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.
Be sure to check out my list of Must-Have Accessories Nikon Z6 / Z7
Best Memory Cards Nikon Z6 / Z7
Buying memory cards for the Nikon Z6 and Z7 is a bit messy right now since the camera will take two different formats, CFexpress and XQD.
Here are a few quick details you should know before buying memory cards for the Nikon Z6 or Nikon Z7.
You will need a memory card to upgrade the firmware – this could create a problem if you were shipped a Nikon Z6 or Z7 with firmware version 1.0, but only bought CFexpress cards. Usually cameras ship with the latest firmware.
I’m not really sure what to do if this happens, other than maybe take the camera to a local camera store and see if they can help you, or find a friend with XQD, because firmware v1 of the cameras will not support CFexpress cards.
Maybe if you’re ordering the camera for the first time, try to buy it bundled with the 32GB XQD cards, then get a CFepxress reader that also works with XQD which are now available by Prograde and Sony.
General Update To This Article: The initial launch of CFepress cards was safe to say a disaster. Most brands came out with cards with strange specs and sizes. Some were not compatible with some cameras others were. All the brands have pretty much refreshed their cards and they all are producing a 1700MB/s read speed and write speeds varying.
I have bought all the newest cards, or am trying to anyway. If you buy new cards, make sure they are of the new generation. The way you can tell is by looking for the 1700MB/s read speeds, 1700MB/s or more on the 128GB cards. Even though you order some updated cards, sometimes you might still get a card from old inventory which may have slower speeds.
I have updated the recommendation lists with all the new generation of cards.
Recommended CFexpress Memory Cards Nikon Z6/Z7
It’s recommended you do not use XQD memory cards if you’re new to the system. Instead, you should now use CFepxress cards.
Many CFexpress and XQD card readers are not cross-compatible and future cameras are unlikely to support XQD.
Even though the speed in the Nikon Z6 does not run CFexpress at their theoretical speeds and you gain no speed benefit of CFexpress over XQD in-camera, there are other benefits to the new type of cards such as thermal throttling and file transfer speeds.
All the cards are working now for the Z6, except for some early releases of the Sandisk cards. To make sure your Sandisk card is compatible, it needs to have an NN written on the last two letters of the serial numbers on the back of the card or on the packaging.
You can see each card is rated to write at different speeds, but it won’t matter with this current generation of cameras.
|Recommended Cards||USB Write Speed||USB Read Speed||64GB||120-128GB|
|Sony Tough||1480 MB/s||1700 MB/s||—||Amazon / B&H|
|ProGrade Gold||1400 MB/s||1700 MB/s||—||B&H|
|Lexar||1000 MB/s||1750 MB/s||B&H||Amazon / B&H|
|Sandisk Extreme Pro||800 – 1200 MB/s||1500 – 1700 MB/s||Amazon / B&H||Amazon / B&H|
|Delkin Power||1540 MB/s||1730 MB/s||—||Amazon / B&H|
|Wise Advanced||1050 MB/s||1700 MB/s||—||B&H|
Regarding Memory Card Sizes
CFexpress memory cards get faster as they get bigger up until about 512GB, except for the Sony cards that maintain their speed.
I don’t know why these companies are pushing such massive CFexpress cards. Sure, if you’re shooting video you might like a big card, but internally you’re only recording 4k at around 144Mbps, which is pretty low.
If you’re considering buying a 1TB CFexpress card for video, just know that you can literally buy an external Atomos Ninja V Recorder fully set up and a 1TB SSD drive for about the price of a single CFexpress 1TB card, and you’ll be swimming in that sweet glorious 10-bit video with N-Log. Or you can even go 12-bit ProRes RAW with the paid firmware update that should be free.
I got totally setup with my Ninja V recorder for $680. See how I did it for so cheap.
ProRes Raw will line skip with 4k FX. To get full pixel readout you need to shoot 4k DX crop.
Best CFexpress Memory Card Readers
Most brands are providing their own memory card reader with different many options. Some support CFexpress + XQD, some support UHS-II. There are Thunderbolt options, USB-C options, and USB-A options.
Here is a list of all the best CFexpress memory card readers.
|ProGrade XQD+CFe – Thunderbolt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||B&H|
|Wise CFe UHS-II||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||B&H|
*With the Lexar reader you can use USB-C with a USB-C to USB-C cable. You can also use your Macbook Pro charging cable with these USB-C readers, so you don’t have to carry around an extra USB-C to USB-C cable.
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|
|Nikon Z6 Specs||Nikon Z7 Specs|
Sensor: 24.5MP FX-Format BSI CMOS
Sensor: 45.7MP FX-Format BSI CMOS
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.
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 use 64GB in most of my cameras. And I rarely fill 64GB cards unless I’m shooting video, but I also clear off my cards every night after shooting. If you do a lot of big events and shoot a ton in a day, you may want a 120GB card. I’ve never filled a 120GB card.
Sometimes you can get the cameras bundled with 32GB XQD cards, but 32GB cards are now hard to find.
The only brand making 64GB CFexpress cards right now is Sandisk.
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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