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Photokina report: Part 2  
Tuesday, September 26, 2000 | by
Lexar Media, Microtech, Delkin Devices, Sandisk, Simple Technology, several Taiwanese vendors and more had new CompactFlash cards and readers to show at Photokina 2000. This section contains the highlights from each major vendor except Simple Technology. Simple Technology should offer a similar line of CompactFlash products to Delkin and Microtech, since all three rely on Hitachi components in building their Flash RAM cards.

Part 2 of the Photokina report is broken down as follows:

Lexar Media product roundup

Lexar Media officially announced four new pro CompactFlash cards (all Type I in size) and a FireWire card reader. The cards are:

  • 256MB 12X with USB Jumpshot support
  • 320MB 12X with USB Jumpshot support
  • 256MB 10X with USB Jumpshot support
  • 320MB 10X with USB Jumpshot support

Lexar Media 320MB 10X CompactFlash Type I card

All should be compatible with the D1 and Kodak/Canon pro cameras. The 10x cards are scheduled to ship before month's end. The 12x cards are due in October. If past experience holds true with Lexar's cards, the 12x cards should be appreciably faster in the D1 and Kodak/Canon pro cameras than the previous speed champ, the 160MB 10x. I can't wait to see if that's true.

Lexar's new FireWire reader is sourced from the same supplier as Unity Digital, whose comparable reader was reviewed on this site earlier this summer. No pricing has been set; look for Lexar's version of the reader in October at the earliest. At least three other vendors had the same reader on display under their own brand name, including Hama, so it would appear that its maker, Datafab of Taiwan, has been busy shopping it around in recent months. Regardless of whose name is on the casing, this is a fast, fast reader.

Lexar Media FireWire Reader

Lexar Media also announced Shoot and Share, a consumer-level image browser for Windows based on Thumbs Plus.

Microtech product roundup

Microtech's much-delayed new single-slot, SCSI reader, the PCD-40, is about to enter production, after some final hardware bugs related to Type III PC Card hard drives were stamped out. Microtech's Al Conte estimates that delivery could begin as early as mid-October on the replacement for the popular Digital Photo Album *p. Suggested list price is US$199, with the street price not likely to dip much below that. The reader is made by SCM Micro, the same company that produced the Digital Photo Album *p, and also the new parent company of Microtech. It will accept cards up to Type III PC Card in size, as well as CompactFlash cards in an adapter. It features a SCSI-2 connector in back.

Microtech PCD-40 SCSI card reader

SCM Micro is working on a FireWire reader for Microtech as well. It will accept CompactFlash cards, and is slated for release by the end of the year, or early next. It will come in the same case as the sturdy USB CameraMate.

Shipment of the FireSCSI XPress adapter (another SCM Micro product) was all but halted when a serious incompatibility was found between it and several SCSI film scanners, including the Nikon LS-2000. The fix necessitated both a firmware update in the converter itself, and a change to the driver software. The incompatibility affected early versions of the Orange Converter from Orange Micro too, which is the same SCM Micro unit. Shipment of updated XPress adapters is expected to resume before the end of September.

Microtech is preparing to grow its line of CompactFlash cards beyond 128MB into pro-friendly sizes of 160MB and beyond. Microtech is one of a handful of vendors that assembles Hitachi controllers and memory into CompactFlash cards (in SCM Micro's Singapore manufacturing facility) for sale under its own brand name. It will begin to sell 160MB and 192MB CompactFlash Type I cards in the next 2-3 weeks, based on the same C5 or "rev. 5" controller found in certain Simple Technology cards and the Delkin Devices 224MB. As components become available later this fall, it intends to build CompactFlash Type I and II cards up to 448MB in capacity using Hitachi's revised, and purportedly faster, C6 or "rev. 6" controller.

Delkin Devices product roundup

As another vendor of Hitachi-component cards, Delkin Devices is also gearing up to release high-capacity CompactFlash cards based on the speedier C6 controller technology. First up is a 448MB CompactFlash Type II card, which the company is preparing to begin production on soon. Following that will be three other capacities of cards:

  • 256 MB CF I
  • 320MB CF II
  • 384 CF II

Delkin 256MB and 448MB CompactFlash cards

All should offer performance comparable to the 448MB card, as they all write data internally in the same fashion. If Hitachi's controller is indeed faster, then the healthy speed race between Lexar Media and cards from Microtech, Simple Technology and Delkin (among others) that kicked off at the beginning of this year should continue well into the next.

Delkin is also sourcing the Shuttletech ultramini-USB reader, (which Microtech sells as the Zio!), to be sold as the eFilm Pocket Reader. Users of Lexar Media's pro CompactFlash cards already have something similar in the Jumpshot cable; for everyone else, this teeny reader is a great backup USB reader to toss in one's bag. It, like Microtech's Zio!, should sell for less than US$30.

Delkin eFilm Pocket Reader (without product label)
and 320MB CompactFlash Type II card

No announcements for pros from Sandisk

Sandisk had no new higher-capacity or speedier CompactFlash cards on show or to announce at Photokina 2000. One Sandisk rep offered the company's standard line about card speed: they are continually refining the performance of their card's controllers, but do not announce or otherwise trumpet the fact that a card has an improved controller. While Sandisk continues to offer the least expensive Flash RAM CompactFlash cards, an important advantage, the focus of their controller development appears to remain out of step with the needs of speed-hungry digital photojournalists. At the top of their CompactFlash card line is a 192MB CompactFlash Type I card, and a 300MB CompactFlash Type II card.

Sandisk 192MB CompactFlash Type I; Sandisk 300MB CompactFlash Type II

Note: All photos (except for press handouts) shot with a Nikon Coolpix 990 set to Auto colour, manual exposure, and lit by an SB-28DX flash diffused by a Westcott Micro Apollo mini-softbox.

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