I’ve written recently that I’ve been looking for a new camera with GPS capabilities. For a genealogist, the ability to capture the location of the gravestone, ancestral home or workplace of your relative will help you many times over.
First, you will be able to find your way back to it. And anyone you give the picture to will be able to find it as well.
Second, you can map it. Mapping is an excellent way to see new relationships between your relatives. If they lived, worked, or were buried near each other, that may be a clue.
But most of all, it is a seldom recorded but very important information necessary to document a photo. You not only need to know the who, what, when and why, but the where as well. No better way than to have it accurately and automatically recorded in the EXIF data of the photo. No fuss, no muss, no worry, it’s there.
I looked at the current generation of GPS cameras available. They’re all big. I have carried my wonderfully compact Canon ELPH SD600 in my pocket every day for the last 5 years or so and have taken maybe 5,000 shots and videos with it. It’s been great for me. But it lacks a GPS. I tried GPS accessories and attempts to Sync the GPS info into the picture afterwards with software on my computer. What a pain!
So I secretly hoped my little ELPH would break on me, or “accidentally” drop so that I’d need a new camera. But it wouldn’t.
Other than being big (the only current exception is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TXn00V models – but what’s big for the Sonys is their price tag), they are satellite only, vary in their ability and length of time, and how out-in-the-open they must be to pick up a signal. Also their GPS is a big drain on their batteries.
The one camera that was different is the Casio Exilim EX-H20G. I was intrigued by this one. It won awards for its innovative Hybrid GPS that used an internal accelerometer to continue to determine your position even when the GPS signal gets lost, such as when there’s tall buildings around or when your indoors. Yes! It continues to work indoors! And on top of that, it had longer battery life than most non-GPS cameras, even with the GPS always on.
I looked around and that Casio model was hard to find. About 6 months ago, stores in North America were clearing it out for around $200. Henry’s still had it on it’s website for that price. I ordered one about 6 weeks ago. After a month with the order status continuing to say “processing order”, I finally emailed them. They responded that this model was no longer available, cancelled my order, and I was never charged.
The model was still available on eBay through reputable Asian sellers. But now my worry about why the model was taken off the market in North America led me to think I should pass on it. I searched the web for reasons for the camera’s withdrawal. All I found were good reviews for the camera from 18 months ago when the camera first came out. But nothing about why it’s no longer available.
Meanwhile, my cellphone was over 3 years old. I was happy with it. It was a Samsung flip open phone that twinged old memories by being reminiscent of the Star Trek communicator. It was all I needed for the occasional phone call and text message. The $10 a month plan my family locked into was a great deal.
But because of my general interest in computer trends, I’ve been following the latest in SmartPhones and Pads. My daughters and wife all have iPod Touch’s. And just about everywhere I go, people have iPhones, iPads, Android Phones, and (here in Canada) Blackberrys.
What caught my eye a while back though, was the Windows Phone. My cousin who works for Microsoft, showed me one a few years ago and even back then, I thought it was impressive. It seemed appealing to me to have a phone that can open and do limited editing to Microsoft Office files, sync pictures and data with a Sky Drive in a person’s Windows Live account, and download maps so that GPS mapping apps can still work without needing an expensive monthly data plan.
I just happened to have a few minutes last weekend and I wandered into a Future Shop store and thought I’d take a look at the Windows Phones they have. I didn’t realize that because my current phone was paid off, they had a promotion where I could keep my current $10 a month plan, NOT have to get a data plan, and upgrade my phone to a Nokia Lumia 710 for … $0. No brainer!
What? But I needed a camera with GPS. Of course, I knew the SmartPhones all have GPS which use satellite but also get assistance from the cellular network. And they have cameras that are not the greatest, but are passable for 98% of what I need. And they have HD video that’s better than what I had on my Casio.
Not only that, but the one device is less volume and less weight than my ELPH camera because it is half the thickness.
Take a look on the left at what I was carrying around in one pocket before: A camera in a (by now) worn out leather case and a cellphone. On the right is the one Nokia Lumia 710 device I now carry around instead.
What did I get? Did I get a camera as part of a toy. Well, I’ve looked at some of the thousands of apps available. Yes, almost all the apps are toys. They pale in comparison to what most programs for desktops or laptops can do. They are mostly toy programs.
But the Windows Phone idea is different. It’s current Operating System: Windows Phone 7.5 is weak, just like Android and iOS. Behold would have to be cut down considerably in features and capability to run on these devices. But around the corner, Windows 8 is coming. This is a major step for computing. Microsoft is making one Operating System for Desktops AND handhelds! Behold and almost any other Windows program will probably be able to run with few or no modifications on a Windows 8 Phone when they come out this fall. Amazing, and I can’t wait!
So in the meantime, I’m using this free-phone opportunity to get used to the handheld world. By seeing how the apps work on them now, I’ll get a better feeling of how I’ll need to set up Behold so it will work well on both desktops and handhelds once Windows 8 is out.