Opinion: Photographers Have Too Many Card Format Types

History is repeating itself, and we have too many card format types again.

It was bad enough that Apple took out support for the SD card in their MacBook Pros. It’s still in the iMacs thankfully, but the trust SD card has been the mainstay of photographers for well over a decade. There was a time where we all loved and used CF cards. And Sony dried to push Memory Stick Duo on us. But it failed. Some camera manufacturers now use SD cards and XQD card formats. Some also use SD and CFExpress. CFExpress and XQD aren’t necessarily backward compatible with each other. And then there’s CFExpress Card A. Technically, we have four different card types. Why? In some ways, I understand the technical reasons. But in other ways, I think it’s pretty stupid.

Honestly, the photo industry has a big problem right now with too much choice and not enough innovation amongst all that choice. Let me put it this way:

  • Everyone except for Pentax is making mirrorless cameras.
  • Three companies are still making DSLRs
  • Five companies are still making point and shoots.
  • All of the companies are using at least two formats for memory cards.
  • There isn’t enough to distinguish these companies apart from one another.

The last one is a big one. They’re all still playing a megapixel war or a high ISO war. In some ways, they’re also playing a features war, but they’re not strong enough there. All of these cameras are also still looking and functioning very much the same. There isn’t anything reinventing the wheel here or pushing innovations that will get people to want to buy their cameras specifically. Instead, everyone is really just playing to the audiences that they have in some ways or appealing to photographers and photo enthusiasts that like cameras. And overall, I think that creating so many card formats hurts that. I understand that new card formats can help innovation, but they’re also still hurting customers in some ways. I don’t totally understand why someone needs two different card types in a camera. Why not just go Dual SD, Dual CFExpress, etc.? We have no significant need to be so fragmented.

Let’s ask ourselves a few candid questions here: do you really see yourself using anything beyond the shape of an SD card in a few years? Shouldn’t SD cards be able to catch up they always do? If so, then why spring for bigger cards? How can an industry that is shrinking end up making things so much more complicated? This is something that manufacturers should be worrying about less and less. Instead, they should be focusing on actually making people want to buy their cameras more. I’ve been asked to provide solutions in previous posts. So below, I’m going to do just that:

  • Quit the megapixel wars
  • Give more lens kit options than just a standard, lazy kit zoom lens.
  • Incorporate more features that phone manufacturers put into their cameras
  • Create app ecosystems, maybe?
  • Find ways to work closely with social media companies and web sharing companies to make integration into the web much better. Cameras sadly aren’t connected to the internet enough in some ways.
  • Give us more fun features.
  • Create a camera that’s small enough that people actually consider it essential to take with them everywhere.
  • Focus more on the customer experience of the products. That starts with ergonomics and build quality and goes holistically into the menu system.
  • Improve the build quality so that people will want to bring it with them everywhere and not be afraid to use their cameras the way that they’re brave about their phones. Look at how many phones are submersible and deliver excellent image quality. Why can’t I do that with a multi-thousand dollar camera and lens?
  • Work with Apple on integrating AirDrop into your cameras.
  • Allow more editing on the back LCD screen.
  • Embrace the touchscreen and all the possibilities that come with that

These are just a start.