Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Product announcement: I am now using ProGrade Digital memory cards and readers

Today is a big day for me. It is the day that I tell you all that I am now using ProGrade Digital memory cards and readers.

As many of your know, I spent almost 12 years as the Director of Marketing at Lexar. Not only was I involved in the day-to-day marketing activities, but I also worked closely with the product teams in the development of new products. For all those years, I was also the face to the company, doing most of the videos, presentations and outbound evangelism.

Then in June of 2016, I decided that my photo business was way more fun than the corporate world and had grown too big for me to do both jobs. I retired from Lexar to dedicate myself full-time to photography.  I was still close with everyone at the company and still an avid user of the products.

Then, with no warning, on June 26th of 2017, Micron (the parent company of Lexar) announced that they were going to close down the Lexar division. I was devastated for all of my friends at the company, but also worried about which memory products I would use in the future. Spending more than a decade in the memory business makes me really picky about the quality of cards that I put in my camera.

As Lexar was being disbanded, and then subsequently sold, I started looking at my options. And many of you have been emailing me asking which cards I would be using. It was about that time that a couple of the ex-Lexar execs told me that they were looking into starting their own company focusing exclusively on cards and readers for the professional user. They would not be focusing on USB drives or consumer-grade products, which could be a distraction for them. They wanted to focus solely on serving the professional photographer, cinematographer and videographer. That was sure intriguing!

A couple of months later, ProGrade Digital was born.

I still was not ready to make a decision on which products I would use. Why? Because at this point, neither ProGrade Digital or the new Lexar (under parent company LongSys) were making products. Even though I knew most of the people at both companies, I wanted to test their products and see their roadmaps to know which made more sense to me (and all of you).

I was talking to both companies (and others) and testing products. While I was shooting the Olympics in PyeongChang, I was using some of my previous Lexar cards and a stash of new ProGrade Digital cards too. That was the perfect testing ground for putting a lot of wear and tear on the cards.

Alas, after 6 months of evaluating numerous memory card companies, I have landed on ProGrade Digital as my standard cards and readers going forward.

Here is why I chose ProGrade Digital products:

Card Quality


The quality of the memory card is and always will be the most important factor to me. The memory cards need to be reliable and withstand a lot of abuse. The ProGrade Digital cards are tested more than any other card I have seen, helping me feel good that they will work from day one and protect me from data loss.

The first two cards being shipped from ProGrade Digital are really fast SDXC UHS-II cards and the even faster CFast 2.0 formats. They range in capacity from 64GB to 512GB, which definitely covers the need of professional and serious amateur photographers.

Reader Quality



Not only am I a fan of the ProGrade Digital cards, but I am super excited about their card reader. From my past experience at Lexar, I know that card readers are as important as the cards themselves. They have their own controllers and determine the quality and speed of the data transfer. This reader is well built and includes two card slots which I use every day (the SD card from my Canon 5D Mark IV and the CFast card from my Canon 1D X Mark II) in one device.

Both card slots use the latest in high-speed standards, the SD slot supports UHS-II and the CFast slot takes advantage of the fast data throughput of the super fast cards. The reader has a USB-C port on the back and uses USB 3.1 for very fast data transfers. The reader comes with both a USB-C to USB-C cable and a USB-A to USB-C cable so that it can be easily connected to older and newer devices.


Highly reactive company

In December, I was over at the new offices for ProGrade Digital and was talking to Wes Brewer (CEO and former head of Lexar). He was showing me a prototype of the reader and I gave him my feedback. Along with the technology input I had for him, I also told him that I would love it if there was an easy way to attach the reader to my laptop or other surface. I am downloading to my laptop in the field all the time and I hate having readers hanging from my computer. Many sports photographers will velcro their readers to the top of their laptops.

A month later I got a call from Wes asking me to stop by the office again. At that point, he showed me a new prototype of the reader which used a magnet on the bottom of the reader and a metal plate which could be placed anywhere. I played with it and loved it!


I would have killed for this at the Olympics, but they were not ready for prime time yet. But recently I received a finished reader and a couple of the metal plates. I put one of the plates on my Macbook Pro to give it a try.


It is a simple but elegant solution that really works. It also shows that the small team at ProGrade Digital is listening to my feedback and can implement ideas quickly!


I put a second metal plate under the shelf in my office and can stick the reader there too. (I just ordered a couple of longer USB cables so that I can mount a couple ProGrade readers in this location and run the cables along the wood to make it cleaner.)

Not only can the reader easily be stuck to different surfaces, they can stick to each other and stacked.

Might there be a hub for these readers as well? Nothing has been announced by the company, but the rumors are out there.  I would not be surprised if you saw a multi-port hub for these readers some time this year. I would love that!



Pricing

If I am going to recommend products to all of you, I need to feel good doing so. Even though I spent a lot of time evaluating the products and was really impressed, I had no idea how expensive these cards and readers would be. Being a small company with low overhead, I was hoping that this would translate to aggressively priced products. I asked them about this, but at the time the pricing was still unknown. Well...I am happy to say that these cards have high quality and low prices. I just did a scan of the cards on the B&H web site and here is what I found.

For 64GB SD UHS-II cards, here is what I found:

* SanDisk $119
* Lexar $119
* ProGrade Digital Two pack $99

For 256GB CFast cards, here is what I found:

* SanDisk $679
* Lexar $649
* ProGrade Digital $349

They are almost half the price of the other major name brand cards in the market. Sure, there are other brands and prices similar to or lower than these cards, but I am only comparing the brands that I really trust.

The Future

ProGrade Digital does not make CompactFlash cards, and since these cards are basically old technology, I doubt they ever will. For my CF needs, I will continue to use my older Lexar cards, The range of products is fairly limited today, but I know that ProGrade is working on a lot of very cool products moving forward. And most importantly to me, they are looking forward and developing products for future technology.

What is the next big card format for higher-end digital cameras? That is the big question. But it sure looks like CFexpress will win out. This new card format would be able to transfer data at crazy fast speeds that would make CFast cards look slow. My hope is that Canon, Nikon and others will adopt this technology and create a widely used standard for all of us once again.

Give them a try

If you want to give these new cards a try, I worked out a deal with the people at ProGrade Digital. If you are one of the first 50 people to purchase using this link you can get 10% off their cards and readers.

You can also click here to get the discount:

http://bit.ly/ProGradeCable

or when on their site, you can enter the code "ProGradeCable" for the discount.

Conclusion

After using Lexar products and being a part of that business for so long, it was not an easy decision to switch brands. But knowing the people behind this new company and the stringent demands that they are putting on the product manufacturing, I know that this is a great choice.

I know that many of you started using Lexar products based on my recommendation. Now, after me doing a lot of testing and real-world shooting on ProGrade Digital products, I think you will be happy to rely on these as well. And you will save some money.


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3 comments:

Nancy Gyes said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the update. May I assume that these cards fit where XQD cards normally are used? There is no mention of compatability.

Thank you,

Nancy Gyes

Michael Rogers said...

Jeff
Can you check with your sources and see if they will be producing XQD cards. If not what is the reason. Lexar made great XQD cards.

Unknown said...

Jeff- I ordered 2 SD cards last week and they arrived on Saturday...with a hand-written note from ProGrade...pretty nice. I haven't tried them yet , but will do so this weekend in my 7D Mk II (to shoot indoor volleyball)...then they'll move to my new travel camera. Thanks for the heads-up; I was a very happy Lexar user so I'm pleased to see ProGrade take over.