Since the recent new camera announcements at and just prior to Photokina 2018, there have been an untold number of discussions, videos, and so on about the terrible decisions that the camera manufacturers have made to only include one memory slot in their new mirrorless cameras.
I am currently in the process of testing and reviewing the Nikon Z7 mirrorless camera, which was released with a single card slot. As I talk with other photographers about it, give my opinion and get theirs, the subject of the single slot will invariably come up.
So let’s get into it. First, SD cards are several things. They have been the “standard” card of choice for manufacturers for several years now. Second, In that time the technology of them has been developed from a thing that had a few GB of memory to a beast that can store upwards of 256GB. The reliability of that technology has, in my opinion, also improved substantially. Third, the one thing that has gone virtually unchanged throughout this time is the physical durability. The construction of these cards has become its “achilles heel”. It is for that reason, I believe, that everyone is losing their collective minds over a camera with a single slot.
We all know what a SD card looks like. It’s two very thin pieces of plastic. Inside those pieces of plastic is voodoo magic (a circuit board with a memory chip) which allows us to store our precious images. Two thin pieces of plastic between our photos and the dangers of the outside world? What are we thinking? I have heard stories and read reviews of users of these cards. Photographers complain about the card bending upon insertion to the camera. Cards get crushed in their camera bag. They mysteriously fall apart on their own through no fault of the user. The obvious solution to these problems is more card slots in the camera. Yeah, that’s what we need, more of these flimsy suicidal pieces of junk in our cameras. That’ll fix it.
The Next Generation of Cards
Let’s face it, we have outgrown the SD card. It has served us for many years but it’s time to move on. Move on to what you ask? The XQD card, that’s what. Look at one of these and you’ll see a device that has thicker plastic and actual sheet metal construction. But that is just the start. These little guys are packed with new technology. Fresh voodoo magic. Who doesn’t want that? I want that. The read/write speeds of these cards is so much faster right out of the gate and I, for one, cannot wait to see how that develops over the next few years. But this new construction and memory system come at a price. The price is size. It is roughly 1.5 to 2 times thicker that our beloved SD card.
In comes the mirrorless camera with its promise of a smaller and lighter future. No more lugging around 742 pounds of DSLR bodies and lenses. Great! But hold on just a minute. What’s that you say? The sensor is only half the size of my full frame DSLR? What’s it called? Micro four thirds? What does that even mean? Yeah okay that’ll be fine as long as it’s small and light and I can take video with it. And who wouldn’t like lenses that cost a fraction of the DSLR lenses. Enter from stage left Sony and Fuji Film with their full frame and crop sensor mirrorless cameras. Still kind of small and light. Who would want that? Apparently a lot of people. Which brings us to today. Camera manufacturers are releasing full frame mirrorless cameras into the wild all over the place. Even Canon and Nikon. Even more surprising is Panasonic/Lumix who led the way with micro four thirds.
How many card slots do you really need?
So what should we have in these cameras, these new full frame mirrorless cameras that we still want to be small and light? I know, three SD cards. No, maybe four so I can have several backups. Yeah that’ll make feel safe. No! You put the fastest, most robustly constructed card with the latest technology for storage. The XQD card with its thick plastic and metal case and read/write speeds in the neighborhood of 400MB/s. Of course you would. But as with anything there comes a price. Space is that price. In order to build you a camera that is small enough and light enough that space required to put more than one XQD card in the body just isn’t there. Wait! I have an idea. How about we put a SD card slot next to the XQD slot and then I can use it for a backup? Why would you want unreliable, flimsy, self destructive SD card as a backup to a robust XQD card? You wouldn’t.
Relax people. One memory card is not the end of the world. It is a sign that maybe, just maybe we no longer need multiple cards to protect us from an unreliable device.