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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
When you upload your photo to Flickr, the embedded EXIF data looks like this:
and when you click on the ‘map’ button on the bottom right corner of the photo page on Flickr:
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.
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.