SanDisk on new XQD memory card format: 'Meh'

The top two flash-memory card makers are letting Sony handle the market for the new high-end XQD format--at least for now.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Sony's new XQD flash memory card has a retail price of $229.99.
Sony's new 32GB XQD flash memory card has a retail price of $229.99. Sony

In a decision inauspicious for XQD, SanDisk is skipping over the new memory card format for high-end cameras.

"At this time, SanDisk has chosen not to productize the XQD format," SanDisk spokeswoman Wendy Vlieks told CNET News late yesterday.

The ringing non-endorsement is particularly notable since SanDisk helped create the format in the first place.

The comment also means that XQD--developed by the CompactFlash Association (CFA) as a successor to CF cards--currently lacks support from the two top-tier flash card makers. The other, Lexar, was noncommittal about XQD last week: "As a leading CFA member, Lexar has been evaluating this technology, and will continue to do so as the market develops to determine if we will offer XQD cards in the future," said Manisha Sharma, Lexar's director of product marketing for cards.

That leaves Sony as the sole XQD card supplier for now.

Sony, Nikon, and SanDisk developed XQD. "SanDisk participates in many standards bodies and has contributed to a variety of new standards that allow for options in the marketplace," SanDisk said in its statement.

This shot shows the dual CompactFlash and XQD slots of Nikon's D4 SLR. The XQD slot toward the left is significantly smaller.
This shot shows the dual CompactFlash and XQD slots of Nikon's D4 SLR. The XQD slot toward the left is significantly smaller. Nikon USA

So far the sole product that uses XQD cards is Nikon's flagship D4 SLR, a $6,000 camera body that starts shipping next month. It's a high-profile camera. But even if wildly successful, the D4 will ship in tiny volumes compared with mainstream cameras that nearly universally use SD memory cards today. Plenty of new SD cards have emerged from Lexar and SanDisk at CES this week.

There are other options beyond the D4 for XQD, whose PCI Express interface offers high-speed data writing abilities. Digital video is advancing rapidly, and demanding videographers want to record high-resolution imagery with as high a bit rate as possible. Red Digital Cinema, Canon, Sony, Nikon, and others are headed down this path.

And for more conventional cameras--successors to Canon's 5D Mark II and Nikon's D700 that are expected in coming months, for example--XQD could well make an appearance. The D4 has dual XQD and CompactFlash slots, and the XQD one is smaller and can sustain somewhat longer shooting bursts. It's hard to compete against the market dominance of SD, but it's still early days for XQD.