Go V90 Go!

Since my work usually starts once the shooting stops, I’m not the typical person to review memory cards. But as turnaround times on various projects get shorter and shorter, and as I venture out into the field for on-set rough cuts or in-the-field finishing, I’ve come to appreciate that the speed of data transfer from camera cards can be important. (Something I don’t need to remind DITs.)

At NAB in April I discovered the ProGrade Digital folks displaying their new SDXC UHS-II, U3, Class 10 V90 memory card. To keep this quick look short and to the point, I’ll leave the dissection of the name to my next post. For now, I’d like to talk about the company.

When I say I discovered the new card, I should also admit I discovered ProGrade Digital. As memory card companies get swallowed up by other companies and are either merged into the bigger entity or closed entirely, seeking out cards has become, shall we say, “interesting.”

ProGrade Digital sprang up out of all that upheaval, created by former executives from Lexar and Sandisk. Their focus is strictly on professionals in the cinema/video and photo space.

What makes ProGrade Digital’s market interesting to me is that when I need to buy a card, I don’t have to wade through a bunch of marketing tags that differentiate a company’s “Pro” cards from their “Consumer” cards. And by limiting the product line, ProGrade Digital can truly focus on this industry’s needs.

Proof of this Pro emphasis was evident to me when they explained that they test every card in the factory right down to every memory location on the card. They don’t just test a batch. From a support standpoint, I like that they etch a serial number on each card so they can track their quality control all the way through to the user.

Back to the card. When people shop for cards, the first things they want to know are the read and write speeds. As someone focused on post, I concentrate on the read speed and the build. Will a card hold up to being inserted and removed from cameras and readers?

While write speed is important, the true test is whether it works with the camera you’re using. Most camera manufacturers don’t specify write speed (although you might imply something from the bitrate of the codec they’re using), they indicate “speed class.” So rather than looking at MB/sec you ask, “Does the speed class specified by the camera manufacturer match the card?”

For my testing, I used a Sony A7S II. I shot at UHD resolution at 30p and also at HD and 120p. I picked these settings because they push the data rate to 100Mbps. The card worked as expected.

While I don’t look at specific write speeds, I do pay attention to read speeds. ProGrade has a dual-slot reader (SD and CFast) that has a USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface. With that reader connected to a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, I was able to get consistent 235-239MB/s read speeds. Net: it was fast.

The build on the card and the reader seem like they’ll handle abuse. (The week before testing the ProGrade card, I used another manufacturer’s card. The plastic between two of the contacts just peeled back when I put the card into a laptop slot.)

After testing for a week, I’ve come to the conclusion that the ProGrade cards figuratively and literally fit the right slot. As a professional who looks for performance from a supplier who understands my needs, I found this to be a great choice. While I’m not out there shooting video, I’ll be picking up a few for my still and time-lapse shooting knowing that I’m putting a card I can rely on in my workflow.

The card is offered in 64 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB sizes and is available directly from ProGrade’s website and from a few online sources.