When I first started Alphatracks, I commented that while I was disappointed to see Minolta close the door on it’s photography division, I was intrigued by the idea of Sony bringing it’s electronic research into the digital SLR world. I was thinking mainly about WiFi camera to computer communication, but I expected to see other electronic breakthroughs as well.
Now, two months after the A100 announcement, Sony has taken the wraps off a new piece of hardware called the GPS-CS1 GPS device. The new gadget puts your pictures on the map — literally.
The GPS-CS1 records time and location readings and can sync to the timestamp on a JPEG image taken with a variety of Sony digital cameras — including the A100. When you bring this information into a computer running Sony’s GPS Image Tracker software, your images will show up on an online map. Based on the screen shot, it appears that a thumbnail of your images appears to the left of the map. Clicking on an image will show a small image and pointer on the map to indicate where the image was taken. Sony says the 3-Â½ inch long, two ounce GPS-CS1 will be available in another month and sell for $150.00. It should work with any Sony digital camera or Handy Cam sold after July, 2006 — and Sony specifically mentions the A100 as being compatible with the new devise. No word if Sony will offer a Mac software version.
Is it cutting edge or just another digital toy? Personally, I would probably use one if I could get it free or cheap, but I’m not sure I could justify 150 bucks just to see where I shot my photos on a map. I already know where I shoot and I ‘m usually pretty specific about labeling my photo archives with date and location. In addition, the Sony press release says the data from the GPS-CS1 is embedded into JPEG files. Since I almost always shoot RAW, that wouldn’t help me — unless I start shooting in the A100’s RAW + JPEG mode.
But that’s just me. This little gadget could be put to great use by any number of industries and agencies — Real Estate, Insurance adjusters, geologists, archaeologists, architects, historians and the military. That’s just off the top of my head. There are probably a host of people who could make good use of a devise that incorporates GPS data into a digital photo.
Of more importance to me, it the fact that Sony is showing a willingness to innovate with new gadgets in the digital camera arena. I may not be a candidate for the GPS-CS1 right now, but I know it will be available if I ever do need it. I expect most users of the Sony Alpha will feel the same. For many it will come off as a toy — cute, but with no real value. For others, however, it will quickly become a necessity that they rely on every day.
The fact that Sony is bringing to market a devise that will only appeal to a segment of their overall market bodes well for future hardware and software innovations. (Like maybe tethered camera control over WiFi — hint, hint!) If Sony is willing to innovate in new areas and offer hardware solutions you can’t get from other makers — the Alpha line will grow to be a dominant force in no time.
What do you think? Does the GPS-CS1 interest you? Or do you see it as only a toy for geeks with too much time on their hands? The comments are open.