The latest trend in professional removable storage media is fast approaching. At CES 2019, ProgradeDigital — a relative newcomer to the memory game built on the promise of highly reliable media for working professionals — demonstrated a working CFexpress card, featuring a 1-terabyte capacity and bewildering 1,400 megabyte-per-second transfer rate. The card was demonstrated inside of Nikon Z series cameras running beta versions of an upcoming firmware update that will unlock CFexpress support.
While cheap and widely available SD memory cards have remained a mainstay of removable storage media for all manner of consumer devices — Lexar introduced a massive 1TB SDXC card at CES — professional storage solutions seem to come and go at breakneck speed. CompactFlash, once found in all high-end DSLRs, has all but vanished, making room for CFast, CFast 2.0, and then XQD. For as recent as these formats are, they’re now about to be completely outclassed by yet another.
CFexpresses, which conveniently uses the same physical form factor as XQD, promises both bigger capacities and vastly faster performance than anything that has come before it. While the 1TB card ProGrade Digital is showing at CES is not a final production version and the specifications are subject to change, it is likely indicative of what we can expect from the new format. The 1,400MB-per-second read speed is well over twice as fast as the company’s fastest CFast 2.0 cards, which top out at 550MB per second. The peak write speed, at a full 1,000MB per second, is also quite impressive — again, over twice as fast as CFast 2.0 write speeds. ProGrade Digital says the card is certified for a minimum sustained performance of 400MB per second, which is many times greater than the fastest V90-class SD cards designed for high-bandwidth video operations.
With this kind of performance, CFexpress will be able to handle everything from sustained high-resolution continuous photography to RAW video workflows. At the same time, the physical size of the card is much smaller, and thus more flexible, than solid state drives — currently the only viable alternative with such high performance specifications. As the video industry inches toward 8K, CFexpress will likely play a big role in future products.
While the 1TB card was being used live on the CES show floor, we still do not have a release date or price for a production model. ProGrade Digital told Digital Trends that the release window depends on host device compatibly, but that it has been working closely with camera manufacturers and plans to ship cards “as soon as a camera is available that will support [them].”