Tilta Attempts Fix for Sony’s CFexpress Type A

Sep 21, 2022 | CFexpress Type A, CFexpress Type B, Memory, News, SD Cards, Sony, Stabilization

It was only a matter of Time. Sony has kept the prices of its CFexpress Type A cards so high, the card capacities so low, and the pace of third party development so scarce that Tilta has gone and developed a $675 grip that will effectively make your CFexpress Type A card slot into a slower CFexpress Type B card slot.

Tilta Exascend cfexpress type a to m.2 side storage handleYou’ll recall that the Compact Flash Association in 2019 released the 2.0 version of its CFexpress card standards that included three different sizes and bandwidths. The largest of them, with twice the throughput as CFexpress Type B cards, unfortunately has a size of a small child’s hand. Sony chose the smallest of the sizes (Type A), akin to the old SD card form factor, which unfortunately has half of the throughput capacity as the Type B cards.

Sony invented a clever trick where they could use one slot to accept both a Type A card and an SD card if reversed. With that and the fact that their Alpha range of cameras had generally better video codecs that produced smaller files made this a reasonable choice at the time.

But time is cruel. In the meantime, the CFexpress Type B became the commonly-accepted card format in pretty much all other new mirrorless cameras from the big brands. Many third parties created cards. Prices were pressured downwards. It was only recently that the price per gigabyte of storage for the average high capacity CFexpress Type B card fell below that of the average high capacity SD card, making it the most cost-efficient memory out there. The chart below is from our CFexpress review.

CFexpress Type B versus Type A versus SD UHS-II

Some third parties did start making CFexpress Type A cards, but they have all stuck to strangely consistent pricing, with non-Sony brands appearing to be allowed to offer prices only slightly lower than those of Sony.

The CFexpress Type B card – the Goldilocks of the camera industry today (review of all cards here)- is really just a glorified NVM drive with a case. Yeah, that same drive that you might stick in your video game console, or in your laptop computer. No wonder they have such economies of scale. In fact, a Turkish firm even sells a kit where you can take an existing extra NVM M.2 drive and heatsink glue it into a specially-made case. Here at Camnostic, we’ve made three of them so we could all try them out, and they may be slower than our factory-made Type B cards, but they’re a good sight faster than any Type A card.

Type A cards are physically limited in bandwidth to a single PCI Express interface, where Type B cards have two and Type C cards have 4.

So enter Tilta with its contraption. It provides a bit girthier right-hand grip, where it houses an M.2 drive, and a stiff extension that invasively sticks into the camera’s card slot. All of it attaches to the Sony camera primarily through the 1/4 threads in the base plate. The Tilta base plate also includes an Arca Swiss-style flange.

So does a $675 third party attachment to your camera to effectively change card types signal that Sony made a mistake in choosing Type A? It does not appear so for Sony. Sony sells most of the Type A cards made, and they do so at very high prices. Predicted bandwidth problems with increased video resolution have not come to pass yet, and are unlikely to in the 4k and 8k video eras. The problem Sony users face is one of capacity. The largest Type A cards are less than one seventh the size of the largest Type B cards. This appears to be the reason that the aptly-named Tilta CFexpress Type A to M.2 Side Storage Handle exists.

It is likely that future storage needs will exceed the capacity of Type A cards, but it is also true that 12k video applications that would blow past the Type A capacity are likely going to be employed by professional videographers who will be recording externally, bypassing the card slots altogether. Sony may be counting on a split in the market, with pros externally recording and the amateurs using Type A cards for photography or short-clip video.

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