December 06, 2010

New, faster format for Compact Flash

Sony, Nikon and SanDisk have developed a new high-speed specification for CompactFlash memory cards, making them more suited to HD video recording at higher bitrates, including RAW 3D.

They are proposing a new format rated at up to 500 megabytes per second (4gbps), about three times faster than the latest version of CompactFlash announced last month (CF6.0, which could theoretically reach about 1.33gbps). The proposals have been put to the CompactFlash Association, the international standards organization, with the intent to standardize the format.

The format won't be backwards compatible with existing CF cards, although they will look the same. It will use the versatile PCI Express interface (found in many laptops), while current CF cards use a more limited Parallel ATA interface. The specification is also claimed to offer improved battery performance thanks to a power scaling system.

For HD DSLR cameras, the high-speed cards would allow continuous RAW shooting of high-resolution stills as well as higher quality video.

There has been a previous attempt to introduce a faster, but non-compatible CF card format (using the Serial-ATA interface), called CFast, which was released more than two years ago, but camera manufacturers have not made any models using it. However, with such heavyweights as Sony, Nikon and SanDisk backing it, this system looks more likely to get off the ground, not just as camera storage but also for other data storage as the cards could hold 2TB or more.

This format "will enable further evolution of hardware and imaging applications, and widen the memory card options available to CompactFlash users such as professional photographers,” said the CFA's chairman, Shigeto Kanda, from Canon. “This next generation format is expected to be widely adapted to various products.”

“The ultra high-speed media, which will be realized by this new card format, will expand the capability of digital SLR cameras and other professional digital imaging equipment,” added Kazuyuki Kazami, Nikon VP and general manager for imaging development.

The companies are hoping to introduce cameras using the new cards in the near future, probably during 2011.

By David Fox

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