Lexar announces its first XQD memory cards

Photographers using the newer high-end flash memory format now have another supplier besides Sony for the cards. Also: a big, fast SDXC card for a big, fat price.

Lexar's Professional XQD USB 3.0 Reader for reading XQD flash memory cards
Lexar's Professional XQD USB 3.0 Reader for reading XQD flash memory cards Lexar

Nikon photography pros will be happy to know there's a major new supplier of XQD flash-memory cards: Lexar.

Lexar's 64GB XQD flash memory card
Lexar's 64GB XQD flash memory card Lexar

They might not be so happy about the price for the new high-end format: a 1100X 64GB model costs $580, and a 32GB model costs $300. At CES today, the Micron subsidiary also announced a $45 USB 3.0 card reader for the new format.

Nikon's flagship D4 SLR uses the XQD cards, which before were available only from Sony. Lexar's 1100X models guarantee a 168MB/sec read speed, though write speeds are somewhat lower.

XQD is one of two formats vying to be the replacement for the venerable CompactFlash. Perversely, the CompactFlash Association is overseeing standardization of both. Nikon signed up for XQD, which is based on the PCI Express data-transfer technology, but Canon signed up for CFast 2.0, which uses the Serial ATA data-transfer technology.

Having two high-end flash card formats means the market is fragmented, making it harder for photographers to switch between camera models or use multiple brands. It also means shipment volumes of either format will be lower than if there were a unified standard, which typically translates into lower availability and higher cost.

Lexar's top rival, SanDisk, is making CFast 2.0 cards but not XQD cards.

Meanwhile, SD card is the victor of the mainstream flash-card market.

That victory doesn't mean SD is immune from stratospherically priced options for buyers who need to keep up with 3D video or other high-throughput demands, though.

Also at CES, Lexar announced new high-performance SD cards. The Lexar Professional 600x SDXC UHS-I card comes in a 256GB size that costs $1,000.

Lexar's 256GB Professional 600x SDXC UHS-I flash memory card
Lexar's 256GB Professional 600x SDXC UHS-I flash memory card Lexar
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