Lexar Media today has announced a series of 16X CompactFlash cards that feature a minimum sustained write speed of 2.4MB/second in benchmark testing, up from the company's previous high of 12X, or 1.8MB/second. The Type 1-size cards will be available in capacities up to 512MB.
Lexar's 16X cards are new from the ground up, featuring an improved controller, modified firmware and different flash memory than in previous Lexar cards. Dan Le, Lexar's Director of Applications Engineering, says that the bulk of the speed boost comes from changes in the SpaceManager memory-mapping technique employed by the 16X controller.
Jim Gustke, Lexar's Business Segment GM, says as the company moves forward with ever-faster CompactFlash cards, they are putting a renewed emphasis on the company's speed rating system, in an effort to clarify what it means and why it's of benefit to a prospective purchaser. He emphasizes that the speed rating is an indicator of the minimum performance a photographer can expect, not the maximum as quoted by some other CompactFlash vendors. In addition, every Pro Series Lexar card is benchmarked prior to being shipped, to ensure that the minimum performance target is met.
Lexar's speed rating system is a useful initial measure of card performance; it would be great if the entire industry agreed on a way of measuring throughput, and all cards were rated accordingly. Actual in-camera write speed is the most important measure of all, however, and I'm looking forward to seeing if the speed improvements in Lexar's 16X cards translate into faster write times in digital SLRs tuned for efficient writing, including the Kodak DCS 700 series, Nikon's D1X and D1H and the upcoming Canon EOS-1D.
The 16X cards are part of Lexar's Pro Series, which means they include a lifetime warranty, free emergency data recovery, 24 hour tech support and upgradeable firmware (though only by sending the card to Lexar at this time).
Lexar intends to put its new speed on display next month at PhotoPlus Expo in New York, November 1-3. Two Nikon D1X's will be on hand in Lexar's booth for photographers to compare the speed of their own cards with Lexar's new 16X models. Lexar 16X CompactFlash cards will begin shipping November 1. Pricing has not been set.
Note: The firmware changes implemented in Lexar's 512MB 12X CompactFlash card that prevent an additional wake-from-sleep delay in Nikon D1-series cameras have been rolled into the firmware to ship in 16X cards too, so no D1-specific firmware should be required. Le notes that the firmware in all 256MB and larger Lexar CompactFlash cards currently rolling off the factory floor contain the same D1-friendly changes, making D1-specific firmware for a 256MB, 320MB and 512MB card being produced today no longer necessary.