XQD Card Format: Do They Have a Chance?

XQD Card Format: Do They Have a Chance?

XQ-What? Okay, so most of you have heard of the Nikon D4's new card slot and the XQD card that goes with it. But that still leaves the question: What are they good for? Lexar apparently knows the answer, as they announced they're introducing XQD cards due out third quarter of this year. So what is the hype? Should we get ready for an XQD revolution?

Revolution, not exactly. Then again, I've always been amazed at how quickly things really do pick up in the tech world.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's remember a few things... One, XQD is a brand new card format currently only supported by Sony (hence part of the expense -- they have no competition). Two, only the Nikon D4 currently uses the format; and even then, you can still use CF cards in it. And three, these cards are entirely different from any card before them...but therein lies the rub.

The beauty of these cards is that they have the potential to be wicked fast. Memory cards are expensive for the amount of data they can actually store. But that's because they read and write that data incredibly quickly. While XQD cards don't yet represent the price benefit that they will in the future (it'll only get better), they are now faster than what CF cards are limited to, as Sony announced its new S Series just a while ago.

I know I was one of the first, among many, to think, "Why are we introducing yet another memory card format?" But there is a reason. And it's a good one.

As we push frame rates and increase individual file size for both still and video recording applications, there's no doubt that we'll need faster cards with more space. But where the video industry can accept cards like P2 cards and even solid state RAID hard drive arrays (what's another few ounces when the rig weighs 12 tons?), the size and weight of those solutions are simply unacceptable for the mobile, DSLR shooter. So we have to think differently.

These cards introduce a new technology that allows the expansion of memory alongside increased speed for unparalleled performance. Can CF cards quench the thirst of a good portion of today's imaging machines? Sure. But soon enough, we're going to need something like the XQD format. Thankfully, I can now say that after holding one in my hands, it's nowhere near as flimsy as I feared. So any worries about its quality and what it's like to handle are dealt with (though it's just -- and I mean just -- big enough to feel alright). It really is just a mini CF card...but better.

Lexar's support of the format only goes to show this truly is the card of the future. This isn't just another proprietary Memory Stick Duo. It's going to hit the mass market in a big way -- expect it to stick around.

Don't go buying a bunch yet, of course. That's just plain stupid. But once the price comes down and after these cards have been on the market for a few months, the next full-frame pro and semi-pro cameras that come out should all have support for XQD. In fact, with the consumer's card being SD, I wouldn't be surprised to see the CF card slowly fade out over the next few years. Pros will learn to adopt the new format. They just have to dabble long enough to begin to trust it. Before we know it, we'll be wondering why companies still make CF cards...

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Stan Olszewski's picture

I don't agree with that CF card statement.  The recently released Nikon D800, Canon 5D Mark III, and Canon 1Dx all support CF cards.  These brand new bodies are going to stick around for 3 to 4 years.  If Canon and Nikon felt that the XQD card was the new memory card to have, I'm confident they would have integrated it into their latest and greatest cameras.

Adam's picture

Sure. But when the next ones come out....thing's will start to change. At some point, they have to. CF cards just won't be fast enough as time goes...

At first I was a little upset that the D4 didn't have dual CF slots. I bought one anyhow and I'm glad I did (hello amazing dynamic range). I have bought more XQD cards because I need to run dual slots. I can't tell you how happy I am that Lexar is jumping into the game.

CF will die slowly, but it needs to die. Heck, my D100 used CF cards. You know how old that standard is?

Werner Rolli's picture

Totally agree. XQD-Cards are sorely needed. CF Cards will last for some time, though ...

Well until that time (CF disappears) I'll keep using my CF cards....I'm not going to be the guinea Pig for 1st gen hardware.

you'll have to pry the cf cards from my cold hands ;)

Formats for media have and always will change.  (can you say Betamax???)

Using both in my D4 ... Sorry faithful old CF Cards... you will slowly die and be replaced.  like they say to 30 year old sportsmen.. too old,  too slow.. Card reader supplied with D4 is excellent for the XQD