CFexpress Card – The New Memory Card Format Explained
The technology keeps on advancing at a rapid pace. With the introduction of the CFexpress memory card format, a new era in memory card speed has begun. This new memory card format was launched by the CompactFlash Association (CFA) in 2016. The goal of developing this new standard was to meet the data and high-speed demands of professional photographers and videographers. This memory card has gained popularity over the years but still, not many people know what CFexpress card is. In this post, we are going to explain the CFexpress card format, its types, and uses. So, if you’re interested in learning about new technology and the latest devices, this can be an interesting post for you.
What is CFexpress Card?
CFexpress cards are the latest generation of memory cards. This high-speed memory card works on an interface called PCIe 3.0 and follows NVMe 1.3 protocols. This type of card is best suited for the latest cameras in terms of high-resolution photos and video. The CompactFlash Association introduced this format intending to unify standards. Incorporating the PCIe 3.0, the same interface used by laptop and desktop SSDs has resulted in drastically improving the performance of these cards. CFexpress is much faster than the SD cards and even XQD can only reach target speeds of up to 0.5 GB/s. The card has up to 8 lanes of data transfer with each lane providing 1GB per second of data. It means that the theoretical sequential speed of CFexpress cards can be up to 8GB/s, ideal for 8K or 4K raw videos.
You can also find an equivalent format for SD, known as SD Express, but CFexpress seems more popular among camera manufacturers. This is because CFexpress offers superior speeds over XQD or SD cards. Moreover, for even better performance, the technology has already moved on from CFexpress 1.0 to 2.0. The CFexpress standard evolved in 2019 with the launch of the CFexpress 2.0 standard. This latest version is compact and includes one-lane Type A cards and a thicker Type C with four lanes. With this recent development, the original cards are known as Type B. It is expected that with the introduction of PCIe 4.0, the data transfer speeds of these cards will further increase.
Types of CFexpress Card
Similar to how there are different types of SD cards, you will also find three varieties of CFexpress cards– Types A, B, and C. Each type has a different number of PCIe data transfer lanes- the CFexpress Type A card has just one lane, Type B has two, and type C has four. Due to this reason, all three types offer different transfer speeds. The maximum theoretical transfer speed of Type A Cards is 1,000MB/s, Type B cards 2,000MB/s, and Type C cards of up to 4,000MB/s.
All three different types of CFexpress cards are physically quite different. Type A looks similar to an SD card but it is slightly smaller and thicker. CFexpress Type A is the smallest in size, measuring 20mm (width) by 28mm (length) by 2.8mm (thickness). It has one PCIe 3.0 pipeline for a maximum of 1GB/s speed. This type was first used in the Sony a7S III camera. It is expected to become popular in the coming years with the introduction of cameras with smaller form factors.
Type B is most popular because CFexpress Type B and XQD cards have the same form factor and connectors. Most high-end cameras such as Nikon Z Series and Panasonic S Series have XQD card support because it is superior to other conventional card types. It is because of the identical size of Type B and XQD that most photographers prefer Type B. It means that any camera with XQD slots will be compatible with CFexpress cards through a firmware update. The Type B cards measure 38.5mm x 29.6mm x 3.8mm and has two lanes that double the speed to 2GB/s.
The third one, Type C is similar to the size of CFast and CompactFlash cards but with faster speed. This card measure 54mm x 74mm x 4.8mm with four lanes that can provide 4GB/s maximum data transfer rate. So, far it is not used in consumer-grade cameras and likely to be used for larger professional cinema cameras.
CFexpress Type A vs. Type B vs. Type C
At present, the two formats CFexpress Type A and Type B are in use. The majority of cameras use the Type B format because it is similar to XQD cards which mean cameras compatible with XQD can also accommodate CFexpress Type B. When comparing the three types- Type A cards are the smallest while the appearance of Type B is the most ubiquitous. The first CFexpress Type A card was introduced by Sony when it launched the a7S III. Some cameras that use CFexpress card include Sony a7S III (Type A), Nikon Z6 / Z7 (Type B), Nikon D6 (Type B), Canon EOS R5 (Type B), Canon C500 Mark II (Type B), Canon EOS-1D X Mark III (Type B), and more.
Considering the brilliant speed and great performance of the most reliable CFexpress cards it makes sense why these are more expensive than a regular SD memory card. If you’re using the latest, high-end camera with features like 8K video capture and in-camera uncompressed video recording then you may consider investing in this costly memory card. However, before buying a CFexpress card, make sure the type is compatible with your camera.