Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Geotagging issues

I am deeply disappointed with Nikon GPS GP-1. I thought it was a very cool idea to have my photos geotagged, with convenient on camera unit, with the data going directly to the EXIF without any additional effort.

The practice is not so nice. It turns out the unit has big difficulties with staying on track. In Japan, where I actually wanted to tag my photos, I could only occasionally get the position. And when the position was lost, it took a huge amount of time to get the satellites back. I see no reason for that in places, where other GPS devices work without problems.

I was waiting for 4 minutes with camera taken out in front of Madurodam in the Hague, until I got the position, in spite of the fact I put the camera on long time before. If I am in a company, I simply cannot afford waiting.

Entering the buildings – forget. It is understandable, that the device loses satellites. But is has no function „last position” to tag the photos, when it loses track. It would be sufficient to do so, since it is reasonable to tag the photos taken inside a building as one position. However, the unit does not remember, where it is. So the camera cannot tag the following photos as taken in the same building. Shame.

Of course. I can take the photo at the entrance, and then tag the subsequent photos manually. But to take a photo just it could contain a tag, and then tag the rest is not the way I wanted to do it, when I decided to buy the device.

Another problem is ergonomy. The camera with this accessory attached feels clumsy, and it is not possible to put it easily inside a bag. I used to put camera on the left side, for easy catching the grip. It is not possible. Keeping it always off the bag is also impractical – sometimes you just have to put it in, like you going inside a shop and the security is concerned with your camera ready to take photos.

If you think that attaching and detaching it is a solution, you are wrong. It takes too long, for the operation, and for it re-aquiring position.

Those issues are the reason it is good device only for people, who arrive into the photographing location, have lots of time before starting shooting, and rarely move to other location before the shooting is over.

When you use this accessory, you cannot use a remote control. The battery drain on the camera is smaller issue (but if you want to have the GPS on most of the time, and you probably want, because otherwise it is never ready when you want to take some action shots, it depletes the battery quite quickly).

The last issue, I plan to add small Panasonic GF1 camera to my gear for use when D700 feels too big. I would also like to geo tag those photos as well. It is probably impossible to do with GP-1.

Summing those thing up, I have a GP-1 for sale.

However, I got already hooked into geotagging my photos. There are other solutions on the market, like a hot shoe synchronized JoboGPS. This would work with GF1, but it would still feel clumsy, and I would still need to run my photos through external program.

I suppose a simple GPS logger comes the closest to the ideal solution.

  • It is very small, so you can carry it anywhere.
  • It is very discreet. Nobody would even notice it.
  • It can provide accurate position e.g. each 10 seconds. The probability you move fast enough, that photos taken in the 10 seconds time frame should be tagged differently, is zero.
  • It will work with any digital camera.
  • It does not attach to the camera, so the camera operation, like putting it in and out the bag is not affected in any way.
  • If you carry more than one camera, one device is enough for all. It can serve also for your companions cameras, too.
  • It can be useful not only for geotagging photos, but for other purposes, like marking you jogging route on Google Earth.
  • It works on its own batteries, so it does not interfere with your camera battery, and camera operation cycles (on, off).
  • The log gives basically the „last position” feature, when it loses satellites.
  • Typical logger weighs less than 100g, so it is not bad for you back.
There are many different loggers on the market. I put additional requirements on the list:
  • Works with standard AA or AAA batteries
  • Operates in the driverless mode: it is visible to a computer like a storage device.
After some research I think the small Amod AGL3080 will fill my needs completely.

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