Since Lexar died last year, only to be reborn in its phoenix like glory this year, the XQD media card format has undergone a kind of Renaissance. Not only is Nikon offering its own brand to compete with Sony. So now, there are three major manufacturers of the XQD media card format, plus a handful of second tier makers. Quite a turnaround considering this time last year, Sony was the last man standing. But with CFExpress poised to pass it by, and Sony transitioning to SD media cards in most of the prosumer camcorder lines, will the XQD rebirth be short lived?
I have to say, it was quite a shock to me that Panasonic included XQD as one of the dual card slots in their new S1 series full frame mirrorless cameras. It was a pleasant surprise to be sure, but while XQD is a pretty fast media card format that can handle 4K video just fine, with Sony moving away from their own format in favor of SD and the upcoming CFExpress standard, I can’t help but wonder just how long this reprieve from obsolescence will last.
I love XQD cards. They’re a solid, fast, professional tool. Unfortunately they’re fighting for the top spot right now. If they really are going to be ubiquitous, there’s some tech issues and industry politics that will need to be smoothed over first. – Stephen Kampff, FStoppers “Why I’m Not Investing in XQD Memory Cards Yet“
It’s not that XQD isn’t a great format, it is. But as Stephen Kampff points out in his article at FStoppers, XQD has the problem that it really has no industry wide standard. As such, there are multiple versions of the card which are not exactly backwards and forwards compatible across the board.
Kampff notes that the XQD specification has at least five different versions, M, S, N, H, and G. Now you’d think that the S card would be the most recent. But no, it’s the G line, which is up to date, and is both forwards and backwards compatible. But if you get one of the other cards, each requires it’s own set of drivers in order to be read by different card readers.
So if you’re on location and your cache of media cards were damaged or lost, and you gave to send a PA to the camera store to pick up a few XQD cards on the fly, there’s a 4 in 5 chance that you may end up with one that gives you problems. ” I’ve personally run into various problems because of this,” Kampff writes, “some that took hours to troubleshoot with multiple people on set.”
And as we stated earlier, Sony has started to move away from the XQD Spec, with their last Z series camcorders opting for the SxS and SD card formats, rather than the XQD cards enjoyed by the FS7 and Z100 cameras. Kampff wonders if Sony sees the handwriting on the wall, when it comes to moving over the horizon to 8K and beyond, and may just make CFExpress into the FS7III. Then there’s the fact that ProGrade Digital, which is aiming its catalog square at professional users, opted not to produce an XQD card for their lineup. Instead, choosing to focus on the backwards compatible CFExpress, which can work in many XQD cameras with a firmware update.
But Panasonic, who co owns the SD media Cards IP with Toshiba, opted to pay Sony licensing fees and put the XQD format as the dominant media card in the S1. This leaves me to wonder if they have plans in a future update to open up CF Express support. So, in the short run, with both Panasonic and Nikon behind it, XQD isn’t likely going away any time soon. But if you’re wanting to future proof your craft, what are you to think?
Either way, the dust has to settle..