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Sony announces range of XQD memory cards

By dpreview staff on Jan 6, 2012 at 22:05 GMT

Pre-CES: Sony has become the first company to offer a range memory cards in the XQD format. XQD was recently announced by the Compact Flash Association and is based around the PCI Express specifications, allowing write speeds of 125MB/sec and beyond. Sony claims that, when used in the brand new Nikon D4, (currently the only camera supporting the format), the cards can record up to around 100 frames in RAW format in continuous shooting mode. The first cards will be available from the end of January. Sony has also announced a USB 3.0 card reader for the format.

Press Release:

Sony unveils new high-speed XQD™ memory cards

1Gbps for faster write speed and superb reliability create new possibilities for advanced photographers

Giving photo enthusiasts and professional photographers a new level of speed and performance, the new range of XQD memory cards by Sony supports the recently adopted XQD specification for high-speed, high-performance digital image capture. Using the new cards, XQD compatible high-end DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) users can capture up to approximately 100 frames in RAW format in continuous shooting mode. In addition to outstanding high-speed data transfer capability, the cards are highly reliable to protect users’ data and images.

“Advanced photographers want to capture the moment in the highest quality possible, and that often means dealing with massive files like RAW images,” says Benoit Delfau, European Marketing Manager, Sony Media & Peripherals Europe (MPE). “These XQD cards give a whole new meaning to speed and performance for digital imaging enthusiasts.”

With its ultra-high write speed performance, and when using with Nikon’s new DSLR “D4”, XQD memory cards can record approximately up to 100 frames in RAW formatin continuous shooting mode.

XQD memory cards achieves stable continuous shooting of RAW images and blazing fast data transfer rates (up to 1Gbps; 125MB/s, write and read) through the PCIe interface. A unique controller and optimised flash memory enables high-speed data processing, resulting in faster write speed and performance that can’t be achieved by conventional compact flash cards.

Sony is also introducing a USB 2.0/3.0 compatible XQD card reader (model MRW-E80) so users can quickly and easily transfer large quantities of very high capacity data to their PC. Also, an XQD ExpressCard Adapter (QDA-EX1) will be available for use with computers with an ExpressCard™ 34 card slot.

“As users’ needs continue to evolve, Sony will also continue to enhance the XQD memory card line-up to meet the future requirements of the high-end digital imaging market”, adds Benoit Delfau.

The new family of XQD™ Memory Cards by Sony is available from end of January.


Total comments: 30
By thgun (Jun 29, 2012)

Nice idea but haven't Sony learnt anything from their Memory stick. Nobody want'ts to be tide in to one brand of camera just because the format doesn't work with any thing else. Memory stick was just the same untill Sony were pushed to adopt SD card slots into it's products. Also you could never until recently purchase 3rd party Memory stck cards. So unless theire camers are backwards compatible or support SD cards then I wouldn't be inclined to buy.

By RRRoger (Jan 8, 2012)

Where can I pre-order some for my D4?

By Fearless_Photog (Jan 8, 2012)

Man, the comments on here are ridiculous. Do you guys buy any other kinds of hardware? Do you want cameras themselves to be tied into a dated card format that limits their potential hardware performance forever when it comes to write speed? Maybe we should still use floppy drives too.

Shoot a baseball game once in a while and you'll probably appreciate how nice 100 frames of RAW buffer could be. It's also been known that a new standard was in the works for years, it's not like they just sprung it on everyone. If you don't want to use it, don't buy any new camera bodies either, you can use CF until all the CF card readers stop working.

By HeezDeadJim (Jan 8, 2012)

With more MP's and higher burst speeds with each iteration of cameras, you're going to hit a bottleneck on the CF/SD card first.

Sure you could have backwards compatibility or two slots (CF/XQD), but waiting for the buffer to write to the CF card will only inhibit. Fine for us non-sports types, I suppose.

Let's go back home to transfer all your photos to the computer. Do you really want to transfer all those 100MB, 16 or 24-bit, 30MP+, RAW files (we'll have those specs eventually, Nikon should have it by, oh, 20 yrs from now) from the same CF card you're using now?

When I upgraded my camera body (only), I also had to upgrade to a faster CF card, and upgrade my computer to at least a quadcore with more RAM because it was sluggish with the new camera's specs. I didn't "need to" so much as "want to" to maintain a smooth workflow.

As Fearless_Photog suggested: don't upgrade your bodies if you don't want to upgrade your hardware too. Wait till the format is cheaper.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
By djsphynx (Jan 7, 2012)

New card format = more money from dense photographer. I'm sure the improvements are great and all, but do you really NEED to invest another 1000 in cards?

I'm happy with my 200 or so GB of CF cards, I'll wait for prices to go down (which may happen when more than 1 camera uses the format!!).

Two thumbs down for now.

Le Kilt
By Le Kilt (Jan 7, 2012)

Are they afraid to show the connector ???
A bit more interesting :
(two sizes!)

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
Stefan Stuart Fletcher
By Stefan Stuart Fletcher (Jan 7, 2012)

I'm quite surprised by some of the comments made. One in particular caught my attention: the theoretical max transfer speeds of current formats make the upgrade unnecessary. Well, the max speed on a card is like the max speed on a *car*; it's stated and you're never going to get it.

I've never had the bent pin problem, but I frequently insert SD cards the wrong way (less of a problem with CF cards, perhaps because of the lip at the base). Now we have yet another rectangular format that looks just as easy as to insert the wrong way as all the others in the past. Something worth remembering when you have to swap cards in a hurry...

1 upvote
By Guidenet (Jan 7, 2012)

The CF Association decided this new standard, not Sony or Nikon. CF cards have long had issues like expensive bent pins and such. SD cards are too small for many of us and have connection issues at times making them not as reliable for professional use. These new XQD cards have been a long time coming and I welcome them.

Using various tranfer methods in the future will mean much faster transfer from the cards to my computer as well as the faster read rates in the camera. They are not so small that I might easily lose or misplace them at a shoot but they are handier than the CF format now. Thank God for no bent pins.

For most using entry level models, you have nothing to worry about and will continue to be happy with cheaper, smaller SD cards. If you pay over a couple of thousand for your camera body, then paying a little more for a much better format is of little consequence.

By DanCart (Jan 7, 2012)

Connection issues are far more rare for SD cards (compared to CF) because the connectors/contacts are recessed deep into the card. They are quite reliable and even for professional use.The most probable way connection issues would arise with SD cards would be if there was something wrong with the devices SD slot connectors. The only reason SD cards are not on " pro" cameras is because up until recently SD cards were slower than CF cards hence for high performance cameras CF cards were a better choice, but recently with the arrival UHS SD cards speeds have increased in SD cards and they are now catching up with CF cards and when UHS 2 SD cards get approved SD cards will potentially have 3 times the speed of current fast SD cards. XQD is the only standard that would keep ahead of SD cards,CF cards were starting to lose the battle with SD cards ......

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
By marike6 (Jan 8, 2012)

"For most using entry level models, you have nothing to worry about and will continue to be happy with cheaper, smaller SD cards. If you pay over a couple of thousand for your camera body, then paying a little more for a much better format is of little consequence."

Condescending much.

By DioCanon (Jan 7, 2012)

After the failure, or extinction I should say of the memory stick,
Sony jump start with the new format...

Who cares if most of people are happy with the 2 format remaining
after 10 years of multiple chaotic formats.

EOS Photographer
By EOS Photographer (Jan 7, 2012)

For the price of 1x 32GB xdq card you can buy 2 CF cards of the same capacity which is only 25% slower.

(On another site I read that the 32GB xqd cards where going to be advertised for € 299,00 - I foresee a good future of xdq, only not at this moment in time yet.)

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
Esa Tuunanen
By Esa Tuunanen (Jan 9, 2012)

Everything new is always expensive especially if it is high end stuff... and especially Sony sticker has always been expensive on memory cards.

And while common slow speed bread and butter SD cards liked by every consumer and their dog might be cheap actually fast SD cards are lot more expensive so average prices of card types are useless.

By Pabloquiga (Jan 7, 2012)

with similar capacity of this card and trmenda amount of information you only need a D4, because at the moment a PC is no another compatible chamber or mac to completes it, because chamber and quick card but the computer does not give the size of that it is worth as much card and this D4

G Davidson
By G Davidson (Jan 7, 2012)

100 frames in raw? That just blows my mind and sounds like a step towards a camera capable of recording 4k video, which may be what they are thinking of. Actually though, I'm more interested in the prospect of capturing a sequence and getting some truely incredible images from it.

Comment edited 48 seconds after posting
By jj74e (Jan 6, 2012)

it looks like a mini SSD. Given its recording capabilities, I'm surprised the size isn't much bigger. Given that some people might actually have special uses to utilize this kind of power, wouldn't they also need the capacity to repeat the burst or uncompressed video multiple times? In which case the 32GB will fill up quite quickly.

By Scottelly (Jan 6, 2012)

ANOTHER card format? Why don't they just increase the speed of SD cards and use them?

SD cards have a theoretical maximum write speed of 133 MB/sec. EVERYTHING uses SD cards!

In fact, why not just keep the CF card standard, and offer the camera with CF to SD adapters that will stay in the camera? Afterall, the CF max is 167 MB/sec.

Sony already has super high-speed Memory Sticks capable of 70 MB/sec. What, they can't make a faster SD card? Delkin and Panasonic already make SD cards capable of 90 MB/second. I don't think we need yet another memory card format! Nikon doesn't want to put a big 30 or even 100 frame buffer in their camera? Why not? They charge $6,000 for the damn thing! How much can the buffer memory possibly cost?

Why not make a memory card slot that is backward compatible with CF?

I can get a CF to SDHC/SDXC adapter. Can I get a CF to XQD adapter, so I don't have to keep buying expensive, obsolete 600x CF cards for the CF card slot in the new Nikon D4, if I get one?

By viking79 (Jan 7, 2012)

I am a big fan of SD, but I think a small cartridge format like this could be ideal for some users. This type of memory card is likely going to more durable and easier to swap rapidly than an SD card or CF card. CF is outdated and even though it has fairly fast theoretical speeds, but I think you are seeing it reach the end of its life as SD UHS-I is significantly faster. Personally, I will stick to SD as two cards will fit in a relatively small camera body without issue.

By psn (Jan 7, 2012)

Why would you want to constrain the D4 with an SD or CF card? 133MB/sec and 167MB/sec are the maximum burst rates for SD and CF cards. This new card is bound to go beyond that limit.

This is technology. It changes. SD/CF are yesterday and I'm sure there are a lot more reasons why we need something like the XQD card.

By Scottelly (Jan 7, 2012)

I don't think that SD is "too small" of a format, given its popularity. I believe that micro-SD may be a little small, but it is very versatile, so it seems to be very popular. SD speed can be increased with a new rendition (backward compatible, like SDXC slots are with SD cards). This is what they should have done. I really don't see the point of introducing yet another format, except that they want to make more money, by making things that are incompatible yet again (new cards, card readers, etc.). CF and SD are the standards now, and Nikon is doing something stupid. They're making the same blunder that Canon did, when they started including two different card slots in their 1Ds. Canon FINALLY figured that out and put two CF slots in their newest flagship camera. Why oh why would Nikon do such a silly thing? I wonder if they were sold a "bill of goods" by Sony.

By DanCart (Jan 7, 2012)

The reason they are introducing a new format is because they have no other choice, In an ideal world they would have made a format that was backward compatible with current CF cards but the problem is that engineers have reached the limit of what speeds can be reliably achieved with CF cards. The CF cards use parallel communication that is similar to ATA used by older hard drives from a decade ago, the problem with parallel is that at high data transfer speeds, clock skew and cross talk can occur since the CF cards have pins close together and this could result in errors , which would mean potentially corrupt data . Since they could no longer increase the speed in the current CF format the only way left was to ditch it entirely for a new standard like the one in XQD cards , which would give high data throughput while still maintaining the integrity of the data. Its really unfortunate for CF cards but it seems the writing is on the wall for them , they wont last long....

By sh10453 (Jan 8, 2012)

- A theoretical speed value is one thing, a real life speed is another. Have you tried this Panasonic 90 MB/sec using, for example, 45 images, 2 MB each, and transferred them back & forth & timed the operation? Did they transfer in 1 second, or even in 10 seconds?
You might be surprised at the result. Of course it won't be as bad as a MicroSD.
Marketing claims are deceiving. They exaggerate a lot. They use their words carefully though, like "theoretical speed", which they know that it is not achievable in a machine.

- As for adapters, most likely third party companies are already working on the adapters.

- Consumers are the ones who decide. Just like previous Sony and Olympus attempts to shove expensive cards in consumers' throats had failed, this card can fail if consumers shy away from it, and Nikon would be forced to modify its camera to meet buyers' demands.
If enough consumers like it and buy it (enough to make it profitable), then it stays!
So if you don't like it, boycott it!

Esa Tuunanen
By Esa Tuunanen (Jan 9, 2012)

CF is directly based on Parallel ATA bus whose speed limit is for continuous transfer (unlike USB) IF other parts are up to the job.
And that's where SD has problems: That tiny flimsy card can't hold many flash memory chips for RAID0 like internal parallel read/write unlike physically bigger cards.

With PC hard drives parallel transfer ended to ~133MB/s speed but without long cables limit is probably still higher than CF's current 167MB/s.
But serial transfer needs lot less wires (simpler PCBs+connectors) so actually there's has been already couple years CFast standard which is Serial ATA based and has its speed limits.

XQD is based on PCI Express used internally in PC for data transfer between components on motherboard and hence has very high performance and scalability compared to peripheral data buses:
At four wires per lane XQD might even have enough contacts for two lane link.

Paulo Ferreira
By Paulo Ferreira (Jan 6, 2012)

100 RAWS at 10fps... Wow? Wow? We are no longer talking about Photography here.

Thanatham Piriyakarnjanakul
By Thanatham Piriyakarnjanakul (Apr 19, 2012)

Do you know Sport photography? or you just leaving in your own world??

By Jogger (Jan 6, 2012)

given the size of this, they would just build the usb connector into it

Richard Shih
By Richard Shih (Jan 7, 2012)

Check out the XQD beside the standard CF slot in the Nikon D4 at the bottom of the page: In fact, the XQD is quite small.

By commiebiker (Jan 6, 2012)

that equals million Jpegs?

1 upvote
By Johan01 (Jan 6, 2012)

wow! Indeed.

1 upvote
By MichaelK81 (Jan 6, 2012)

100 RAWs in one burst. at 10fps that's 10 seconds of consecutive coverage. Wow.

Total comments: 30