Sony's new CFexpress memory cards for pro cameras move industry toward next-gen storage

Sony's memory cards indicate industry consensus toward a single standard for next-generation performance storage media.

Sony's new CFexpress memory cards for pro cameras move industry toward next-gen storage The professional camera market is in dire need of a replacement for the decades-old CompactFlash standard. Sony's support for CFexpress underlies industry consensus toward a single standard.

Sony Electronics—the professional electronics subsidiary of the Japanese electronics giant—announced plans on Wednesday to manufacture CFexpress Type B memory cards used in high-definition camcorders and high-resolution professional cameras. The announcement is indicative of industry consensus toward a single standard for a next-generation performance storage medium, analogous to the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD format wars for home media.

Sony's new card, CEB-G12B, is touted as having 1700 MB/s and 1480 MB/s read/write speeds, as well as high physical endurance, "able to withstand 70N of force in bend, and five times greater reliability for enduring falls from up to 5m high," and is "temperature proof, X-ray proof, anti-static, and has a UV guard so it can support usage in tricky or tough environments," according to the press release. The 128GB model is expected to be available in summer 2019, with 256GB and 512GB models forthcoming.

Sony is also releasing a new CFexpress Card Reader, MRW-G1, with support for CFExpress Type B, as well as Sony's G and M series XQD cards, and will also be available this summer.

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While CompactFlash has long endured as the flash memory format of choice for professional cameras, the standard—based on the Parallel ATA and PCMCIA standards—is aging poorly. Competing proposals to replace CompactFlash have been introduced, with the Serial ATA based CFast format introduced in 2010, and XQD, a PCI Express based format, introduced in 2011.

Both have seen relatively limited uptake—XQD in particular has been held back by a lack of enthusiasm. Despite being developed in collaboration by Sony, Nikon, and SanDisk, the latter firm declined to actually produce any XQD cards. Other flash memory manufacturers have complained about Sony's handling of XQD IP, making availability from non-Sony vendors limited.

As CFexpress and XQD are electrically compatible, and rely on PCI Express signaling, updating current products to support the new standard is technically possible. Nikon is releasing firmware updates for the Z6, Z7, as well as D5, D500, and D850 to support the new standard. Likewise, Phase One is issuing firmware updates for the XF IQ4 series of cameras.

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Image: Sony

By James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.