Why I’m Not Investing in XQD Memory Cards Yet

Why I’m Not Investing in XQD Memory Cards Yet

We’re in the depths of a format war, and I’m a little uneasy picking the winner so early.

I love XQD cards. They’re a solid, fast, professional tool. Unfortunately they’re fighting for the top spot right now. If they really are going to be ubiquitous, there’s some tech issues and industry politics that will need to be smoothed over first. Sony and Nikon have been pushing, but now, Panasonic has gotten on board with their latest mirrorless announcement. Will it work out?

Too Many Different Versions

Every format has updates. SD cards been have through six upgrades, with a seventh on the way. What’s notable here is that most SD Cards are backwards and forwards compatible with any SD card slot, unless the task requires seriously fast speeds. This isn’t quite the case for XQD cards.

While the current “G” line of cards is up to date and works across the board, there have been a couple others released from Sony: the M, S, N, and H series cards. Confusing, right? That's not including Lexar's system. The big problem is that they require different drivers to be installed and sometimes, different card readers entirely.

This means that you’ll run into headaches if you using a newer card in an older reader and vice versa. Simply saying “Oh that? We discontinued that” doesn’t shrug off the dilemma. I’ve personally run into various problems because of this, some that took hours to troubleshoot with multiple people on set.

Obviously, you’ll never have this happen if your equipment is a closed off ecosystem. But who knows when you’ll need to buy an emergency card from the nearest electronics store, something you can do with SD cards, CF cards, and even SSDs. I don’t trust that I’ll be able to get my hands on the correct iteration of these cards at the last minute.

Sony has stopped using the XQD format in its latest lineup.

Sony Doesn’t Love It Anymore

To me, Sony’s broadcast camera lineup was the poster child for these cards, because they pushed the boat out more than Nikon. Their FS7, FS7 II, and PXW-Z100 all used XQD cards. If I remember right, seeing the FS7 get 4K 60p was pretty mind-blowing, and I could fill a 64 GB card in about 10 minutes at max settings.

So, it looks pretty bad when their new PXW-Z190 camera is using SD cards, while the PXW-Z280 uses SxS cards. Both were announced at the same time as the FS7-II. That means that Sony has only put XQD cards into three cameras, and none of them are mirrorless like Panasonic.

If the weight of the industry was getting behind the XQD format, then surely, it wouldn’t make any sense to go back to older formats. Why did Sony think they were doing their customers a favor? Do they see the writing on the wall?

It leaves me worried that the FS7 III will have an entirely new format. Or will a faster card need to be released, adding to the alphabet soup problem I mentioned earlier? We’ll have to wait and see.

CFexpress will likely overtake XQD, but fits in the same slots.

Future Competition

If all goes to plan, SD UHS-III is set to reach higher speeds that the fastest XQD card, and the CompactFlash Association may end up replacing XQD (they created the standard) with CFexpress. The latter will be backwards compatible, but it makes you wonder why there are two formats running parallel. It will also mean that backwards compatibility will be at the whim of your camera manufacturer’s software updates.

Without the widespread support of consumers, I could easily see either of these two contenders outpacing XQD. ProGrade Digital already said they’re developing CFexpress cards instead of XQD earlier this year, and Lexar may have to regain the trust of its customers in the wake of a buyout. That leaves Sony, who currently only have a single current generation of cameras supporting XQD.

One obvious argument against this is Panasonic’s inclusion of XQD in their dual-slot full frame mirrorless lineup. Panasonic owns the SD card format with Toshiba, so it’s usually been in their best interest to develop their own format and avoid licensing fees. The fact that XQD was needed for these cameras shows that SD cards are not ready to outpace the competition just yet.

Price

I’m actually not too mad at this. CFast cards have always been expensive, and faster SD cards aren’t cheap either. In my eyes, the only way to bring the prices down is to forgo a small form factor and buy fast SSDs. Obviously, this isn’t viable for most people.

Right now, a 64GB XQD “G” card with a 400 MB/s write speed runs for $130. A regular 64GB UHS-II SD Card with 300 MB/s comes in at $110. Not much difference between them. You’re going to find yourself shelling out more than you want either way.

Conclusion

That’s the heart of my worries: spending too much on XQD cards when fast SD cards may suffice for now. I don’t think this will be up to the consumer so much as camera manufacturers will carve out a trend. Seeing Panasonic support the format while Sony puts it aside doesn’t fill me with confidence. Who knows, now that laptops don’t come with card readers anymore, maybe the new trend will be totally different.

What about you? Have you already invested in a new format?

Log in or register to post comments

22 Comments

im surprised the new ff panasonic will use xqd and not dual SD UHSII

nikon should have added an sd card slot to go with the xqd in the Z cameras. ive never had any situation in any wedding I shot where sd didnt suffice. the mass majority of people dont need xqd speeds either.

Cards are not really that expensive based on how long you have the camera. If someone else comes out after you sell that body, than you can go that direction. I have a D5, D850's and the Z7 now, all XQD and I have roughly 6 XQD. A few 128 a few 64 and some 32's from back in the day.

Marc Perino's picture

When I see you here 😉:
I heard rumors that Nikon will publish a firmeware update for the D850 (maybe other cameras) in order to use CFast cards. Because physically the cards are the same and then you could use other brands like prograde.
Do you know more about that ? It has gotten a little quiet on that front.

Thanks in advance

You mean CFexpress, CFfast is the old format. Nikon announced such update XQD->CFx for Z cameras.

Marc Perino's picture

Yes. You are right. It gets confusing with so many formats 😅

Johnny Rico's picture

I dont understand this? If you buy a Camera with a XQD card slot are you just not going to use it? or are you saying you wont be buying a camera due to having an XQD slot.

Also why do people bring up Lexar, the company went defunct and their naming rights got bought by a Chinese company. There is no standing on if their cards will be of any quality anymore.

yes if he buys a new camera, not to buy one with a dying tech like xqd

Martin Peterdamm's picture

But as a still photographer never doing video (yes we exist) xqd has no benefit - it is just much much more expensive.

I wont buy ne new nikon mirrorless, because it would also cost me around 500 euro for a couple of new super fast cards I never need. and it even has one slot.

Michael Jin's picture

As of right now, it still has a benefit if you're into long burst shooting. They're also physically more rugged for whatever that's worth.

Martin Peterdamm's picture

with fashion and portrait and studio flashes you are barely using burst shooting ;)

Walter van Dusen's picture

I've been using XQD cards since Nikon introduced them with the D4 in February 2012 with one XQD and one CF slot. Then they added the choice for two XQD slots in the updated D4S. I have NEVER had an issue with any of my XQD cards! I also never hit the camera buffer and I really enjoy the quick downloads to my computer using the Lexar Professional Workflow HR2 4-Bay Thunderbolt 2/USB 3.0 Reader. I'm currently using Lexar XQD 128GB 440MB/s in each slot writing raw to both. So, I think it is a very proven and very reliable technology.

Simon Patterson's picture

I have a much simpler reason. My cameras don't have any XQD card slots.

Hmmm.... my experience with Sony has been Middle of the road quality and they always seem to throw you under the bus changing stuff.I preferred Sony for many years but no longer
No XQD in there own mirrorless cameras?Nikon is running with it and I think it will all be gone before you know it.Like many of you I have discussed this with friends and feel the same way.
Remember Sony innovates and keeps things fresh ,therefore many changes and older stuff disappears.

how ironic. they dont use it in any of their own a7 cameras. thats what they do. make new formats and then half asz it till its gone.

Stephen Kampff's picture

It's worth remembering that the XQD format was developed by the CompactFlash Association, with Sony and Nikon at the helm. Nikon have just as mush reason as Sony to use the tech, but Sony dropping it like a hot potato looks awfully bad.

Ramon Crivelli's picture

I have 2 XQD cards Sonys G 64Gb that i bought for about $70, After one year and more than 50000 photos no problem at all, and its amazingly fast how my D500 clear the buffer even if i shoot 200 photos in a row a thing that I never do.

This topic is basically for the pro community.

All others probalbly only have SD-Card based devices when it comes to photography, and many of those cameras are capable of producing good enough video content too.

And then there are the smartphone-based photos and videos, which do not require any kind of card at all. Plus those devices get upgraded more frequently and already offer a 512 GB of storage if you go all the way to the top of the line.

So I wonder how the Card business has developed over the last couple of years with regards to revenue. Not many point and shoot cameras sold means also no additional cards sold. Add a format war to it and it is a nail in the coffin.

BTW many Notebook devices still have SD-Card Slots but no XQD Slot.

Martin Peterdamm's picture

when I take a look here at the market in Berlin, it might sound weird but with the current prices for xqd and the high prices of the new nikon and canon gear - it will become mainly amteur gear for dentists and lawyers. a lot of pros a running around with hipster analog gear doing editorials for well known magazines or with shitty entry level aps-c dslrs, often not even the latest ones. some "richer" might using sonys a7 to do also video work.
and now the prices increased a lot lately for glass and bodys - they will never step up.

sony with their price is much more in reach when you look at the whole. and now these people are not buying 300/2,58 lenses - even the classic 70-200 2,8 is much to expensive to 90% of the "pro" photographers here. that this all is mostly caused on idiotic and romantic business decisions is another thing ;) but this is the pro market here.

I'm all for new and better technology but I want a standard system. If the future is USB type C then let's make everything USB type C. If the future is XQD, then let's make it the standard and start adding XQD slots into every laptop. Of course that isn't going to happen.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Looking forward to testing out Blackmagic's Pocket 4K camera, which is able to record directly to a USB-C drive. Could be a very handy workflow for quick turn around content.

Marco Borner SwissDataHoarder's picture

mmh you simply forget that sd uhsii cost like xqd! and the new version will be more expensive that current version. sd is still limited to sd or sxs, xqd can work with different format without problems (ssd, sxs, sd, cfexpress)

SD UHSII = 2 CHF pro GB = 2000 CHF pro TB (300 MB/s) --> SDXC UHSIII (up to 2TB - 624MB/s) and SDUC (up to 128TB - 985 MB/s)

SD UHSI = 0.65 CHF pro GB = 650 CHF pro TB (95 MB/s) --> UHS II (312MB/s) and III (624 MB/s)

CFAST2 = 3 CHF pro GB = 3000 CHF pro TB (525 MB/s) --> ?? (Sata limitation) (same end like HD DVD?)

XQD = 2.1 CHF pro GB = 2100 CHF pro TB (440 MB/s) --> XQD up to 2 TB (1000MB/s) + CFexpress new generation (starting with 1TB - 1400 MB/s)

MICROSD UHSI = 0.37 CHF pro GB = 370 CHF pro TB (100 MB/s) --> UHSII (312MB/s)

MICROSD UHSII = 0.73 - 2.3 CHF pro GB = 730 - 2300 CHF pro TB (150-275 MB/s) --> UHSIII (624 MB/s)

COMPACTFLASH = 1.24 CHF pro GB = 1240 CHF pro TB (160MB/s) --> ?? (replaced by XQD / CFast1/2 / CFexpress)