A detailed comparison between XQD & CFexpress memory card performance. Each card has been tested in each camera to find the fastest XQD memory card for the Nikon Z6 or Z7.
Use this guide to find the best XQD or CFexpress memory cards for your Nikon Z6 / Z7.
|Nikon Z6 Specs||Nikon Z7 Specs|
Sensor: 24.5MP FX-Format BSI CMOS
Sensor: 45.7MP FX-Format BSI CMOS
Best Memory Cards Nikon Z6 / Z7
The firmware for the Nikon Z6 and Z7 which gives the camera the capability to use CFexpress memory cards is now available.
In Nikon’s firmware notes, they have mentioned that the firmware has only been optimized for Sony CFexpress cards. Prograde has said they have optimized their cards for the Nikon.
I got my hands on a Sandisk 64GB CFexpress card and it is giving me a lot of issues with lockups. I’ve seen other reports of people using larger Sandisk CFexpress cards without any issues.
I would assume that it’s possible Nikon has yet to optimize firmware for the 64GB cards, since most brands like Prograde and Sony aren’t offering cards in that size. CFexpress cards are unique in that each size runs at a different speed. It’s possible 120GB or 128GB cards will all work fine from different brands but not anything smaller.
Note: My 64GB Sandisk cards aren’t working well, but several people have not told me their 128GB and bigger Sandisk cards work fine.
I’ll grab some bigger Sandisk cards for testing when I go to pick up the Sony cards.
I highly recommend you only buy Sony CFexpress memory cards (B&H) right now if you’re a professional. Nikon will update firmware that will optimize the camera to allow for other brands of cards to work in the future. Again, I see lots of people saying their 128GB Sandisk cards are working.
I will test more brands that come in. As suspected, CFexpress cards are looking to offer no speed advantage in-camera. I would again assume that this current generation of cameras is only equipped with PCIe 2.0 technology that was required for XQD and they will not be able to fully take advantage of the dual-lane PCIe technology that drives the CFexpress cards.
Also, my XQD memory card readers will not work on CFexpress cards, and my CFexpress memory card reader will not work with XQD memory cards. I also recommend you stop buying XQD memory cards.
Memory Card Speed Test
Each card is tested in-camera. Several sets of burst sequences are shot and math is used to calculate how much data is written vs how much time it took to clear the buffer.
These tests are done using Uncompressed RAW with continuous burst H+
|Memory Card||USB Read||USB Write||Nikon Z6||Nikon Z7||Order|
|Sony CFexpress||--||--||all working||all working||B&H|
|Sandisk Extreme Pro||--||--||larger than 64GB working||larger than 64GB working||B&H|
|Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB||939.3||763.6||170.5MB/s||not working|
|Delkin CFexpress||--||--||not tested||not tested||B&H|
|ProGrade Cobalt||--||--||not tested||not tested||B&H|
|Lexar||--||--||not tested||not tested||B&H|
|Wide||--||--||not tested||not tested||B&H|
|Delkin 120GB XQD||331.4 MB/s||204.3 MB/s||215.9MB/s||207.96||Amazon|
|Sony G 64GB XQD||327.3 MB/s||186.5 MB/s||186.63MB/s||198.61||Amazon|
|Nikon 64GB XQD||326.3 MB/s||186.8 MB/s||190.7MB/s||193.39||Amazon|
|Lexar 2933x 64GB XQD||321.7 MB/s||167.4 MB/s||195.0MB/s||187.81||Amazon|
|Sony M 150 64GB XQD||325.2 MB/s||108.0 MB/s||137.4MB/s||140.65||--|
|Sony M 80 32GB XQD||300.3 MB/s||34.6 MB/s||39.0MB/s||40.95||Amazon|
Note that there used to be a Sony M 150MB/s card that is no longer available. It was a lot cheaper than the G card with a performance good enough for most people while still superior to a lot of UHS-II cards.
Do You Need CFExpress Memory Cards?
I see this question popping up from time to time and the answer is pretty straight forward.
We’re seeing speeds in the 200MB/s already with the Nikon Z6 and Z7. On the Z6 that clears the cards extremely fast and it’s one of the fastest cameras on the market so far even with these XQD cards.
Are CFexpress cards faster?
They are supposed to be, but at this time we are not seeing faster speeds in-camera. It’s likely this current generation of cameras is dealing with a PCIe 2.0 hardware bottleneck that is unable to take advantage of the PCIe 3.0 dual-lane CFexpress hardware.
Right now it probably won’t make a difference if you buy XQD or CFexpress unless you’re really seeking fast transfer speeds from your card to your computer or you want a card that’s of the latest tech.
There are also other improvements CFexpress will have like thermal throttling and faster IOPS.
I would recommend you disengage from buying XQD cards because I suspect future hardware will not support it. It will become like MemoryStick Duo where only Sony cameras support it. Already my CFexpress card reader will not read XQD cards.
What Size Memory Card To Buy
XQD and CFexpress cards are expensive so choosing the right size card takes a little more consideration. I personally always only buy 64GB memory cards. If I need more space I’ll usually pull out a second card, but personally, I’ve never filled a 64GB card unless I’m shooting video and I clear off my cards every night when using 64GB cards.
However, CFexpress 64GB sizes are giving me a few problems, so if you are on a budget you might just have to stick with the 64GB XQD cards.
There are also some 32GB cards out there, but I have found I can fill a 32GB card in a day if I’m traveling and shooting a lot. It’s also nice to have larger than 32GB if you’re traveling because some nights you might not have the time to clear off your card.
But if you’re just shooting casually, 32GB cards can totally work for you.
As I mentioned, I’m using a 120GB card, but that’s just because I had it for testing. I personally would go 64GB if I didn’t have all the cards already but I’m seeing a lot more people go 120 or 128GB these days.
Best Memory Cards For The Nikon Z6 and Z7 Conclusions
I’ll have more test results up for the Nikon Z6 soon.
More CFexpress cards are coming and I’ll test everything from sizes 64GB – 128GB.
For now, the best, or at least the fastest memory cards for the Z6 and Z7 are those Sony G cards, the Lexar cards, and the Delkin cards.
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