Surprising DSLR GPS Accessory Release From Pentax

So you might be thinking to yourself that a camera with GPS isn’t something new. The really interesting stuff comes with some detail about the accessory, which I’ll go over below.

Here is what it will look like (Pentax stock image):

Important features to me:
– Weather resistant construction to go along with the K-5 and presumably a DA* lens.
Astrotracer!!! This is a seriously amazing feature if it works as advertised. It is said to use the GPS, camera orientation sensors, and the shake-reduction mechanism inside the camera to do astro-tracking of stars. This should allow the camera to have longer exposure times before star trails start showing up. If this feature works as advertised I will seriously consider picking one up.
– It will of course have the standard GPS camera features like GEO tagging too. It doesn’t really say if the information will be written into the EXIF or not, so we will have to see about that. Another cool feature is simple navigation to destinations.

I’m liking the direction Pentax is taking their cameras. Strong rugged field cameras with features that work well in natural outdoor situations. As I’m a photographer who does a large variety of styles in many settings (especially outdoors)… Features like astro-tracking and WR are really great additions to a camera system. I of course love convention and people photography, so improvements to the system for those are welcome improvements too (Hint to Pentax…flash system need some love… RF wireless, TTL, higher sync speed, HHS over wireless).

Edit: The bottom of this page shows how much more exposure time will be possible using the Astrotracker.
http://www.pentax.jp/english/news/2011/201107.html
Off the bat it looks like the K-5 has some physical improvements in SR or possibly in-camera sensors that allow it to track longer than the K-r. For lenses under 50mm it shows 5 minutes of exposure time for all declinations. Very interesting…

Assuming the time decrease is somewhat linear, if I were to use my 300mm f4 lens I could get around 88 seconds of exposure time at a declination of 45 degrees. For 0 declination I would have just about a minute of exposure time. That’s crazy good because normally a 300mm lens should manage only around 1.3 seconds of exposure time (200mm would be 2 seconds) before star trails start happening.

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Edit 2: There is a Japanese language only site that shows more detail about features and how they work.
http://www.pentax.jp/japan/products/o-gps1/feature.html

Here is the page for the astrotracker with example images:
http://www.pentax.jp/japan/products/o-gps1/astrotracer.html

It looks to me that the tracker functionality can really make a difference. I can only imagine the night-time landscape style sky images I could take with my 14mm f2.8 lens in nice areas…

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Here is the full press-release below:

PENTAX ANNOUNCES O-GPS1 UNIT FOR DIGITAL SLR CAMERAS

NEW SLR ACCESSORY HELPS PENTAX PHOTOGRAPHERS
TRACK EVERY STEP OF THE WAY

GOLDEN, CO. (June 1, 2011)…PENTAX Imaging Company announced the PENTAX O-GPS1 unit designed for recent PENTAX digital SLR cameras. This new, versatile GPS unit tracks both basic geographical and celestial body location data for both earthbound and astrophotography purposes.
Mounted on the hot shoe of select PENTAX digital SLR cameras,* the O-GPS1 unit records latitude, longitude, altitude, and universal time coordinated (UTC) of shooting locations with captured images. Image files with this GPS data may be used to track shooting locations and review location data on a personal computing device. The GPS location data also helps sort and file recorded images.
* Compatible models are the K-5, K-r and 645D (as of May, 2011). Some of the O-GPS1’s functions may not be available when used with the 645D. Compatible PENTAX digital SLR camera bodies must be updated with the latest firmware version for proper O-GPS1 functionality.

In addition to location data, the GPS unit works with the PENTAX Shake Reduction (SR) system to offer unique, advanced applications, including Astrotracer, Simple Navigation and Electronic Compass. Together, the PENTAX O-GPS and associated applications offer several key functions:
• Geotags images for location information on popular photo sharing websites.
• Charts progress of a hike, bike, boat or other adventure trip with interval position tracking.
• A separate, efficient power source will not drain the camera’s battery during GPS operation.
• Supports terrestrial-based Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) for highly accurate positioning.
• An Electronic Compass function assists navigation.

The PENTAX O-GPS1 unit will ship in July 2011. It is available for pre-order now on www.pentaxwebstore.com for $249.95 USD. More information is available here: www.pentaximaging.com/news.

PENTAX Imaging Company is an innovative leader in the production of a variety of adventure ready digital cameras including weather-resistant digital SLRs and stylish, compact, waterproof cameras, as well as lenses, flash units, binoculars, scopes, and eyepieces. For more than 90 years, PENTAX has developed durable, reliable products that meet the needs of adventurous consumers and businesses. With headquarters in Golden, Colorado, PENTAX Imaging Company is a division of PENTAX of America, Inc.

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