Just In Time for Canon R3, Nikon Z9 Shipping: Best CFexpress Cards Review

Nov 9, 2021 | Accessories, Canon, L-Mount, News, Nikon, Panasonic, Reviews, Sony

It’s that time of the year. Sony, Canon and Nikon are all birthing new flagship cameras [even if one of them isn’t quite calling it that yet for fear of emasculating the user base]. Both the Canon EOS R3 and the Nikon Z9 will be using CFexpress cards, and these are new enough that not a lot of people have had an opportunity to compare them. But we’ve been geeking out with them for more than a year so you don’t need to.

After shooting with a dozen cards for more than a year and beavering away for the last few weeks, our update to the original comprehensive review of CFexpress cards was went to bed early this morning. The upshot: the card format is so fast that slight speed differences among them will mean a bit less than it used to back in the dark old SD card days. Among the faster set of cards, the Angelbird, Delkin and Wise cards provide the best bang for the buck. All three brands have two tiers of cards, with one going for the most capacity per dollar, and the other going for performance (high minimum write speeds for the most part for high bandwidth video shooters, for the most part).

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Salmon-colored columns represent cards new to the review. Gray not recommended.

The full review can be found here. A review of card readers can be found at this link.

Angelbird and Delkin have distinguished themselves with beyond-the-call service. Pergear and Lexar brands might be best avoided as of this writing.

The CFexpress standard is maturing as multiple brands take advantage of its speed. In the 20 months since the Canon R5 was released, that first hardware to use the format saw several XQD card competitors upgrade firmware to also take advantage of CFexpress. And more recently, Nikon (Z7 II CFexpress performance review here), Panasonic (review of CFexpress performance for the S1R and S1H here) and others have introduced CFexpress-first bodies that are significantly faster for input and output. The economies of scale for the CFexpress market are starting to creak forward.

Early firmware foibles have been cleared up by a series of firmware upgrades – some by camera makers, and some by card makers – and at least one done in coordination with both a card maker and a camera manufacturer. Camnostic has been lucky to be a fly on the wall during this process, testing some early releases and watching the mysterious process of Canon opting to make changes to firmware to interpret the CFexpress standard in a way that helped card makers.

We find this fascinating, and if you do too, take a look at our data-driven review of the available CFexpress cards. That will let you know which one is best for you with your own particular primary uses. Or, if you don’t find it fascinating, just take our word and go buy a 512GB Angelbird, Delkin Power or Wise card. You won’t go wrong. But you might avoid cards of lesser capacity, as brands (other than Sony) use slower components in cards of 256GB and less.

For 8K video shooters and people who feel the need for over-provisioned cards, we’ve noted that the most recent crop of high-end cards are proving the fastest yet. They’re not cheap, but newer firmware appears to be making a difference. These include the the Delkin Black 512 GB and the Wise Pro 320 GB. With updated firmware since our first review, the Angelbird XT 660 GB can be counted among that number as well. Other excellent cards include the ProGrade Cobalt series, the Lexar cards above 256 GB and the Sony Tough series.

[Most of the manufacturers reviewed allowed us to borrow cards for testing. Even better, many have been very helpful in answering questions and even providing information about the evolution of the standard as more manufacturers joined the scrum. LensRentals.com helped with many of the others. We remain very thankful for all of the time and expense invested in this broad review.]

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