Thanks for the Memory Cards

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The film of the digital age - memory cards - were dealt their biggest hands ever at CES even as two leading camera manufacturers seemed to abandon their largely proprietary formats in favor of the emerging SD card standard.

What camera companies don't promote in their new product announcements at CES can speak volumes. Sony, for example, introduced new cameras and camcorders that instead of incorporating its proprietary Memory Stick Duo card format contained slots for SD or micro SD cards.

Sony finally seemed to be accepting the reality that SD cards are found in the majority of the world's cameras, and Memory Stick is often used as the reason not to buy a Sony product. Driving home the point, Sony announced that it will be marketing its own brand of SD memory cards. (I plan to put them next to my Sony-branded VHS cassettes.) Joining the SD bandwagon was Olympus, which unveiled new cameras that accepted SD and SDHC memory cards rather than xD-picture cards.

For photographers and videographers who can never get too much storage, Panasonic announced SDXC cards in 64- and 48 Gigabyte capacities. SDXC is the next generation after SDHC cards to retain the size of SD memory cards. SDXC cards are built for capacities greater than 32GB with a future roadmap up to 2TB. (You'll have to wait for a future CES to lose a 2 TB card.) Besides Panasonic, Canon has endorsed the SDXC format.

The RP-SDW64GE1K (64 GB) and RP-SDW48GE1K (48 GB) are Panasonic's largest-sized Gold cards with Class 10 speed specification. Class 10 affords data transfer rates at up to 22 megabits per second (MB/s). Both cards will be globally introduced in February with suggested retail prices of $599.95 and $449.95, respectively.

The 64 GB SDXC card is appropriate for recording AVCHD high definition video or RAW still photos. When used with Panasonic's newly-released camcorders, such as the Panasonic HDC-TM55, the 64 GB SDXC Memory Card can record up to 8 hours and 30 minutes of video at the highest quality. Interestingly, the 48 GB SDXC Memory Card will have nearly the same capacity as a dual-layer Blu-ray Disc. For still photography, all of Panasonic's newly-introduced Lumix cameras are SDXC-compatible. The 64 GB card will hold approximately 18,240 images while the 48 GB card will store about 13,470 images using a 12 Megapixel camera set to capture images at 4000 x 3000 pixels in normal mode.

If you can't wait for one of these SDXC cards or don't own a camera that can handle the format, one of the most capacious, high-speed SDHC cards available is the SanDisk 32GB Extreme III. If you're in the CompactFlash camp, consider the SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB CF card or Lexar Professional 300x 32GB CF card.

Meanwhile, users who can't be bothered connecting a cable to get a camera's contents off the card and onto a PC or out to such sites as Flickr, Facebook, and Shutterfly, should be glad to know that there's a sleeker version of Eye-Fi, the SD card with Wi-Fi ability, on its way. The Eye-Fi Pro X2 is an SDHC card with 8GB of memory that brings faster upload speeds, faster read/write speeds, and better Wi-Fi range; and it incorporates 802.11n support. You can send RAW files to your Windows or Macintosh computer. The Eye-Fi Pro X2 is expected soon. If you can't wait, consider last year's Eye-Fi 4GB Wif-Fi Pro SDHC card.