Despite numerous other format developments, Compact Flash has remained the memory card of choice for many of today's photography professionals. It's reliable, rugged and a good size for quick swap overs during shoots. CF is also a good deal faster than other media trying to break into the pro market. The addition of UltraDMA Mode 7 in Revision 6.0 took the format's maximum read/write speed up to 167 MBps but Sony has now managed to nudge ahead with the launch of its faster XQD S Series memory cards.

Not long after CF6.0 was unveiled, Sony jointly announced plans to develop a new format utilizing versatile PCI Express to deliver faster data transfer speeds. The new XQD format was officially launched by the Compact Flash Association late last year and Sony UK has now followed up by taking the wraps off its new "faster-than-CF" S Series cards.

The company says that its new cards offer sustained read/write transfer speeds of 168 MBps (actual speed), a gain that may well be very important indeed if you're the kind of photojournalist who aims to deliver your images to the masses before everyone else. When partnered with a Nikon D4, for instance, Sony says that the card is capable of capturing a non-stop burst of 108 RAW image files. The new card can also cut PC back-up times by over 30 percent compared to the fastest available CF cards.

A high speed driver for the MRW-E80 XQD card reader is available as a free download for both Windows and OS X from Sony UK, which allows the new memory cards to be used with Thunderbolt-enabled computers.

The first XQD S Series card out of the starting blocks will be the 64 GB format (QDS64) version later this month, with a 32 GB version (QDS32) following in September or October. It will certainly be interesting to see if the increase in transfer speed will be enough to draw professional photographers away from their beloved CF format.

From August, XQD users will be able to download a free new version of File Rescue 3.2 file recovery software that's said to be the first to support the latest AVCHD and 3D formats as well as RAW and MOV files.

Source: Sony UK