Friday, June 11, 2010

Photo Adventures With GPS

You’re probably familiar with the metadata that’s embedded in digital photos—information your camera automatically adds to each image file—such as the time stamp, camera model, lens and camera settings and more for every shot.
By The Editors Published in SLRs
Photo Adventures With GPS
Panasonic Lumix ZS7
Featuring a 12.1-megapixel image sensor and 12x, 25-300mm equivalent zoom lens, the ZS7 can shoot AVCHD Lite video and has a Travel Mode to add latitude and longitude data to photos and movies.

  • Most geotagging systems tag only JPEG images, not RAW files, in part because JPEG is an open format, while RAW formats are unique and proprietary, and partly because most photographers don’t want software altering their RAW files. If you want to geotag RAW files, make sure you obtain software that can do it.
  • Many geotagging units are made abroad and come with instruction manuals that aren’t terribly clear. It’s a good idea to do an online search for units you’re considering in order to see what user comments are out there, bearing in mind that anyone can post an opinion online, so you’ll get a wide range of reviews—from the knowledgeable and objective to the not-so-knowledgeable and -objective. Online sources like Adorama, Amazon and B&H allow purchasers to post reviews; these can be valuable sources of user feedback as well.

  • Red Hen Blue2Can
    Compatible with select Nikon DSLRs, one part of this two-piece unit plugs into the camera’s 10-pin connector, while the other is positioned to see the GPS satellites and transmits data by built-in Bluetooth connection. Photos are geotagged as you shoot them. www.redhensystems

    Samsung CL65
    The 12-megapixel CL65 can shoot 720p HD video, has a 5x zoom lens and Bluetooth connectivity, and features a built-in GPS for geotagging.

    Sony Cyber-shot HX5V
    Featuring a 10.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, a 10x, 25-250mm equivalent zoom lens and AVCHD video capability, the HX5V also has integrated GPS and compass for geotagging.

    Eye-Fi Explore X2 8GB Memory Card
    This unique unit combines a Class 6 SDHC memory card with Wi-Fi wireless photo and video transfers from your camera and the ability to record location data via WPS from a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot. Upside: Simple, works with any SD-compatible digital camera. Downside: Works only in range of Wi-Fi hotspots.

    Microsoft Pro Photo Tools
    A free download from Microsoft, Pro Photo Tools lets you import GPS track data, automatically tag both JPEG images and RAW files, and reverse-geocode (translate) the data to place names (country, state, city and even address).


    There are 29 NavStar GPS satellites orbiting the Earth twice a day some 12,000 miles above. Each satellite sends UHF radio signals that can be picked up by GPS receivers down here. The radio signals travel at a specific speed, and by measuring the time it takes signals from different satellites to reach it, the GPS unit can determine its distance from each satellite. It then uses trilateration (essentially, 3D triangulation) to calculate its position on the Earth’s surface (to within about 15 meters with typical handheld GPS units).

    It takes a while for a GPS unit to acquire the minimal number of satellites needed to do its thing, and this can be a problem for “decisive-moment” situations. You still can take the photo, but the location data won’t be recorded if the GPS unit isn’t locked on.

    We don’t have room here to cover all the details of GPS operation, and knowing all the details isn’t necessary to geotag your images. If you want the full story, google “how GPS works,” and you’ll find some excellent information.

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