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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Future Of Memory

SDHC and CompactFlash are the dominant formats for today's D-SLRs, but whether or not that will continue indefinitely is an open question for professionals

The Future Of Memory Memory cards keep getting smaller in size, higher in capacity, faster in sustained read/write speed and lower in price. What other directions will they take? Which format is most likely to predominate the professional photography market, and what will we see at Photokina 2008?

Jonathan Hubert, Director of Strategic Marketing for the Cards and Accessories Division of SanDisk, believes that it will be a two-horse race over the next 24 to 36 months. SanDisk is the world's largest producer of flash memory products.

“While both SDHC and CF will coexist,” he says, “CF will continue to have a performance advantage over SDHC and will be preferred by professionals. But SDHC will have the highest volume of sales and the lower price points.

“With performance rates for SDHC cards in the 10- to 20- megabytes-per-second range,” he continues, “many consumers will find these speeds sufficient for their needs. But CF is double that range. In fact, the road map for CF can theoretically support up to 133 MB per second, so that interface has plenty of room ahead of it. And the camera manufacturers are still driving for higher megapixel levels, which in turn increases the need for higher capacities. CF still allows for the highest capacities, right now up to 16 gigabytes. Further, professionals are comfortable with the physical form factor of CF, since it's large enough and durable enough to be removed frequently from a camera. Therefore, we don't see professionals migrating to the SD space anytime soon.”

John Santoro, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Lexar Media, agrees. “Most often, professional-level shooters are looking for the highest-speed and largest-capacity memory cards available. Currently, CompactFlash cards hold the leadership position in these categories.”

The Future Of Memory Mike Sager, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Kingston Technology, concurs, but he sees a rosy future for SDHC, too. “We believe that CompactFlash cards will continue to be a favorite among professional photographers over the next 24 to 36 months, but the new SDHC format will begin to gain popularity among pros as well.”

In terms of total sales for professional and hobbyist applications, SD is the most popular card type. Slightly smaller than one frame of 35mm film (24mm x 32mm), SD offers high maximum capacity (2 MB) and outstanding performance characteristics. The miniSD card is much smaller—only 37 percent of the volume of an SD—and can be used in SD applications via an adapter without performance loss. SDHC (the HC stands for High Capacity) is the latest development in the SD family and was designed to stretch the 2 MB capacity limitation of standard SD all the way to 32 MB. SDHC isn't backward-compatible with SD—but you can use standard SD in SDHC host devices.


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