Sonnet SDHC to SxS Adapter Review.

I recently reviewed the rather excellent Sonnet QIO I/O device that allows you to very quickly ingest material from SxS cards, P2 cards as well as SD cards to your computer. Along with the QIO I was sent a Sonnet SDHC to SxS card adapter to take a look at. Now I’m going to lay my cards on the table here and say that I strongly believe that if your going to shoot with an XDCAM EX camera you should be using SxS cards in order to get the best possible reliability. However as we all know SxS cards are expensive, although a lot cheaper now than they used to be, I remember paying ¬£600 for an 8Gb card only 4 years ago!

So ever since the launch of the XDCAM EX cameras, users including me have been trying to find alternative recording solutions. I found that it was possible to use an off-the-shelf SD card to express card adapter (the original Kensington Adapter) to record standard frame rates on class 6 SD cards in the EX cameras. ¬†However the SDHC cards stick out of the end of the generic adapters so you can’t close the doors that cover the card slots in the cameras. Following that initial discovery various companies have brought out flush fitting adapters that allow the use of SDHC cards. Then about two years ago Sony openly admitted it was possible to use an adapter in the cameras and released their own adapters (MEAD-SD01 and MEAD-MS01) as well as making some firmware changes that made using adapters more reliable. The key point to consider when using an SxS adapter and SD cards is that the media, the SD cards, are consumer media. They are produced in vast quantities and the quality can be quite variable. They are not made to the same standards as SxS cards. So I choose to shoot on SxS whenever possible and I’ve never had a single failure or unexplained footage loss. BUT I do carry a couple of adapters and some SD cards in my camera kit for emergencies. You never know when you might run out of media or find yourself in a situation where you have to hand over you media to a third party at the end of a shoot. SDHC cards are cheap and readily available. You can buy an SDHC card just about anywhere. I’d rather switch to SDHC cards than try to do a panic off-load to a backup device mid-shoot, that’s a recipe for disaster!

Sonnet SDHC adapter for SxS Camera Slot

Anyway… on to the Sonnet SDHC to SxS adapter. It feels as well built as any other adapter on the market. It is mostly metal with plastic end pieces that are made from a nice high quality plastic. I have other adapters that use a very brittle plastic and these can break quite easily, but this one appears to be well made. The SDHC card slots into a sprung loaded slot in the end of the adapter making a reassuringly positive sounding click when it’s latched in place. Once inserted the SDHC card is slightly recessed into the adapter. This is good as it helps prevent the SDHC card from being released from the adapter as you put the adapter into the camera. It means that as you push the adapter into the camera you are pushing on the end of the adapter and not on the SDHC card like some other adapters I have used. To remove the SDHC card you simply push it quite firmly, further into the adapter until you hear another click and it then pops out far enough to be pulled out. This is certainly one of the better made adapters that I have come across.

To test the adapter I used some Transcend class 6 SDHC cards as well as some Integral Ultima Pro class 10 SDHC cards. I used the adapter in my PMW-F3 with firmware version 1.10 as some user have reported problems with other adapters and this firmware revision. I was able to completely fill the cards shooting using S&Q motion at 50fps or 60fps using long and short clips with lots of motion. This is I believe the toughest test for these adapters as the recording bit rate is close to 70Mb/s. I had no issues at all with either type of SDHC card and there was very little delay between finishing a recording and being able to start the next, a good indicator of the cards high performance. I also tested recording very long clips to ensure that there would be no issues when the camera breaks the recording into 4Gb chunks. Again, no problem.

So if you are going to use SDHC cards and an SxS adapter I would suggest you consider the Sonnet SxS adapter. It’s certainly cheaper than the Sony adapter. Sonnet are a large business with a wide range of products and a global distributor and dealer network, so you should have no problem finding a local supplier.

13 thoughts on “Sonnet SDHC to SxS Adapter Review.”

  1. Do you know if the Sonnet adapter can be used on the PMW-500 in UDF mode? We have been testing a number of different adapters and can’t get the camera to record to any SDHC card in UDF mode – only SxS cards.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. I very much doubt it will work in a 500. UDF is a file format normally restricted to optical media and sony had to do some clever stuff to get UDF to work on solid state, so I very much doubt you’ll find anything other than SxS that will work with UDF.

      1. But isn’t UDF simply a file system? Many USB thumb drives come with UDF partitions to allow auto-mounting and portable applications. Furthermore, many Linux systems use UDF file systems for their main hard drives. Why would this be any different for an SD card than a SxS card?

        It appears on the surface as though Sony has artificially limited the higher-end functions to work with their higher-priced media. If an adapter manufacturer can bypass Sony’s checks – they’ll have a serious hit on their hands.

        1. You are correct, UDF is nothing more than a file system. But I believe (and I may be mistaken) that solid state memory devices have a look up table that stores information about bad memory cells etc and that not every file system is able to work with this, hence the limitation.

  2. I’m trying to read a 1GB SanDisk on a “SDHC Adapter For SxS Camera Slot” in my Compac Presario Express Card slot. I’m able to view/Drag & Drop/ copy for 30 seconds; it then ask that a disk be inserted in the F drive. I remove and insert the SD card and it gives me another 30 seconds. What do I need to prolong access until I remove the SD card?

    1. A 1Gb SD card? That’s a small card to be using for recording XDCAM. Have you tried a good class 10 card?

  3. I’ve been using the Sonnet adaptor for some time now in my PMW500 , along with both Transcend and Scandisc cards.
    So far I’ve had absolutely no problem with them at all. Obviously it can only be used to shoot at 35mbs rather 50, but for corporate shoots this is more than sufficient. The big advantage is that at the end of the shoot the client can take away the cards, ingest them back at base, and then just stick them in the post to return. They are small money compared with SxS cards.
    A disadvantage with SxS is that if you don’t have access to a computer with an SxS slot ( ie all small macbookpros ) then transfers have to be done via the Sony card reader – this is slow, but more crucially has to be powered, limiting the situations where it’s useful.

  4. So I wonder about:

    But Peter said it is not possible to record at 50 mbs?!
    I am confused a bit: Its definitely not possible to use SDHC-Adapter to record in 4:2:2@50mbs?


    1. Sorry messed up my previous post. second try:

      Alister wrote:
      “This is I believe the toughest test for these adapters as the recording bit rate is close to 70Mb/s”

      Peter wrote:
      “Obviously it can only be used to shoot at 35mbs rather 50 […]”

      I am confused a bit: Its definitely not possible to use SDHC-Adapter to record in 4:2:2@50mbs?


      1. NO you cannot use SD cards to record XDCAM HD422 50Mb/s in any Sony camera.

        The Sony XDCAM 50Mb/s 422 codec allows for files of any length. FAT is limited to a file size of 4GB. SD cards are designed specifically for FAT and the cluster size used by FAT. While it is possible to format a SD card to another format like UDF, NTFS etc, if you get any dead memory cells the file structure of the card will become corrupted and you will loose your data.

        To ensure correct compatibility with XDCAM HD422 you need to format the recording media using UDF. This would make the use of SD cards extremely risky with failures and data loss almost certain at some point. So Sony prevent you from using SD cards for 50Mb/s 422 UDF recording.

        You can use XQD cards for UDF, so you do have a lower cost alternative to SxS.

        1. Alister, thank you very much for this answer!
          I guess in the XDCAM world its still possible to split MXF files when they tend to exceed the storage capacity of the recording medium. But as from what you say, the problem is that its all about UDF in this case. I would just not be able to use FAT when I want to record in XDCAM 422.

          Thanks also for your advice on the XQD cards!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.