Rudy Winston
Rudy Winston

Rudy Winston has over 17 years experience with Canon USA's Pro Products team, and has been responsible during that time for training Canon's staff on new products, creating presentations for customers and dealers, numerous writing projects, and providing technical assistance to professional and amateur photographers.

File-Based Video Recording onto CF Cards: Features & Benefits

March 30, 2011

CF cards can be purchased as substantially lower costs than the proprietary media used by companies…

Canon’s professional XF series video cameras, including the XF305/XF300 and the new XF105/100, bring a lot of exciting capabilities and technology to the pro video shooter. Their image quality and features rival and in some instances exceed those in pro video cameras costing several times more. But one of the most fundamental aspects of these two cameras is their choice of media — the industry-standard CompactFlash card.

For file-based video cameras, CompactFlash is an ideal media choice. We’ll explore some of the reasons why in this article.

Non-proprietary media:

Canon has a long track record of giving the user choice when it comes to recording media. By using industry-standard CompactFlash (CF) cards in the XF series*, this concept has continued as Canon now enters the world of file-based digital video recording for professionals.

With industry-standard memory cards, the Canon XF305/XF300 or XF15/100 user can use support devices such as card readers that they may already own, and/or which are easily obtainable at any electronics or photography dealer. No specialized, dedicated readers are needed, nor is the user forced to use proprietary adapters to ingest his or her files into their computer to begin work on them. Finally, the very common FAT32-type file system is used for recording data from either of these two new Canon video cameras to CF cards. This means that the cards can be easily read on any Windows or Macintosh computer, again via conventional card readers. No special file conversion or physical adapters are needed.

Easily Available:

CompactFlash cards are the most popular media choice in the digital SLR world, as well as with numerous other devices, and because of this, compatible CF cards can be readily purchased in much of the world at a broad range of retail outlets. Competitive professional video cameras that use the manufacturer’s proprietary cards require users to buy them from specialty dealers or from a limited number of on-line sources, and this can certainly be a problem for the photographer on location who suddenly realizes that he or she needs to invest in more cards in order to complete a project. And this is potentially an even greater problem for the photographer working on-location in remote areas, especially outside of the photographer’s home country.

Beyond that, many videographers also have still digital SLRs — and thus may already have invested in numerous CompactFlash memory cards. These same cards and card readers that they’re using for their still cameras can in most cases be used for XF series camcorders, minimizing or for some shooters even eliminating the need for investment in new memory cards as they contemplate stepping-up to a new pro video camera.

Cost Effective:

Another huge advantage for the XF user. Because of both industry competition among CF card makers, as well as their near- universal availability, CF cards can be purchased as substantially lower costs than the proprietary media used by companies like Sony and Panasonic. For example, here are typical advertised US prices for a 32GB memory card (record times vary): 

  • Sandisk Extreme Pro CF (90MB/sec rating): $389.99
  • Panasonic P2 E-series (1.2Gb/sec; 153.6MB/sec): $569.00
  • Sony SxS PRO memory card (100MB/sec rating): $799.95
    (note: all prices from major photo retail web site, and are current as of April 7, 2010)

For the professional video user who may need to invest in dozens of cards, over time, for their on-location shooting needs, these cost savings will continue to add up if they use a camera that takes advantage of popular CF cards* (card compatibility chart listed below this article).

Proven durability:

We certainly aren’t claiming that CF cards have a physical advantage in ruggedness or dependability vs. the proprietary card types used by competitive video camera makers. But it’s a fact that CompactFlash cards have been in existence for a relatively long period of time, and over that time have demonstrated their reliability as a storage medium for photographers working in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. There are even reports of photographer who have inadvertently left CF cards in their pockets, and had them go through a washing machine, and image data on the cards was not affected. With CompactFlash cards, users can be confident that they’re using a proven media for their video files, one which has definitely withstood the test of time.

CF card handling in Canon's file-based pro video cameras:

All four cameras in the XF series (the XF305, 300, 105 and 100) have two CF card slots, allowing users to run their choice of one or two CF cards in the camera. With two cards installed, the following features are available with either camera: 

  • Hot-swappable cards
    No need to turn the camera off to change a card. A full card can be changed at any time, even if the other card is being actively recorded to.
  • Relay recording is possible, with two CF cards installed
    Extended recording is possible, with automatic switching from Card A to Card B or vice-versa.
  • Initialize or format a card, even during recording
    A newly-installed card can be formatted, even if the other installed CF card is actively recording (before video recording, cards must be initialized on the camera).
  • Copy files from one card to the other
    Easy back-up in the field — copy the contents of one card to another blank card, in-camera.
  • Record the same footage to both cards simultaneously (only available on the XF105/100)
    For situations where you need an immediate back-up copy, the XF105/100 cameras offers double card recording to both CF card slots at the same time.


The Canon XF series pro video cameras are innovative, file-based digital video cameras that will garner much attention in the coming months for their combination of thoughtful design, great video image quality, and thoroughly professional features. One of the latter is their use of a memory card type that’s already a proven, industry standard: CompactFlash memory cards. Without losing any capabilities in pro video recording or file handling, the decision to use CF cards means easy access to the pro video shooter, along with the potential to use accessories that they may already own today. Not only are these cameras a stunning achievement for what they offer at an outstandingly affordable price point, but users of the XF305/300 or XF105/100 will be using a storage media type that is significantly more affordable than the proprietary systems used by some competitors.


All information in this article is accurate as of March 1st, 2011, and subject to change without notice.

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