There is a lot of press about the memory card speeds and the buffer limit with the new Nikon Z9 camera.
And this is creating a bit of controversy. Here is what you’ll need to know to get the best memory card performance out of your Nikon Z9.
Fastest Memory Cards Nikon Z9
I’ll benchmark this camera when it’s available, but for now, here is the information you’ll need to know regarding buffer performance and which memory cards you should buy.
Also, check out Nikon’s officially supported memory cards.
Top 5 Fastest Memory Cards Nikon Z9
If you’re buying the Z9 today, you’ll want the 128GB Delkin Black CFexpress cards. They are currently the fastest card and should give you around 80 RAW lossless shots per burst – according to Ricci Talks.
If you need a memory card larger than 128GB, the Prograde Cobalt or Wise Pro cards will be the fastest.
Here are the fastest cards rated in order.
1st Place – Delkin Black 128GB – Rated Write 1710 MB/s
2nd Place – Delkin Black 64GB – Rated Write 1680 MB/s
3th Place – Wise Pro 160-640GB – Rated 1550 MB/s
4rd Place – ProGrade Cobalt 325GB – Rated Write 1500 MB/s, Delkin Power 128GB – 1540 MB/s
5th Place – Sony Tough 1480 MB/s, or AngelBird 256 1500MB/s.
Some cards may not work well with the Nikon Z9 so testing will need to be done to see the real-world performance. Today many cards are receiving firmware updates, so if you’re having performance concerns with your older cards, they may have a firmware update utility or sometimes you can send them in for updates. Hopefully, by the time the Z9 ships, we’ll have all the kinks worked out of this new CFexpress format and all the latest cards will be shipping.
|Card Name||Rated R||Rated W||USB-C R||USB-C W||Check Price|
|Delkin Black 128GB||1760 MB/s||1710 MB/s||—||—||B&H|
|Delkin Power 128GB||1730 MB/s||1540 MB/s||967.0||962.6||B&H|
|Delkin Prime 64GB||1730 MB/s||1240 MB/s||—||—||Amazon / B&H|
|Sony Tough 128GB||1700 MB/s||1480 MB/s||986.1||951.6||Amazon / B&H|
|ProGrade Cobalt 325GB||1700 MB/s||1500 MB/s||—||—||B&H|
|ProGrade Gold 128GB||1700 MB/s||1400 MB/s||800.8||708.7||Amazon / B&H|
|Lexar 128GB||1750 MB/s||1000 MB/s||977.2||677.6||B&H|
|Sandisk Extreme Pro 128GB||1700 MB/s||1200 MB/s||979.7||500.8||Amazon / B&H|
|AngelBird 256GB||1700 MB/s||1500 MB/s||—||—||B&H|
|Wise Pro 160GB||1700 MB/s||1550 MB/s||—||—||B&H|
|Wise 128GB||1700 MB/s||1050 MB/s||984.9||569.6||B&H|
|Hoodman Steel 128GB||1700 MB/s||1400 MB/s||927.4||543.9||Amazon / B&H|
The Nikon Z9 has a few different RAW shooting modes that affect the buffer performance.
RAW Recording Modes
Lossless Compression – A clean compression of the images, no information removed.
Files are large, expect about 80 shots or more with the best card rated at 1500-1700MB/s write. As a little reference, I pulled in 180 RAW shots @ 12fps with the Canon R5 memory card tests on the Delkin Power card and Canon rates their buffer at 83 RAW shots at 20fps. Similar to Nikon Z9 Performance on the Z9 with the slightly faster Delkin Black.
High Efficiency * – lossy compressed. There are different ways of doing this type of compression, but the short explanation is information that is not being used from the entire 14-bit color space is just discarded, which is why you generally see no loss in quality. How complicated the scene is, will affect the file sizes and the information, so your buffer performance could vary scene to scene.
Files are much smaller, easily over 1,000 shots with a good card.
High Efficiency – lossy compression, more info reduced. Usually ( I don’t know exactly how Nikon does it ), there are a set of parameters, and any information that is outside of those parameters is clipped. Usually, you won’t notice this unless you do heavy editing.
Unlimited shots in this mode with a good card.
There is no longer an Uncompressed RAW in the Nikon Z9. It is no longer needed since continuous burst speeds can run at full performance with lossless compression. Older cameras, would not perform at full burst speeds with lossless compressions. For example, the Z6 could only shoot 9fps with lossless compression.
Best CFexpress Cards For Video
The Nikon Z9 has some interesting video specs, however, we don’t have all the abilities yet or the full specs since they will be releasing those via firmware next year. I’ll keep this updated as more information is released.
The Nikon Z9 will shoot internally, H.265, ProRes RAW, ProRes HQ (limited to 4k60 10-bit) as well as a new Nikon RAW (which comes as a license from intoPIX).
Here are the RAW video specs we have so far for the intoPix raw from their website.
|1920×1080||125 – 250Mbps||15.6 – 31.25 MBs|
|4096×2160||500 – 1Gbps||62.5 – 125 MBs|
|7680×4320||2 – 4Gbps||250 – 500MBs|
An interesting spec here is the potential to shoot 8k at 30fps or 60fps. If you shoot 8k at 30fps at 500MB/s then each individual frame comes out to around 16MB. Not sure the bit depth yet. If it’s even 12-bits that could be really nice to pull stills from.
IO Transactions Card Speed Consistency
Not all CFexpress cards are created equal. Some cards have features like error correction, tougher builds, expanded operation temperatures, longer warranties, some even have different profiles to their thermal throttling. This is why with CFexpress cards, it’s really good for the known brands and avoid the third-party white-labeled cards since you just don’t know what you’re getting – if you want the best performance.
Currently of the cards I have, Delkin is the best as you can see by the consistent IO Profile. I have the Delkin Power card the latest Black cards are in the 128GB size have a rated write speed of 1710MB/s.
Very important – Different capacity cards have different rated speeds. 128GB is often the sweet spot, some bigger cards with some brands can be faster or slower. For example, the bigger Sandisk cards are faster, but the bigger Delkin cards are slower.
IO Transactions with a Prograde CFexpress USB Reader using AJA System Test on a 2018 Macbook Pro. We may see faster speeds with thunderbolts readers.
Of the cards I have, the Sony tough and the Delkin Power have the best IO performance.
I’ll update soon with more cards.
Delkin Black 128 GB
IO Profile Coming Soon
Rated Speed: Read 1760MB/s Write 1710MB/s
Delkin Power 128GB
Rated Speed: Read 1730MB/s, Write 1540MB/s
Delkin Prime 64GB
IO Profile Coming Soon.
Rated Speed: Read 1730 MB/s Write 1240 MB/s
Sony Tough 128GB
Prograde CFx USB-C Speed: Read 986.1MB/s Write 951.6MB/s
Hoodman Steel 128GB
Rated Speed: Read 1700MB/s Write 1400MB/s
Sandisk Extreme Pro 128GB
Rated Speed: Read 1700MB/s Write 1200MB/s
Rated Speed: Read 1750MB/s Write 1000MB/s
Prograde Cobalt 325GB
IO Speeds Coming
Rated Speed: Read 1700MB/s Write 1500MB/s
Prograde Gold 128GB
Rated Speed: Read 1700 MB/s Write 1400 MB/s
Rated Speed: Read 1700MB/s Write 1050MB/s
Angel Bird 256GB
IO Profile Coming Soon
Rated Speed: Read 1700MB/s Write 1500Mb/s
Best CFExpress Cards Nikon Z9 – Conclusions
Right now the best cards are produced by Delkin. This will likely change as new cards are released.
If you want bigger cards you may want to check out Prograde Cobalt or Wise Pro.
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