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Nikon preparing to launch the first camera with GNSS instead of GPS, according to government filing: Digital Photography Review

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Reports out of Japan are suggesting future Nikon digital cameras may include GNSS instead of GPS. Nokishita tweeted an unreleased Nikon camera, registered as N2014, is poised to include GNSS in addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If the reports come true, it’d be the first consumer camera with GNSS.

So what is GNSS? It’s Global Navigation Satellite System, and it’s an alternative to the well-known Global Positioning System (GPS) that’s found its way into numerous cameras over the years. With location data available in the camera, users can save location info to the metadata of individual images.

Some cameras have even used GPS data to aid with star tracking, such as the Astrotracer feature in Pentax DSLRs, like the K-1 series. Using GPS data, some Pentax cameras can compensate for the Earth’s rotation during long-exposure night sky photography, ensuring a sharp image that would otherwise require special equipment. To be clear, there’s no indication that a GNSS-equipped Nikon camera would include this type of functionality, however.

Let’s suppose the government filings are accurate and Nikon ultimately does release a camera with GNSS. What does this mean for the user? It’s important to understand how GPS and GNSS differ. The Global Positioning System currently comprises 31 satellites in orbit. Some have been replaced since GPS first launched in 1978.

The system has been available for public use since the late 1980s. It’s a heavily used satellite navigation system, and equipment equipped with L5 bands is accurate within 30cm (11.8″). It’s not unusual for consumer-oriented devices to be less accurate, though, with accuracy to about 5m (16′).

GNSS is also a satellite navigation system that uses satellites to deliver autonomous geo-spatial positioning to small electronic receivers. It is precise to within a few centimeters to meters using time signals transmitted along line of sight by radio from space. It can allow an electronic receiver, like a GNSS-equipped camera, to calculate local time with high precision. Whereas GPS is limited to satellites within its own system, a GNSS system can access satellites across various systems, including GPS, ensuring higher accuracy and better stability. As of May 2019, NSS utilized 89 satellites across all four satellite systems (GPS, BEIDOU, GLONASS and GALILEO).

Per PetaPixel, ‘GNSS satellites orbit the earth at a medium altitude about once every 12 hours, with each satellite transmitting coded signals containing the satellite’s precise orbit details and a stable timestamp from an atomic clock.’ GNSS devices receive data from no fewer than three satellites at a time, providing the user precise latitude, longitude and altitude information.

Boiled down to the basics, a camera with GNSS should simply offer the user more accurate location data than a GPS-equipped camera. There’s no word yet on when Nikon’s GNSS-equipped camera may hit the market or even what type of camera it is. However, by the time something makes it into government registries, it’s typically pretty far along.



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