250MBps XQD card size compared to CF and SD (image from Digital Photography Review)

Do we need a new CF standard? 250MBps XQD cards to replace CompactFlash

by planetmitch9 Comments

I just posted this story to our scoopNews page (more on that in another post soon) and the more I think about it the more I thought I'd better get the word out to the big audience… I was researching the rumored specs on the new Nikon D4 (again, more on that shortly) when I discovered Nikon's intent to put one of these new 250MBps XQD card slots (as well as a regular CF slot) on the new Nikon D4. Scroll down to see why this bugs me! It's all about the size baby!

250MBps XQD cards to replace CompactFlash in high-end cameras

Here's some info from Ars Technica:

The CompactFlash Association announced on Wednesday that it has adopted a new specification and format to replace the venerable CompactFlash memory card. Tongue-twistingly dubbed “XQD,” the PCI Express-based memory cards are smaller and faster than current CF cards, but should offer performance advantages over the current competing compact memory card format, Secure Digital (SD) and its recent SDHC and SDXC variants.

The XQD card measures 38.5 x 29.8 x 3.8mm, about three-quarters the size of a CF card and about the same thickness; physically it looks a bit like a tiny SSD drive. Unlike CF cards, which are based on the practically ancient PCMCIA standard, XQD cards are based on PCI Express, with a base maximum transfer rate of 2.5Gbps. That should be good for up to 250MB/s transfer rates, though the CFA is targeting real world write speeds of 125MB/s to start. Such write speeds would blow away all but the most expensive CF or SD cards currently available, and should be able to ramp up higher as technology matures and a future 5Gbps PCIe is implemented.

“The XQD format will enable further evolution of hardware and imaging applications, and widen the memory card options available to CompactFlash users such as professional photographers,” CFA chairman Shigeto Kanda said in a statement.

The CompactFlash format likely has quite a bit of life left in it, as the most recent standard (UltraDMA mode 7) is designed for a maximum 167MB/s data transfer rate. However, as professional DSLRs offer increasingly higher megapixel counts and 1080p or higher video capture, the XQD format should allow memory cards to keep pace with the data requirements of future professional photography and videography equipment.

The XQD card will be publicly unveiled next February at the CP+ trade show in Japan. There's no word yet when we will see cameras that incorporate support for the new format.

Ok, what's my beef with a new standard? Size

Also from the Ars Technica post:

Image courtesy DPR

250MBps XQD card size compared to CF and SD (image from Digital Photography Review)

250MBps XQD card size compared to CF and SD (image from Digital Photography Review)

Ok, so look at the size there!

I'm all for improving the CF standards – but why are they picking a new size? This would of course mean that any new camera using this new card has a different slot than the normal CF card – and the new Nikon D4 reportedly has 2 slots, one of each kind. But that just means that there's no backward compatibility and if you want to use both slots (or any slot on a new camera with using the new standard) then you're trashing your old CF cards (or should I say selling them on ebay or craigslist since we don't just throw them in the trash right?)

Why oh why not make this new card the same size as a CF and implement compatibility in the camera so you can use both types?

Anyone got a good answer?

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. The likely answer is that there is probably no way to support both interfaces using the existing socket.

    XQD cards are likely to be used (at first) only in cameras that actually need such high data-transfer rates. CF cards will probably be manufactured for another decade, and be available “used” long after that.

  2. Physical size. Compactflash is too big. Camera companies and their engineers are trying to make cameras as small as possible. That’s why every camera smaller than the G series from Canon comes with SD. Every little bit of space helps shrink the camera. Compactflash was going to lose to SD unless it got smaller (it probably still will, the new card is still bigger than SD cards)

    It’s the same reason why Apple went from SIM to micro SIM and now wants to use programmable SIM cards. When a device is the size of a couple of credit cards, every millimeter counts.

  3. I’m with William. It’s most likely due to the inherent differences between PCI (newer) and the PCMCIA interfaces. Something would probably go wrong if you could fit a CF card into the new QXD slot.

  4. Its pointless. Well for most cinematographer and photographers Cloud baased File systems is the future. After Attending a Class at Canon learning center, this was discussed. so your future cameras will stream out the data to a Cloud based system wirelesly , Media like CF Xqd and Sd will be as outdated as anything MEDIA capture.

  5. I’ve never had a bent pin on a CF card but I can understand that the potential is there for it to happen as Cody says. I’ve always been very careful when inserting a card.

    I’d say that CF cards are here to stay for the foreseeable future but a less risky connection mechanism is certainly the way to go and if this new “standard” achieves that then that’s a good step forward.

    If the D4 has two types of card slots then that’s going to be really annoying. I’ll wait and see.

  6. Never had a bent pin. CF cards are slim. No need for smaller dSLRs if they can’t shrink down the size of lenses.

  7. +1, never broke or had bent pins
    But this new slot (XQD) adds me a bit trouble to buy these quite expensive cards. It was quite comfy to put 2 cards in D3 and work a lot 🙂

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