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
In an attempt to bring some standardization to speed ratings, all official SDHC cards are marked according to their performance class. For example, Class 2 cards (the slowest) must deliver a sustained read and write speed of at least 2 MB per second; Class 4 equates to 4 MB per second. This new speed rating system makes it easier for consumers to select the right card for a particular application. All of the confusion has not yet disappeared, however, because some cards are capable of higher burst rates and are promoted as such.
Prosumer video camcorders are also defining the memory card marketplace. Panasonic is a leader in both SD card technology and high-definition video. It has recently launched Pro High Speed SD cards with a Class 6 SD speed rating in 1 GB, 2 GB and 4 GB capacities.
“When used with Panasonic's High Definition SD Video Camera model HDC-SD1, for example, the card can stably record real-time, detailed high-definition video until memory capacity exhausts,” says Dean Spenzos, Panasonic Product Manager. “The new Pro High Speed lineup includes a 4 GB SDHC memory card. Thanks to the massive data-storage capacity, it's now possible to record approximately one hour of high-definition video in AVCHD [Advanced Video Codec High Definition] Normal mode with a single card.”
“Changes in the card form factor are directly related to the applications they're used in,” explains SanDisk's Hubert. “Cards went from CF to SD because people wanted a camera to put in their pocket. Then it went from SD to microSD to get into small handsets. Cards are therefore designed around platforms that are targeted at specific consumer markets, rather than around technology enablers. If there were demand to have smaller memory than a microSD, we'd probably have to go to an embedded solution such as the SanDisk iNAND. On the other hand, there's a trend for cards to get larger as well. Recently, we announced a project with Sony to develop an ExpressCard for the professional video market, and this would be larger than a CF card. It would fit into a standard ExpressCard slot, and yet it would still be smaller than what video professionals are using today, such as an optical disk or tape. The ExpressCard represents a new market for SanDisk.”
Says Lexar's Santoro, “In the foreseeable future, improvements in card read and write speed and increased capacity will continue to be the main areas of card advancement. However, we do expect added functionality, including features that provide an indication of what's happening with the card itself.”
“We think the trend will continue to be smaller size, larger capacity and lower price,” adds Kingston's Sager. “We also believe the trend will continue to be for consumer point-and-shoot cameras to offer larger image files and thus increase the need for higher-capacity SDHC memory cards. For Kingston, we believe the market will definitely make a major shift toward the SDHC format.”
Panasonic will continue to upgrade the existing line while simultaneously introducing new products. “In addition to the introduction of the new Pro High Speed series,” Spenzos says, “Panasonic will also upgrade the performance of its SD memory card line for general use.”
The ultimate winner in the format war is you. Memory cards will continue to become smaller in size, higher in capacity, faster in sustained read/write speed and lower in price. And that spells a sweet deal for all of us.
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