UDMA 7 CF Card Performance on Canon 5D Mark III and 1D Mark IV – Soooo worth it!

Now that UDMA 7 card prices are coming down out of the stratosphere I figured it was a good time to pick up some newer/faster cards to replace my aging UDMA 6 media. It also didn't hurt that my Canon 5D Mark III supported the UDMA 7 standard – so I was eager to see if there would be any noticeable upside to the swap.  As I was heading over to a local Austin Thursday night bicycle race at The Driveway, I thought I'd recalled that the Canon 1D Mark IV also might support UDMA 7.

So after parking and prepping my gear, a quick search on my phone showed that the latest firmware upgrade "Improves writing/reading speeds when using UDMA 7-compatible CF cards."  Being fairly diligent about applying new firmware, I figured I'd be good to go – that I'd be able to test both the 5D3 and the 1D4 with UDMA 6 vs UDMA 7…  No dice… my 1D4 was at 1.0.8… D'oh!

Oh well – I figured I still had the 5D3 to play with, so I headed out to shoot; and boy did it help. I was noticing roughly double the shots when I just kept the shutter down and let it shoot – but perhaps more importantly, the time to clear the buffer dropped even more significantly – from 15 seconds to about 4 or 5.  Of course, all of this was with that super scientific timing method of "one one thousand… two one thousand…" LOL  I went ahead and tested the 1D4 as well – curious to see if the firmware would make any difference. The quick tests seemed to indicate that when using firmware 1.0.8 on the 1D4 that there was no gain in performance.

Back at the house, I went and did a bit more "scientific" testing. Yup – broke out the stopwatch feature on my cell phone.  I didn't quite feel like getting out the recorder, then looking at and counting the spikes in the wave image. I figured this was an "area play" of sorts – split seconds wouldn't matter, it was the larger changes that would be very noticeable that would be important to me (and hopefully, you).

I also went ahead and upgraded the firmware in my 1D4 to 1.1.1 to see if that made any difference. Since the testing on the 1.0.8 showed zero improvement (both out at the event, and in my "scientific" testing) I didn't include it in the results below; but yes – 1.1.1 DOES make a difference.

Both my 5D3 and 1D4 are set to just shoot raw files; I only save to one card (the CF) and when it is full, they roll to the SD till I can swap the CF card during a break in the shoot. To avoid AF or exposure settings delaying shutter speed, I went to manual focus, and set the camera to manual mode – 1/500 @ f/4. To test – I held the shutter down until I heard a hesitation in the shutter speed; when that happened, I started the time as I released the shutter, then watched to see when the red "writing" light went out. The same cards were used in both cameras: UDMA 6 – RiData 533x; UDMA 7 – Lexar Professional 1000x 16 GB.  I did three runs of each camera/setup and have averaged the runs. (okay – I know I'm not proving a Doctorial Thesis, but I know folks like to understand the details <chuckle>) Oh – one last nugget of data – when you look through the viewfinder and see the "available shots in buffer" indicated – neither camera's number changed when switching between card speed/technology. The 5D3 showed 13 shots for both cards and the 1D4 showed 23 shots for both cards.

A drumroll please… 

Camera Card  Shots till full   Buffer empty in 
 5D Mark III   UDMA 6  15  15.2 sec 
   UDMA 7 26  3.5 sec 
 1D Mark IV  UDMA 6 27  24.5 sec 
   UDMA 7 31  6.1 sec 

Ta da!

So – on the 5D3:

  • roughly 70% more shots on the before the buffer is full
  • buffer fully cleared in roughly 1/4 the time

and on the 1D4:

  • Only a slight gain in shots – 15% more, but again the
  • buffer fully cleared in roughly 1/4 the time

So that is the "numerical" side of things – the practical side of things is that it is very noticeable how much faster I can shoot again – primarily on the 1D4 (mainly because I do more of the rapid high speed shooting on it, but I'm doing more with the 5D3 as well).  It takes 6.1 seconds to completely empty the buffer, but even a 1/2 – 1 second stopping in the shooting can get me a quick burst of another 3-5 shots… a lot more manageable than the older 1.0.8 or UDMA 6 performance of only 1-2 shots after that 1/2 – 1 second hesitation.

So – run, don't walk – to your local retailer or web storefront and load up on some UDMA 7 greatness early and often!

If you have any questions, either comment below or use the "contact" link in the header.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

- Will


New Gear: 1D X or 5D III – Decisions Decisions…

I always chuckle a bit when new gear gets announced. The forums get flooded with lots of questions about nit-picky details that can't possibly get answered until the camera is out and someone has some hands on time with them. People seem to love to debate and or disparage the manufacturer (no matter if it is Canon or Nikon) as to why they didn't do "x" or why the felt they had to do "y" or why they couldn't just add in the feature from the top of the line camera to that mid-range product… I think what most people fail to understand is that (no offense) they are not making the camera for you, they are making the camera for the masses.

So it is funny to see posts about how many stops better will the RAW support be (sort of subjective, isn't it?), or which is better for me the 1D4 or 5D3 (um, more than happy to point out differences, but you need to be comfy with your own decision, I'm nobody's scapegoat), or complaints about the price of the 5D3 being more than the D800 (um, very different beasts – IMHO, the prices shouldn't be the same).

To me it comes down to more pragmatic decisions. What will it cost and how will it benefit me?

I wish I had a limitless budget and could have closet full of gear. A pair of 1D4 bodies, a pair of 1DX bodies, a 5D3 and a 7D would be great… along with every lens Canon makes. Yeah – that should just about fit the bill… I could load up with whatever I needed and get the best for whichever client I was shooting for… but that is not the case.

For me, I've loved the IQ, fps, ISO performance, and 1.3 crop (for that little extra reach) of the 1D4, and I've been okay with the 5D2's performance while loving the full frame 21mp images. I do wish it had a better AF system (well, and since it was my main "event" camera, better low light performance is always appreciated) but the other functions have been great for what I (and more importantly, my clients) have needed it for.


Enter the 1DX – Back in October when the 1D X was announced, I'll admit I was enamored, I wanted one – and put in a quick pre-order and should receive one in that dealer's first order. I wasn't happy about the price though… Not that I didn't see the value in it – I do think that $6,800 is a great price for all that Canon have packed into that body – but with the 1D4 doing such a great job – I didn't want to feel like I had to give up my 1D4 to have a 1DX. I wasn't longing for a new pro sports body – I was only looking for the improved AF for a FF body. At the time, sure – there were rumors about a 5D2 replacement, but I didn't think they would be announcing it and releasing it so soon. I loved the thought of lots of rich FF images, but my main FPS need is sports and to be candid – the subtle differences between FF and 1.3 crop bokeh in a rip-roaring sprint finish wouldn't have me selling any more images than I do currently. For a sprint – I just need to capture the critical moment with the rider(s) I want in focus… the 1D4 has been doing that for me just fine. Don't get me wrong – I still wanted one – higher ISO, larger files so you could crop a bit more – additional controls for ease of shooting either orientation – increased shutter longevity – improved smaller GPS unit… I could go on… 

So I figured the best bet for me would be to sell my 5D2, buy a 1DX and shoot it with the 1D4 – using the 1DX for scenics for the breadth of the FF, and then picking from two great choices for the sprints – using the 1D4 if I needed a bit more reach based on where I was allowed to be for a given finish…


Enter the 5D Mark III – Then the rumors started flying around in Jan/Feb that the 5D3 was on the way… well – it might have been called the 5DX – but suffice to say, a replacement for the venerable 5D2 was on the way.  I began to re-think my stra-tee-ger-ree. Another pre-order placed and my "need" for the 1DX started to wane just a bit.

In looking over the specs for both cameras, so much of the 1DX (that I really wanted/needed at least) was in the 5D3. Sure the metering system is zoned, not color sensor based; yes – the AF speed won't be as impressively fast since the battery isn't as big; sure it'll only do 6 fps… but I now have the AF and improved IQ that I needed/wanted (respectively). I think the 5D3 replacing the 5D2 in my bag – I'll not be feeling as much need for the 1DX as I had initially.

So I'm looking forward to my 5D3's arrival – and just to hedge my bets, I'll be keeping my pre-order in on the 1DX – with it not being released till later next month – this will give me some time to evaluate the 5D3. I can see how well it works as a slightly slower 6fps sports shooter.

So watch this space – I may either be extolling the virtues of the 5D3, or putting it up for sale to help fund the 1DX… and who knows – I may even end up buying them both.  But for now – I feel better that I don't feel like I'm goaded into buying the 1DX just to get the improved FF AF I've been wanting – I now have a choice with the 5D3.  After all, a combo of a 5D3, 1D4 and 1DX could be a hard bag full o bodies to beat!

Thoughts on this? What do you have on order – 5D3, 1DX, or both – and why?

Thanks for reading!

- Will


Canon Crop Comparison: FF vs 1.3x vs 1.6x – Bokeh

Who hasn't wondered what the hubbub is all about. All this "crop factor" talk. Full frame, 1.3x, and 1.6x (well – for the Canon-ites out there).  I think we all understand how it effects the reach of our lenses, but how does it effect the bokeh of our images?

A Quick Re-wind…

For those who may not know the first part of that, it is pretty straight forward.  The crop factor, multiplied times the focal length of your lens, yields an "effective" focal length number, or "35mm film equivalent" number.  A full frame sensor – sized the same as a negative – has a no crop factor, or really a value of one. For Canon, this would be the 5D, and the "s" flavors of the 1D series – the 1Ds, 1Ds Mark II, and the 1Ds Mark III.  Most of the entry level (and again – I'm typing "Canon" speak here) and mid level cameras are 1.6x, (Digital Rebel, 400D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, etc) while the Canon 1D (non "s") cameras toe the line at 1.3x (the 1D, 1D Mark II, and 1D Mark III).

So – in practical numbers (and an easy one at that) if you put a 100-400mm zoom on each of the different crop factor cameras, set it as wide as it could go (at the 100mm position), you would get photos out of them that appeared to be taken at 100mm (the full frame), 130mm (the 1.3x), and 160mm (the 1.6).  This can be a bonus if you are looking for extra reach out of your lens, but can be a detriment if you are looking to get wider angle shots.

Back to the Point of Today's Post…

Okay – the sharp end of today is what about those middle zones… what really is the difference? Does the crop factor make any difference to the photos that would be framed the same in all three ratios?

Let's say three people, one with each crop factor type, see the same subject and want to photograph it. We'll also say that all three people stand the same distance away from that subject and frame their shots the same way through their viewfinders. Okay – and – miraculously enough, all three are using the same lens and decide upon the same settings for f-stop and shutter speed. How will their pictures be different?

Sure – we need to throw out the differences in the sensor's sensitivities, color saturation, etc… those really are not a factor of the crop factor itself, just a part of the construction of the sensor elements and image processing software and firmware.

How the Test was Done…

I have a 1D Mark II N and a 50D, so I had the 1.3x and 1.6x covered; luckily a friend – Kevin – just picked up a 5D. Voila – gotta love a plethora of bodies to test with. Now that the gear was covered, it was pretty easy to configure a test that would minimize differences and allow for valid comparisons.

A few of my vintage cameras soon were on a table with a magazine propped up against the wall to serve as a more defined thing to get out of focus in the background. I mounted my 70-200 f/2.8 L IS to my tripod, and switched off the IS.  To get the same net image, the effective focal lengths had to be the same. For the FF and 1.6, the math was easy, shoot the 1.6 at 100mm shown on the lens, and shoot the FF at 160mm. Some quick math (160/1.3) yielded 123mm for the 1.3x.  We ended up shooting w/ the 50D first, so we metered with it and chose the exposure of 1/10th at f/2.8 (we chose the f stop to minimize the depth of field). Other tidbits – all the cameras were set to "neutral" picture style; RAW;  I shot gray cards to set custom white balance for all three cameras; all were set for mirror lockup and a remote trigger (wired) was used.

After shooting, the images were brought into Lightroom, I did boost the vibrance on the shots from the 50D as the colors looked very different from the other two bodies (more on that later - as in another post). They were then exported as 800px wide images, 70% quality, sharpen for screen (for the "full image" pictures posted here); and as 100% quality, scaled to match the smallest (the 1D) image dimension so that when cropped, they would all be the same size, no sharpening.

The Results…

The three photos below (click to enlarge) are the three "as they filled the viewfinder" images. The 1.6x (50D) at the top; the 1.3x (1D Mark II N) in the middle, and the full frame (5D) at the bottom.




Okay – to sum it up – there is a very noticeable difference between the three photos. Now the distance for these was about 7 feet from the camera to the cameras, and another 8 inches or so to the magazine. The two areas that seem to illustrate the bokeh difference for me are the forearm of the rider and the lettering of Velo News.

On the forearm, the word GARMIN is sorta readable in the 50D (1.6x crop), is a bit blurrier on 1D (1.3x crop) and is darn near un-readable on the 5D (full frame).  In the lettering of the N, you can see how much the orange color expands and blurs as the crop factor gets smaller.

Now, some might think – wow – what if I don't want that much bokeh… I should avoid full frame… Nope – just don't shoot at f/2.8.  You can add depth of field by going to f/4 or f/5.6.

The key thing here is, if you are looking for MORE bokeh, moving to a full frame sensor camera body will do the trick. It isn't just buzz… it is very noticeable.

Thanks for reading!