Fstoppers Reviews ProGrade: A New Professional Memory Card Company with Pro-Level Support

Fstoppers Reviews ProGrade: A New Professional Memory Card Company with Pro-Level Support

ProGrade Digital is a new professional memory card built by former executives and employees from both Lexar and SanDisk. Today, ProGrade Digital launches its first product lines including CFAST 2.0 and SD UHS-II memory cards as well as a dual CFAST 2.0 and SD card reader. But the best part about ProGrade is its professional-level support and rigorous testing.

Luckily, I got to spend some time with a pre-release version of ProGrade's 512 GB CFAST 2.0 card. Available in 128 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB sizes, this card boasts transfer rates up to 550 MB/s, which is on par with most CFAST 2.0 cards on the market. I did have a chance to play with this card in Hasselblad's 100-megapixel H6D-100c, where it performed well and subsequently offloaded onto the computer without issue and at about the same real-world rate as the Delkin card I was using before. But of course, when any card can do this, where is the differentiation that matters?

According to founder and CEO Wes Brewer, ProGrade is "committed to focusing [its] efforts on the digital imaging pro who is meticulous about his equipment and workflow— delivering the best service, plus best product quality and reliability." They do this by offering a streamlined product line and by actually delivering excellent quality service. Offering 128-512 GB capacities for V130-spec CFAST 2.0 cards and 64-256 GB capacities only in the faster UHS-II for SD cards help signal that ProGrade doesn't want to dilute its offering with capacities that won't be as appealing for professional photography and videography workflows. The 200 MB/s SD card read speeds are also at the mid-to-upper end of the market's SD card speed offerings.

ProGrade Digital's full lineup currently includes CFAST 2.0 and SD cards, a dual-slot reader for those cards, and Recovery Pro image recovery software. But these are not the only formats ProGrade will offer in the future. They're committed to providing photographers and Hollywood high-end solutions.

Furthermore, the company will quickly and directly replace any card that might fail within the warranty period. That's pretty standard. But beyond this, if you get a newly released camera that doe not work with the card you have because of a firmware issue, which does happen from time to time with new gear, ProGrade will also replace your card with a new one that has updated firmware for your new device. A unique 20-digit serial on the back of every card keeps track of the exact firmware and manufacturing date of the card, so they can be sure to provide you a solution that works for your camera no matter what. Neat side note: CFAST cards that I've used in the past have the labeling on the "wrong" side of the card, so it always feels like I'm putting cards in backwards to cameras and readers in my experience. But this one is switched, so I'm always looking at the proper side when inserting the card, which feels much more natural.

ProGrade also prides itself on having "very tight controls of what goes into the cards. The controller, firmware revision level, and how the firmware interacts with the memory in there has a lot of effect on compatibility and reliability." To that end, while other companies might have a one- or two-percent failure rate acceptability, ProGrade has a zero-percent failure rate acceptability. To do this, they fully test every card that is manufactured while other manufacturers might instead select just a few along the way that get plucked from the line or put every card through minimal read or write tests.

It's worth noting that even these CFAST 2.0 and SD cards are not the fastest or most affordable on the market. Perhaps lesser-known EgoDisk's PRO and Elite PRO CFAST 2.0 cards run at up to 595 MB/s and 665 MB/s, respectively. Lexar and SanDisk both have SD cards with faster read and write speeds for similar or better prices. But ProGrade's support, experience, tight control, and broader commitment to a variety of professional solutions as they expand to other formats might still be something to consider. And especially with companies like Lexar in somewhat of a limbo (their XQD cards are again apparently discontinued according to B&H), I would always welcome more competition into the relatively small space of professional-grade digital storage.

Fun note: for some reason, in my experience, CFAST cards are either labeled backwards or readers have their inputs upside-down. Whatever and wherever the issue, ProGrade's CFAST 2.0 card has the label on the side that makes sense to me so I'm always looking at it when inserting into a camera/reader.

The dual-slot card reader, according to ProGrade, is the fastest reader you can buy today, as it supports full USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds of 10 Gb/s, which translates to about 800 MB/s of real-world data rates that allow both SD UHS-II and CFAST 2.0 carda to transfer simultaneously without bandwidth limitations. If you often work in the field with your reader, you'll appreciate ProGrade's included magnetic laptop mount that adheres to your laptop and then allows you to snap the dual slot reader into place on your laptop so it's not hanging off the edge while you're on the move. This sure beats the Velcro-attached setup I've had going with my own readers in the past. This reader comes with both USB-A-to-C and USB-C cables for compatibility with any modern computer.

ProGrade is also releasing its Recovery Pro software to enable easy JPEG and raw file recovery in one package. Moreover, Recovery Pro aims to be particularly good at recovering video files, which is often where recovery software can be particularly lacking, as it can be difficult to piece together all the individual files of various video formats. We weren't yet told exactly what files this will be compatible with, but it would make sense to expect all major formats to be covered.

ProGrade will put a great value on having a direct relationship with the customer, as the sales pipeline will primarily involve direct sales as well as a very small selection of some of the largest, most well-known outlets.

The CFAST 2.0 cards are available today in sizes of 128 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB for respective prices of $229.99, $349.99, and $699.99. These launch alongside ProGrade's UHS-II SD cards in capacities of 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB for $54.99, $94.99, and $189.99. The CFast and SD Dual Slot Workflow Reader will launch March 1 for $79.99, and Recovery Pro will run $49.99.

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23 Comments

Given the heavy reliance of information from the manufacturer, this seemed a lot like a "Sponsored" article but wasn't labeled as such. But in fairness, as you wrote, there's really little user experience to distinguish one card from another.

What? You guys are getting ridiculous. Just because an article contains details you think it's sponsored? It's not your website, so go suck an egg.

It's not the details but the fact, there's no review...just manufacturer, supplied details. And there's nothing wrong with it being sponsored, if it was. I don't believe I assigned any moral quality to it. Your final sentence, on the other hand...

You were right, every other videography / photography vlog wrote article about this brand.

I've been using SanDisk since forever and its reliability makes it very hard for me to consider ever switching. Getting a card "quickly and directly replaced" after it fails is no consolation to what would be some extremely upset clients.

With two SanDisk cards in my camera set up for complete redundancy, reducing the risk of total failure to virtually zero, it's hard to imagine ever changing brands, despite ProGrade's SanDisk/Lexar lineage.

“streamlined product line” - I like this and will use in my marketing. Sounds much better than “we have 2 products”.

Hmmm... From their website, I see the SD cards have a max write speed of only 55 Mbps, so the big draw is 200 Mbps read speed. Then you got the Sandisk Extreme Pro UHS-I SDXC line that is priced within a few dollars of these cards, with roughly 40% faster write and 50% slower reads speeds.

I think I'll hold off on buying ProGrade cards for now. Let's see if their promised reliability holds up after a year of trying to keep their defect rate and production costs down.

Joshua Tousey's picture

I agree 55 MBps write speed is terrible. the new GH5 at 4k with 60fps couldn't write to these cards without dropped frames. Maybe it's designed for just photographers who want a faster off-load rate? So sad. I would fo with the Amplim UHS-II that is a V60. . 128gb for $150 and handles 4k & 8k.

a press release plugging a product written in third person with affiliate links. dont you need to mention if a link is an affiliate link ?

Adam Ottke's picture

They're actually not affiliate links. And this was in no way sponsored or paid for. We just included links to the site where you can order or read more about them, which we always do for convenience. Occasionally, we will include links specifically to B&H product links, which are affiliate links. But that's helps keep this site running and isn't dependent on the brand, sponsorship, etc. We are very open about this.

actually there is an amazon affiliate link in your post. i dont mind affiliate links being in the article. i do mind if the trigger for the article is based on an incentive from the B/H or amazon. second if an article contains affiliate links it would be nice to be informed. i do understand that the platform is paid by affiliate income. thats business, i know. but be transparant in this.

second,
http://dev-prograde.pantheonsite.io/cfast2-0/
is the lands the same page as
https://www.progradedigital.com/cfast2-0/

dev-prograde.pantheonsite.io
- Dev - developersite
- prograde - is the customer
- pantheonsite.io - the platform developer

i guess your pointing to the wrong Url's, to the developer Url's. so im not even sure if this is not a production url if they are up next week and if they can process the incoming orders.

Adam Ottke's picture

Thanks for finding the link, there. That was likely left over from grabbing links earlier before launch. Fixed now. And yes, where products are available on B&H and Amazon, we have links that automatically affiliate for any product. In this case, it was not even for the product the article was about, but rather for a competitor, merely because of coincidence that they happen to be available on Amazon (the others are not, at least at the moment). But again, nothing is sponsored or based on incentive from these links or otherwise. In fact, the affiliate is the vendor, not the manufacturer, which is an important distinction.

the publisher is promoting product A from brand B for merchant C. bottom line, its irrelevant. but it was ment constructive, i hope it was taken as such. ontopic, im wondering ,as they are former lexar execs, are there benchmarks between these cards and the sony cards ? actual performance tests between this card and the fastest sony would be interesting.

Adam Ottke's picture

Thanks. I didn't get a chance to do that yet, but hope to in the near future.

A company managed by former executives of SanDisk and Lexar wouldn't be a draw for me. However, if they also have former engineers from the companies, that could influence my decision.

Adam Ottke's picture

There are also others with technical knowledge from those companies.

article forgot to mention EgoDisk 512gb PRO version Cfast card which has similar/faster speed and less price.

Adam Ottke's picture

I actually did mention that exact line of cards. Just FYI. ;-)

You mentioned Elite Pro, they also have just PRO version.

Adam Ottke's picture

Oh, I see. I had them labeled as Elite and Elite Pro instead of Pro and Elite Pro. Fixed. Thanks for catching that.

by the way great article.

How will it work at 40 below and 125 above in normal use? How about after sitting in a hot vehicle with temps to 160 for a day or so? Open arctic at 70 below?
"proGrade" sounds nice but without the reality of field use in inclement weather conditions it is just ad fluff.