Bonus Web Review: Sony CS1KA

Note: This article complements Dr John Goswell's Introduction to Geo-Photography.

Sony’s CS1KA comes with all that you need for GPS photography (other than the camera). The unit itself is small, lightweight, and easily attaches to a belt or backpack via the supplied plastic karabiner. The kit includes the USB cable (USB to mini-USB), the instructions, and software.

The unit could not be simpler to use, as there is only one button! Accidental switching on or off is minimized by requiring the button to be held for a while to activate. Pressing briefly whilst switched on gives battery status via one of the three LED lights. A second LED comes on when the memory is nearly full. The third flashes slowly to let you know that the unit is on and has satellite lock. A double flash lets you know that it is on but does not have satellite lock.

The Windows software takes less than two minutes to install. The drivers are installed and two programs, Picture Motion Browser and Map Viewer. On running Picture Motion Browser for the first time, you are asked to register folders. This sounds like registering the product, however is simply letting the program know which files and folders to use. For me this step involved letting it select “My Pictures”. At work this step took two seconds, as there was only one photo present! At home there were over fifteen thousand photos and this took 12 minutes.

The steps for geo-tagging are as follows:

  1. Synchronize the camera time with the GPS unit.
  2. Take photos with the GPS unit running.
  3. Load photos onto the computer. The software automatically recognised my camera card, and loaded them for me.
  4. Attach the CS1 unit. The software automatically recognised the unit and asked if I wanted to download the GPS tracklog.
  5. Select the photos you want tagged. The GPS data automatically appears next to each photo.
  6. Save the tagged photos.

In the supplied software, Picture Motion Browser, the tagged photos are shown in thumbnail form with a picture of a compass overlaid. This is handy as it lets you see which files tagged (some may not if there is not a corresponding set of data for the photo time (eg photos were taken indoors where there was no GPS fix).

The fun part comes with Map View in Picture Motion Browser. Select the photos you want to locate on a world map. On my first attempt I selected 256 photos. I was told that because I had chosen more than 20 photos the process would take a while. However, it was not long and I had a Google Earth map on screen showing the location the geo-tagged photos (see below):

In the above map, each red tag shows where a photo was taken. Clicking on the tag displays the image. Clicking on an image on the left displays where that mage was taken. The map can be viewed as a roadmap (above) or as a satellite map, or with both combined. Google Earth does not always provide high-resolution satellite maps. This sometimes prevents full zooming in when using satellite images.

Picture Motion Browser also has the option of viewing the photos by folder or by date. The latter option displays a calendar for the year with small thumbnail pictures for each date photos were taken. Clicking the thumbnail results in the month being displayed with thumbnails for each day. Further selection displays via the hour the photos were taken.

At the time of writing the Sony’s CS1KA is available through Expansys Australia for $A142.95. It may also be available directly through Sony but is generally not available through Sony distributors.

Criticisms

  • According to the user manual, "the unit is neither dust-proof, nor splash proof, nor water proof”. This requires some care when hiking. Note that placing it in a sealable plastic bag will not interfere with its function.
  • The error is quoted at +/-10m. Some other data loggers quote a better accuracy than this, although it is hard to know if their claims are accurate. For holiday photographs this level of accuracy is more than adequate. For locating a rare plant in the bush (which is a use I require), this becomes less favourable.
  • The software interpolates between data points. This is both good and bad. What it means is that the software will average between two locations if it cannot get an exact time match. This will often be the best solution but could occasionally be well off mark.
  • There is no simple way to synchronize the camera time with the GPS unit.

Conclusion

Overall an excellent unit and certainly good value for money given its current market price. Its best feature is its simplicity.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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