XQD and CFe Cards

The following DSLR cameras use XQD cards:

  • Nikon D4 (1 slot)
  • Nikon D4s (1 slot)
  • Nikon D5 (2 slots)
  • Nikon D6 (2 slots)
  • Nikon D500 (1 slot)
  • Nikon D850 (1 slot)

The D6 is the only camera that came with direct CFexpress Type B (CFe) card support, but in December 2020 Nikon released firmware that allows the D5, D500, and D850 to support CFe, as well. Both XQD and CFe Type B use the same form factor. 

Originally, we had two sources of XQD cards, Lexar and Sony. As I write this, we have three major sources, Delkin, Nikon, and Sony. 

While any XQD card ever made will work in the above cameras, you do need to be careful about XQD card readers. The currently available card readers from Sony, for instance, are not all backwards compatible with the oldest XQD cards (even from Sony). Thus, anyone new to XQD needs to be careful about selecting a card reader and making sure that they have cards that match their reader’s abilities. Also, no one still makes 16GB XQD cards, which is a shame.

The current state of card availability is as follows (all links are advertiser links):

All of these cards have at least 400MBs write performance. Don’t be concerned about small differences in size (e.g. 120GB versus 128GB). Different memory chip suppliers have differing capacities that they sell. Right now I see Micron providing 120/240.., Samsung with 120/250..., and still others doing 128/256… 

In my opinion, the best card reader for those with recent computers (including MacBook Pros) is the Sony XQD/SD Card Reader [advertiser link].

CFe Type B introduces a slight complication. While the CFe cards are physically compatible with XQD slots, they need slightly different software running on the device. Nikon addressed this for all but the D4 series cameras, but it also applies to card readers, too: all XQD card readers do not support CFe cards, and most CFe card readers don't support XQD. That means if you mix and match cards in your use, you'll need both an XQD and a CFe card reader.

The good news is that we have more CFe card vendors [advertiser link] than we did for XQD: Sony, Lexar, SanDisk, Delkin, ProGrade, Transcend, Anglebird, and more. Plus CFe is now a standard endorsed by Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, and Sony in their devices. 

So what should a D500, D5, D6, or D850 user do?

  1. Just stick with XQD. You don't get any speed benefit in the camera with CFe, while sticking to XQD means you only need one card reader that you already have. You can still buy XQD cards, and probably will be able to for at least a year or two.
  2. Move to CFe. You'll have more card choices and be prepared for the future, plus your ingest to your computer via a CFe card reader will be significantly faster. Retire you older XQD cards.
  3. Try to juggle both XQD and CFe (not recommended). The big issue here is that you'll probably need two card readers, and you have to keep track of which reader works with which card. 

Are there any issues with XQD/CFe cards? Physically, I've only found one issue: the small tab at the end of card can break, typically only by force. Logically, both XQD and CFe use NAND memory, and this can wear out or become defective over time, just as with any removable storage. That said, in now decades of use, my XQD cards have survived better than any other card format I've used (SD would be second, though I've had a number of SD cards "fall apart"). 

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