SanDisk PRO-CINEMA CF Express: Investment Worthy? We Review.

SanDisk PRO-CINEMA CF Express: Investment Worthy? We Review.

I don’t hold back words for gear that has fancy specs but is not built to be a workhorse for high-volume photographers shooting under various conditions. With all the impressive technology attached to the SanDisk PRO-CINEMA CF Express card, I set out to see if it was not only as fast and high-powered as it touts but also if it was built with the durability that I expect when I’m investing in gear.

I took this card for a test run over a few weeks and brought it everywhere my shoots were scheduled. It came on my commercial haircare shoot (in which I shot inside a shower with water splashing everywhere), in the studio working with off camera light and bursts for “splash” shots, and more.

The SanDisk Pro-Cinema CF Express comes in 320 GB and 640 GB

I also plan on bringing it in a few weeks for my 3-day sports shoot in the scorching desert of Abu-Dhabi to see how it withstands sun and heat. I like fancy specs, but I also like when gear can withstand humidity, water, heat, cold, and everything else that is part of my life as a commercial photographer.

The first shoot I took it on was one of my commercial shoots for a haircare line. 

As you can gather by the card’s title, this card had videographers on their mind when it was designed. With flawless 8k video capture and minimum sustained 1,400 MB/s write speeds, it’s designed to be a workhorse on long professional filming sets. Setting all the impressive specs aside that appeal to videographers, let me tell you what I liked about it as a photographer.

Blazing Fast Burst and Write Speeds

On sports shoots, a card’s burst and write speeds make or break your ability to “get the shot.” Just as runners lunge forward at the finish line to gain that extra half-second which makes or breaks their race, a card’s writing speed can make or break your hero shot. The difference between getting 3 or 12 full-resolution raw shots as an athlete crosses the finish line is invaluable. This card delivers burst speeds of up to 1,500 MB/s and write speeds of 1,700 MB/s. (Mic drop.)

Having a card that can shoot fast burst rate for RAW files is a must when working in sports. This is one of my shots creating promotional imagery for Spartan.

If you need a card you can rely on to keep up with the animals running through your wildlife photography, the birds lifting off the water’s surface, or a boxer delivering the title-winning uppercut, this card’s speed is one you can rely on to get the job done.

Accelerated Offload Speeds

If you’re in the business of caring about burst rates, you’re also acutely aware of offload speeds. I don’t like the concept of “spray and pray” photography, but many types of photography lead to hundreds, and sometimes thousands of shots a day, especially when movement is involved. After a long day of work, the last thing photographers want to do is impatiently walk by their computer to see slow download progress during late-night offloading. This card was designed with “super-accelerated offload speeds.”

The SanDisk Professional PRO-READER is a great companion for the CF card.


Gear being able to take the hard conditions that photographers sometimes find themselves in is a non-negotiable for me. There are some highly advertised pieces of gear I’ve purchased over the years that can’t take being splashed, dropped, withstanding extreme temperatures, etc. The truth is these conditions are normative for some photographers. Our gear should be designed to work in the conditions we work in. Many of our readers spend long days on landscape shoots, weathering rain, frost, heat, and humidity. When you photograph regularly, you inevitably drop gear, leave it in the sun, get stuck in a rainstorm, and many other scenarios that require durability. Our gear must be able to withstand the conditions we face as photographers. I’m pleased to report that this card was designed with those conditions in mind. The rugged design can withstand up to 1-meter drops and up to 50 Newtons (11.2 pounds).

In order to see if it met my standards of durability, I came up with a risky experiment. I was strongly apprehensive about running it. In fact, I was so apprehensive that I made an Instagram poll and most people voted not to run the test at the risk of frying a $300 card. But for you, my beloved readers, I conducted the test anyway. After all, if I’m going to recommend that you purchase this card, I want to know that it will survive the life of a working photographer. Against my photographer instinct, I brought the card into my studio and set it up for a splash session.

I wanted to test if it could survive getting a little wet. By “a little wet”, I didn’t quite get the shot I was looking for off the bat, so I ended up dousing the card approximately 10 times, instead of my planned one or two times. I conducted the test live from my studio, wiped it off, and apprehensively brought it off to my computer. To my shock, all the files survived the dousing. Since water damage sometimes reveals itself over time, I have continued to check the card in the days since, and I’m happy to report it’s working as it was when I first took it out of the box. I do not recommend duplicating this test at home. But I’m happy to report that the card was designed, as advertised, with durability in mind.

Who Is This Card for?

The PRO-CINEMA SanDisk Pro, as its title reveals, is designed with videographers in mind. Videography requires more memory and speed than photography does. The question then becomes, is this card necessary for photographers or is it overkill? It depends on your values. Should people only buy a Toyota because they drive on roads that wouldn’t utilize the full capability of a Maserati? Of course not. For myself, I don’t mind spending a little bit more on a piece that I can rely on. I would prefer to spend $300, never miss a shot, and know my gear is durable than to spend $200 and get by with a lower quality. The fact that it is backed by a lifetime limited warranty is an added incentive to invest in a card that will always deliver. This card is also perfect for the hybrid photographer-videographer. Another usage that would be perfect for this card is as a backup card on sports shoots. Volume sport who shoot events with hundreds or thousands of people like a marathon photographer for example, are often required to shoot "small JPEG". Some of them shoot RAW on a backup card in case they capture an image they want to use for their portfolio. The size of the 640 GB ($699) or the 320 GB ($319) are ideal for this purpose.

Closing Thoughts

As I mentioned in my introduction, I get really irked by delicate gear. I recently wrote an article that landed me on 3 conference calls with one of the biggest camera brands in the industry. The truth is though, I need gear that I can count on. Period. From my experience over the last few weeks, this card not only has all the most advanced technology, but it seems truly to be built with durability in mind.

Pull over Toyotas, this is one Maserati I’m buying.

Michelle VanTine's picture

Michelle creates scroll-stopping images for amazing brands and amazing people. She works with businesses, public figures, sports & products. Titled “Top Sports Photographers in Miami” in 2019 (#5) and 2020 (#4), she was the only female on the list both years. Follow the fun on IG @michellevantinephotography @sportsphotographermiami

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Considering how much bad press Sandisk is getting for their SSD failure situation, and the fact that a CFExpress B card innards are essentially M.2 NVMe drives, I would be wary personally. What works good for now, or for one person, via the law of averages might end up putting people in the same situation as the SanDisk SSDs

I understand your hesitation. I've been buying SanDisk cards for over 2 decades and have never had one fail on me. I'm so grateful their cards have been reliable for me shooting under so many circumstances.

I believe that SanDisk's SSD problems were due to manufacturing defects (components not securely fixed to the PCB), which would be specific to that form factor (and model, apparently). CFExpress B cards are a very different form factor with different components, so apparently not affected.

Yes I heard about those problems and I'm glad that it doesn't have seem to spilled over on other products of theirs

Having a manufacturing defect is one thing, but not acknowledging it (Sandisk claims is a firmware fix) while continuing to sell the potentially problematic products (always on sale)…. I don’t really have much faith/trust in that company right now.

That is a legitimate concern to be sure.

"Investment" "investing" "invest"
Does anybody else miss the good old days when people would just talking about "buying" gear, or is it just me?

I suppose when I purchase a more expensive piece of gear it feels like an "investment" in my company. I buy groceries, I invest in expensive items that benefit me over time. If you prefer more simple words that's a personal taste.

For working professionals, gear is indeed an investment (which must have a return of value), rather than a simple consumer purchase.

For working professionals, gear is a capital cost, and that could be called a purchase or an expense, not an investment.

Well, I have two questions.
1. You never mention what camera or cameras they were used in?
2. How about the use of a Nikon Z8, with overheating?

Overheating has been a big issue for the Z8, Even though it's lauded as the Camera of the Year.
Yes, I have one.

Leon Kolenda great observation. I used it on my Canon R5... which apparently has also had complaints of overheating. I haven't used it on other bodies but that would be an interesting aspect to look into. This is also why I liked that the card came with a warranty. Anytime i BUY (eyeroll) gear, having that warranty gives me a lot of piece of mind

Leon, I got a "hot card" warning on my Z8 shooting indoors the other day. No "hot camera" warning though. (I was using the grip and battery). I did some google'ing around and it seems as though using external power (which I should have been doing) alleviates the problem.
Also, it seems which file type and size you're recording at makes a difference. Which is kind of obvious.
I was shooting ProRes 422 HQ 10-bit (MOV) at 4K/24.
Camera 2 was a Z9 shooting the same specs and I didn't get a "hot card" warning.

When you say external power, are you saying like an external power bank?

Yes, like a V-mount battery. I use the SmallRig VB99.