charnsitr/Shutterstock.comIf you’ve shopped for a new camera in the past couple of years, you’ve noticed how rapidly memory card formats are changing. XQD card were just released, but now there is a new type that promises to change everything: CFexpress. Many mirrorless cameras use this format, which is usually backward compatible both with SD cards and/or XQD. CFexpress card slots can be found in every model, from the top-end Sony A1 to more affordable Nikon Z6ii. Are they really necessary? Are they really so great? We’ll begin by discussing what makes CFexpress cards special. Cameras that can record 8K video at 30 frames per second and shoot large RAW files at high data rates are now available. These things require a processor that can handle large amounts of data very quickly. To do that, you need a fast write speed. CFexpress cards were created to meet this need. They use Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) 3.0, the same standard used by the solid-state drives (SSDs) built into laptop and desktop computers.Peter Gudella/Shutterstock.comAdvertisement
CFexpress cards are available in three types: A-B and C. Types C and A are the newest cards that were introduced in 2019. You can only purchase type A and B memory card, and the cameras currently being sold only one of them. Sony’s A1 supports type A while Nikon’s Z7 supports Type B. What’s the difference? Each card has at minimum one PCIe pipeline. The faster the card, the more pipelines it has. Type A cards only have one PCIe pipeline, and can transfer data at a maximum speed of 1GB/s (gigabytes/second). Type B has two pipelines which doubles the speed to 2GB/s. Type B has two pipelines, which doubles the speed to 2GB/s. Type C has four pipelines. This increases the speed to a staggering 4GB/s. It is unlikely. It’s unlikely. While many cameras are designed to accept SD cards, CFexpress card are still being used in the rotation. Each CFexpress card comes in a different size. Type A cards are slightly smaller than standard SD cards, while type C cards are the same size and dimensions as XQD memory card. Type C cards are larger than the old-school compact flash cards. Cameras with CFexpress card slots can be used with SD cards. This is useful if you don’t have the extra power or are unable to afford it. Sony’s A7S iii features two card slots that can accommodate either a type A CFexpress or an SD card. Some CFexpress type A cards will also fit in XQD slots. What to Consider When Buying a CFexpress card? A high-speed SD card is fine for most people, unless you are a professional photographer who regularly shoots wildlife and sports, or a serious filmmaker who needs to record high quality footage on a regular schedule.
CFexpress cards can also be expensive. A 160GB type A card from Sony costs almost $400, while a 256GB high-speed SD card costs less than $100. The SD card’s maximum read speed is 250 MB/s. However, if you have a lower-end camera, or don’t need to shoot fast action at high speeds, it will work fine. Depending on the manufacturer, features and prices will vary. For example, more expensive cards may be made more robustly and better protected against moisture and dust. The Extreme Pro line from SanDisk is the most affordable of all type B card manufacturers. It offers both functionality and affordability. Although ProGrade is slightly more affordable, you will still need to pay over $300 for 160GB. The card’s sustained write speed is the speed at which data is transferred when it is used continuously for a longer time. This is basically how fast the card can transfer data, and not overload the card. Sony’s Tough series CFexpress type A cards offers a 700MB/s burst speed and a sustained writing speed of 400MB/s. Although it is not as fast as the burst speed, high-end cards have a lower sustained write speed than SD cards and a faster burst write speed of 700MB/s.