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SD Express is here! 4GB/s speeds for hi-res photos and 8K video

SD Express is here! 4GB/s speeds for hi-res photos and 8K video
(Image credit: SD Association)

Following its announcement last year, the new SD Express memory card format has been officially unveiled by the SD Association – and it promises to deliver new speed benchmarks for the SD format of up to 4GB/s. 

SD Express cards – also referred to as SD 8.0 Specification, to denote its official development designation – employs PCI Express 4.0 to deliver these astonishing speeds, while continuing to use the existing NVMe Express upper layer architecture for memory access.

As has become the norm, the cards will be available in both full-size SD Express  (the same size as your existing SD cards) and microSD Express (again, the same size as current microSD cards (opens in new tab)) form factors. Both formats will be backwards-compatible with previous SD standards – so this will effectively replace the current crop of SD cards on the market.

So what does this mean, in real terms, for photographers and videographers? Well, as megapixel counts get higher and higher, we need faster and faster memory cards to shunt all that information from the camera to the card, and then from the card to your computer. 

Obviously there are 100MP titans like the Fujifilm GFX 100 (opens in new tab), but with even APS-C cameras like the Canon EOS 90D (opens in new tab) now featuring 30MP sensors, it won't be long before most new cameras will demand faster storage to handle their RAW files.

Ditto video output. The Panasonic S1H (opens in new tab) and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K (opens in new tab) have already made 6K a reality. However, with the Canon EOS R5 (opens in new tab) set to bring 8K video to the masses this year, we're going to need seriously fast cards to handle all that data – and you can be sure that the EOS R5 will make full use of SD Express cards, to complement the lightning-fast CF Express that it also supports.

And if you shoot using the best camera drones (opens in new tab) and the best 360 cameras (opens in new tab), especially in 4K, you're going to need the speediest and smallest storage for that hi-res aerial and 360 footage – which is where microSD Express will be a game-changer.

“By dramatically increasing the speeds for SD Express we’re giving device manufacturers and system developers more storage choices,” said SDA president, Hiroyuki Sakamoto. “SD 8.0 may open even more opportunities for extra high performance solutions using removable memory cards.”

Read more: 

The best memory card for your camera in 2020: top SD, microSD, XQD & CF cards
The best memory card readers (opens in new tab): get your images on to your computer the easy way
Memory card symbols explained (opens in new tab) – how to understand the info on your new card

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James Artaius
James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.