Fuji and Olympus announced a new digital storage format today called “xD-Picture Card .” Here’s a press release from Fuji. Olympus also released an identical document. I have been working in the photo retail business for over five years now, and I’d like to think that I’m qualified to weigh in on this new format.
This new format cannot be “a good thing.” Basically, there are already too many film formats. Consumers must choose among compact flash, smartmedia, Sony’s memory stick, secure digital (SD) or multimedia cards (MMC). Compact flash cards are by far the most popular, due in part to their close resemblance to PCMCIA cards. Fuji and Olympus are the only major manufacturers still using smartmedia, a format that the two companies invented to challange compact flash. Smartmedia currently ranks the third most popular storage format, though sales of smartmedia have been extremely slow lately, while CF and SD/MMC have been selling like hotcakes.
The new format will initially be available in 16MB-128MB sizes. There’s nothing particularly special here. You can purchase a compact flash card in stores that has a 512MB capacity. You can even achieve more storage if you use a microdrive, a spinning hard drive the size of a compact flash card. Fuji and Olympus claim that the new format will be able to read and write at 3MB/s, a good speed, but one that is currently possible with compact flash cards.
The new format will supposedly scale to 8GB. That’s all fine and dandy, but considering you can order a 1gig solid state compact flash card today, who’s to say that it won’t scale to 8GB and beyone either? The only other thing that could save this new card format is price, but according to the press release, “Pricing for xD-Picture Cards and accessories will be similar to SmartMedia.”
The new format does have one thing going for it: its size. The card is slightly larger than a penny. Size is the reason that many people have switched from compact flash over to secure digital and multimedia cards, though both are larger than xD.
To summarize, I think that yet another digital storage format is not the answer. This new format may cause financial trouble for Fuji and Olympus.