Review: Sandisk Extreme Pro 8GB 95MBS SDHC

In a few days, the GR crew (Michael and I) will be participating in the 48hr Guerrilla Film Challenge, a contest in which we have just 48 hours to write, shoot, and edit a 5-7 minute film. The kicker is that we will not know the genre until the start of our 48 hr period. So, we’ve both been securing gear for the past few weeks. I’ve picked up several things that I wanted to tell you about. One of the little-mentioned, but critical issues with digital movie-making is storage. I recently picked up some Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards, and boy are they nice. More after the break.

Storing you videos, sound, and stills is a matter that requires more attention than people typically give it. It’s not just a matter of having enough storage. You really need to develop a redundancy workflow, keeping multiple copies of your raw (unedited) and work (edited) files. Too often one of the overlooked details is the quality of our storage cards.

While some of the cameras we’ll be using require CF cards, the other cameras and many other devices require SD cards. While our sound recorders, like our Zoom HN4, might have very minimal requirements, my Canon T3i requires much faster cards – especially if I bump up the bit-rate with Magic Lantern.

I had been using Transcend’s Class-10 SD cards. They worked really well, but sometimes I would lose shots because the card was just not fast enough to capture the incoming data. That was with the stock bit-rate built-in by Canon. Once I started messing with increased bit-rates, success was hit or miss – mostly miss. So the hunt for a better SD card was on.

After a lot of research, studying speed charts, and testimonials for countless cards, I decided that the best high-end SD cards are the Sandisk Extreme Pros. They have two flavors in this series: 45MB/s and 95MB/s. While I could have saved a few bucks with the 45MB/s cards (which got great reviews by the way), I just felt that 45MB/s was too close to the Transcend card’s 30MB/s rating. So, I purchased the 95MB/s cards.

Boy, have I been well-rewarded for that choice. The very first time I plugged it onto my SD card port in my MacBook Pro, I was instantly rewarded with a drive icon on the desktop – I mean instantly. It seriously surprised me that I did not have to wait a single second for OSX to recognize the card. With the Transcend, I got used to 5-10 second lag between inserting the card and being able to browse it.

Once I installed Magic Lantern on the card, I eagerly began to test higher bit-rates. Limited to 1.0 on the Transcends, I was able to get 1.6 on the Sandisk Extreme Pro recording a full 15 minutes without a single hiccup. I stopped at 15 minutes because I just got tired of recording, not because I was forced to. Once I took that shot, of course I wanted to see the results, so I played it back in-camera. Uh-oh. Playback stuttered and skipped. I was worried that the card was skipping, so I took it out of the camera and played the video back from the card slot on my MacBook Pro – perfectly smooth! It turns out that the card is so fast my camera could not keep up with the playback of the high bit-rate files, even though it writes them to the card just fine.

The Sandisk Extreme Pro SD card is well worth the premium (about 3x per MB) that I paid over the Transcend cards. But – I certainly still use the Transcend cards (which I highly recommend) – they are probably the best bang for the buck. Since I the purpose of the Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards is high-bit-rate video (which is seldom required) I purchased the smaller size (8mb), to compliment my collection of larger sized (16mb and 32mb) Transcend cards. They all share equal time in-camera.

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