First Look
4GB CompactFlash Card For All Digicams

If you recall our review of the Lexar 4GB CompactFlash card in the November, 2003, issue of Shutterbug, we went to great lengths to explain why some cameras (at least at that time) couldn't accept the card, or at least couldn't deliver the 4GB capacity. It all has to do with FAT 16 and FAT 32 protocols. Well, technology being what it is we can now say that there's a 4GB card for the rest of us, introduced by SanDisk at the PMA Show last February. This 4GB SanDisk CompactFlash card featured design allows it to operate in cameras that use either the FAT 16 or FAT 32 file formats. It is available in the popular Type I format and fits into any CompactFlash slot.

According to SanDisk, they had the opportunity to do a quick-release of a 4GB card back in mid-2003. Instead, they chose to hold off on shipping the card when they realized that a large percentage of their customer base would not be able to take advantage of the huge capacity due to limitations inherent in most cameras today. Now, thanks to their patent-pending switch design everyone can utilize the full capacity of the card.

As discussed in the November article, the File Allocation Table (FAT) is an area on storage media that contains certain information such as the location of data files, their names, sizes, and so on. FAT 16, the initial file allocation table that is used by a number of current and most older digital cameras, cannot use CompactFlash cards that are greater than 2GB. FAT 32 uses a 32-bit number to point to where the pieces of a file are stored and circumvents the 2GB capacity limit to allow access to storage media up to several terabytes. Today, only a few manufacturers and camera models utilize the newer FAT 32 format, although it should be noted that many of the more advanced cameras introduced at PMA have this capability.

The new 4GB SanDisk CompactFlash card features a three-position switch located in the left-hand area of the card. This allows for switching between either a single 4GB (FAT 32) volume or two separate 2GB (FAT 16) volumes. The switchable 4GB card ensures that users of cameras with either file format will be able to use the new card. SanDisk will initially ship the card in a FAT 16 configuration--two FAT 16 partitions--eliminating the need for most users to reposition the switch and reformat.

The 4GB CompactFlash card has a suggested retail price of $999.99, and is expected to be available as this issue goes to press. Of course, switching around on a card is not the most convenient course, but having that large a card capacity available for everyone is a nice touch, indeed.

For more information, visit SanDisk's website at: