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Thread: My new(improved) GPS setup

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    My new(improved) GPS setup

    I love having geo tagged info in most of my images(landscapes) as it allows you to revisit old haunts and relocate the exact spot you may have some time ago.
    It's also a very handy way to keep a track of where images were shot. This part isn't so important to me, as I know exactly where my shots were taken all the time, due to my folder structuring, but having the gps data embedded in the file at the time of acquisition simply makes the step of cataloguing just a little bit easier.

    My first GPS was the Phottix Geo One. Good GPS unit, and I can't really fault the unit in any way(that would make any sense!!). But it does have one large-ish and glaring major fault, which is that it drains the camera battery very quickly.
    Any GPS(or other type of) device will do this, if it requires power from the host device, so this is not an issue restricted to the Phottix GPS alone, the Nikon GP-1 will do the same!
    I usually get over 1K images from a single battery charge on the D300, but with heavy use of the GPS I once managed only 238 images or so, and this is with a concerted effort to save as much power as I could by turning the camera off when not actually taking an image. I would compose the frame, turn on camera, wait for GPS to lock on and then shoot. I may have also turned the camera on for approximately 1min prior to finalising composition in preparation for a scene, but which ever way I looked at it, I really needed at least another two batteries for the D300 for a guaranteed of 1 day of use.
    Note that you can purchase self powered GPS devices that still connect via a cable, but I think they're kind of expensive as well.

    BUT! there is also another way to do it(actually another two, but I prefer not to use tracklogs and sync them to my images and tag the images in that manner) for direct camera connected GPS devices.

    A long time ago a chap invented this wireless device that connects to your camera(Nikon 10 pin only back in the early days) and then a GPS device connected to this wireless device .... (funnily enough!) wirelessly.
    That is, the small device is a Bluetooth(Bt) receiver that the GPS connects too, and the wireless device connects to the camera. The point being that the smaller less power hungry Bt device consumes a lot less power than a wired GPS will.
    Sounds more complicated, but the practical application actually works the other way around, where the Bt GPS method is a lot less complicated.
    So with this Bt system, you need to purchase two devices. One being the little Bt receiver, the other being the GPS device, which needs to be Bt capable, and of which there are literally hundreds of differing manufacturers and models.
    I was initially going to go with a QStarz model(for other purposes), but in the end went with a Holux Bt device.

    I'm no stranger to GPS devices(I have a few of 'em) and I'm not referring to personal navigator devices.
    I mean simple GPS devices .. handhelds, and such like that don't give me the wrong directions!

    First of all, I also have to explain that I can be a bit of(or a lot of!!) a clutz, in that I easily cause damage to my devices and peripherals in researching them with more detail.
    So in the case of the actual GPS device very recently, I 'broke it' whilst researching what it was made of, and if I could improve it in any manner. Pulled it apart, and in trying to put it together, I placed the on/off switch cover in the incorrect position and broke the PCB mounted switch. Sounds silly, but in fact very easy to do if you pull stuff apart. FWIW, there was no point in looking into the device, it;s all tightly packed in, so no real useful mods are possible(eg, larger battery etc). Nope! leave it as is and don't break it. So I got another one, but now I think I regret not getting the QStarz brand.
    Anyhow.. the Holux I got is the M1200-E. Very compact, accurate, durable, stable, sensitive, with a massive tracklog capability of 200000 log points.
    To put this into perspective: this gives you over 55 hours of continuous track logging ability at the rate of 1 point per second. (1 Hertz, or 1Hz). A 1Hz tracklog is a very unnecessary feature to use for the average person who may only be travelling across the country on a photography excursion, but the feature is there if you want it or need it.
    If you have access to a PC whilst travelling, the tracklogging ability of the Holux can be configured to suit(a purpose) via some PC software. I've now set it to take a log reading every 5 seconds. On my last trip to Coober Pedy, I left it unchanged at 1sec, and the tracklog was massively enormous. I did turn the device off when not required, but it did stay on during the entire drive. What this GPSes do it to transmit GPS data via a bluetooth connection, to whatever bluetooth device can use this GPS data. That could be a PDA(in my case) a PC(laptop) or phone, or camera peripheral.
    For a long time the only device known to mankind capable of using these bluetooth GPSes was a device known as the Foolography Unleashed. Major obstacle(for a long time) was the price. More than 200 Euro, and with the conversion factor, for a long time made the price close to AU$400! That's without any GPS device.
    At that kind of money I was better off purchasing a truck load of EN-EL3e batteries for the D300 instead.

    I didn't believe that this was value for money, so I waited.

    I recently stumbled upon another device that does a similar job.. and the clincher for me was the far more appropriate price of the device. Under $100! So, onto ebay to find one, and with the quickest use of the buy now option in human history the little black box was on my D300 a few days later.
    The manufacturer is called Aokatec, and the model is the AOKI AK-4N.
    There is also an AK-4NII now available as well, but I think the update wasn't something useful for my purposes. I just wanted cheap(value for money).. not the latest and greatest at all cost!
    The little AOKI is not a GPS device! This thing simply connects to the camera and reads the GPS data(called NMEA data) from an external GPS device, and transfers it to the camera.

    From what I can see, the difference between the original version and the II version are:

    version II has....
    - a small slot for a tethering strap; could be handy in the event that the black box falls out of the camera port (unimportant).
    - uses the bluetooth v2 protocol; (importance??? dunno, v1 works perfectly perfect for me so far, I'd say for future compatibility, could be important).
    - uses a method of remembering the last known location; for some this can be important for when losing a GPS lock, say indoors, or in a canyon, etc. To me, if the GPS hasn't locked on, I don't want to have incorrect GPS data in my images. Not that it's important, but no data is safer than incorrect data. This is an 'improved' feature I'd rather not have, or at least something I'd want to configure to the off position.(it's a trivial matter to add GPS data to an image for those images that didn't get it initially. But it's harder to sift through the images with incorrect GPS data.

    So, I've replaced a single easy to use GPS device with two separate devices, one being a GPS receiver and the other device being a receiver for GPS receiver signals! Sounds confusing, huh?

    This new improved GPS solution is neater, cleaner and less prone to tangles. Cabling is neater, although there is still room for improvement I reckon.
    While there is nothing more straightforward than a simple cable design for connection setup, the Bt units connect easily and seamlessly. They are pre configured, both using a '0000' passkey for bonding, so all you do is plug in the AOKI unit into the camera, switch on the camera and the AOKI receiver is now on and searching for Bt GPSes. Switch on the Bt GPS and once it's achieved a lock, the camera tells you so when you look into it.
    Easy peasy.

    Another device I make heavy use of is/are my wireless remote triggers. Connecting them up to another cabled device such as GPS was messy, annoying even tho it was fruitful in that I could remotely operate the camera, and get geo tagged info straight into my images.
    With the wired GPS, I had two similarly sized wired devices all connected to the camera one in the hotshoe, another simply hanging from another wire or strapped to something else, basically an accident waiting to happen.
    This method has more advantages than drawbacks, and is 99.9% ideal.
    One improvement I'd like to see from these manufacturers is a Bt wireless remote. That would negate the need for a separate remote unit, and as the Bt unit is already wireless, this makes a lot of sense(one would think!). Of course Bt is a very short range wireless signal, so would be impractical in some situations, but for simple close range wireless triggering, it would make this Bt unit the 100% ideal setup.

    D70_DSC_0783.JPG
    The AOKI receiver on the right and the Holux GPS receiver. both small and unobtrusive designs.(I've added a small clip to the Holux so that I can clip it to the camera's strap connection, or a key ring chain... Most of the time I keep it in my pocket.

    D70_DSC_0779.JPG
    AOKI receiver inserted into the D300's 10pin port. Completely uobtrusive in normal use, and so far it hasn't looked like falling off the camera, although there is no screw in connector to secure the device to the camera. As I see it(as of now) there is no need for one. Time will tell. There is also a 2.5mm stereo plug connection on the side, which allows normal Canon type remote connectors to work. Current Phottix(and others, but I only have Phottix) remotes all come with separate cables which all use this 2.5mm stereo plug connection. Remotes all work in their standard config, no mods required. Of course if you have a Nikon wired remote, you need to modify it, or get another type.
    Also note that both the AOKI and the Foolography Unleashed also come in D7000 and D90 models(and I think one of them attaches to the D5100 as well, but once you choose one type of connector type, that's it. The connector type is fixed.

    D70_DSC_0790.JPG
    This is the older setup, where the Geo-1 GPS is attached to the camera via cable, and then the wireless remote is attached to the GPS via cable. the two units were unwieldy in real world use. Not impossible to use, and a bit of common sense could have made it all easier to setup, but it still required a bot of compromise when compared to the new wireless setup.

    D70_DSC_0786.jpg
    New wireless setup. The AOKI is attached to the camera, the wireless trigger attaches via the short stereo cable. The GPS receiver itself goes in a pocket, or clipped onto the camera and all is neat and tidy.

    Also note too, with the stereo plug type used by both the AOKI and the Phottix remote, any 3 pole stereo cable will connect to the units. So if you need or require a longer remote cable, just fish out those old TV, stereo, camera cables etc that you have thrown in your bottom drawer and away you go.
    These cables are also quite easy and cheap to make up as the need arises too.
    I have no idea on what the max length of the cable can be either. The point being that you could potentially make a 100m cable if needed, with simple and cheap parts.

    As for GPS accuracy.. as I see it for now, no change. Neither unit is significant;y better than the other.
    With a bit of searching around I found some software for configuring the Phottix Geo-1 GPS unit, as it's based on a U-Blox GPS module.
    Download some software from the U-Blox site, and configure via the PC(or PDA if needed). Same with the basic software from Holux for the wireless GPS unit.
    You can clear the tracklog, reset the track interval(as I said now set to 5sec on mine).. etc.

    Some other info:
    I mentioned earlier another wireless GPS device I was thinking of getting. This/these devices are from another manufacturer called QStarz. The specific model I wanted is called the BT-Q1000EX, and what this particular GPS unit does(compared to the Holux) is that it can update itself 10 times per second.
    Not important for general use(1 sec is a very detailed tracking rate), but the other reason I wanted this wirelss GPS for was for lap timing on my brother's Gokarts. This model GPS from QStarz comes with software for doing this, by creating the track points, saving them as the track, and then because it has such a high refresh rate it gives you a more accurate summary of your speed through individual parts of the track, not just the overall time.
    Difference in price between the two GPS units was a lot tho. the QStarz, whilst an interesting device, was 4x more expensive(on Ebay).. and my main priority was for value for money!

    Now it's important to note, that you can easily geotag your photos via software, where you don't even need a GPS unit at all. All you need do is to remember where you captured the image and locate that spot on googlemaps and add those coordinates to the image.
    Alternatively you can add the gps data from a tracklog into the image file as well.
    The Holux comes with software to do this, which reads the devices tracklog, can configure the GPS device itself, clear the old tracklog, etc.
    There are other software also available too, most popular and accepted software that I know of are:
    GPicSync, GeoTag(Win, Linux, Mac), ViewNX(for any jpg images, or for secure NEF geotagging).
    If you purchased a Phottix GPS unit, they link to GeoTag.
    if you purchased a Nikon GPS unit, they use ViewNX.

    Personally I find this tracklog method tedious. Even tho it's all automated, trying to sync the GPS time to the camera time.. waiting for it all to write to the file. I once had a problem in doing this to a raw file, so am still suspicious of adding data via third party software. Anote for Nikon users, use ViewNX to do this to raw files which has been foolproof in my experience.
    What I sometimes used to do was to take a reference image with GPS data, and then paste this tagged data to any other image in the sequence shot from the same location using ViewNX. Super easy to do, tedious, but never failed.
    This was to try to prolong battery life when the GPS was connected.

    That's it! If you have any questions for hardware or software, I'm happy to answer whatever I can.
    Total price for both the new Bt units was about AU$100!
    Phottix Geo-1 cost me about $130 or $150 or so over a year ago, and I see the Nikon GP-1 is about $200 or more.
    With the Holux GPS receiver, it's so far connected easily to all devices I've tried to connect it too. PC, PDA and AOKI, although I haven't tried to connect it to my phone yet(which seems to have an onboard GPS receiver anyhow), but I sometimes have trouble with the PDA(PDA issue! not GPS).
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


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    Site Rules Breach - Permanent Ban
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    Bloody Hell Arthur - I'm exhausted, but if it works

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    Thanks - most interesting. I had looked at the foolography thing, but was scared off by the price. Now for some googling...
    Regards, Rob

    D600, AF-S 35mm f1.8G DX, AF-S 50mm f1.8G, AF-S 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G ED VR, AF-S 70-300mm F4.5-5.6G VR, Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM
    Photos: geeoverbar.smugmug.com Software: CS6, Lightroom 4

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    Note -i can find a bt unit called aoka not aoki

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Great write up! Thanks AK
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

    Constructive Critique of my photographs is always appreciated
    Nikon, etc!

    RICK
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    A royal pain in the bum!
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    Quote Originally Posted by farmer_rob View Post
    Note -i can find a bt unit called aoka not aoki
    Yep!! sorry Rob, it is in fact AOKA, not AOKI.. company name is AokaTec with their dot com webisite and all that. (me bad typing type person )

    I got mine from Ebay from the US for about $60ish US, which turned out to be about low 50's in AUD.
    Remember there is a v2 updated version, and mine is obviously the run out/clearance model, had for a lot less(I think they generally sell for about US$90 on ebay).

    From what I understand of the Foolography Unleased, the chap who designed that device has plans to update the firmware so that the Holux's POI button acts as a remote switch too(or something like that??).
    I did some searching around, and based on price this Holux M-1200E is one of the better performance/price GPS's going around today.

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    Member hame33's Avatar
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    Lots of great info Arthur.
    I spent a few hours..no make that many hours trying to work out a easy not to expensive way to geo tag pics then gave up ( to busy work wise till now) and i think my last thoughts on the matter were to use my hand held garmin CS60x , attach to belt so out of the way and set it to 1 sec recordings and then find a inexpensive and easy to use program to find the matching time stamps from the log file and attach it to the Nikon raw files. I think you say above that Nikon View nx can do it so i may have to try that

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    Quote Originally Posted by hame33 View Post
    ..... matching time stamps from the log file and attach it to the Nikon raw files. I think you say above that Nikon View nx can do it so i may have to try that
    When I say to use ViewNX, even tho I think ViewNX version 1 has geo tagging ability, I think there are a few features in ViewNX2 that make thing a bit easier.

    Up in the tool bar(upper right) there is a [Geo Tag] button. Click on this and it opens up a GoogleMap interface where you view any geo tagged images as locations on the googlemap(right within ViewNX), so you still have the film strip of the thumnails of your images along the bottom edge of the screen. As you click on each thumbnail image, the location of the image on the map becomes the centre of focus.

    To get you GPS tracklog into ViewNX and use it to tag your images, you need to go to the 'Log Matching' feature within the Edit menu list. ie, Edit->Log Matching.
    This opens up the dialogue box to load your GPS tracklog into the software.

    The file format types required should be in four standard gps formats: gpx, nmea, nma, or log.
    While it'd be nice to have every GPS tracklog format available, this will only clutter up the software with useless ability.
    If your GPS doesn't have the ability to save a tracklog in one of those formats, the chances are that your GPS manufacturers software probably will, or you use GPSBabel to do the conversion (from manufacturer to the required format for ViewNX... I think gpx is probably a good format to use).
    Once you have your gpx tracklog, all you then need do is to work out whatever time difference between your camera and GPS at the time of image exposures. Make sure you factor in daylight savings times if need be too!
    Most GPS's tracklogs will use the UTC time format, meaning basically Greenwich Mean Time, where Tas/Mel/Syd/Bris/Guam will be UTC + 10 hours (or whatever it usually is).

    Your camera may be out by a few seconds or minutes as well, so you need to factor this into account as well.
    This is done in the settings menu in the Log Matching dialogue box.

    Basically, what you do is:
    Highlight(the thumbnail of) any image you want tagged, and with those thumbnails highlighted, enter into the Log Matching section.
    Over on the LHS of the Log Matching box, you will see the list of the images you highlighted in ViewNX ready to be tagged if you wish them too. But you need to mark each one you want tagged!!
    Here is one very serious weak point in the software!!.. you need to mark every image individually! If you have 500 images to tag, this becomes a seriously tedious process!
    There are better solutions to do this tho!
    GeoSetter is one that I've also used, and I still have on my PC(and update on a regular basis). No idea on why, other than I liked it a long time ago, and I still like it. (it's free! )
    BUT! I may have mentioned previously, that in using ExifTool on an earlier occasion, I had made an NEF file unreadable by editing geotag info into the raw file.
    Haven't really tried it again since other than one time where it did work, but what I did/have done since:

    Instead of writing directly into an NEF via thirdparty software, I used to write to the jpg offshoot file using GeoSetter(which is and has been 100% reliable for me), and then using ViewNX, I copy the geo tag info from the jpg into the source NEF file. Once again boring tedious process, but ViewNX is also 100% solid in writing to NEF files. Never had an issue with doing this on any occasion since Nikon added geotag ability in ViewNX (version 1) a long time ago.

    I had backup files of the NEF's I'd made unreadable on my first attempt at adding geotag info into them.

    I suspect that this NEF issue may have been due to an earlier version of ExifTool way back then, and may now be a lot safer and bulletproof, but if you do try to add geo info into any NEF file, be sure you have backups of the files first.

    In the long run, if you do prefer to have GPS info in your images on a frequent basis, I can assure you that the wireless method is definitely worth the extra effort.

    I'm sure I hadn't explained my GPS research in as much detail as I usually would, but the Holux GPS is in fact my second purchase in as many months.
    On it arriving to me, and when time permitted, my curiosity had me opening the Holux's case, to 'see what she's made of' in a literal sense, and there was no problem in opening the case up. But upon closing it all down again, I struck an issue. The power switch design is what I would call user unfriendly, both on terms of long term usage and in putting it all back together again for us curious types. The cover that is the external part of the switch, that the user has access too, is hard to place accurately between the two halves of the cases.
    So when you close up the two halves of the case, and the switch cover is not exactly in the correct spot, the actual switch soldered to the PCB will break very easily as the two halves of the case snap together, rending the unit either on or off, depending on where the switch was set as you closed up the case. The switch mechanics are very fragile being barely 1mm in thickness, so this breakage is highly probably if you intend on opening up the GPS case. Finding a micro sized switch is proving to be harder that it's going to be to do the physical replacement! The broken switch part is barely 2mm x 4mm x 7mm, and the very fine solder tracks are in hard to reach places.
    Anyhow, I ended up getting another GPS as this unit is now permanently on, until I can modify it to add a switch to disconnect the electronics from the battery. ie. A simple bypass wiring job.
    But I'm thinking of cannibalising one of my wireless remotes and combining it with the broken GPS into a small box of some type to have a combo remote and GPS in one unit.

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