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Lexar tweaks 16X card firmware for EOS-1D  
Friday, February 22, 2002 | by
Lexar Media yesterday announced a new revision of firmware for its Pro Series 16X CompactFlash cards that is designed to boost write speed in the Canon EOS-1D. A Lexar press release claims a 15 percent speed boost when shooting the EOS-1D's raw format, relative to original-firmware 16X cards, which is in line with the 14% change I measured during write speed testing with both 512MB 16X and 1GB 16X cards running the revised firmware.

A boost of 14% may not sound like much, and in a different camera it might translate into a modest boost in the actual transfer rate from camera to CompactFlash card. The EOS-1D, however, is designed for fast, fast transfer of data to the CompactFlash card, which means that, for example, Lexar's 512MB 16X CompactFlash card jumps from 2298K/sec with its original firmware to 2615K/sec with EOS-1D-optimized firmware when writing a 14-frame burst of EOS-1D raw files. JPEG performance gains are more modest, though still significant, at about 11% when writing a 14-frame sequence of Large Fine EOS-1D photos. This boosts write speed from 2226K/sec to 2482K/sec.

The net effect of the EOS-1D-optimized firmware for EOS-1D shooters is to move Lexar's 16X series to the head of the pack of name brand CompactFlash cards, including those from Microtech, SimpleTech, Sandisk (Ultra series) Delkin, Kingston and IBM (Microdrive). The fastest card in the EOS-1D in my testing remains the Ritek/Ridata 512MB, however, at 2663K/sec (RAW) and 2505K/sec (Large Fine JPEG). With the revised firmware, however, Lexar has narrowed the performance gap such that the difference is not terribly significant. The table below provides a quick glimpse at EOS-1D write speed performance with a handful of CompactFlash cards (an upcoming report at robgalbraith.com will provide test data for 23 CompactFlash cards).

CompactFlash Card
(Brand, Model, Type)
Write Speed -
EOS-1D Large Fine JPEG
(Kilobytes/second)
Write Speed -
EOS-1D RAW .TIF
(Kilobytes/second)
Lexar Media 512MB 16X Type I
(original firmware)
2226K/sec 2298K/sec
Lexar Media 512MB 16X Type I
(EOS-1D-optimized firmware)
2482K/sec 2615K/sec
Lexar Media 1GB 16X Type II
(EOS-1D-optimized firmware*)
2484K/sec 2622K/sec
SimpleTech 512MB Type II 2336K/sec 2460K/sec
Sandisk Ultra 512MB Type I 2251K/sec 2459K/sec
Ritek/Ridata 512MB Type I 2505K/sec 2663K/sec
*Lexar's 1GB 16X card sports the EOS-1D-optimized firmware as its standard firmware, and has since that card began shipping in January.

Kodak DCS 760 and DCS 720X shooters will also benefit from the engineering effort Lexar has expended in improving the performance of their cards in the 1D. I measured a whopping 21% improvement in DCS 760 write speed with the revised firmware. This moves Lexar's 16X series ahead of all flash memory CompactFlash cards tested here in the last several months, including those from Ritek/Ridata, though the IBM 1GB Microdrive remains the fastest CompactFlash card in Kodak's DCS 7xx series by a healthy margin. Nikon D1X and D1H shooters will see only a small write speed improvement, on the order of 4% or less in my testing, regardless of file format.

The EOS-1D-optimized firmware is available at no charge to current 16X owners by sending their cards to Lexar in California for updating (a utility to enable the end user to load the update is not available). The revised firmware replaces the original firmware in all Lexar 16X CompactFlash cards currently being produced. In other words, the EOS-1D-optimized firmware has recently become the standard firmware in all 16X cards rolling off the factory floor. Though Lexar has just announced the firmware revision now, they have in fact been loading it into all 1GB 16X cards that have shipped since that card began hitting store shelves last month.

Call Lexar tech support at +1 510-413-1275 to determine if your Lexar Media Pro Series 16X CompactFlash card is running the original or revised firmware, and to make arrangements to ship it to Lexar in California for updating. Technicians will also be updating firmware at Lexar's booth at PMA 2002 starting this Sunday.

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