just not necessary for wedding and portrait photography.  For those who just need to have top-of-the-line equipment, do not get a memory card that is faster than your camera can handle.  For example, the output RAW size on my Canon is about 20mb and my camera can only shoot about 4 frames per second.  Therefore, I should not get a card that can process faster than 90 mb/s since my camera cannot even process that fast.

Lexar Compact Flash CardCredit: Amazon.comWhat brand should you purchase?

Really, this is somewhat irrelevant and may simply come down to brand loyalty.  Most professional photographers use SanDisk and Lexar compact flash cards, which both offer a full line of cards specifically catered to the pros.  These cards are specifically built to withstand extreme temperatures and humidity, so they should be able to take the beating that you will undoubtedly give them.  There are a number of very inexpensive off-brands on the market as well.  They may work just fine, but you should use at your own risk. 

Compact Flash Cards for Professionals - A Conclusion

As with most things photography, much of equipment decisions are up to the user.  In the case of compact flash cards though, top of the line equipment more than likely will not give you any added benefit.  So be sure to get a number of smaller memory cards, do not worry about speed if you are shooting portraits, and most of all have fun in your next photo session.  The last thing a professional photographer wants to worry about is a compact flash memory card!