Blazing Fast, High Capacity: Fstoppers Reviews Lexar's Professional Memory Cards

Blazing Fast, High Capacity: Fstoppers Reviews Lexar's Professional Memory Cards

One place I never recommend cutting corners is memory cards. Your images and video are too important to risk losing to cheaper cards. Lexar's Professional line aims to provide speed and reliability for working pros. Check out our review of their latest CFast 2.0 and microSDXC memory cards.

Lexar Professional 3500x CFast 2.0 Card

If you're shooting on the Canon 1D X Mark II, you're used to moving massive amounts of information. With a 14 fps continuous burst rate and 4K. 60 fps video at 800 Mbps, you're pushing a lot of data through the camera, and it's important to have a memory card that can keep up. While the old wisdom is that one should use many smaller cards to limit the damage in case one becomes corrupted, with double card slots, more modern and reliable cards, and video that generates a gigabyte of data every 10 seconds, it's both reasonable and much more practical to move into higher capacity territory, and the half a terabyte available here is very welcome (32, 64, 128, and 256 GB capacities are also available).

The Lexar Professional 3500x CFast 2.0 Card is very sturdy, with a solid metal casing that feels quite solid in the hand and should stand up well to an accidental drop or two. With a read speed of up to 525 MB/s and a write speed of 455 MB/s, it's theoretically well equipped to keep up with even the most demanding usage. In practice, it was absolutely perfect. I was almost giddy when I could hold down the shutter at the full 14 fps for as long as I wanted to without ever filling the buffer, which is something that should make sports and journalism photographers pleased, knowing there's the security of never worrying about a full buffer. 4K video at 60 fps in the MJPEG format presented no challenge either, with the only limit being the capacity of the card. The camera was ready to shoot again immediately after each video or continuous burst. While the 1D X Mark II is no slouch, if you're working with a pro cinema camera like the C300 Mark II, you could be pushing data at up to 410 MB/s, a rate that few cards can successfully keep up with, but one that the Lexar card could definitely tackle.

On the other side of things, read speeds were excellent as well, which was a relief when moving all that data onto a computer for post-production. Read rates were generally limited only by my hard drive's write speed and were consistently at about 300 MB/s whether transferring single large 4K videos files or folders of raw and JPEG images. Simply put, the memory card was never a bottleneck, which should be pleasing news for pros who routinely work with thousands of images and massive video files. 

In terms of reliability, I never had any issues, despite shooting thousands of images and a lot of video. The card also comes with a free copy of Image Rescue software in case you ever do need to recover files. It also has a lifetime warranty should you encounter any issues. Prices range from $119.95 for the 32 GB card to $1,299.95 for the 512 GB card. While definitely not cheap, they are in line with most CFast 2.0 prices, which should begin to drop as the standard becomes more ubiquitous. 

What I Liked

  • Durable construction
  • Very large capacity, which is helpful when shooting a lot of continuous frames or 4K video
  • Ultra fast, with no buffer issues and very quick read speeds
  • Reliable
  • Lifetime warranty

What I Didn't Like

  • CFast 2.0 cards are still pricey

Where to Get One

If you're interested in purchasing a Lexar Professional 3500x CFast 2.0 Card, you can do so here.

Lexar Professional 1000x microSDHC/microSDXC UHS-II Card and USB 3.0 Reader

Similarly, as drones continue to evolve at a breakneck pace, having a memory card that can keep up is important. I'm currently shooting on the Phantom 4 Pro, which maxes out with a 100 Mbps bit rate for 4K video and 14 fps continuous burst. With a 45 MB/s write speed and 150 MB/s read speed, the Lexar Professional 1000x microSDHC/microSDXC UHS-II Card is built to keep up, while its large capacity should keep you shooting all day.

As I mentioned, while I'm very adamant about having proper backup procedures, I trust the reliability of today's professional cards enough to choose the convenience and physical security of one large card over several cards. In other words, I'm personally much more likely to lose an extra card (particularly a tiny microSD card) than to have to deal with a corrupted card, and the security of having one card that I leave in my Phantom 4 Pro during transport makes more sense for my workflow. At 256 GB (it also comes in 32, 64, and 128 GB capacities), this card easily lasts through my four batteries. As a note, technically, the Phantom 4 Pro is only rated for cards up to 128 GB, but I had no issues formatting this and shooting with it; others have noted similar success. The card is also compatible with GoPro cameras.

In practice, write speeds were excellent. The card had no problem keeping up when shooting 4K, 60 fps video at 100 Mbps. Where I really appreciated the increased speed was on the stills side, however. The DJI Go app has an annoying quirk in that it will not allow you to change camera settings while clearing the buffer. I love shooting landscapes and frequently shoot five-shot brackets, after which I have to wait several seconds for the buffer to clear so I can change my settings. On the ground, that would be annoying. In the air, where my flight time is limited to 25-30 minutes, it's a legitimate obstacle in my workflow. Shooting with the Lexar card, I'm pleased to report that the buffer took only 1-2 seconds to clear, versus the 6-8 I'm used to. This made a significant difference, as the card could now keep up with my thoughts as I zoomed about, grabbing different angles. I had similar success with the 14-fps burst mode. As any drone operator will tell you, you always feel the pressure of the limited flight time, and this made a very appreciable difference.

Read speeds with the included USB 3.0 reader were similarly excellent and frequently approached the maximum rating of 150 MB/s. Those five-shot brackets taken over the course of two hours of flight time can often add up to a couple thousand images when I get home, and it was pleasant to not have to wait overly long for them to transfer to my computer. 

Reliability was also stellar, with no hiccups to speak of. Similarly to the CFast 2.0 card, it comes with a free copy of Image Rescue software and a lifetime warranty on the card, as well as a one-year warranty on the reader. Prices range from $32.95 for the 32 GB card to $259.99 for the 256 GB card, making them competitively priced among other UHS-II options. 

What I Liked

  • Very large capacity for a microSD card
  • Excellent read and write performance that improved my shooting workflow
  • Reliable
  • Lifetime warranty on card and one-year warranty on reader

What I Didn't Like

  • No complaints

Where to Get One

If you're interested in purchasing a Lexar Professional 1000x microSDHC/microSDXC UHS-II Card, you can do so here.

Conclusion

Altogether, Lexar's memory cards are excellent options for photographers and videographers who need the ability to keep up with the next generation of equipment. They're reliable, fast, and offer high capacities that should make for a smoother workflow, which is why I wholeheartedly recommend them.

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2 Comments

Michael Aubrey's picture

I know you loose half the capacity, but I'd probably go for Lexar's x1800 128GB microSD with its 270MB/s read & 110MB/s write speeds.

Here's hoping they produce a 256GB version of that card soon!

Alex Cooke's picture

Ooo, yes please!!