This Ruggedized Pro Line Features Transfer Rates of Up to 90 MBs, Plus a Longer Shelf Life

Whatever you may have thought about recording your footage to SD memory in the past, there are some compelling stats and unexpected features inside Panasonic’s latest line of high-speed SD (Secure Digital) memory cards that deserve a second look. According to Jan Crittenden, the company’s 3D and AVCCAM product manager, this new line of SDHC memory cards-dubbed the “SDB” series and coming in 8, 16 and 32 GB capacities-may finally be fast enough and stable enough to use more regularly on professional shoots. In fact, Crittenden has gone so far as to call these cards the “P2 cards of the SD world.” Why?
First, she explains, these full Class 10 UHS-1 protocol SDHC cards are tested for durability (with Proof 5 resistance to water, shock, magnetization, X-rays and temperature extremes from -13 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit) and optimized for the professional market-specifically for the line of AVCCAM HD camcorders Crittenden manages. The cards come with a built-in QR Code Tracking device to help better locate and manage the video on the card and a link to downloadable AVCCAM File Recovery Software (compatible with Windows 7, XP and Mac OS X) that could save you from tossing the card and reshooting. In June, Panasonic will also release free Card Checker software that, when used with Panasonic’s UHS-1 USB adapter (which lists for $60), will give you a color-coded “endurance remain” read out on your screen similar to a signal strength bar, indicating how much longer your card can safely stay in use.
The cards themselves have a one-year warranty, something you just don’t get with consumer-level SDHC memory, and list for $60 (8 GB), $129 (16 GB) and
$245 (32 GB). A limited supply is available now, with another shipment coming in late June. Explains Crittenden, “I didn’t realize what a hit these would be with our users and definitely under-ordered.”

The other notable feature that sets these cards apart from their consumer-class cousins? They are exceptionally fast, clocking in with 90 MBs transfer rates that are four-and-a-half times faster than the previous generation. Offload speeds have also been clocked at 90 seconds for the smallest 8 GB card and six minutes for the 32 GB card.

Increased transfer speeds and more file control may be reason enough to start recording with these cards, but the stability and longevity of your media, and the peace of mind that comes with it, are sometimes worth much more. To that end, Panasonic has also added an on-board controller, known as a SICS (Super Intelligent Controller System), which Crittenden says can extend the card’s shelf life-and all the footage on it-by protecting against power failures and more evenly distributing the data writing across the entire piece of media. This way, she says, one area doesn’t become overused and potentially damaged with repeated use. Crittenden and her team will be working with key users to field in the coming months, to see just how far and how long the cards can perform under a variety of normal to more punishing production conditions.

There is a catch, however, to matching those transfer and offload speeds and unlocking Panasonic’s free utility software on your own equipment: you’ve got to have a computer with a USB 3.0 controller and use either Panasonic’s UHS-1 USB adapter (model number BN-SDCMAB) or an SD card slot on the computer that supports UHS-1 SDHC media. While USB 3.0 already exists in Panasonic’s latest Toughbook 53 laptops and is coming soon to new PCs made by HP and others, it’s currently not native on the Mac. On top of that, Apple’s recent adoption of Thunderbolt technology, which combines the PCI Express and DisplayPort interfaces into a single I/O, is widely seen as a move away from the USB 3.0 specification. (Some think Thunderbolt might eventually replace all other existing I/O interfaces, including USB, DVI, FireWire, SCSI and SATA.)

But where there’s a roadblock, there’s likely an adapter. Both CalDigit and LaCie last year released USB 3.0 PCI Express host adapters featuring Mac OS X drivers, thus unlocking MacBook Pros with ExpressCard slots to newer, and future, USB 3.0-based media.