Cfast Card Alternatives for Cinema Cameras

If you landed here it’s probably because you think CFast 2.0 cards are too expensive and you are looking for an alternative. You certainly need a CFast card if you want to shot in raw with a cinema camera, such as the Canon C200 or the Blackmagic Ursa Mini, but also. The CFast needs to have a relatively high write speed (in the order of 500 Mbps).

Production Highlights

  • SUMMARY:
    Product demonstration
  • Location:
    Cambridge (UK)
  • Cameras:
    1 x Canon C200
  • Sound:
    SoundDevices MixPre 3 II, 1 x Sennheiser MKH-416 (XLR)
  • Monitor/Rec:
    Atomos Sumo 19''
  • Editing:
    Davinci Resolve, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition
  • Crew:
    Samuele Lilliu

Key Points

  • For critical jobs get a standard CFast Card (e.g. Angebird)
  • For non critical jobs get a CFast breakout cable. The best and cheapest option is the CCTECH sold on Ebay for a fraction of the SolidPod (£80 vs £360). You will need to buy an SSD drive and a quick swap
  • The cost per gigabyte (£/GB) for the CCTECH setup and the CFast (Lexar) setup are £2.3/GB and £0.6/GB respectively

If you landed here it’s probably because you think CFast 2.0 cards are too expensive and you are looking for an alternative. You certainly need a CFast card if you want to shot in raw with a cinema camera, such as the Canon C200 or the Blackmagic Ursa Mini, but also. The CFast needs to have a relatively high write speed (in the order of 500 Mbps).

Standard CFast Cards

A recommended CFast card for the C200 is the Angelbird AV PRO Cfast 2.0, which features sustained 530 Mbps read and write speed. I have been using two Lexar cards so far with my C200. The 3500x, which is rated at 525Mbps, and the 3600x which is rated at 540Mbps.

If we look at one of the top UK suppliers, CVP, the 256GB Angelbird is sold for £307 and the Lexar is sold for £600, at twice the price. This corresponds to £1.2/GB and £2.3/GB respectively. You can watch this Youtube video, for a comparison between different CFast cards for the Canon C200.

The advantage of these cards is that they are easy to carry, fast to swap, and reliable.

CFast Card Alternatives

SolidPod (good design, but expensive)

I recently purchased the SolidPod from CVP, which I then returned and got a reimbursement. I believe the SolidPod is a rip-off for the following reasons. The SolidPod is nothing more than a dummy CFast card connected to an mSATA SSD drive adapter.

One good aspect is that the SSD drive can be quickly swapped using the SSD drive mount. You can buy extra mounts for multiple SSDs. The aluminium box is well designed, but it is not more than a box. Thanks to its shape it allows for passive heat dissipation.

The SolidPod without SSD drive is sold by CVP for £360 including VAT. The quick swap is sold for £30. The SSD drive is not included in the package. The recommended Samsung 860 EVO MSata 256GB costs £68 on CVP. I’m sure you would buy 1TB or 2TB, but let’s stick with the 256GB, for sake of comparison with other models. In this case, the price per GB would be the price of the Solidpod plus the SSD divided by the SSD space, meaning £428/256, that is £1.7/GB.

If you get a larger SSD, you can then compensate the cost of the Solidpod. So if you get 1TB SSD for £215, the cost per GB would be £0.6. This is way less than the price per GB of the recommended CFast cards.

The issue with the SolidPod is that it is too expensive. Luckly, there are more options out there.

Amazon US Breakout Cable (avoid)

The first option is a CFast breakout cable from an Amazon vendor. I bought this after watching this Youtube video. Don’t buy this.

For this thing to work, you’ll need several other things. First of all the breakout cable, which costs about £45. This comes from the USA, meaning that you’ll need to pay clearance fees to DHL, it’s about £17, so £62 in total, if you are based in the UK or EU.

After you get the cable, you’ll need to cut the two power wires. In fact, the dummy Cfast is not wired in a way that it can power the SSD from the camera.

After that, you’ll need to get USB to 2.5 SSD 5 Pin SATA Power Adapter Cable. It costs about £10. The vendor is based in Hong Kong. As an alternative you can also buy a USB Type A to 3.5 mm/1.35 mm 5 Volt DC Barrel Jack Power Cable Connector, clip the cable and connect it to the SSD power adapter from the Cfast breakout cable. This costs £6.

Finally you’ll need to get an SSD, for example SanDisk Ultra II SSD 240 GB SATA III, which costs about £100 on Amazon.

In addition to that you’ll need to connect the USB to a USB charger in order to power up your SSD. You can get this battery for £15.

So in total you end up spending £187, which corresponds to £0.8 per GB. This is way below the cost per GB that you will get with the Solidpod.

But don’t go for this option.

The cable they sent me was defective and, if you check the comments on the Amazon page, other people received defective cables. There is also a Youtube video, with a guy showing a similar defective cable. Luckily I was refunded by the vendor, but not for the DHL fees. If you are lucky enough to get a decent cable consider that the cable is too thick for the C200. It might work with the Blackmagic, but it is too thick for the C200 and you’ll risk breaking the door. The other issue is that you will have cables all over the place and the burden of a large battery to carry around.

So don’t go for this option.

Marian Monteanu Breakout Cable (average option)

The other option is a custom made CFast breakout cable made by Marian Monteanu. You can contact this guy from Facebook.

The setup comes with a CFast dummy card connected to a M.2 SSD sata drive adapter. The guy provides a modified version of the Sabrent Sata Adapter. The modification is required so that the SSD can be powered by the camera. I understood that the CFast is powered by 3.3V but the SSD can be powered by either 3.3V or 5V. The guy does a simple modification to the Sabrent so that the SSD can be powered with 3.3V from the dummy CFast.

The total setup costs about £100 including shipping costs.

When I purchased this thing the guy suggested me to buy a Crucial SSD. It turned out that these SSD don’t work well with this setup. Recording would stop after 5-10min after the first usage.

After this bad experience we tried a different hard drive, a Western Digital SSD M.2 SATA, 250 GB and everything was fine. I guess it was a problem with buffer size, but I am not sure. You can buy this SSD for £41 on Amazon.

In terms of cost, this would be £141/250, £0.56 per GB, which is the best option so far compared to the breakout cable from the US and the SolidPod.

Drawbacks of this thing is that it doesn’t have a ¼ inc mount, so you’ll need to get something like a mobile phone holder, and the cable is too thick for the C200. If you want to swap the SSD you’ll need a screwdriver and open the box, it is probably better to get a bunch of those SSD boxes and swap them instead of opening the box.

CCTECH (best option, great design)

The last option is the CCTECH CFast to SSD adapter. I purchased this from a Chinese vendor and it the best solution from our perspective.

I believe this is a significantly better design than the SolidPod. The cable is thinner than the SolidPod one, which is good for the CFast door in the Canon C200. The aluminium box is smaller and it weighs less than the Solidpod. The guy sells it for a fraction of price of the SolidPod, only £87 including shipping cost.

We have been using this with a Samsung 500 GB 860 EVO mSAtA III. The 250GB version of it, costs £56 on Amazon.

In total you will spend £143, or equivalently, £0.57 per GB, which the same as the previous case, but the build quality and the form factor are superior.

In terms of mounting options. Our suggestion is that you to get a cheap quick release ¼ inc mount, like this one, for about £13.

Comparison

Finally we’ve made a comparison chart between the traditional CFast cards and these breakout cables. The CCTECH setup is sold for a quarter of the price of the SolidPod. The drawback of the CCTECH might be the quickswap. However, you can do that relatively fast with a small scredriver.

Product£/GB Angelbird1.2 Lexar 3500x2.3 SolidPod1.7Good design but expensiveAmazon US0.8AvoidMarian0.6Cheapest but bulky, thick cablesCCTECH0.6Cheapest, smallest, great design

Warning

There is just one warning. These SSD are not as resilient as the CFast cards and they might stop working. There have been cases of people using the SolidPod that have reported SSD drives that stopped working. This happened to me as well. In this case the SSD would work when plugged to a PC but wouldn’t work when plugged to the camera. You can watch this video regarding this issue. The guy shows how he is unable to format the SSD drive and he gets ‘Process terminated with error’.

So you might consider this as well when using one of these breakout cables. It is also true that if the SSD get corrupted, you can always get it replaced by Amazon or get a refund.