New Gear For 2007: PMA Report; Fast, High-Capacity Memory Cards

Now that most enthusiast-level cameras are boasting resolution of at least 8 megapixels, memory card speed and storage capacity have become particularly important. When shooting in raw capture or ultrahigh JPEG size/quality, there's definitely a benefit to using the fastest/largest memory card. The extra speed is also ideal after a long trip, when uploading hundreds (or thousands) of images to a computer. And because prices keep dropping in spite of major improvements, there's no longer any need to tolerate the disadvantages provided by your older flash media.

SD Card Compatibility And Speed
The Secure Digital (SD) format is quickly becoming the most common so we're seeing a real push on improving this type of card. Early last year, most companies began developing SDHC cards; this newer format allows for a capacity potential up to an incredible 32GB as well as a faster read/write speed. (The original SD format was limited to 2GB.) The switch to SDHC required some new technology, including a change from the familiar FAT 16 file format system to the newer FAT 32. As a result, the SDHC cards are not compatible with devices that were designed to use only the FAT 16 format.

New Memory Cards
All of the new cards introduced at PMA 2007 were impressive, with much higher capacity and/or speed than the previous generation at more modest prices. (Not all price information was available at our press time.) The issue of speed is still complicated because the ratings--provided by the SD Card Association and by the manufacturers--don't really provide a full indicator as to actual performance in various types of cameras or with card readers used in various computers. Even
so, you can assume that all of the following provide fast, or super fast, read/write speeds.

ATP Electronics: This company announced a 300x rated CompactFlash card in their new generation ProMax II series, in capacities up to 8GB at this time ($250, list). The new product is said to provide a 2-3MB/sec performance speed increase over the previous ProMax products because of "greater efficiency." ATP has also started marketing Class 6 rated SDHC ProMax cards in capacities up to 8GB ($149, list). All of their current cards are built for maximum durability with protection against water, dust, static discharge, and extreme temperatures.

ATP ProMax II

Delkin Devices: This company makes various types of digital camera accessories and their eFilm memory cards have a great reputation for reliability; they also come with a lifetime warranty. That applies to the new 4GB SDHC products, with a 150x or Class 4 rating, and the new 150x CompactFlash cards now available in capacities up to 8GB. The latter are said to provide Delkin's transfer speeds of up to 22.5MB/sec.

Delkin CompactFlash

Kingston Technology: Offering a wide range of memory devices, this company expanded its line of SDHC cards with three new 8GB products in Class 2, 4, and 6 speed ratings as well as 4GB cards in Class 4 and 6 speed ratings. These Kingston cards are backed by a lifetime warranty and 24/7 live technical support. (List price: 8GB Class 6, $129; 4GB Class 6, $99.)

Kingston Technology SDHC

Lexar Media: In addition to the UDMA-enabled 300x CompactFlash cards, Lexar also introduced a full range of other media. That started with their new 4GB and 8GB SDHC cards, capacities now available in their entry-level standard Class 2 line and in the mid-range, Class 6 Platinum II series. (List prices for 4GB cards are $79 and $89, respectively.) As well, Lexar is now marketing Platinum II Memory Stick PRO Duo cards with 4GB capacity.

Note: All of the above SDHC cards include a free card reader. The Standard Lexar SDHC cards include the starter edition of Corel's Photo Album 6 and a five-year limited warranty. The 4+GB Platinum II CompactFlash card--and certain other Lexar SD and CompactFlash cards--include the full version of Image Rescue 3 photo recovery software (a $30 value) and Corel's Snapfire Plus SE (for showing still images and videos). Buyers of those Platinum II cards can also download the free Lexar Backup n Sync software ("for automatically backing up images online and syncing them across multiple devices" as discussed at www.sharpcast.com/lexar).

Lexar's Pro SDHC line has also been expanded with the introduction of a 4GB card with 133x speed rating, designed especially for pros and hobbyists who are shooting with high-resolution (SDHC-enabled) D-SLRs. This Professional card should deliver a minimum sustained write speed of 20MB/sec and includes a free SDHC card reader plus a suite of software such as Lexar's Image Rescue 3 and Corel's Paint Shop Pro X. In addition, all Lexar Pro cards come with a limited lifetime warranty and free dedicated technical support.

Panasonic: A division of Matsushita Electric Ltd., Panasonic is a major manufacturer of SD cards and the company is constantly improving its products. Their new Pro High Speed (gold) series now includes a Class 6 model said to be capable of burst speeds of up to 20MB/sec (4GB card: $119, list). That's faster than many cameras can use, so Panasonic also offers an upgraded SDHC version of its standard (blue) SD cards; these are now available in Class 4 as compared to the previous Class 2 products, for double the speed (4GB card: $99, list). By the end of 2007, Panasonic plans to be making 16GB SDHC cards; they're likely to appeal primarily to owners of high definition video camcorders.

PNY Technologies: An international marketer of many computer memory components, PNY has upgraded their line of SD cards. The new Optima Pro CompactFlash cards are 266x rated (minimum data transfer rate of 40MB/sec) and will be available in capacities as high as 16GB (by year's end) while the SDHC Class 6 Optima card is available in capacities up to 8GB. Even the inexpensive standard Optima SD card, in 1GB or 2GB capacity, is rated at 133x (minimum data transfer rate of 20MB/sec).

PNY Technologies Optima Pro CompactFlash

RiDATA: The manufacturer of various data storage accessories, Ritek USA/Advanced Media has introduced new RiDATA cards, including 4GB Class 2 and Class 6 SDHC cards as well as an 8GB card with Class 6 rating. (List prices: 4GB card, $180; 8GB card, $360.)

Ritek USA RiDATA SDHC

SanDisk: Another company that's constantly designing improved products, SanDisk has upgraded their entire SD line. The affordable Ultra II SDHC range now has a Class 4 speed rating and is available in capacities as high as 8GB ($239, list). Even the low cost standard, Class 2 SDHC cards will be available in capacities as high as 8GB.

The company's flagship Extreme III SDHC cards are rated as Class 6, the highest currently available, but SanDisk's own tests indicate a much greater read/write speed of 20MB/sec. (List price: 4GB card, $139.) The new Extreme III Memory Stick PRO Duo card is said to be almost as fast at 18MB/sec. As well, the entire Extreme III series, including the CompactFlash cards, is unusually rugged, designed for shooting in extreme temperatures from -13ÞF to 185ÞF and also at very high altitudes.

SanDisk Standard SDHC

SanDisk Ultra II SDHC
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