A detailed comparison between XQD 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 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
There aren’t a lot of options for XQD memory cards in the Nikon cameras and it seems a lot of the memory card manufacturers are actually ignoring XQD and going straight to CFexpress 2.0. Sony owns the XQD tech so it’s possible that it’s more profitable to just make CFexpress cards since it’s an open tech like USB.
I haven’t tested any CFexpress cards yet since everyone is only making them in ridiculous sizes. Nobody is asking for a 1TB memory card and it ends up being a not very affordable solution. I will test all the CFexpress cards in the Z6 when some are available and the medium becomes more popular.
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.
USB speeds are taken with a Sony XQD USB 3.0 reader dongled to a MacBook Pro using Black Magic Speed Test. The Blackmagic Speed test is pretty terrible and fairly inaccurate. Crystal Disk in Windows is much more accurate. As soon as I can find an XQD UBS-C reader, I’ll retest everything properly to get more accurate results. This at least gives you an idea of performance on a MacBook, with pretty standard Mac software.
I also only tested performance with uncompressed RAW in this camera. Shooting compressed RAW will slow down a little bit, but the files are smaller so it ends up balancing out almost perfectly when looking at the time to clear the buffer as seen in the Nikon D850 tests.
|Memory Card||USB Read||USB Write||Nikon Z6||Nikon Z7||Order|
|Delkin||331.4 MB/s||204.3 MB/s||--||207.96||Amazon|
|Sony G||327.3 MB/s||186.5 MB/s||--||198.61||Amazon|
|Nikon||326.3 MB/s||186.8 MB/s||--||193.39||Amazon|
|Lexar 2933x||321.7 MB/s||167.4 MB/s||--||187.81||Amazon|
|Sony M 150||325.2 MB/s||108.0 MB/s||--||140.65||--|
|Sony M 80||300.3 MB/s||34.6 MB/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 UHS-II cards. For this reason, Sony may have discontinued it to force people to spend more money on the G cards.
Top 3 Recommended Memory Cards For The Nikon Z6 / Z7
There are not many cards to choose from and the choice is easy. Sony, Lexar or Delkin. They all perform about the same except Delkin is showing to be a hair faster and are the newest card out of the bunch.
I’m going to link you guys to the 64GB cards since I think 128GB cards are going to be unrealistic for a lot of people. If you want me to get a commission for a bigger card, the links above go to 120GB card, but as long as you click through, anything you buy within a few days will give me that 2% commission. I know a lot of people hate affiliate links but I bought all these cards and rented a Z7 and bought a Z6 it was all very expensive and I wouldn’t be able to do these tests without your support. So thanks! As it is, I barely make a living off these kinds of articles.
Delkin always produces amazing memory cards for all formats and now they are making XQD cards. The Delkin XQD cards have the best overall performance in the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras. Delkin is the brand I use and you will always find Delkin cards in my cameras.
Keep an eye on price, the Sony XQD cards are sometimes less expensive. The Delkin 64GB card is a little hard to find, they sell out quickly.
Sony G XQD
Sony is the owner and developer of the XQD memory card format and they were the first on the scene. They have several different speed classes available at different prices, but if you want the fastest XQD memory card for your Nikon, go with the Sony G cards. Sony memory cards across the board are very good.
Available At: Amazon
Nikon isn’t one to make memory cards so not much is really known about their cards. I would assume they just outsourced another company like Sony to produce their cards for them. We’ve seen this before with Fujifilm memory cards. Regardless, the Nikon cards perform very well with very similar speeds to the Sony cards.
Which Memory Card Am I Using
For my personal use in the Nikon Z6, I chose to use the Delkin 120GB memory card. The reason I’m liking the large card is it allows me to keep all the photos on my card from previous shoots while I wait for my local storage to backup to my personal Synology server in California. So I copy all my data to my local drive here in Japan, then that automatically syncs with my 40TB Synology at my brothers’ house in California, then that system backs up all my photos to Amazon’s cloud storage.
So while all that is backing up, I can leave my photos on my 120GB card for a few days. Also, it doesn’t wear down the flash as quickly when using the full card rather than just shooting 100 photos, formatting, 100 photos again which will wear out that beginning sector on the flash quicker. If that makes sense.
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 you may not get a faster performance in-camera with them because a lot of these cameras already experience a speed bottlenecked based on the CPU performance or other interfaces. For example in the Nikon D850, shooting uncompressed shows a speed improvement over shooting compressed. And if you shoot with image preview on, that slows things down significantly.
The big advantage to CFexpress cards is they are supposed to be cheaper because it’s an open technology. However, CFexpress manufacturers are only making massive cards that are 256GB, 500GB or even 1TB. This is just dumb unless you’re shooting a feature film. Even then, in any professional settings with video, you’ll be clearing cards off very often as a safety precaution for backup purposes.
I’ll eventually pick up some CFexpress cards for testing when they are available.
One thing is for sure, when CFexpress comes out, it will likely drive down the price of XQD cards. Especially if they can offer bigger cards for the same price, so keep an eye on that. When CFexpress cards hit the market, pay close attention to the size and price vs XQD.
There are also other improvements CFexpress will have like thermal throttling, and faster IOPS.
What Size Memory Card To Buy
XQD cards are incredibly 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.
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.
Best Memory Cards For The Nikon Z6 and Z7 Conclusions
I’ll have test results up for the Nikon Z6 soon. It should show slightly faster results over the Z7 because of the smaller files, but at least with this test, you can see how each card performs in relation to the other brands.
CFexpress is coming and I’ll test that format as well.
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.