ProGrade Digital is a brand new memory card brand founded by former executives of memory maker Lexar.

In June 2017 parent company Micron unexpectedly announced the end of Lexar, but the brand was shortly after acquired by Chinese company Longsys. Now, a group of former executives from both managerial and technical backgrounds has teamed up to produce and market high-quality memory cards, directly competing with Lexar itself and other high-profile storage brands, such as SanDisk.

Initially the new company will offer two lines of cards: The CFast 2.0 cards will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities for $230, $350, and $700, respectively, and offer transfer speeds up to 550MB/sec. The UHS-II SD-card line comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities for $55, $95, and $190, respectively, delivering speeds of up to 200MB/sec.

ProGrade says the controllers in all cards are optimized for use in professional cameras, and will each be tested from component-level down to individual memory chips before leaving the factory. Add a three year warranty into the mix, and the new cards look like an enticing alternative to the established brands for photographers who demand maximum reliability.

The brand was officially announced last week, but rather than simply cover the news, we decided to send ProGrade a few questions instead. Specifically, we wanted to know what sets the brand apart, how they expect to compete with the big guys, and why they started the company in the first place.

Mark Lewis, Vice President Marketing for ProGrade Digital, was kind enough to answer these questions:

Do we really need another memory card company?

Yes. With Micron’s sale of the Lexar brand and Western Digital’s purchase of SanDisk, there seems to be a shift in market focus for these two iconic brands and the future is uncertain.

Their decisions to realign product lines and focus solely on higher margin industrial and OEM SKUs opens up an opportunity for a new player—one with laser-focus on the professional market and whose intent it is to fill the void and service this market of professional photo, video and cinema customers. We at ProGrade Digital are that new digital memory card company who will champion their cause.

How will your company be different than the rest?

We bring several competitive advantages to help us stand apart. First, it’s about the people involved. At the executive and engineering level our team brings extensive experience, having worked for numerous years with leading components suppliers and vendors in the design and delivery of precision products specifically for this niche. Our marketing and sales group also has deep roots within the imaging industry, including professionals who not only produce still and motion capture for ProGrade Digital, but who also regularly create for private clients. Plus we acknowledge our growing family of influencers and ambassadors from both the still and motion capture worlds, individuals whom you will soon be reading more about.

The second way that we will stand apart from the competition is our product. I’ve already touched on the fact that, through our past employment, we bring a deep level of experience having built integrity into both the Lexar and SanDisk product lines. Our work here with ProGrade Digital not only lets us expand upon that foundation but, as a smaller firm, we now have the latitude and drive to make even better products specifically for the imaging markets. Two such ProGrade Digital imaging industry firsts include 100 percent in-factory test (to help us sustain a goal of zero percent failure), plus laser-etched serial numbers on each memory card. The serial number enables us to track firmware, controller and memory type. This ability to track a card’s manufacture gives us one more tool for being that much more proactive when it comes to supporting our customer base.

Other product strengths: as executive members of the SD Association and Compact Flash Association (CFA) we work with device manufacturers and other industry leaders on the development of new technologies. ProGrade Digital products are competitively priced, and distribution is limited so that we may preserve quality and control, plus maintain a direct relationship with our customer.

How can a David hope to compete against a Goliath?

If you know the story about David and Goliath you may recall that, despite Goliath’s physical size, level of experience and massive army to back him up, it was a young, small and nimble David who took precise aim and used the right weapon. ProGrade Digital is tightly focusing on a customer that we know, and specifically developing best-in-class products able to meet the needs of the professional imaging market.

What's the future for card form factors such as SD, CFast, CFexpress and XQD?

The future for all memory cards continues to evolve. It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen to any particular form-factor, but the standards work currently being developed by the two memory card associations will help drive the direction.

Specifically, plans are in the works to move to the PCIe interface; the PCIe interface will allow for speeds to advance beyond some of the limits of the SATA interface. Of particular note are efforts being done by the Compact Flash Association (CFA) on the CFexpress form-factor. Their work has support from the major device manufacturers, and ProGrade Digital is at the forefront of those developments. As new standards gain in popularity, I believe that we will see some current form-factors slowly begin to phase out.

A big thank you to Mark for taking the time to answer these questions. If you want to learn more about this new memory card company or browse through ProGrade's whole product line, head over to the ProGrade Digital website.

Press Release:

ProGrade Digital Launches New Line of Professional-Quality Memory Cards and Card Readers for Use with Digital Cameras, Camcorders and Cinema Cameras

Former Lexar Executives Start New Company: Pledge to Focus on Developing and Marketing Products of Superior Performance, Quality and Reliability

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Feb 15, 2018 8:00 am EST-ProGrade Digital, anew company founded on a mission to provide the highest quality, professional grade memory cards and workflow solutions available, today announced a new line of products designed to uniquely fill the needs of today’s high-end DLSRs, camcorders and digital cinema cameras. Memory cards will be offered in a variety of formats and industry-leading capacities. The company will also design and market a selection of card readers, starting with a CFast & SD Dual Slot Workflow Reader that boasts a USB 3.0, Gen. 2 transfer protocol. ProGrade Digital’s new memory cards and card readers will become available in the month of February at www.progradedigital.com, Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video

ProGrade Digital was founded by former executives from Lexar who held management or technical leadership positions at the company recognized as the pioneer in memory card development for digital photography. The team has more than 60 years of combined experience in the design, development and manufacture of memory cards gained while working for Lexar, SanDisk and other firms. Leveraging its experience and industry relationships, the team will focus exclusively on developing and marketing memory cards, card readers and software optimized for use within professional cinema and photography markets.

“Our goal is to be the professional’s source for top performing, professional grade memory cards and workflow solutions,” says Wes Brewer, founder and CEO of ProGrade Digital. “We will be committed to focusing our efforts on the digital imaging pro who is meticulous about his equipment and workflow-delivering the best service, plus best product quality and reliability.”

Memory Card Key Features

  • Professional-level capacities for CFast 2.0 and SDXC UHS-II memory cards
  • Optimized controllers specifically designed for use in professional-grade cameras
  • Rigorous full-card testing with serialized tracking of key components and manufacturing data for the highest quality control
  • Component-level testing down to individual memory chips for optimal quality
  • 3-year warranty

Card Reader Key Features

  • Dual slot reader for CFast 2.0 and SDXC UHS-II card formats
  • USB 3.0 Gen. 2 transfer speed of up to 10Gb/second
  • Supports concurrent full-speed flow of data from cards in each slot
  • Portable and compact
  • Includes two 18″ connection cables: one for Type A to Type C and one for Type C to Type C
  • Magnetized reader bottom firmly connects reader to laptop (using included metal mounting plate)
  • 2-year warranty

ProGrade Digital memory cards are designed to provide the highest levels of performance, quality and reliability in high-end DSLRs, camcorders and digital cinema cameras from manufacturers such as Canon, Nikon, Sony and Blackmagic.

ProGrade Digital cards and card readers are available online at www.progradedigital.com, Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video.