by Michael Kirk
I own and have been using the Nikon D200 and just recently received the New Nikon D300. I looked into my list of “Want” items and decided to look into a GPS tagging unit for my Nikon bodies – Neither of these camera bodies have a GPS unit built-in, buy they do feature direct support for one and there is even a GPS menu on the camera itself.
After doing some research on the internet, I found there were many ways to go…..but many of the GPS Tagging units did not have the features I wanted, nor would they satisfy my needs. I was looking for a simple way to GEOTag photos without having to worry about any special software and syncing reqirements after the images were taken. Being able record GPS data directly into the EXIF data of a image SAVES TONS OF TIME as opposed to taking notes (which I never did anyway) and is a whole lot more accurate.
There were two products that made my final list and after further research I decided to try a new GPS GEOTagging device, the DP-GPS N1 made by Solmeta Technologies.
One main reason that I chose the DP-GPS N1 was that the N1 comes with it’s own internal rechargable battery – so it won’t suck up my cameras power!
I ordered two units and they arrived in a matter of days. My first impression is the materials and construction appear to be of high quality – I fitted the units to my D200 and D300 by the 10 pin connector – which the connection mated up perfectly (as it should). The size and weight are certainly not an issue as the units are small, very lightweight and easy to travel with. Reviewing the operation instructions via the user’s manual was straightforward. Mounting the N1’s: they are designed to sit on the hot-shoe or attach to your cameras strap. I use the hot shoe a lot for a flash remote with off camera flash so I attached the units to my cameras strap.
From the companies website:
●SiRF star III chipset 20 channels
●Short initial time, no setup required
●Best hotshoe and ten pin connector solution
●Easy to operate
●Small, lightweight and easy to travel with
●Compact & fashionable design
●Real time GPS information
●Build-in rechargeable battery, more than 9 hrs operating time
●Unique camera battery backup support
●Mounted on flash accessory shoe or attached to camera strap
●Support Nikon D3, D300, D2XS, D2X, D2HS & D200, Fujifilm S5 Pro
GPS Chipset: SiRF Star III
Frequency: L1, 1575.42 MHz
C/A Code: 1.023 MHz chip rate
Channels: 20 channel
Tracking sensitivity: -159dBm
Hot start: 1 sec., average
Warm start: 38 sec., average
Cold start: 42 sec., average
Reacquisition: 0.1 sec., average
Position Horizontal:10meters,2D RMS
1-5 meters 2D RMS, WAAS corrected
Device Size and Weight
Size: 56 (L)mmX36(W)mm X 17(H) mm
The first thing you will want to do is charge the units battery (rechargeable). From my repeated test on both units, it takes approximately 2 ½ hours to fully charge the unit and you will get approximately 10 hours of continuous usage time. Once your battery on the unit is drained you can then flip a switch to “camera” and now the unit will run off your camera battery if necessary.
Now for the excitement: First time out using a unit on my D300, cold start – WOW!, very quickly (not more than 40 seconds) a signal was locked. After that, turning the camera on and off the capture time was anywhere from 1-10 seconds. Accuracy is dead on, just as I would expect.
The beauty of this unit is that the GPS information (longitude, latitude and altitude) are inserted right into the metadata of each shot as you take them. There is no need for ANY post processing when you return to your computer.
Since I use Adobe Lightroom I can take advantage of this data instantly by clicking the little GPS button in the metadata panel which will automatically take me to the location that I was shooting on Google Maps.
I also use Smug Mug as my photography website which is also linked to Google Maps. So after I upload new images to my Smug Mug website, Customers are able to click on a “Map This” button which will open up the gallery in Google Maps and show all the gallery images laid out on the map.
Flickr users....same thing, upload your GPS embedded images to your Flickr account – Pretty Cool!
The unit has two switches. The first is the CONTROL switch which allows you to control how the unit is sync’d to work with the camera.
- AUTO – In the Auto position the GPS unit will turn on and off with the camera – simple. This will probably yield the best battery life. However, each time the unit is turned on with the camera in this mode it will have to potentially acquire the satellite signal again.
- ON - it stays on and connected to the GPS satellites regardless if the camera is on or not.
- OFF is just that, the unit is off regardless of the camera being on or off.
Since the unit has it’s own internal battery I personally recommend the ON position if you are shooting, then moving then shooting again. If you’re going to use it off and on throughout the day, then Auto is probably best. There is a clear indicator right on top that quickly flashes red in a sequence of 3 when it is searching and blinks a slow and steady red when it has locked on. There is one additional green lamp that will light steady when the unit is being charged and will turn off when fully charged. Also when in use, the green lamp will illuminate when the battery is running low.
The second switch is POWER, which controls where the unit gets it’s….you guessed it –where it gets its power.
- INSIDE uses the GPS internal battery.
- CAMERA is using the cameras battery.
Solmeta customer service has been nothing but excellent! One item I did not like on the initial units I received was the inability to know when the battery of the unit was drained. I also was not fond of the connection of the chargers to the GPS unit. I sent an email to Solmeta and offered them a few suggestions to improve the units.
They sent me a reply of thanks and they would look into it. One week later I received a follow-up email saying that the changes I recommended were implemented into new units and replacements were on the way. Now I am using the renewed units and the green light will flash when the battery is low and the connection is excellent between the charger and receiver.
Solmeta has also advised me that they are introducing a new unit shortly that will have a location locking anility so when shooting indoors you will be able to lock the GPS location and embed the data into the exif info when shooting indoors - another requested and cool feature!
You can discuss this review in this thread on Digital Grin!