In 2017, I purchased the long-awaited Canon EOS Cinema C200 camcorder. I had been shooting with rented C300 MKII cameras and came to really like that model. I also owned a C100 and a C300 MKI, two of the best cameras I’ve owned over my fairly lengthy career as a director of photography and cameraperson.
Because of my Canon experience, the C200 seemed like a great candidate for shooting two documentary film projects I was planning, and the ability to shoot RAW internally really fired my imagination about the quality and flexibility that Canon’s new Cinema RAW Light format could provide.
The only catch was that Cinema RAW Light is a rather large-sized format with a constant data rate of 1 Gbps. At that rate, I didn’t know if it would be practical to try to shoot a documentary, which typically takes shooting a ton of footage, in RAW.
So, I did some preliminary investigation into CFast 2.0 professional-grade memory cards before I was serious about buying the camera. I knew how long CFast 2.0 cards lasted shooting 4K XF-AVC at 410 Mbps on the C300 MKII and then estimated how long cards would last on the C200 shooting Cinema RAW Light at 1 Gbps. At the time, CFast 2.0 was a fairly new format and memory card prices were expensive, about $1,200 to $1,500 for a 256 GB card.
Data And Cost Calculations
Luckily, our documentary centered around shooting Women Outrigger Paddling racers, and most of the races we’d be covering only lasted about two to three hours. So, six 256 GB memory cards actually would give me enough recording time for most of our shoots.
I rented the C200 before buying it, which is a practice I highly recommend. And I also rented a 256 GB card; the C200 would record 34 minutes of Cinema RAW Light. Not bad!
But six 256 SanDisk cards, the brand that was approved by Canon for use on the C200, would cost me nearly as much as the camera, about $7,200. So, I did some research to see if there were any alternatives. At the same time, as I was contemplating the SanDisk cards, the other approved cards, made by Lexar, were beginning to dry up as far as availability. Unfortunately, the Lexar name was sold off, leaving SanDisk as the only CFast memory cards certified by Canon on the market.
Enter EgoDisk, VPG-130 Certified
Right around the same time I was considering buying the C200, I stumbled across a link on Amazon.com for a new line of CFast 2.0 cards made by a company called EgoDisk. I had never heard of the company and really couldn’t find out much about it, but it was offering 256 GB CFast 2.0 cards for $299. Most importantly, EgoDisk was promising that its CFast 2.0 cards met the elusive and important VPG-130 standard.
What is VPG-130, you ask? It’s the minimum write speed backed up by the Video Performance Guarantee 130 standard (VPG-130), meaning that the card’s minimum write speed will never drop below 130 MB/s.
It’s an important specification because it’s the speed necessary to record RAW DCI 4K at both 10-bit and 12-bit, as specified by the C200. I decided to buy one 256 GB memory card along with my new C200 and see how it would work before committing to buying half a dozen of them.
The value proposition was excellent: Half a dozen 256 GB cards would cost a mere $1,800, quite a bit less than the $7,200 for a half-dozen SanDisk-approved cards would.
But would they actually work and be reliable enough to shoot a film? As you’ll see, my hands-on field testing would give me a better indication.
The First Card Arrives!
My first EgoDisk 256 GB card arrived the day I after I ordered it (thanks to Amazon).
I charged up the battery on my new C200, inserted the CFast 2.0 card, formatted it and was ready to shoot. I wasn’t quite sure what kinds of problems might be likely since this was a new camera and I was shooting a new codec onto a new, unapproved media card. I suspected there might be buffer issues, where the card just wouldn’t have enough throughput and speed to keep up with the camera.
Upon examination, the EgoDisk 256 GB card looked sturdy, constructed with a metallic case (unlike cheaper cards on the market that have a plastic case). They’re a bit heavy for a memory card, but after a year of almost constant shooting, they still look new. (None of the graphics or writing on the cards have peeled or flaked off.)
One of the best things about the CFast 2.0 card format is a distinct lack of pins where the card attaches to the device. With older formats like CF cards, I had experienced several episodes of pins bending with heavy use, which basically makes the card unusable.
With CFast 2.0 Cards, there are no exposed pins on either the card or the device it plugs into. The cards feature a long slot that makes contact more like a USB connection does with a friction fit. CFast 2.0 memory cards only fit one way, so there’s no accidentally inserting them upside down or off angle. Based upon my experience, I think this format is a big improvement in long-term reliability over the previous CF-format card design.
Using EgoDisk CFast 2.0 Cards On My First Shoot
I wanted to put as much heat, stress and constant use as possible on the new card in order to see if I could get it to fail when shooting. (I didn’t want that to happen when shooting a once-in-a-lifetime scene during a documentary shoot.) So, I took the camera out to a local desert to shoot some b-roll in the hot midday sun.
The card seemed to be working flawlessly, with no error messages, glitches or problems. There were no dropped frames upon playback, either. And I was quite pleased with the Cinema RAW Light Format.
The C200 records DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) in either 10-bit or 12-bit recording, depending on the frame rate. But I only had one CFast 2.0 Card at that point. So it required a lot of shooting, downloading and reformatting the card to be able to shoot much.
Fast Forward: A Year Later
We just wrapped a year of shooting the racing season for our first documentary. The C200 with the EgoDisk cards served as our A-camera and interview camera but also spent plenty of time on the ocean, shooting practice sessions and races.
During all these shoots, we totally forgot about them, which is the highest compliment I can pay to the six EgoDisk 256 GB CFast 2.0 cards we used. We just put them into the camera, shot our footage, put them in a card case, downloaded them back at the office, and then put them back in the camera again, reformatted them and repeated the process all over all again.
In a year’s time, we didn’t suffer one glitch, bobble or loss of data. With the six 256 GB cards, we’ve shot almost 100 TB of footage for the documentary.
In my view, the cards performed flawlessly under very challenging circumstances, with continuous operation in heat, cold and near ocean salt water. The resulting footage we captured has been perfect.
Media cards are pretty simple; they either work or they don’t. The EgoDisk cards work and work well. I highly recommend them to C300 MKII and C200 owners. The cards are also said to work well with other cameras that use the format, but like most tech situations, I’d buy one and put it through its paces first, whether you’re using it with your Blackmagic, Arri or other gear that requires a CFast 2.0 professional-grade memory card.