Update, November 1, 2004: We've published a story today that mostly supercedes the information found in the article below.
If you've been anxiously anticipating the release of Lexar's revamped 80X Pro Series CompactFlash, the wait appears to be over.
The 80X second edition cards, as we dubbed them in a July 2004 article previewing the performance-bumped versions of Lexar's fastest CompactFlash, have begun to make it into customer's hands, though how widely they're available is still very much up in the air.
While Lexar hasn't yet confirmed that 80X second edition CompactFlash is now released, we've been able to determine that at least the 1GB capacity is done, beginning to ship and considerably quicker in popular pro digital SLRs than the first edition 80X 1GB card it replaces. This is based on initial testing of a card on loan to us from Sacramento-based photographer Ron Scholar, who recently received a 1GB 80X second edition card directly from Lexar. And on information from another photographer elsewhere in the US and one in the UK (both asked that we not publish their names).
Scholar had initially contacted Lexar in August 2004 to request an exchange of his 1GB 80X first edition card with a second edition version. The company agreed to do so, when a second edition version came available. Scholar was informed by a Lexar representative this week that an "enhanced" version of the 80X card was ready to ship to him; it left Lexar on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 and landed on Scholar's doorstep on Thursday, October 28, 2004. He forwarded it on to us to evaluate. While we haven't yet run the card through all the cameras we're actively testing in the CompactFlash Performance Database, we are far enough along to say with confidence that the card sent to Scholar by Lexar is a bona-fide 80X second edition.
The card itself, however, is identical in appearance to a Lexar 1GB 80X first edition: the front and rear labels are the same in all respects, which means the card is emblazoned with Lexar's old logo and label design, not the new look they showed off prior to Photokina 2004. Only its edge stamp - the long string of numbers and letters on the card's trailing edge - is different. The last 4 digits are A4B6, not the 9D66 of the last round of 80X first edition cards we tested. A4B6 is probably the unique identifier that signifies an 80X second edition Lexar CompacFlash card, since these same 4 digits are on the probable second edition 80X cards of the other two photographers who assisted us with this article. Lexar has not confirmed our A4B6 theory, however.
In fact, Lexar appears to have chosen to roll out the 1GB 80X second edition CompactFlash card (and perhaps other capacities too, though we've only communicated with photographers that claim to have 1GB second edition cards in their possession) without letting us know. We can only speculate as to the reason, but it does mean that we're not able to provide concrete information about when all capacities of 80X second edition cards will be on store shelves. And we can only guesstimate that the way - and perhaps the only way, subject to it being revealed that the packaging is different - to identify an 80X second edition is by the edge stamp.
We have made repeated requests to Lexar for information on the availability of 80X second edition cards and the method(s) by which they can be identified at point of purchase, and we will continue to do so. For now, however, all we can say for sure is that the Lexar Pro Series 1GB 80X second edition CompactFlash card exists, it's a big improvement over the 1GB 80X first edition and that we're working to update the CompactFlash Performance Database with test data from the new card as quickly as possible.
Update, November 1, 2004: We've published a story today that mostly supercedes the information found in the article above.