Best-in-class digital memory cards.

In my pursuit of the “ultimate camera package,” I have acquired two amazing CFexpress cards to accompany my Canon R5 on jobs – the ProGrade Digital CFexpress 2.0 Memory Card 1700. There are two versions – Cobalt and Gold – which are both designed to provide uninterrupted, cinematic capture of RAW 4K or 6K video content. These cards boast best-in-class performance and the promise that users can capture video with confidence. With that in mind, I wanted to take a closer look at them and really test them out. 

DETAILS

ProGrade Digital has four different types of CFexpress Type B Cards – 1600 Cobalt and Gold and 1700 Cobalt and Gold. They are aptly named because the number that’s included indicates what their read rate is. For example, the 1600 Cobalt has a read rate up to 1600 MB/s. Both the 1600 Cobalt and Gold versions are optimized for 4K, UHD, high bit rate MPEG-4 and Raw Video while the 1700 versions of those cards are also optimized for 8K, 6K, and 5K video recording. The 1700 Cobalt and Gold cards are the ones we are focusing on in this review. 

PROGRADE DIGITAL CFEXPRESS TYPE B CARD AND DUAL-SLOT CARD READER

ProGrade Digital was one of the first product designers to offer CFexpress cards to consumers. In 2018, they announced they would begin the product and sale of the cards with the Type-B form factor, which is the same as XQD. ProGrade puts the cards through rigorous quality tests to ensure they have the lowest possible field failure rate. One of ProGrade’s testing metrics is to verify that the cards work in thousands of different camera models. All CFexpress cards come equipped with Refresh Pro, a tool that performs two functions – health monitoring and sanitizing. This helps to keep your cards in the best health possible. 

CFexpress Card – 1700 CobaltCFexpress Card – 1700 Gold
CAPACITY325GB / 650GB128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
READ SPEEDUp to 1700MB/sUp to 1700MB/s
WRITE SPEEDUp to 1500MB/sUp to 1400MB/s
FORM FACTORCFexpress Type-B CardsCFexpress Type-B Cards
DIMENSIONSType B: 29.6mm x 38.5mm x 3.8mmType B: 29.6mm x 38.5mm x 3.8mm
OPERATING TEMPERATURE-10°C to 70°C-10°C to 70°C
STORING TEMPERATURE-20C to 85C-20C to 85C
SAVE BATTERYLow power consumption for extended battery life when recording continuous video.Low power consumption for extended battery life when recording continuous video.
WARRANTY3-year warranty3-year warranty

In order to take advantage of the most efficient workflows possible, you will need to incorporate the Dual-Slot CFexpress & SD card reader. It can transfer both cards simultaneously at maximum transfer speeds of up to 1.25 GB/s. 

PROGRADE DIGITAL CFEXPRESS TYPE B CARD AND DUAL-SLOT CARD READER

USER EXPERIENCE

One of the first things you notice about these cards is their size. They are smaller than a standard CompactFlash card, which I was used to from my Canon 5D Mark IV, but larger than a standard SD Card. The body is metal and when it gets warmed up – say from shooting long-form video or 8K on the Canon R5 – it cools off quickly. When you place it into the camera there is a nice bump and click that lets you know you have it in the right place. When you insert the card into a card reader, it just snaps into place. 

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As far as testing goes, I accomplished a few different tasks to test the cards’ battle-readiness. First, I used the cards to record some videos. The goal was to not only be able to test how well the camera was recording video thanks to the CFexpress cards but also be able to test the transfer speed of the card. I recorded both 4K and 8K video clips onto the card and thought the camera (Canon R5) remained responsive throughout the process. This told me that it wasn’t having any issues capturing the footage onto the card. I never saw any issues with transferring files off of the cards either. 

PROGRADE DIGITAL CFEXPRESS TYPE B CARD AND DUAL-SLOT CARD READER

Once those tests were completed, I ran the cards through a series of tests using two pieces of utility software – Blackmagic Disk Speed Test and AJA System Test Lite. Both applications are designed to stress test a disk, hard drive, or in this case, a card to see how it will work under certain conditions. I  used a 13-inch MacBook Pro with the ProGrade Dual-Slot CFexpress reader attached with a USB-C cable to complete the tests. The results are shown in the chart below. The final results were far below the specs stated for the CFExpress card, which is at least 1700 MB/s READ and 1400 MB/s WRITE. It is possible that the read/write speed was slowed down while testing by the USB 3.1 Gen 2 connection between the reader and the computer.

CFexpress Card – 1700 CobaltCFexpress Card – 1700 Gold
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test879.5 MB/s write | 850.1 MB/s read404.6 MB/s write | 786.1 MB/s read
AJA System Test Lite – 1920×1080 HD-1080P570 MB/s write | 593 MB/s read508 MB/s write | 464 MB/s read
AJA System Test Lite – 4096×3112 4K-Full823 MB/s write | 860 MB/s read796 MB/s write | 636 MB/s read
AJA System Test Lite – 5120×2700 5K Red858 MB/s write | 868 MB/s read755 MB/s write | 631 MB/s read
PROGRADE DIGITAL CFEXPRESS TYPE B CARD AND DUAL-SLOT CARD READER

CONCLUSION

I have been incredibly impressed with the performance of the CFexpress cards from ProGrade. When I moved to the Canon EOS-R from my Canon 5D Mark IV, I immediately missed the functionality of having dual cards built into the camera. Now that I have the Canon R5, that issue has been remedied and I now have access to these incredibly fast and efficient cards from ProGrade. The expense of these cards doesn’t go unnoticed. The Gold version of the card starts at $164.99 for the 128GB size and the Cobalt edition starts at $419.99 for the 325GB capacity. The two sizes/types of CFexpress cards I have total around $950 – and that’s just for memory cards. I think it’s a worthwhile investment if you are using your camera for video projects. These cards provide an efficient workflow that is hard to beat. 

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