Nikon GP-1 GPS review

Nikon GP-1

Last month I pre-ordered the Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit for my DSLR. It’s an addon that automatically geo-tags photos you take with the gps coordinates of your current location. I’ve always liked to geo-tag my photos (particularly when travelling) but only did when I remembered to do it manually after the fact. Now I don’t have to think about it.

Nikon GP-1 GPS

Nikon has been somewhat mysterious in when it would be available with no firm shipping date. I was at a photography show and chatted with a Nikon rep that told me the GP-1 was in their warehouses and that I’d just need to order one from a camera store. I wasn’t expecting it to arrive as quickly as it did (only a few days after I ordered it). I’m still surprised why something like this is so hard to pin down a shipping date. It’s not like Nikon is new at this.

Don’t expect many stores to have stock of this item if you’re interested, you may have to simply order it. I think given the price point ($275 Cdn) and the type of gadget this is, there won’t be a huge market so many stores won’t carry stock. You will probably be able to find it cheaper online anyways.

Nikon GP-1 GPS

As you can see from the above photo, it’s pretty small. This was one of the appealing features of this unit over some of the other options out there, not to mention the fact that it’s from Nikon and meant to work with Nikon DSLR cameras.

It comes with a cable specifically for the D90 which has a GPS port and a more standard cable for use on the other cameras which plugs into the left side of the unit. At the rear of the GP-1 is a mini-USB port that allows you to connect it to a laptop to use as a navigation GPS if you have the appropriate software. I haven’t tried this yet as I already have an in car GPS unit so I don’t really have a need to do this but it’s a nice bonus. On the right side, there is a pass through port for the wired MC-DC2 remote release cable should you wish to use it and the GP-1 at the same time.

Nikon GP-1 GPS

The only other thing it comes with is the GP1-CL1 which is Nikon’s fancy name for a piece of plastic you can attach to your camera strap that has a plastic hotshoe spot for you to attach the GP-1 in case you want to use a flash at the same time. It actually works quite well and helps get the cable out of your way. I store my hotshoe cover (the hilariously named BS-1) there most of the time as you can see in the photo above. The cable is a little longer and stiffer than I’d like but it’s not too unruly.

Nikon GP-1 GPS

When you first plug in the GP-1, the LED on the top glows red since it hasn’t acquired any satellites yet. Once it gets 3, it will blink green and when it has 4 or more, it will be solid green. That’s the extent of the satellite indications you get. With a cold start, it can take anywhere from 1-5 minutes to acquire a signal depending on the view of the sky (it doesn’t work so great indoors as you would expect). Warm starts are usually only 10-20 seconds to get a signal. When you navigate to the GPS menu on the camera itself, you have a choice of ‘Auto meter’ and ‘Position’. Auto Meter is simply an on/off option and means if the GP-1 is connected via cable, should it continue to track your location regardless of whether or not the camera is on. Of course, if it’s off and you’re not using it for awhile, it will drain your battery. When you choose the ‘Position’ option you see this screen:

Nikon GP-1 GPS

Unfortunately, the Heading option never populates, even when moving. I’m not sure why this is but perhaps Nikon will fix this with a firmware update. You’ll also notice the time at the bottom is in UTC which doesn’t get stamped into your photo as a ‘taken on’ date….it’s simply for the GPS.

When you review a geo-tagged photo, this is what your display looks like if you cycle through the metadata options upon playback:

Nikon GP-1 GPS

When you upload your photo to Flickr, the embedded EXIF data looks like this:
Nikon GP-1

and when you click on the ‘map’ button on the bottom right corner of the photo page on Flickr:
Nikon GP-1

I don’t use the Nikon software (ViewNX) which is also supposed to display the GPS data…since it’s a feature on Flickr, I simply upload directly there since that’s where it matters more.

A GPS icon get displayed on the INFO displays on the camera including the top LCD when you have a solid location fix:
Nikon GP-1 GPS

Just make sure you see that icon before you start shooting (or look for the green LED) and all your photos will be geo-tagged.

Overall I’m very happy with the GP-1. I had researched other options out there and it just made more sense to go with this product rather than the others. There are third party products that do almost exactly the same thing except have on board batteries (great, something else to charge) and there has been numerous reports online of shoddy build quality on some of these third party units. I’d rather pay a little more for a first party product that is solidly built and just works.

Early on (before the GP-1 was announced), another option was using a geo tracker. These are simple GPS receivers you would attach to yourself somehow (hat, backpack, jacket, etc) that would always record it’s location. Then using some software on your computer, it would correlate the timestamp on your photos with the timestamp on the gps coordinates. Considering the gps trackers are barely $100 less than the Nikon unit and you have to use additional software to fix it all, I just figured my time was worth more than that and sprang for the GP-1.

I haven’t noticed any drastic battery usage having the GP-1 connected but I also have the MB-80 battery grip with two batteries attached to my D90 so power isn’t a big concern for me.

Unlike my Coolpix P6000 camera (also from Nikon and features onboard GPS), if there is no GPS fix or the GP-1 is not connected, you don’t get zeroed out gps location data. This results in photos on Flickr being geo-tagged at 0°0’00″N, 0°0’00″W which is apparently ‘a place with no name’ according to Yahoo Maps. But that’s an issue for my review of that camera which is forthcoming.

Bottomline is that the GP-1 a great accessory for your camera if you want to geo-tag and can stomach the fairly high price point and somewhat limited featureset.

39 Comments

  1. carolbrowne says:

    Wow…you’re like Inspector Gadget camera guy.

    Honestly, that technology is very cool. Amazing, really.

  2. Gregg says:

    Welcome to the world of GPS geotagging.

    I’d certainly like an easy option for my Canon, but I carry a logger instead both due to a lack of options and the cost factor (I got my highly rated logger for $70 and found excellent free software). In the future I do hope to have a camera with it built in, but now that I’ve been carrying a logger I just might continue even if it was not necessary for geotagging of photos.

  3. VancityAllie says:

    So so so so NEAT!

    What do you find useful about geotagging? What kind of uses would you have for it?

    P.S. No I wouldn’t trade you my underwater housing hehehe ;)

  4. John says:

    @VancityAllie: Having a gps unit is mainly to maintain a lazy approach to photography…I don’t have to really think about the tagging process and I know I would have loved to have a gps unit for all the photos I took on Oahu…especially the quiet, secluded beaches we found that I want to visit again.

    As well, the gps lets friends know where a specific photo was taken….like a kayaking photo I took awhile ago where the backdrop could have been one of many spots around the lower mainland.

    It’s also a kinda geeky thing to do so I’m down with that ;)

  5. We also now know where your house is.

    Worth keeping in mind for people who have a GPS unit, but may not want it to identify EVERY location where they’re shooting.

  6. John says:

    Great point Derek….I debated on using that photo or shooting it somewhere else….I opted to simply use photoshop to alter the coordinates.

    I’m just watching the Macworld keynote and it’s cool to see the new iPhoto now supports geo-tagging and adds the ‘places’ option.

  7. I was trying to get one of these for quite a while. I could have used it while I was writing my D90 book. It’s too bad Nikon takes so long to put these things out.

    Your review has cleared a few things up for me. Thanks.

  8. Todd Raine says:

    So, where did you order yours? I found a listing at the Camera Store, but it says out of stock.

    Thanks

  9. Gregg says:

    Another good reason for geotagging: My wife and I have been going through old family photos from both sides of the family, scanning them into the computers and fixing up the signs of aging. While doing so, we’ve been adding tags for who is in the photo, where it was taken, etc. For so many photos, those involved either have passed away or are not quite certain. Even when I look at my own travel photos from 20 years ago I’m not certain of some of the locations. Geotagging means that when your grandkids are looking at your pictures decades from now, they will know with certainty where it was taken (and, with the other tags, also when and hopefully who is in it).

  10. Tom Sykes says:

    Hard to find many reviews for the Nikon GP-1 but this was one of the better ones. My local camera store said there was a 30-day backlog ordering from Nikon so I turned to Amazon. Ordered through Ace Photo. 2-day shipping arrived on time and brand new.

    I use a Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx with Garmin’s long 4-pin to serial cable and Nikon’s MC-35. Effective but bulky. Main use is tracking photos when traveling in Central and South America. Can’t say how valuable this has been for tracking movements. Leaving for Costa Rica shortly so will be field testing but so far, the acquisition speed and low battery draw (EN-EL3e on D300) are huge pluses. And I carry extra batteries. It’s a Nikon product and made in USA, more pluses. And the metadata is just there so no fooling with third-party software. Lazy? No – but detailing a log and writing trip report to share with participants is made all that much easier.

    There is also a free piece of software that works great on my Macs from CMM. Their small footprint Contextual Menu Module is designed for Mac OS X (version 10.4 or newer, PowerPC- & Intel-Mac). It displays the GPS coordinates and allows you to link and view that location in Google Earth, Flickr, Panoramio, Google Maps, SmugMug, WikiMapia or MapQuest. Couldn’t be simpler.

    http://www.cdfinder.de/en/en/en/gpsinfo.html

    And yes, waiting to see how iPhoto 09 will now work with geotagged shots.

  11. Jamy says:

    Adorama is now shipping the GP-1. Mine came in the mail today.

  12. Alan says:

    “…Auto Meter is simply an on/off option and means if the GP-1 is connected via cable, should it continue to track your location regardless of whether or not the camera is on. Of course, if it’s off and you’re not using it for awhile, it will drain your battery….”

    Are you saying that the GP-1 can draw current from the camera battery even if the camera is turned off?

    • John says:

      Yes…to stay in contact with the satellites. Once you turn the camera back on, there won’t be any lag in getting the location.

  13. Alan says:

    Thanks. Does the GP-1 turn itself off after the camera has been turned off an extended time? I’m wondering if I should disconnect the cable when the camera is not in use for a day or so.

  14. John says:

    If auto-meter is turned off, the GP-1 turns off when you turn off the camera so you should be fine. I usually unplug mine when not in use to avoid cable damage since I usually put my camera away in a bag when not being used.

  15. glenn says:

    Am wondering how well and how quickly it acquires satellites compared to handheld Garmins.

    • John says:

      Send me a Garmin and I’ll tell you ;)

      It acquires a signal very fast….faster than my in car TomTom.

  16. glenn says:

    Ok. It certainly seems like a great solution. I just can’t seem to deal with that hodgepodge of cables all over the place to enable the use of my handhelp GPSMap60 not to mention the device itself.
    AS far as cable release option that’s what selftimer is for

  17. whatwhat says:

    I am a geology student is this camera good at collecting gps coordinates in the middle of no where?

  18. David Recht says:

    Cool stuff. It will be nice when this is more widespread. If you can handle a more manual system and want to save money AND have an iPhone, try GPS Tracker for free in the App Store. You have to manually enter the coordinates but it will locate you properly if you have a cell signal.

    • John says:

      Using a secondary device and/or software certainly is a much cheaper option, but it’s just one more thing you’ll forget to do/turn on/charge up before heading out to shoot. I’m lazy and it needs to be dead simple or I won’t remember to do it.

  19. Glark says:

    Two things about GP1 from my experience with it:

    1. It works maybe half the time here in NYC due to (I assume) the buildings blocking the signal. If NYC or a major city is going to be the main use for this you might want to reconsider.

    2. The connector to the camera sticks out a lot and it easily gets moved around. On my camera that manifested itself in a loose port in the camera and I had to send in my camera for (thankfully under warranty) repairs.

  20. V R says:

    I recently purchased this item. It works ok, but is overpriced when compared to generic GPS systems that used the exact same chipset.

    Now that is not why I am giving this product such a bad review. I am giving it a bad review because the design of this GPS when used with a Nikon D-90 was poorly done. It is not obvious from the stock images, but the cable for this GPS on the D-90 sticks out of the side of the camera at a 90 degree angle to the body. The plug head is about 3 inches long and it plugs into a very small port on the side of the camera. None of this would be a serious issue if you kept your camera on a tripod when you were shooting.

    Unfortunately, most people that want to geotag photos want to do so because they are moving around. This means that the plug you need to use for the GPS on a D-90 is protruding from the side of your camera screaming ‘bump me here to damage your camera’. From what I can tell, you don’t even have to bump it. The simple act of plugging it in and taking it out may be all that caused the damage to my camera.

    After two weekend trips, this unit is working intermitently and appears to have damaged the plug on my pretty new camera. Contacting Nikon support only succeeded in making me want to let folks know to avoid this product. Its a great idea poorly executed.

  21. John says:

    I’ve had my GP-1 for awhile now and haven’t had any problem with the cable. It would be better if the GPS port on the D90 was located somewhere less protruding or if it was an L-shaped plug, I always unplug it when I put it back in my camera bag. I’ve never banged it either.

    I’ve heard that someone had a similar port issue and Nikon fixed it under warranty with no problem.

  22. rick says:

    Just ordered my GP-1 yesterday.
    I would have loved to have had it attached to my camera when my wife and I spent 2 months traveling USA & Canada (NY, DC, Niagara, Grand canyon, Utah & Colorado, Yellowstone, Vancouver Island, Prince Phillip). Still I can now re-visit all of these again !

    Also: being a Geologist I know this will be a very useful device when working in the field.

  23. Moni says:

    I like the review of GP-1. I have been looking for this option for a while & did not know that Nikon has the product. I have four Nikon DSLR cameras (2 D300’s, D700 & D3x) which i use interchangably when i’m in the Canadian wilderness. Is it possible to have just one GP-1 unit without having to continously unplug from one camera and plug to the next. (i.e. Can the wireless transmitter be used to pass the gps data to all the cameras?)

  24. Cindy says:

    Don’t buy this product. I also experienced the loose port problem mentioned by Glark and V R. after several use. Nikon service rep professed no knowledge of this problem and was totally unhelpful.

  25. Bryan says:

    Actually the GPS depends on the stability of the satellites. But I can make sure Easytag’s after sale service is better than Nikon’s. And their product is more competitive. They add log(trait) in the device too. you may visit their website http://www.e-geotag.com to have a look.

  26. Hi John,

    I have been seriously thinking about getting this with the Nikon D5000 for my wife for Christmas. Have you tried this with iPhoto? Basically, I don’t want to have to install any special software on my wife’s computer and hoping that the geotagging will simply happen automagically and show up in iphoto.

  27. Kim Sorvig says:

    Thanks for an excellent review. I’m a landscape architect, and often have to document sites in detail — this looks like a huge help.
    Any update on either the Heading field (which for site documentation would be HUGE) or the cable stick-out problem? Seems like Nikon might redesign the cable without otherwise having to alter the unit?

    • John says:

      No new info regarding the Heading field…new firmware just landed for the newer line of Nikon DSLRs but nothing for my D90 unfortunately so I’m not sure if it’s changed at all. You’re right about the cable…should be an easy fix…even a 3rd party could offer something.

  28. First, thanks for the Nikon firmware heads-up. I have been researching these type devices and found a one featured on TWIP, (This Week In Photography iCast) recently. No wires and tiny, Foolography’s Unleashed is a bluetooth devices that transmits the GPS data from a receiver. Very cool!

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