05 June 2007

The Best Geotagging Solution Yet

Back in December, I talked about the attempt Jeannette and I were making on an elegant geotagging solution where the key components would come from our employer.

For various reasons, that project is on hold. But I still want to use the capabilities built into my camera to automatically geotag my photos, but I was not happy in Strasbourg and Barcelona carrying around the setup I had. (see below)

I have been yearning for a solution, and even tried out a few things (unsuccessfully). With the upcoming vacation season, the sense of urgency has increased, so I bit the bullet and invested in this:

The two small boxes replace the Nikon MC-35 cable, the 6-foot long GPS serial cable and the old & clunky Garmin GPS reciever.

The larger box is a Holux GPSlim 236 bluetooth GPS receiver and the smaller box is a bluetooth-to-serial converter doodad from Foolography that plugs into the camera's 10-pin accessory port. I don't think the creator has decided on a model number yet...

These two things completely eliminate the cable clutter. The only downside is the loss of the 10-pin connector for my remote release. But I am working on that...

So far this system has worked quite well, especially considering its small size. After extensive testing on our trip to Paris over the long Easter weekend, I can say I am quite happy. But there are some strange points I will bring up:
* The Bluetooth connection is flaky. Once the connection is made, it is pretty solid. I'd say about 66% of the time, the connection between the GPS and the module on the camera is made within a second or three of turning on the camera. About 25% of the time it will take much longer. Maybe 10 -15 seconds. The remaining 10% or so of the time it simply will not connect, and I have to switch off the camera and back on before the connection is made.
* The Bluetooth connection is much more reliable when I keep the GPS close to the camera. I had originally intended to keep the GPS unit in my backpack, but it was unreliable. Currently I have a cell-phone pouch (thank you Jeannette!) attached to my camera strap. Not perfect, but working acceptably well.
* The Holux GPSlim 236 battery life is incredible. I get at least 12 hours on a charge.
* The battery on the D200 is not seriously diminished, if I turn off the camera between bursts of shooting. Nikon made an interesting decision (or maybe it was just a mistake) to keep the exposure meter on when there is incoming GPS data. This means the camera is burning a lot more power than it does in its idle state when nothing is happening. The battery will die in a few hours if I don't turn the camera off. I think it is more the exposure meter remaining on than the Bluetooth-to-serial module.
* The Holux GPSlim 236 normally locks in pretty quickly (less than 1 minute), assuming I haven't moved a great distance since the last time it was on (and locked in). But sometimes, and I haven't figured out what causes this, it will take forever, like it is reading the entire almanac. It is very frustrating when the GPS doesn't lock in quickly, more so than when the Bluetooth connection isn't made.
* The Holux GPSlim 236 is very good (but not perfect) at keeping a lock in a city. It beats the heck out of my old Garmin, which is no surprise considering the Garmin is around 8 years older than the Holux. I think the quality of the position reported by the Holux is better too. Comparing geotagged photos with both GPS units using Google Maps, the Holux geotagged photos seem much closer to the right place than the Garmin. I really like that.

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At Tuesday, 05 June, 2007 , Blogger MidNight Mapper said...

There is an alternative design that works properly and remains fully linked in a power off condition.. Blue2CAN from Red Hen Systems. Available immediately with IsWhere Google Earth software

and read about it at


At Thursday, 07 June, 2007 , Blogger Allan said...

Thanks for that info. The Red Hen Blue2CAN solution looks very nice, but as far as I can tell it lacks any capability to use a remote shutter release. That's bad news. If these guys were really smart, they would have made a pass-thru for the 10-pin connector so I can have GPS and my 10-pin remote releases at the same time.

The solution I have has a remote release socket. It isn't Nikon 10-pin, but at least something is there.

Either solution is, IMHO, too expensive.

PS: Use forward slashes after http:

At Monday, 17 March, 2008 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're in luck, Red Hen Systems is releasing a remote shutter release that works with the Blue2CAN plugged in.


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