My photography stretches back far before the digital era, and many of my photo memories are etched into the emulsion of slide film. I was late to the digital party, but soon became enamored with all the information these cameras would record for me, like a diligent research assistant. My first digital camera recorded the date and time, image dimensions, and a few other features. As I bought new cameras and the Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) standard improved, more and more information was added that I had been too lazy to record.
The EXIF data records almost all the information, ranging from the obvious information of time and date, to the minute details such as the f-stop and shutter speed. There was, until recently, still a big gap in the EXIF — place or position. Now, Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled cameras will close the gap.
As a hiker, I’ve been interested in outdoor location-based photography and the GPS technology. I’ve watched the evolution of GPS photography, from the earlier Kodak cameras, gradually evolving to what is available now. Only a few cameras on the market today support direct recording of GPS data to EXIF—the Nikon D1X, D2X, and D2Hs; the Ricoh RDC-i700G; and the SurveyLab ike300 unit. For example the Red Hen Systems requires a consumer GPS unit and there are still cabling issues.
But, Ricoh just raised the bar. The new Ricoh 500SE is one of the first true GPS embedded/equipped digital cameras that I’ve seen. Very cool! The camera was specifically designed to optimize map-based workflows and includes built in Bluetooth or Wi-fi capability. There are bolt on units for the Nikon high-end cameras, but this is one of the first true GPS cameras I’ve seen with it built-in. The Ricoh 500SE captures “geo-images” or “geo-video” files, they are transferred to a PC, they are automatically converted to shape files or merged into geo-databases for instant integration into Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Points representing each file’s position may be hovered over to display a thumbnail of the file, or clicked on to access the original image or video.
A very positive trend and one I’m sure will accelerate more manufactures to come to market with GPS-ready cameras.