Here is the prediction I made last year, one day after the new CF-Express Type-A format was announced. Summary for non-Chinese readers:
- Sony has invented the XQD format almost 10 years ago
- Everyone thought it’s a dead format because nobody was using it, except Nikon. There were only a handful of Sony camcorders that can use XQD (and they’re almost extincted now), so even Sony themselves didn’t support the format that they’ve invented.
- Later Panasonic/Phase/Fuji have also joined the XQD camp. It’s safe to conclude that XQD is bundled with some of Sony’s high-end sensors. You want my sensors then you have to support XQD.
- Sony has sued every XQD manufacturer out there and monopolized the format. Nikon XQD is just rebranded Sony.
- That’s of course no good for Nikon/Panasonic/Fuji/Phase. The CF-Express standard has then be proposed to bypass XQD: it’s fully compatible with XQD so they don’t have to live under Sony’s shadow anymore.
- It all seemed to work out because the CF-X is fast and rugged and also royalty free compared to the SD cards. But after the transition from DSLR -> mirrorless a new problem has emerged: CF-X is too big. It’s basically the size of 3 SD cards. So dual CF-X means you basically have 6 SD cards inserted in your tiny mirrorless body, which is just crazy. That’s why Nikon Z7 only has one CF-X slot, and why Panasonic S series/Canon R5 are using mixed card slots (1 CF-X + 1 SD). Those are already huge cameras yet they are still not big enough to accommodate 2 CF-X.
- Therefore I predicted that Sony is going to ignore CF-X type-B, and turn to either the much smaller yet still fast CF-X type-A or the new SD-Express (which is a proprietary format, so less likely).
And now it’s confirmed that A7S3 does support type-A.
So basically Sony has dug a huge trap for everyone to jump in.
Now all the type-B brands are in the dilemma that they either use this mixed strategy forever (which totally defies the purpose of dual card slots), or beef up the camera size furthermore to implement two type-B, or also turn to the type-A and piss off their customer who has spent good money on the type-B. Neither is a good solution. At the end of day they have to yield to type-A. It’s just a matter of time. Meanwhile, not only that Sony doesn’t have to worry about the camera size, but they also managed to design a card slot that fits both SD and type-A, providing maximum compatibility, flexibility, and smooth transition for their clients. Plus they can charge ridiculous price for the type-A card when they are alone on the market (not for long though). That’s just fucking brilliant.
What I failed to predict is that I thought Canon is smart enough to stay away from type-B as well, because Canon also makes sensors. Their balls are not in Sony’s hands. Well they do have a good excuse: unlike Sony, they don’t have the capability to manufacture their own cards, so they can only rely on a 3rd party manufacturer, which sounds quite risky and troublesome. But it’s not entirely impossible either. I guess Canon just doesn’t have that kind of vision and confidence to lead the card format war.
Speaking of which, it’s really amusing to see that Sony has finally announce the forever awaited type-A equipped A7SIII only after Canon has stepped firmly inside the type-B trap. Which assembles very similarly to announcing the mic-in equipped RX100M7 to render Canon’s new Powershot G series obsolete. They are always throwing the perfect counter punch at the right time that I can’t stop fabricating some 3D chess conspiracy theory in my mind.
If we get realistic then I don’t believe whoever works for Sony really has the intellectual power to make such a grand XQD scheme to entrap all their competitors after 10 years. What we are witnessing now is probably just the raw power of having all the core technologies and components built in-house, so that Sony can feed craps like XQD to their opponents and also enjoy the freedom of choosing what kind of products they want to make. And I’m happy that Sony cares about the camera size so much that they jump start a royalty-free format (which is not Sony’s typical style at all) from ground zero. Kudos!
There is no need to buy type-A cards at the moment because it’s gonna be expensive for sure (unless you desperately need some of A7SIII’s features). I wouldn’t invest any money on new SD cards either. I believe that we are going to see the same card slot on Sony’s next full frame camera unless it’s too entry level, because Sony also needs to promote the new format. SD cards had its days but after few years it’s gonna be outdated for sure.
The new A7SIII looks exciting but it’s basically an open book that everyone can read, so I won’t discuss it a lot. All I hope for is that the following Sony cameras like A7IV can also get some tastes of A7SIII’s wonderful features!