Lightroom Classic and CFexpress Cards

While not a new issue, it is new to me as I’ve only recently started shooting with CFexpress (Type B) cards, and I’ve become aware of how differently these cards behave compared to the more ubiquitous SD cards. So consider this a heads up for anyone else new to using these cards.

First, if you have the Lightroom Classic preference set to Show import dialog when a memory card is detected, it doesn’t work with CFexpress cards.

So, when you manually trigger the Import window to open be prepared for the CFexpress card to not automatically be selected for import either.

You should see the card is mounted (as long as it shows mounted on your system by your OS). It will appear as a drive under Files instead of under Devices like you might normally expect a memory card. From there, you can manually select the folder on the card containing your photos for import. It should check the Include subfolders box, but you should double-check if no photos are showing.

The most important aspect you need to be aware of is that it may default to selecting ADD at the top of the import window. This is bad! With a typical memory card you would never be allowed to select ADD or MOVE, but that is not the case here. You need to be in the driver’s seat and ensure that COPY (or Copy as DNG if you prefer) is selected.

I’ve seen reports of folks who imported using ADD without realizing it until they removed the card and were given the Photo is missing message. This would be tragic for anyone who had formatted the card and didn’t have a backup copy of the photos!

The Solution

The best way to avoid catastrophe here is to take advantage of creating an Import preset that includes selecting COPY as well as your desired Destination (always have a backup of your photos in place before formatting memory cards too!). This way all you need to do is select your Import preset and it should switch to the desired COPY option. I always make a visual check that my Import preset is selected as part of my every import session.

Final Tip

Once the import is complete, you need to safely eject the memory card before physically removing it from the card reader since LrC doesn’t treat it like a typical memory card and provide the Eject on import option.

As to why these cards behave this way, my understanding is that it all comes down to how the OS recognizes these cards when mounted. To gain the higher speed file transfer and reliability they act more like an external SSD than a typical memory card, and as such, that is how Lightroom Classic treats them (since it just follows your operating system’s lead). I suspect that if you directly connect your camera via USB instead of a card reader it would behave more like a memory card, but I hate directly connecting my camera for file transfer, so this is the tradeoff I’m making for now. Perhaps there is something Adobe can do to recognize these as memory cards to prevent people from accidentally using the ADD option, but until then, keep your eye on your import settings.



  1. Jeff 24 August, 2023 at 15:39 Reply

    thank you for this information……hoping it will change in the near future as well as I don’t want to continue to use my SD card on my R3. Might have to give the direct from camera solution a try.

  2. Pete 8 May, 2023 at 23:43 Reply

    As one, who is not a computer person, I wish somebody would talk on a level I can understand or have a simple guide line to follow
    I have a Canon 1Dx III, Creative Cloud Photography plan and the OS is windows. I also have a yearly subscription to Kelby.
    Can you help in any way?

    • Rob Sylvan 9 May, 2023 at 06:36 Reply

      Hi Pete, I’d love to help. Since you have a KelbyOne subscription I highly recommend posting any questions you may have in the Community forum where myself, and many other folks, are helping people with questions at all levels every day. Head over to https://members.kelbyone.com/member-dashboard/ and once you are logged in, click on the Community button on the left-hand side (under Dashboard). Post any question you have, with as much detail as you can, and I’m sure we can assist you. It is much easier to have a back and forth conversation there, then here in the comments.

  3. ARC 28 January, 2022 at 16:36 Reply

    This article should refer to Mac or OS X in the title. Those of us blessed with using Lightroom on the OS it is written for, which has capabilities of actually deciding how different external media are mounted (Windows) don’t have this issue.

  4. Rudi 28 December, 2021 at 04:45 Reply

    I’m doing my import for years using PhotoMechanic and it also works with CFExpress as it should. So it must be a problem with LR!

    • Rudi 28 December, 2021 at 06:37 Reply

      I just checked again and I guess I misread the article. I never use the LR import directly from a card but only what I already imported with PhotoMechanic. So I never had this LR issue as I mostly use ADD by default for what PM copied to my SSD.

  5. Brian Truman 27 December, 2021 at 10:16 Reply

    Thank you Rob,
    I’m really glad that I saw you post as I have just ordered a cfexpress card and reader to take over from xqd cards. Hopefully your post will save me from a lot of unwanted stress lol.

  6. Susan Scharenberg 25 December, 2021 at 09:34 Reply

    Thank you Rob, I had no idea CFexpress cards were treated so differently by LrC! I just started using CFx cards. The ADD function, VS. COPY, is especially important to be aware of. I usually copy files local and import from there, so fortunately wasn’t bitten by ADD vs COPY.

  7. Bob van Altena 23 December, 2021 at 12:11 Reply

    Heel simpele oplossing hiervoor: Geheugenkaartje in pc, foto’s selecteren en kopieeren naar harddisk. Geheugen kaart verwijderen. Lightroom openen en foto’s importeren vanaf harddisk.

    • Rob Sylvan 23 December, 2021 at 14:39 Reply

      That works, but adds steps, so I prefer to do it all in LrC. Once you make the import preset all you need to do is verify it is active and click the Import button and you’re done.

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