Monday, March 23, 2009
Where Were You?
GPS and geotagging are enhancing the photographic experience by helping photographers find, remember and share photo hot spots
Nikon Coolpix P6000
No matter how you’ll utilize a GPS, there are certain key features that make the devices particularly powerful for photographers. The first and most important feature is the unit’s mapping ability. GPS devices usually are preprogrammed with specific map regions: continental U.S., North America, Europe and so on. Not only does a photographer traveling outside of a preprogrammed region need to download and install appropriate maps, but photographers who want detailed mapping of specific trails or regions, including topographical information, need to install those detailed maps, as well. Some companies provide maps for free or by subscription, while others charge for each map.
Different GPS devices also use different chip sets to deliver their positioning information. These variables make some units faster, more sensitive and able to provide more precise positioning. If maximum precision is necessary, then not only do different chips affect speed and precision, but so do the number of channels a unit can receive. More channels means more satellites, which means faster mapping.
If you’re a hiker, ensure you invest in a PND that allows for backcountry mapping. Sure, driving in urban canyons or through dense forests can cause communication gaps, but for a hiker whose PND is blazing a trail automatically, constant communication is paramount. Unless you relish the thought of holding a device at arm’s length for the duration of your trip, invest in a unit with great reception. Maybe even consider augmenting it with an auxiliary antenna to boost the power. If you won’t be leaving the car for the course of your adventure, ensure that the device you purchase allows you to plot courses based on streets and highways.
If you’re relying on that little portable mapmaker to get you home, you’d better be sure it has enough juice to see the trip through. Long life is important, but the ability to carry easily replaceable backup batteries or to recharge during the journey is, as well. Drivers can simply plug their receivers into the accessory outlet at a stoplight; hikers don’t have that luxury. Planning ahead for power is an essential step in the process.
There are simple questions that should accompany the technical ones, too. Am I a rugged outdoorsy type? Maybe I should invest in a weatherproof PND. Is the device comfortable and compact enough that I’ll enjoy carrying it? Do I get lost? Can it function as an electronic compass? How about backtracking features and off-course alerts?
How easy is it to update the information in my device? Does it have a USB connection to plug into my computer? Can I download custom maps and other settings with the flick of the wrist? Do I want Bluetooth for wireless connection with other devices like phones and cameras? What about a GPS that accesses the Internet? How about an MP3 player?
Everyone answers these personal questions differently. The important thing is to ask them before the purchase is made. Make sure the GPS device you buy is the right one for you.
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