Lexar Media today unveiled a new line of 80X speed-rated CompactFlash cards, a 40X CompactFlash card with a whopping 8GB capacity, a CF-to-PC Card adapter for both Mac and Windows that's promised to deliver transfer rates several times faster than typical adapters, 60X speed-rated Secure Digital (SD) cards, an agreement with Camera Bits software that will see Lexar manage distribution of the image browser Photo Mechanic through photo retailers and the release of Image Rescue 2.0.
Pro Series 80X CompactFlash
Leading off Lexar's spate of announcements is a jump in the minimum sustained write speed of its Pro Series CompactFlash cards to 80X, or 12MB/second. This speed rating is exactly double the company's current Pro Series CF, which feature a minimum sustained write speed of 40X, or 6MB/second (in Lexar's speed-rating system, 1X is equal to 150K/second).
The new line of CF cards, which will ship in 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities, will all be Type I in thickness, except for the 4GB, which will be Type II in thickness (the same as the current 4GB 40X card).
The Pro Series 80X cards will also include revamped Write Acceleration (WA) technology. WA reduces the overhead associated with transfering data from the camera to the card. While the original WA enables up to 4 sectors of data to be transfered in a single block (instead of the more-typical 1 sector per block without WA), this number jumps to a maximum of 32 sectors in the 80X's revamped WA. The net result should be increased throughput in some or all cameras that support WA.
Note: Support for WA in the camera is not required for compatibility with Lexar CompactFlash cards, though it is required to take advantage of the potential speed bump that the WA technology can provide.
The Pro Series 80X CompactFlash card will ship with v2.0 of Lexar's photo recovery and card maintenance software Image Rescue (Mac OS X and Windows), as well as a 30-day trial version of Photo Mechanic (Mac OS X and Windows). The 80X line-up will also include a lifetime warranty and no-charge tech support.
Street prices on the 80X line are expected to be close to those shown below when they ship in April 2004:
- CF256MB 80X: $US100
- CF512MB 80X: $200
- CF1GB 80X: $400
- CF2GB 80X: $700
- CF4GB 80X: $1500
With Sandisk's Ultra II and Extreme cards vaulting into the lead in 2003 in digital SLR write speed overall, and in card-to-computer transfer rates too, Lexar's 80X cards are clearly designed to put the Fremont, CA-based company back in the lead in the pro digital photography speed race.
Pro Series 8GB 40X CompactFlash
Lexar's not only looking to have the fastest CF in 2004, they also want to have the roomiest. The Pro Series 8GB 40X, a Type II-size CompactFlash card, won't be as quick as the new 80X models. But with a capacity of 8GB it, along with SimpleTech's recently-announced 8GB CF card, are certain to be the most capacious when they reach store shelves later this year (Lexar's 8GB model is slated for release in May 2004). A price has not been set for Lexar's 8GB card.
Like the 4GB, the 8GB 40X will need to be formatted FAT32 for its full capacity to be realized, and not all cameras support FAT32. Lexar maintains a list of popular cameras that will accept FAT32-formatted media.
The Pro Series 8GB 40X CompactFlash card will include Image Rescue 2.0, a trial version of Photo Mechanic, a lifetime warranty and no-charge tech support.
High-Speed 32-bit CardBus CompactFlash Reader
Lexar is the latest company to source Aska's Speed Over CF32A adapter for inclusion in its own product line. Dubbed the High-Speed 32-bit CardBus Reader, it enables CompactFlash cards to be read inside a laptop's PC Card slot. What's novel about this particular CF adapter is that it contains special 32-bit circuitry for faster transfer rates than the more-common 16-bit adapter.
When we tested Delkin's version of this adapter back in October 2003, Lexar's 1GB 40X WA CompactFlash card derived by far the biggest performance benefit of the brands and cards tested. If other Lexar cards enjoy similar card-to-computer throughput in the adapter, this should be a solid addition to Lexar's product line.
The High-Speed 32-bit CardBus Reader is to ship this month at an expected retail price of US$50. It will include drivers for both Windows and Mac OS X operating systems.
High Speed Series 60X Secure Digital (SD)
Lexar's press release emphasizes the benefits of a speedy Secure Digital (SD) card for the capturing of digital video in the growing number of video cameras that support this format. Owners of the Kodak DCS Pro 14n, and prospective purchasers of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II and DCS Pro SLR/n, may be equally interested in these cards for the capturing of still photos, given that these cameras sport CompactFlash and SD slots.
The High Speed Series 256MB and 512MB SD cards from Lexar are rated to deliver a minimum sustained write speed of 60X, or 9MB/second. They have an expected street price of US$110 and US$260, respectively, and are to ship this spring. They will include a lifetime warranty and no-charge tech support, but not Image Rescue (that's reserved for products in Lexar's Pro Series).
Distribution of Photo Mechanic 4.1 for Mac and Windows, in both full and LE versions
Camera Bits Photo Mechanic, a photo browser that's popular with news and sports photographers in particular, has long been a key application in our digital workflow. Lexar today has announced they will be distributing both the Mac and Windows flavours of v4.1, in both full and new LE versions, marking the first time the program will be available in a shrink-wrapped box on the shelves of Lexar's broad base of photo retailers.
The full version will be identical to the Photo Mechanic that Camera Bits will continue to sell to individual photographers and organizations such as newspapers, and is expected to have a street price of about US$150.
The LE version will not have the same range of fields and options for editing IPTC data, and will include limited access to the program's powerful Image Variable technology for streamlining the captioning process. It is to sell for about US$50.
Photo Mechanic 4.1 for Mac
Both versions are to begin appearing at photo dealers in March 2004; the full version of Photo Mechanic 4.1 for Mac and Windows is slated for release direct from Camera Bits before the end of February 2004.
Image Rescue 2.0
Announced last fall, Lexar's Image Rescue 2.0 photo recovery application should be available from retailers before the end of February (and will be bundled with Pro Series CompactFlash cards as well). An Image Rescue 2.0 updater will be posted as a free download from Lexar's website for licensed users of a previous release of Image Rescue in the near future, though the exact date for the updater's release has not been set.