The new generation of flash cards is here, which, for the very first time, surpass the capacity of mini hard drives. Sandisk's new Extreme III Compact Flash cards will ship with 12 GB and 16 GB capacity in December of this year.
Especially professional photographers who prefer to store their images in RAW format or even use high-end cameras such as Hasselblad's H3D 39-megapixel camera - which will require more than 110 MB of space for single picture - may be among the first customers of these cards. If you are using such a card with a regular, mainstream 6-megapixel camera, you have enough room for the pictures of virtually any vacation - the 12 GB card will store more than 3000 pictures and the 16 GB version more than 4000.
What is remarkable about these new cards is that they offer more capacity than competing hard drive based storage media. For example, Seagate's Photo Drive series currently tops out at 8 GB and is expected to be available as 12 GB version later this year. As usual, the flash drives are also much faster than the hard drive units: According to Sandisk, the new cards will have minimum write and read speeds of 20 MB/s. Of course, this advantage is pricey and will cost substantially more than a 12 GB hard drive that is expected to retail for about $150 to $200.
Sandisk said that the 12 GB version will be priced at $780 in the U.S. - which is significantly higher than the 475 Euro (not including VAT) in Europe. The 16 GB version will carry a suggested retail price of $1050 in the U.S. while the card will be available for 633 Euro in Europe. Including VAT, the 16 GB card, for example, will cost "only" $955 in Germany, according to Samsung.