At Photokina 2004, SanDisk announced a spate of flash memory products for the serious and professional digital photographer, including new Extreme III CompactFlash and SD cards, USB 2.0 card readers that support the faster transfer modes of Extreme III and a revamp of its Ultra II CompactFlash and SD cards that add higher capacities and move the entire line to multi level cell (MLC) memory from binary-type memory.
The first of the newly-announced products - the Ultra II 1GB SD - began shipping earlier this month. The remainder of the new cards and readers, says SanDisk's retail product marketing manager Tanya Chuang, will be rolling out steadily now until the first quarter of 2005. By then, all of SanDisk's new stuff should be on store shelves.
Here's a detailed breakdown of the planned shipping schedule at SanDisk. The dates listed below are projections of when the product is to leave SanDisk; in all cases it will take time for the shipment to arrive at the dealer and be absorbed into inventory, so please allow for that in calculating when you think a given product is to appear at your favourite retailer.
- Extreme III 1GB and 2GB CompactFlash - week of November 15, 2004.
SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash
- Extreme III 4GB CompactFlash - week of December 6, 2004.
- Extreme III 1GB SD - week of November 22, 2004.
- Ultra II 512MB CompactFlash (MLC) - mid-January 2005.
- Ultra II 1GB and 2GB CompactFlash (MLC) - early December 2004. Ultra II 1GB and 2GB CompactFlash cards utilizing binary-type memory have been shipping for over a year. The transition to MLC-based Ultra II will kick off early next month, and for up to several weeks SanDisk may ship both binary-type and MLC Ultra II CompactFlash at these capacities through their distribution system. Eventually, however, binary-type Ultra II CompactFlash will disappear completely.
- Ultra II 4GB CompactFlash (MLC) - week of November 22, 2004. Recently, SanDisk began shipping an Ultra II 4GB CompactFlash card using binary-type memory (this capacity is new to the Ultra II CompactFlash line). Starting the week of November 22, 2004, the company will begin the transition to MLC-based Ultra II 4GB. As with the lower capacities, the transition will take some time. SanDisk is expecting that they'll be shipping nothing but MLC Ultra II 4GB by the week of December 20, 2004.
- Ultra II 8GB CompactFlash (MLC) - the week of December 20, 2004.
- Ultra II SD 1GB (MLC) - this card is shipping now.
- Ultra II SD 2GB (MLC) - a shipping date has not been set. Though announced along with the rest of the Ultra II series in late September 2004, an apparent problem in the specification for this memory format means that many SD-capable devices will not accept 2GB (and presumably larger) capacity cards. SanDisk is, therefore, evaluating when to release their 2GB Ultra II SD card, and has not set a ship date at this time.
- USB 2.0 CompactFlash and 5-in-1 card readers that support the faster transfer modes of the Extreme III series - a shipping date has not been set, though they are expected to be released sometime early in 2005 now.
SanDisk USB 2.0 CompactFlash and 5-in-1 card readers
Note: We're still working to find out if there will be an (easy) way for a prospective purchaser of an Ultra II CompactFlash or SD card to differentiate a current binary-type version from an upcoming MLC version. While the Ultra II 1GB SD and Ultra II 8GB CompactFlash can only be MLC, other capacities of these memory formats are shipping now as binary-type, but will be replaced by MLC on the schedule outlined above.
SanDisk is also gearing up to ship Extreme III and Ultra II (MLC) cards in the Memory Stick PRO format. The Extreme III 1GB and 2GB, as well as Ultra II 2GB and 4GB (MLC), are pegged to ship out the week of December 6, 2004.
For more information on Sandisk's Photokina 2004 announcements, please see SanDisk to unveil Extreme III CompactFlash and SD, new card readers and revised Ultra II series.
Update, December 21, 2004: Some of the release date targets listed above, including for Extreme III CompactFlash cards, have slipped since we first published this article. We don't have revised ship dates for all affected products, but have learned from SanDisk that Extreme III CompactFlash began to ship in small quantities in mid-December, with volume shipments now planned for January 2005. In addition, the USB 2.0 CompactFlash and 5-in-1 card readers that support the faster transfer modes of the Extreme III series are planned to be introduced as a rolling change in the product line some time early in 2005. In other words, the readers will look the same, and have the same product name, though they will utilize different components internally and show much faster throughput with Extreme III cards in particular. We're endeavoring to find out from SanDisk whether there will be any way of identifying the new version of the reader on the store shelf.