Mega Storage in a Small Space
Mega Storage in a Small Space
The high capacity of a multi-gigabyte drive has allowed you to put more customer files on your desktop computer without worrying about exhausting your hard drive space. Imagine how the comparable storage capacity in a handheld or digital camera could empower you in the field.
Two manufacturers--Fuji and Olympus--have just unveiled new standards for ultra-compact Flash media that could pave the way for smaller, yet more powerful, mobile electronics solutions. Flash media, such as CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Secure Digital, and PCMIA cards, are self-contained storage solutions already used in many electronic devices. Compact and removable, with no moving parts, the Flash cards are the preferred solution for storing data or images that you need to transfer from one compatible device to another. For instance, they allow you to easily transfer pictures captured with a digital camera to a PC or PDA for viewing or to back up image files.
What’s significant about the new media format, dubbed xD (for “extreme digital”) Picture Card, is their potential capacity. Vendors say the compact design of the cards will make it possible to eventually store as much as 8 gigabytes per card. Each gigabyte equals 1,000 megabytes, which is the unit most current cards use to measure their storage capacity. That’s a lot of pictures, text, or presentations on a Flash media card roughly the size and weight of a penny.
Since the co-developers of the new Flash media are both camera companies, the format will make its debut in digital cameras. Initially the xD Picture Cards will be offered in capacities ranging from 16MB to128MB, with a 256MB version to follow by year’s end, and multi-gigabyte promised for next year. Although prices on the xD format have not yet been announced, both developers indicate the cards will be competitively priced with other Flash media, which currently runs about $1 per megabyte.
Fuji uses the new format as the storage media in five digital cameras that are priced comparable to other models with similar performance. At the low end are entry-level cameras that relieve you of all the guesswork in capturing quality images of your latest listings. Just point and shoot. The FinePix A20o, $179.95, and FinePix A2650, $249, both feature simplified operation and a 2-megapixel image sensor. Even these entry-level cameras can capture images with enough color and clarity for showcasing listings online or in print. With the 3x optical zoom lens built into the A2650, you can also capture close-ups for use in virtual tours.
The company’s new mid-range cameras reflect the downward spiral in digital camera pricing, giving today’s buyer more bang for the buck. The 2 megapixel A203, $279, and the 3.24 megapixel FinePix A303, $349, offer a few more features for those looking for an easy-to-use camera, including a 3X optical zoom, and video record and video conferencing capability. These models weigh just 5.1 ounces.
Rounding out the new introductions is an attractively priced camera that should appeal to those looking for a more versatile imaging solution. The new FinePix 3800, $449, features a 6X optical zoom lens, high-resolution electronic viewfinder, plus video record, PC cam, and video conferencing capability. Accessory lens adapters will be available to enhance its optics.
The 3800’s voice annotation feature could make it especially useful for real estate professionals who like to take notes as they photograph their latest listing. With this feature, you can dictate up to 30 seconds of a voice memo and attach to an image file for playback and review later. That will be a big help to any salesperson whose every pored over pictures, trying to figure out which bedroom is the master.
Olympus expects to launch its digital cameras with xD picture cards in the near future. And that’s probably just the beginning. The two companies plan to release the cards with a variety of adapters and a USB reader, which will make them compatible with a range of mobile electronics, including any brand of digital cameras, PDAs, and laptops. The announcement of such a high-capacity, compact storage solution should also challenge producers of other Flash media formats to push the capacity of their cards as far as possible.
If they rise to meet that challenge, digital camera and PDA users will be the beneficiaries.
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