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Test Drive: Manfrotto CFexpress Card Reader Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

22 November 2022

The Manfrotto CFexpress Type B Card Reader arrived at the bunker here recently and we wasted no time putting it to work. Which was easier than, well, pie.

The Manfrotto reader is an affordable and compact but rugged USB device that can connect to either a USB-A or USB-C port (with the included cables) to transfer data at USB 3.2 speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second.

We inserted one of Manfrotto's 128-GB CFexpress cards into the reader to integrate it into our hardware system as an external drive. It's run silently and reliably for over a week now and been nothing but a pleasure.

In either 128-GB and 256-GB capacities, the metal-encased Manfrotto CFexpress cards tout 1730-MB/s read speeds and 1540-MB/s write speeds while tolerating more extreme temperatures than we personally can weather.

Here's our review.


The main features of the card reader include:

  • Anodized aluminum housing
  • Protective rubber cap
  • Locking card slot
  • Little Rubber Feet (it matters)
  • Smaller than a credit card
  • Thinner than your spouse's stack of credit cards

It really is so small and light you won't think twice about taking it with you. And because it's so sturdy, you won't have to be particularly careful with it.

We drop it into our bag with our laptop to backup files using Mirror Mirror when we were obliged to work remotely a week ago. It beat packing a larger (if still compact) WD Passport external drive.

The cables are a generous 31-inches long, which is a bit too generous for us. We had to loop them to keep our installation compact. But there are two different cables rather than a USB-A to USB-C adapter, which is something of a bonus.

The cap has been criticized as a floppy nuisance but we rather liked it as protection against the elements. The cards are expensive and any attempt to preserve them is welcomed here.

Oh, and those Little Rubber Feet are to die for. We can't tell you how annoying it is to acquire yet another external housing only to find out it has no LRF. We end up making our own, we do.


Specifications for the reader include:

Design Vented, anodized aluminum housing
Built-in card storage
Protective rubber end cover
Little Rubber Feet
Interface USB 3.2 Type-C (10 Gb/s)
Connectivity USB-C, CFexpress Type B (F)
USB-C to A and USB-C-C cables included
Waterpoof No
Dimensions 3-3/8 x 1-13/16 x 0.5 inches
Weight 0.48 lbs.


The box contains:

  • The reader
  • A USB-C male (reader) to USB-A female cable (computer)
  • A USB-C male (reader) to USB-C male cable (computer)
  • A flyer (more about that later)


You can, of course, cable your camera to a computer port to transfer images from the camera to the computer. So why would you use a reader?

There are a couple of reasons.

Independence from the camera is one. You can swap the card out, put another in and continue shooting with the camera while transferring the first card's data to your computer.

Speed is another. A USB 3.2 device is going to be faster than your camera's data transfer. Assuming your computer or hub port can handle the faster speed.

Battery life is yet another. Why burn the camera battery up transferring files when you can use a non-battery-powered device?

We have always used card readers for all our card formats, even USB. We find it a lot more convenient to pop a card in a reader, watch Image Capture launch automatically and pull in our images.


The rear of the reader has a single USB-C port to which you attach one of the included cables. Both the supplied cables have a USB-C male connector to make that connection. You use the cable with the USB-A male connector to connect to your computer or hub that has USB-A ports. Otherwise, you use the cable with the USB-C male connector to connect to the more modern USB-C port.

Data transfer speed will most likely be restricted by your port. The device itself is designed to handle up to 10-GB/s, in accordance with the USB 3.2 specification. But a USB-A port won't approach that. And older Thunderbolt ports won't either. In practice, even a USB 3.2 port is not likely to hit 10-GB/s.

Still, it's likely to be the fastest storage on your system after an internal SSD.

We used the Manfrotto reader connected to both a MacBook Pro USB-A port and a USB-C hub. Transfer times were not an issue in either case, being limited by our USB-A port.

We've kept the reader and card mounted on our Desktop as an external drive, copying large folders of images (including our entire iPhone photo archive) from a network drive when at the bunker and using it for temporary backups when working remotely.

A small blue light visible from the back grill of the reader indicates read/write operations. It can barely be seen in our slide show below but it quite large and bright.


Features can be influential but nothing quite beats a test drive. And after our test drive, the features that impressed us had really won us over.

We particularly appreciated the compact design of the device. It was easy to add it to the slim bag we packed for working outside the office. Frankly, the laptop power adapter takes up much more room.

We liked its performance with a card installed so much that we initially saw no reason not to use it that way between the occasional photo transfers. So, we thought, with a large card, it can do double duty. But a year later, the unit failed from constant use (see the update).

Details. Mouse over or tap for captions.

We also liked its aluminum body. That makes it better protection for transporting a CFexpress card than the clear plastic housing supplied with the card.

And we were grateful the Little Rubber Feet so often omitted on external cases these days provided a slip-free experience, which matters with a lightweight device connected by a stiff cable. We sat it on glass, wood, an aluminum hub and plexiglass. And it just wouldn't budge.

It's true that the protective rubber cap doesn't have a catch of any kind to keep it closed. That wasn't a problem for us (those Little Rubber Feet helped here, holding the reader in place when we closed the cap).

Another nice touch we grew to appreciate is the locking mechanism for the card. You insert a card against a spring until it clicks and then release. The card is locked in. To release it, you press the card in slightly and it comes free.

The reader did get warm but not when idle. It remained cool until transferring data. Even on top of a warm hub, the Little Rubber Feet provided enough air space to keep it cool.

In short, the design delivered a reliable and pleasant experience.


That flyer included with the reader explains the difference between fixed and removable USB devices and suggests "downloading a utility to switch your reader from Fixed to Removable" if you want to edit images directly on the card.

That, it warns, will reduce read speeds by 50 percent and write speeds 20 percent.

We didn't see a link to any such utility on the Manfrotto site. And we haven't had any trouble editing images on the card in the reader, either.

We asked Manfrotto to elaborate. The company replied:

Only third parties offer this kind of software, the leaflet says "you might consider downloading a utility to switch your reader from Fixed to Removable" so it's just advising the customer this is an option for them.

We couldn't find any third party macOS download nor did we discover any need to convert the reader on macOS. So we wondered if the notice pertains only to Windows users.

In Removable USB Flash Drive as Local HDD in Windows 10/7, we found some answers. It explains:

Windows recognizes USB flash drives as removable devices due to the presence of a special descriptor bit RMB (removable media bit) on each of the devices. If the system determines that RMB=1 when polling the connected device using StorageDeviceProperty function, it concludes that this device is a removable drive. Thus, in order to convert the USB-flash to the hard disk it is enough to modify this descriptor. You can do this directly (which is quite risky because of the differences in the device-specific hardware implementations and not always possible) or indirectly -- by replacing the response of a USB device using a special driver, which allows to filter out the information in the device response.

It goes on to show how to use either the Hitachi filter driver or the BootIt utility from Lexar to reconfigure your device.


CFexpress readers, like other card readers, are available in many different kinds of configurations. The Manfrotto handles one card in one format, resembling the Delkin card reader recently discontinued in favor of a larger version that can handle an SD card as well.

Among the single card options, the Manfrotto is competitive on price (and less expensive than most), boasting both one of the smallest footprints and sturdiest housings. With both USB-A and USB-C cable included, it's also among the most versatile.


Manfrotto has bundled the reader with a new 128-GB or 256-GB CFexpress Type B card for just a dollar more. But Manfrotto lists it for $54.99.


We're awarding the Manfrotto CFexpress card reader three corners for a well-executed design that shines in the field but not designed to function as a small but fast external drive. But we did like those Little Rubber Feet.

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