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Digicam memory cards crack 4 gigabytes

Lexar Media is releasing two new cards that far exceed the capacity of other digital cards, while rival SanDisk unveils a line of cards that transfer data at a higher rate of speed.

Lexar Media said Monday that it will soon release two new CompactFlash cards that far exceed the memory capacity of other digital cards on the market, while rival SanDisk unveiled a line of CompactFlash and SD cards that transfer data at a higher rate of speed.

The new cards, unveiled at the Photo Marketing Association convention in Las Vegas taking place this week, are aimed at professionals and avid hobbyists in digital photography. With capacities of 2GB and 4GB, the Lexar cards will let photographers take reams of pictures before downloading. Other companies are currently selling 1GB cards, while most cameras come with a 32MB card.

Fremont, Calif.-based Lexar was able to compress more memory into the card in part by using flash memory chips and specially designed packaging from Samsung.

In recent months, Samsung, Intel and other manufacturers have unveiled new memory packaging technology that lets manufacturers stack memory chips vertically in cell phones and other equipment. Because vertical stacking doesn't increase the footprint of the host device (in this case, a card), more memory can be included.

The new cards, though, aren't cheap. The 2GB card will cost $699 when it hits retail shelves in March, and the 4GB cards will sell for $1,499.

By contrast, CompUSA and other outlets currently sell 1GB CompactFlash cards for around $300.

SanDisk, meanwhile, introduced its new line of Extreme CompactFlash and SD (formerly secure digital) cards. This new line of CompactFlash cards can write data at 6 megabytes per second, faster than competing cards. The new Lexar cards, for example, write at 4.8 megabytes.

The Extreme SD cards, which use a different format, write data at 2.5MB per second. Faster write time means photographers can fire off successive shots more quickly. Competitors are working on similar projects.

Additionally, both sets of cards can function in temperatures ranging from minus 25 degrees Celsius to 85 degrees Celsius. The upper temperature range is important in the studio environment because of hot lights.

The Extreme CompactFlash cards will come in 256MB, 512MB and 1GB capacities and cost, respectively, $99, $189 and $379. The Extreme SD cards will come in 256MB and 512MB and sell for $109 and $219.

Both sets of cards will come out in the second quarter.