Initial XQD Card Speeds

Update: fixed Lexar card write specification (it varies on size of card, apparently)

I’ve got six different kinds of XQD cards I can test. I’ve also got three different XQD card readers now, but we’re going to leave read speeds for some later date (short answer: use a USB 3.0 port with them). 

What I’m going to do is set my D5 to the worst case burst buffer scenario as I did before, then look to see what differences I find.

Let’s get right to the results:

  • Sony H Series 16GB — 58 shots (42 seconds)
  • Sony G Series 32GB — 72 shots (48 seconds)
  • Sony M Series 32GB — 50 shots (48 seconds)
  • Sony M Series 64GB — 54 shots (42 seconds)
  • Lexar 1400x 32GB — 52 shots (48 seconds)
  • Lexar 2933x 32GB — 80 shots (50 seconds)

I’ve set 12 fps, NEF+JPEG Fine Large Optimal, 14-bit Lossless Compressed, plus everything I know that influences buffer (i.e. noise reductions, lens corrections, etc.). Metering and focus are turned off so that they don’t influence the results, and a shutter speed of 1/1000 is used so that doesn’t slow the camera down.

The number of shots reported in the above chart is the number of shots before the camera stutters. The second number is the number of seconds the write-to-card indicator stayed on after the last shot in the burst was taken (+/- a second). 

The H series card is one I’ve been using with my D4 since it came out. Indeed, it may be the one that came with the camera. The G series card is the one that came with my D5, and indeed, it puts the camera in nearly the best light. 

In terms of specs, here’s what I have on these cards:

  • Sony H Series 16GB — 125MB/s read, 125MB/s write
  • Sony G Series 32GB — 400MB/s read, 350MB/s write
  • Sony M Series 32GB — 440MB/s read, 80MB/s write
  • Sony M Series 64GB — 440MB/s read, 150MB/s write
  • Lexar 1400x 32GB — 210MB/s read, 80MB/s write
  • Lexar 2933x 32GB — 440MB/s read, 400MB/s write

Sony also made an N (125/50MB/s) and S series (180MB/s). The S and H series are listed as discontinued by Sony, but the N series is also listed as discontinued by many vendors. The specs predict that the N series would be the worst performer in the D5, the S series mid-pack.

If you compare the MB/s write speeds with the maximum number of shots I got, you get this relationship:

  • 80MB/s = 50 shots
  • 80MB/s = 52 shots
  • 125MB/s = 58 shots
  • 150MB/s = 54 shots
  • 350MB/s = 72 shots
  • 400MB/s = 80 shots

Now it isn’t quite that simple. Smaller card sizes tend to write faster than larger card sizes, for example, even if the write speed is the same. Still, faster does seem to be better, all else equal (the 32GB cards).

Still, the worst worst case I can trigger is about four seconds of shooting at 12 fps. It’s hard to see how you go wrong with that. That said, you can improve that out to almost seven seconds of shooting simply by picking the fastest card.

Okay, so I know what you’re asking. What happens if I don’t test worst case, but something more “normal”? I’ll drop the added JPEG, lower quality to 12-bit NEF, and lose the in-camera corrections. I’ll just use the G Series card that came with the camera. 

Yow! I actually had to go back and check my settings on this. I got 200 shots (and it took 2 minutes for the write indicator to go off). That’s what the manual says I should get, but still, that was a dramatic enough difference that I had to double-check myself before believing it.

Bottom line, any of the XQD cards are likely to work quite well for you. The one eyebrow raiser is the long time it takes to completely clear the physical buffer to the card. That has ramifications on multiple, repeated, continuous burst shooting. Some sports don’t give you much of a break between action, some do. If you’re shooting one of the former, I’d suggest you stick to the faster cards and make sure you’re not turning something on you don’t need that lowers the buffer. If you’re only occasionally needing a long burst, or have downtime between bursts (e.g. track and field, and even some American football [but not a team coached by Chip Kelly]), then the slower cards probably don’t need to be avoided. 

So, Sony G or Lexar 2933x for you heavy handed folk, Sony M or Lexar 1400x is probably fine for the rest of you.

Updated note: About readers. The QDA-SB1 “Adapter” that comes with the card Nikon is supplying with the D5 can only read G and M series cards for some reason [it may be limited to XQD Type 2 cards, which would include some recent Lexar cards]. It’s kind of an interesting “reader” in that it can be plugged directly into a USB port or used with a cable. The other Sony XQD readers (MRW-E80 and E90) work with G, H, N, M, or S series cards, though with the G and M series cards the older E80 transfers a little slower. 

One sports shooting friend provided the following info: 692 raw images on a Lexar 2933x card loaded in 1 minute 4 seconds into his Mac laptop and Photo Mechanic via the Lexar XQD reader and USB 3.0. 

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