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Camera Accessories

Is XQD down and out already?

Farewell, you crazy flash memory format. XQD could be on its last legs, thanks to a lack of industry support and manufacturers throwing their weight behind other competing cards.

Poor old XQD. It seems like we never even knew you.

An XQD card in the only current camera that supports it, the Nikon D4. (Credit: Nikon)

If the acronym XQD is as foreign to you as a randomly generated bunch of letters, you're not alone. When it was announced in 2010, the format was supposed to herald in a new era of flash memory. Faster data-transfer speeds was the biggest calling card, along with a new form factor to differentiate it from industry stalwarts CompactFlash and SD. We still have no idea what XQD actually stands for, if anything.

Memory cards are, admittedly, not the most exciting things to talk about in the photographic industry. However, from the start, XQD looked like it was trying a little too hard to make a big splash in a small pond.

Nikon, Sony and SanDisk were involved in proposing the format, while Canon threw its weight behind endorsing it after the CompactFlash Association announced it officially.

Since then, hardly a peep has been heard about the format. With all the major camera announcements done and dusted for 2012, there's still only one camera on the market that uses the format, the Nikon D4. Even then, it also has an additional CF card slot for photographers.

Sony is the only manufacturer who currently offers an XQD card for sale, holding (for now) a monopoly over the market. Lexar has thrown its hat in the ring, saying that it will release cards soon, but nothing has eventuated as yet.

Funnily enough, in the recent product announcements from Sony, including its range of high-end cameras and camcorders, there wasn't an XQD slot in sight.

Even though it helped propose XQD, SanDisk has gone on record to state that it won't be producing any cards. Instead, the company will focus on developing CFast 2.0, a successor of sorts to CompactFlash, which has already garnered support from Canon and Phase One.

Both XQD and CFast 2.0 formats are not backwards compatible with any cameras or readers on the market, which means that photographers will have to invest in a whole new ecosystem should new cameras enter into the market using either format.

For the time being, it looks like XQD is out before we even had a chance to experience its benefits.

Perhaps it's telling that Australian photographers weren't able to get their hands on the card locally until August this year. The Nikon D4 was available from late February. That's a pretty big gap, and wouldn't engender the fledgling format to professional photographers who would have a cache of CF cards anyway.

The big winner in the flash memory battle looks to be the ubiquitous SD. For the majority of applications, including high-end video work, SD does just fine. Sure, it's not considered as durable as CompactFlash, but it's smaller, generally a lot cheaper and compatible with a range of devices that already have card slots built-in, like laptops and TVs.

For now, we say farewell, but not goodbye, to the XQD. We really wanted to get to know you.