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ProGrade Digital Is The Memory Card Company Borne From Lexar & Built For Pros

By Kishore Sawh on February 15th 2018

In June of 2017, shortly after celebrating their 20th anniversary, Lexar, a pillar of the photographic storage world, with its CF cards probably the ubiquitous cards found in pro user’s bags, announced it was bringing the curtain down.

Jay Hawkins, then-consumer products group vice president at Lexar’s Parent company, Micron Technology Inc., put out a brief and to-the-point statement announcing the decision, and among the thank you’s and and explanations of adjusting focus to be more for enterprise, he left a glimmer of hope when he said, and I quote:

Micron is exploring opportunities to sell all or part of the Lexar business.”

That was what most of us wanted to hear. We aren’t so much loyal to brands as so much as we are in want of what they provide. We wanted to know that products and service we associated with Lexar had a future. And it seems, in a sense, that future has materialized. Just not in the way we thought it might.

And to be clear, I’m not speaking about Longsys acquiring the Lexar trademark and branding rights from Micron. Instead I’m speaking of ProGrade Digital, which was borne of Lexar execs and technical leaders.

And their mission:

“Our goal is to be the professional’s source for top performing, professional grade memory cards and workflow solutions,” says Wes Brewer, founder and CEO of ProGrade Digital. “We will be committed to focusing our efforts on the digital imaging pro who is meticulous about his equipment and workflow—delivering the best service, plus best product quality and reliability.”

Well, to the working pro those few lines are just like the opening bars to a Louis Armstrong song – pure delight.

ProGrade Digital Products

So what’s on tap? At this time there are CFast 2.0 cards and SDXC UHS-II U3 cards (each with 3 variants in capacity), and a CFast & SD Dual Slot Workflow Reader.

Memory Card Key Features

  • Professional-level capacities for CFast 2.0 and SDXC UHS-II memory cards
  • Optimized controllers specifically designed for use in professional-grade cameras
  • Rigorous full-card testing with serialized tracking of key components and manufacturing data for the highest quality control
  • Component-level testing down to individual memory chips for optimal quality
  • 3-year warranty

Card Reader Key Features

  • Dual slot reader for CFast 2.0 and SDXC UHS-II card formats
  • USB 3.1 Gen. 2 transfer speed of up to 10Gb/second
  • Supports concurrent full-speed flow of data from cards in each slot
  • Portable and compact
  • Includes two 18” connection cables: one for Type A to Type C and one for Type C to Type C
  • Magnetized reader bottom firmly connects reader to laptop (using included metal mounting plate)
  • 2-year warranty

All of the above is exciting, and for that there’s a price to be paid. CFast cards have always been expensive, but but there’s more to it with ProGrade Digital.

One of the ways they vary from other manufacturers (as per print) is in the lengths to which they go to ensure each card is individually tested, all the way down to the individual memory chip. This process and method is part of their effort to get to a point of ‘zero failure’ in the field, but that kind of approach is beyond that of other manufacturers. The company claims that by the time their cards hit shelves, “…they have been tested for XX hours, so you have the highest level of assurance that your card will perform flawlessly.” This is all the more surprising when considering the timeline of all of this.

[REWIND: IPS Photography | 17 Pros Share Their Challenges and How to Overcome Them]

The company is still in its infancy, and as such rollout will be staggered. The cards will hit North American shelves first, but no doubt a more global spread will come in the near future as demand would probably dictate. We haven’t had a chance to spend time with the cards at this point, but friend and colleague, Jaron Schneider at Imaging Resource, has, and his post on his findings are worth the read.

You can find out more about ProGrade digital on their site.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jared Ribic

    If they offered CF cards, I’d be interested in trying them.

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  2. Motti Bembaron

    Two years ago when I bought my Nikon D750, I purchased 2 Lexar SD cards. One lasted a couple of months. I then bought three more (total of five). Today only three work, two are out of commission (exacly two years this month). I tried everything I can but they just don’t work. 

    As a user of D3, over the years I bought no less than 20 CF cards ranging from 2GB to 64GB, all still work without any problem some from unknown brand.

    I feel companies should start working on reliability and quality of SD cards instead of just up the storage and speed. 

    If those are continuing Lexar’s legacy I will keep buying other brands.

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  3. Rodney Turner

    Hopefully they’ll produce an XQD card.  It would be nice. 

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    • Kishore Sawh

      One would hope. Honestly I think CFast was first due to its wider adoption, but given that the format has a ceiling that’s lower than that of XQD, it should mean it also has a shorter shelf life.  Smaller form factors would seem to win the day also, of which XQD is.

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