I have been using a few memory cards from PhotoFast over the past few weeks alongside my usual mix of Lexar, Kingston and SanDisk cards. Specifically, the PhotoFast GMonster 533x 32GB and 533x Plus 16GB CF cards have spent a lot of time in my Canon 5D Mark II and a Nikon D300s that I’ve had on hand. Additionally, I’ve tried out the PhotoFast 16GB Class 10 SD/SDHC card.
I didn’t really know a lot about PhotoFast as a memory card maker other than that they are based in Taiwan and make a variety of memory products. A little more history about the company: “PhotoFast was built by a group of talented R&D engineer who has served in SONY Japan. The professional R & D team joined PhotoFast Taiwan (established 1980) and established a Head Quarter in Taiwan in 2001.” (Source) Additionally, PhotoFast seems eager to get their products out in consumers’ hands and get some feedback on them. At this point, I don’t really have any complaints.
PhotoFast CF Card Performance
The 533x Plus CF card bested the Lexar 300x (my personal gold standard in my bag) in max frames captured in burst mode at higher ISO settings (by one additional frame) and matched it at lower ISO settings. (FYI, higher ISO settings produce larger image files.)
Additionally, both the 533x and 533x Plus cards have a quicker buffer clearance in the 5D Mark II than the Lexar 300x at all ISO settings. The 533x vanilla flavor clears the buffer slightly faster (maybe a second or so) than the Lexar 300x card, while the 533x Plus clears the buffer substantially faster than the Lexar 300x card. I also found the PhotoFast Class 10 SD card to perform on par with the SanDisk Extreme III SD card in the Nikon D300s.
Looking at Rob Galbraith’s tests (scroll down to the charts near the bottom), the 16GB 533x Plus appears to be the best match for the 5D Mark II in terms of speed, which correlates with my real world perception.
Both cards are right up there with the best when transferring data via card readers, but I’ll be honest, I really don’t care much about a smidge or two of difference in transfer speed over my card reader. As a result, this stat really doesn’t matter to me; however, if card reader transfer speed makes a difference in your real world use, Rob Galbraith has you covered there as well (I’d also like to know how and why that matters to you – please let me know in the comments). All in all, I was really impressed with the real world performance of PhotoFast’s memory cards.
One of the big benefits that I found with these cards is in their capacity. For the first time, when I inserted the 32GB CF card into my 5D Mark II with quality set to record Raw images I saw “999” register on the remaining images (that’s the max number the 5D Mark II will display). I never managed to fill this card up in a single outing. I get around 140 or so out of a 4GB card and am pretty used to cycling through these when shooting.
PhotoFast Quality and Reliability
I always worry about losing data during or after a shoot. I have more confidence in brands that I know and use on a regular basis (e.g., SanDisk, Lexar and Kingston). I’ll admit that I’ve been a little uneasy about this the entire time I had images on these cards; however, after a few thousand images across the three of them, I’m getting a little more comfortable with their reliability. I’m also one of those guys that formats a memory card each time one goes into any camera. I’m a firm believer that a lot of corruption problems can be avoided by religiously formatting.
I also inquired with PhotoFast about reliability, service and support and they pointed me to their virtual factory tour. Here’s PhotoFast’s statement on Quality Control:
PhotoFast has implemented the concept of Total Quality Control throughout every level of the company from R&D and Production to Administration and MIS. “Quality” is the guiding principle for PhotoFast products, staff development, and business and management systems. Internal regulations and procedures have been established to provide tight control over every aspect of PhotoFast’s operations. These rules and procedures are periodically evaluated for reformation or revision. The flexibility of the company’s business practices means there is always room for improvement and adoption of new methods. (Source)
The PhotoFast memory cards carry a limited lifetime warranty, which reads pretty solid, stating that PhotoFast “warrants that its Flash based products are free from defects in material and workmanship and will perform as advertised.” Limitations and conditions for the warranty are pretty typical as well. You have to go through your authorized reseller or distributor and may have to show proof of purchase. Additionally, the warranty doesn’t cover damage that results from accidents, abuse or misuse of the cards, along with disasters, or unauthorized disassembly, repair or modification by the user.
Basically, all the warranty mumbo-jumbo means that PhotoFast will replace or repair defective cards unless you broke it by running over it with a car, dropping it in a lake or something similar. For those of you who want to read the whole thing, I have pasted it at the bottom of this review.
When I inquired about returns of defective memory cards, PhotoFast told me they haven’t had a single card returned defective yet. I’ll take that as another good sign. The more that I’ve poked and prodded at these guys on their reliability track record, the better I feel about the quality of the cards overall.
PhotoFast Price Advantage
Looking back at the recent release of the SanDisk Extreme Pro CF cards, the PhotoFast 533x and 533x Plus cards seem like a steal. SanDisk’s Extreme Pro CF cards currently run $242.95 for the 16GB version, 431.94 for the 32GB version and $689.95 for the 64GB version. Contrast that with PhotoFast’s current CF card prices:
533x Plus – 8GB at $85
533x Plus – 16GB at $139
533x Plus – 32GB at $249
533x – 16GB at $95
533x – 32GB at $129
533x – 64GB at $299
Not a bad deal at all given the speed that you get and the prices of other comparably spec’d cards. Additionally, the PhotoFast Class 10 SDHC cards run $60 for 8GB; $79 for 16GB and $199 for 32GB.
*Note: Within the past day or so of this review’s publication, DV Nation had a slight price increase changing the 16GB from $95 to $99, and the 32GB 533X from $129 to $149. I missed this revision prior to publication and was informed by PhotoFast that this pricing list is slightly off with regard to the above two items.
I really don’t have anything bad to say about my experience with the cards. The performance of these cards are solid and up to par with the top-notch cards from the name brands but at reduced prices. Additionally, the reassurances of quality control and warranty commitments eases many of my concerns of putting a card in my camera that doesn’t wear a brand name badge. Based on my initial observations over the past few weeks, their performance, as well as the apparent value, I would recommend the PhotoFast CF and SD cards as a more affordable alternative to the brand name products that carry the premium price tag. I have to say that I kind of hate to send the review samples back to the manufacturer. I would likely continue using them on a regular basis and will probably consider picking one up the next time I go shopping for memory cards.
PhotoFast Warranty Terms
1. Terms of Limited Lifetime Warranty Coverage
PhotoFast Global Co. Ltd, warrants that its Flash based products are free from defects in material and workmanship and will perform as advertised. The warranty is subject to the conditions and limitations set forth:
1-a. To obtain warranty service through your authorized reseller, or distributor, a customer may be required to provide product identification information with a detailed description of the problem(s) they are experiencing.
1-b. A customer may also be required to include proof of the date of original purchase.
2. Product Replacement
PhotoFast, Corp. will at its option, either repair or replace any part of its product(s) that prove defective by reason of improper workmanship or materials.
2-a. Repaired parts or replacement product(s) will be provided by PhotoFast on an exchange basis, and will be either new or refurbished, to be functionally equivalent to new.
2-b. To exchange, or receive a credit for your product, please discuss with the reseller from where you originally purchased the product, or discuss with your PhotoFast Account Manager.
2-c. This warranty does not cover any damage to products that results from accident, abuse, misuse, natural or personal disaster, or any unauthorized disassembly, repair, or modification.
3. Discontinued Product
Product which is no longer manufactured by PhotoFast Tech, but still under warranty, can be returned for repair.
3-a. In the event that the product is not repairable, an attempt to replace the product with a refurbished part will be made, or the customer will be notified of additional options, if available.
4. Duration of Warranty
4-a. Warranty Coverage Review:
Product Warranty Coverage
1. Flash Memory Cards Limited Lifetime Warranty
2. Memory Card Adaptors 1-Year Warranty
3. PC Adaptors 1-Year Warranty
4. Card Readers 1-Year Warranty
5. SLC Based SSD 1-Year Warranty
6. MLC Based SSD 1-Year Warranty
5. Voided Warranty
Conditions that void the PhotoFast warranty include:
5-a. Any damage to products that result from accident, abuse or misuse at the hands of the customer, or end-user.
5-b. Any natural or personal disaster
5-c. Any unauthorized disassembly, repair, or modification by the customer, or end-user.
6. D.O.A. Definition and Service
Dead-On-Arrival (D.O.A.) is defined by PhotoFast as product which is defective within 7 days from the date of invoice for the original purchaser.
6-a. D.O.A. product must be returned within its original packaging and with all accessories.
6-b. D.O.A. product will be processed under the standard RMA policy and for immediate replacement after receipt.
7. Return Material Authorization (RMA) Request
All product returns must first obtain a valid PhotoFast authorization before sending product back to PhotoFast.