CFexpress is now the memory card format of choice for professional cameras, as the best CFexpress cards are significantly faster than even UHS-II SD cards. Evolving from the XQD card format, CFexpress Type B cards share the same outer design as XQD cards, but pack faster memory inside, making them some of the fastest memory cards available today. Almost all cameras that originally supported XQD cards have now been firmware-updated to also work with CFexpress Type B cards, so cameras like the Nikon Z6 and Z7 are no longer restricted to XQD cards alone.
Sony has muddied the CFexpress waters by bring to market CFexpress Type A cards (yup, A comes before B, and yet we got Type B cards first - confusing, isn't it!). The Type A CFexpress card variant is physically smaller than the Type B standard, and therefore you can't use a Type A card in a camera designed for XQD/CFexpress Type B cards. You wouldn't really want to though, as the drawback of CFexpress Type A's compactness is a reduction in read/write speed, compared to Type B cards. At present, very few cameras use CFexpress Type A cards: most notably the Sony A1 and A7S III.
Both Type A and Type B CFexpress formats are based around the same super-fast PCI express Gen3 interface and NVMe 1.3 technology, much like the best portable SSDs. However, they differ in the amount of PCIe data transfer lanes available, with Type A cards using one PCIe lane for a theoretical maximum 1000MB/s data bandwidth, whereas Type B cards have 2 lanes allowing for 2000MB/s max speeds.
CFexpress Type A vs Type B
|Type A||Type B|
|Dimensions:||20mm x 28mm x 2.8mm||38.5mm x 29.8mm x 3.8mm|
|PCIe interface:||Gen3, 1 lane||Gen3, 2 lanes|
|Maximum theoretical performance:||1000MB/s||2000MB/s|
Here we're listing the best CFexpress Type B and Type A cards available right now. Don't expect to find any cheap bargain buys like you can with SD cards - CFexpress is still a premium card format, and therefore commands premium prices. But you can rest easy knowing all the cards on this list offer top-notch performance and will do justice to your camera.
The best CFexpress Type B cards in 2021
ProGrade Digital was one of the first companies to champion the CFexpress format, even before cameras supported it. Its top-of-the-range Cobalt range of CFexpress Type B cards set new standards for CFexpress performance. Headline performance stats of 1700MB/s read and 1500MB/s write rates are certainly respectable, but rival cards can match or even slightly exceed that. However, where the Cobalt cards really shine is that ProGrade doesn't just advertise their peak read/write speeds, it actually guarantees the minimum sustained write speed (host device permitting). In this case, that's 1400MB/s - just 100MB/s shy of the 1500MB/s max write rate, which is hugely impressive. Two capacities are offered - 325GB and 650GB - and both are 'reassuringly' expensive for their size, but when has top performance ever been cheap?
Integral's UltimaPro X2 CFexpress card stands out by offering stunning performance at a price that's appreciably less than all its rivals. Despite it costing less than the competition, you get 1700MB/s max read and 1600MB/s max write rates, which are some of the fastest on the market. Is this all too good to be true? Well, unlike some more premium CFexpress cards, minimum write rates aren't specified, but these are minor quibbles with what's otherwise the best value CFexpress card you can buy right now – and comes in a huge range of capacity options from 64GB right up to 2TB.
Manfrotto isn't necessarily a brand you'd associate with memory cards, but it's strong reputation in other areas of photographic equipment shines through here, too. With read speeds of up to 1730MB/s and write performance hitting 1540MB/s, this is one of the fastest CFexpress cards on the market, making it suitable for pretty much any photo or video task, including 8K shooting or high frame rate 4K recording. It's a pity capacities are limited to 128GB or 256GB variants, but otherwise there's little to complain about here.
Boasting max read/write speeds of 1730/1540MB/s respectively, you'll be hard-pressed to find a faster CFexpress card. What's more, with capacities ranging from 128GB right up to a humongous 2TB, there's sure to be a Delkin Power CFexpress card to suit your storage needs and budget. What's more, with Delkin being a premium brand for enthusiasts, its CFexpress cards are backed by a lifetime warranty and a stunning 48-hour card replacement service in the US and Europe - impressive stuff, and valuable peace of mind for working pro shooters.
Compared to ProGrade's top-end Cobalt CFexpress cards, the cheaper Gold product line looks very tempting, as they're rated for the same 1700MB/s max read speed, and their 1400MB/s max write rate is just 100MB/s down on the Cobalt. However, while ProGrade rate the minimum sustained write speed of the Cobalt at 1400MB/s, the Gold version is guaranteed for just 400MB/s - significantly less. There are more capacity options though - 128GB to 1TB, and pricing of the Gold cards is a little more palatable than the Cobalt range.
SanDisk's Extreme PRO memory cards are often class-leading, but in the CFexpress sector SanDisk is up against some intense - and faster - competition. Available in 64-512GB capacities, read speeds to out at an impressive 1700MB/s, and write rates a decent 1400MB/s. However, those speeds only apply to the top 512GB card. Go for the 256GB or 128GB versions and peak write speeds drop to 1200MB/s, though this is still plenty fast enough for most scenarios. However, you'd be wise to avoid the base 64GB card, as it is only rated for 1500/800MB/s read/write speeds, which is significantly slower than most competing cards.
Lexar Professional CFexpress cards can be had in 64-512GB flavors, and unlike SanDisk's competing Extreme Pro CFexpress cards, all capacities have the same speed rating, so you don't need to pay up for the top capacity option to get top speed. But, while a top read speed of 1750MB/s across all capacities is mighty impressive, the 1000MB/s rated max write speed is more modest, making this one of the slower CFexpress cards you can buy in terms of write performance. Even so, it's unlikely this would cause any slowdowns or real-world shooting issues.
In our testing we were able to successfully max out the card's 1000MB/s write speed, though could only manage 1044MB/s read speed. That's a long way short of the 1750MB/s Lexar claims, but the shortfall is almost certainly due to testing with Lexar's Professional CFexpress USB 3.1 Reader, as the reader's USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface only has a theoretical max speed of 1250MB/s, thereby bottlenecking our Thunderbolt 3 connection.
The best CFexpress Type A cards
CFexpress Type A cards are a rarity right now, being supported by very few Sony cameras, so it's no surprise Sony has a monopoly on the Type A card market. Though the Type A standard suggests a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 1000MB/s, Sony's cards are capable of 800MB/s read and 700MB/s write. However, that is more than twice as fast as a top-end UHS-II SD card, and should be fast enough for shooting 4K 120p high bit rate video. Sony's CFexpress Type A cards are also VPG400-compliant (video performance guarantee), ensuring stable video recording at 400MB/s, and are also claimed to have increased bend and impact resistance, as well as IP57-rated water and dust resistance - hence Sony's 'Tough' branding. Two capacity options are available - 80GB, and 160GB - and both are expensive for the storage you get, but until the other companies release competing Type A cards, Sony can pretty much charge what it wants!