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Flash memory maker unveils monster card

Lexar Media announces the availability of a high-capacity removable flash memory card. A high-end camera equipped with the card can store up to 600 images.

Lexar Media announced the availability of a high-capacity removable flash memory card on Monday.

As expected, the Fremont, Calif.-based maker of removable flash memory cards said it has begun selling a 4GB CompactFlash card for $1,499. The card is meant to give professional photographers the most storage available for recording high-quality digital images. A high-end 6-megapixel camera equipped with the card can store up to 600 images.

As camera makers produce cameras that are capable of capturing images with higher and higher resolutions, and as the mainstream audience begins to move from low-resolution cameras to high-resolution cameras, the need for more storage is becoming ever greater. That's good news for flash memory companies such as Lexar and SanDisk, who have both seen their stocks skyrocket over the last few months.

The digital photography and cell phone markets have helped propel the flash memory industry, according to Chris Chute, an analyst with research firm IDC.

"The retail market for flash is as strong as ever, as pricing continues to drop, and devices and the demand for capacity continues to grow," Chute said.

Whereas a year ago an entry-level camera had 2-megapixel capability, 3-megapixel cameras are now the amateur standard, according to IDC. However, the amount of memory that's used in mainstream cameras has decreased as compression technology has improved. Chute said average file sizes for images have decreased from 2MB in 2001 to about 1.3MB in 2003. For higher-end cameras, file sizes have increased from 2MB to 4.3 MB per file.

Considering the high cost of the card and some of the advanced features, the 4GB card is best for professionals, the crowd that Lexar is targeting, Chute said.

The 4GB CompactFlash card features Write Acceleration technology, which allows photographers that use digital cameras with WA technology to capture and store images 23 percent faster than can cameras and cards without the technology, according to Lexar. The card is a CompactFlash Type II, which is slightly larger than the more common Type I cards.