GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

Started Dec 3, 2005 | Discussions
wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

I spent a couple weeks trying out a GPS unit with a borrowed Nikon D2X in September, and decided then it is a must have feature for me, so I was very excited about its inclusion in the upcoming D200. An article on my experience with the GPS has just been published on the Microsoft Pro Photo Website:

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/prophoto/default.mspx - this is the link to the website

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/prophoto/gps.mspx - this is the link to my article

I would be very interested to hear of other's experience with this GPS and digital photography, as it seems incredibly useful to me and was the single biggest factor in me choosing, when it becomes available, to buy a D200.

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JOAQUING Regular Member • Posts: 113
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

Your article relating your experience with GPS is really instructive. Many thanks.

I am thinking to buy a D200 and one of the reasons is the GPS capability. Do you know other interesting sites relating D2X-GPS experiences, equipment, etc.?.

Again, thank you very much.

Joaquin

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PeterO Regular Member • Posts: 131
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

Great stuff!

Really useful - I am sniffing around GPS for a while now and one thing that is holding me back is more cables! This is a neat alternative. I do a bit of travelling in the Australian outback and GPS info is godsent after few trips.

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LongTimeNikonUser Senior Member • Posts: 1,096
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

Very interesting article.

I do a lot of railroad photography, and I think that my "notetaking" would benefit a lot from an onboard GPS unit.

How much is the Red Hen Systems D2X-GPS adapter? I like the idea of mounting a small GPS unit right on the camera body. Their website has no pricing information, which is usually not a "good sign." Instead, you are directed to call the sales department.
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OP wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

I am not aware of any comprehensive site with GPS photography information, other than embedded in reviews of the cameras. I will look around and if I find some useful references will post them here, or email them to you. GPS is a great feature, and the single most compelling reason to upgrade for me. Thanks for your interest.

Ruth

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OP wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

If purchasing from Red Hen, the adapter is $350, and the Garmin 301 GPS is $300. It is more expensive than other systems, but after trying several different GPS units and adapters, this is by far the most reliable, easiest to use, and streamlined. Plus, the people at Red Hen are great to work with, very helpful.

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TartarFan Veteran Member • Posts: 3,139
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

I still don't get it..

I would rather have a built in wireless than stuff telling me where I was when I took the picture.

My memory works fine, and exif tell me time and date.

I sure this is an advantage to some, but to the masses, I think built in wireless without an $400 adapter would be of more use.
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FotoFlip Senior Member • Posts: 1,091
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

I post here under another name but my real name is MacGuyver :-).

I've got a Garmin Etrex ($95 BuyNow on ebay) and I bought a special backplate for it so I can quickly connect it to my bike. I still have the original backplate and I think I'll try to mount (glue) it on one of those slave trigger units that go in the hotshoe. Adjust the cable to the proper length and I'm done for $10. If you start from scratch you'll need Etrex, extra backplate, cable and a slave trigger. About $150?
Nice article, BTW.

wildportraits wrote:

If purchasing from Red Hen, the adapter is $350, and the Garmin 301
GPS is $300. It is more expensive than other systems, but after
trying several different GPS units and adapters, this is by far the
most reliable, easiest to use, and streamlined. Plus, the people at
Red Hen are great to work with, very helpful.

MtSCIRP New Member • Posts: 3
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

I am a professional archaeologist and historian and do a considerable amount of technical/scientific photography of cultural and natural resources. Some projects require over 3000 shots of 100+ sites or structures within a day or two, with need for extensive data collection. I use GPS with D2X, plus audio recorder, PLUS an assistant with user friendly paper and pencil. And a lot of post-processing and data recording/standardizing/and filing.

You CAN record ALL of your GPS data (but not with the D2X) by downloading GPS data directly from the GPS to a CPU/spreadsheet, your i.d. link to photos will be the Lat/Long and time recorded by D2X.

Remember the GPS/D2X will only record the location of the camera, which is only useful if you want to know that info or need to recreate camera location. If your subject is any distance away, good luck at guessing.

The technology is there for Nikon to add an IR rangefinder and digital compass or add capability to take compass data from GPS. One would toggle whether you want to record GPS data for camera or subject, or both. Set the sensor to the exp/focus point on the subject, you snap the shot, the data are there. That will probably add another $500+ to a D2X but would pay for itself in one project.

Also, remember the difference between "resolution" and "accuracy" with GPS and similar data collection devises. No matter what resolution (sub-meter, 10m, 50m, etc) you always want the best accuracy. Inexpensive GPS "toys" will get you down to a resolution of less than + - 10m under best conditions. If you want more, or think you need more, resolution buy a more expensive sub-meter, post processing GPS unit that will get you down to a few cm.

The deciding factor between using a high-tech/expensive tool for me is: "Does my project, job or life depend on it?" If yes, go for the gold and find ways to design your own systems, tools, and programs to get what you want.

BeachnCruz Senior Member • Posts: 2,034
Red Hen GPS Adapter sounds interesting

I wish Red Hen had explained in more detail what I was looking at.

I wasn't sure if the photo was showing a Geko GPS disassembled or if one of the items was the actual Red Hen Adapter.

What cable is shown in the photo? Is it the MC-35 cable connecting directly to the Red Hen Adapter or is it a cable that Red Hen provides?

It sure looks like a nice compact Camera/GPS setup.

jlev Contributing Member • Posts: 557
Non-camera dependant GPS solutions

I, too, am an archeologist and have used GPS to aid in the photo documentation of archeological sites. I also have used GPS with my D70 for my personal use. There are numerous software solutions that aid in this. My practice has been to set my GPS unit to record points at in a track log frequent time intervals. If you are careful to synchronize the clock in the camera and the GPS prior to the trip, you can then use software to tag the photo using the recorded track long. At least in the US, you can also use software to display the photo locations on topo maps that can be downloaded automatically over the Internet. QuakeMap is a good (and very cheap) application that does this.

I have a D200 on order, but I probably will not buy the connecting cable. A tethered approach seems cumbersome and accident prone. Also, there was a thread on this forum that reported that (at least with the D2X) Nikon’s in-camera software severely truncates the GPS coordinates that it stores with the pictures, thus compromising accuracy.

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LongTimeNikonUser Senior Member • Posts: 1,096
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

from scratch you'll need Etrex, extra backplate, cable and a slave
trigger. About $150?
Nice article, BTW.

wildportraits wrote:

If purchasing from Red Hen, the adapter is $350, and the Garmin 301
GPS is $300. It is more expensive than other systems, but after
trying several different GPS units and adapters, this is by far the
most reliable, easiest to use, and streamlined. Plus, the people at
Red Hen are great to work with, very helpful.

Well, for my purposes, $150 > > $650, and the difference would cover part of one "nice" Nikon VR zoom lens.

Are the Etrex models specifically designed for this sort of application, or can I use any reasonably portable NMEA-compatible GPS by Garmin or other manufacturers?

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OP wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

At a minimum there are three pieces necessary to hook up a GPS to a D2X or a D200:
1) An NMEA compatible GPS like the Garmin eTrex

2) An NMEA compatible cable for the GPS (typically available from the GPS vendor)

3) A Nikon MC-35 adapter cable. There is a proprietary adapter on the D2x and D200 that requires a special cable. This last cable commonly costs about $100.

One of the reasons why the Red Hen unit is so expensive is that it appears that one of the cables is used in each unit manufactured.

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OP wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: Non-camera dependant GPS solutions

Based on my experiences using the Red Hen GPS unit in the field, the conclusions in the thread you mentioned about GPS accuracy in Nikon cameras appears to be inaccurate. In every case where I have calibrated my actual location with an aerial photograph, the accuracy is within a few feet.

GPS data in EXIF is not stored as floating point, as implied in that thread, so decimal places are not lost. GPS values are stored as a numerator/demoninator combination, and the values are recorded from the GPS. I believe the accuracy of the GPS is more critical than anything done by the Nikon firmware. In any case, it is more than accurate enough for my purposes.

That said, I do wish the Nikon firmware recorded the compass direction when the picture was shot. Between that and the EXIF value for subject distance, you could get a pretty good idea of the subject of the photo.

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OP wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: Red Hen GPS Adapter sounds interesting

The Red Hen unit appears to incorporate a Nikon MC-35 cable that has been customized for use with the adapter.

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OP wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: GPS and Nikon D2X (and upcoming D200)

I only tried the Nikon D2X with two different Garmin GPS units. Both seemed to work fine, and the Nikon documentation says any NMEA GPS will work. You do need the Nikon MC-35 cable, however, to hook up the GPS to the camera.

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jlev Contributing Member • Posts: 557
Re: Non-camera dependant GPS solutions

I probably should not have described the truncation that the Nikon software does as “severe”. But, none the less, the conclusion in this thread ( http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1021&message=13002431 ) is that truncation does occur.

I would agree that it is more than accurate enough for most uses. But I did want to alert potential users of this issue so that they could judge for themselves.

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OP wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: Non-camera dependant GPS solutions

I do not use Nikonview, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of that software in displaying latitude and longitude.

I used custom software to read the EXIF, and in using that software and using SmugMug and WWMX the accuracy is quite good, to within several feet. It appears to me if any truncation of GPS data is occurring it is in Nikonview and not the firmware in the camera.

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BeachnCruz Senior Member • Posts: 2,034
What is your source of Aerial Photographs for calibrating?

I have Garmin V and Garmin 176c GPS units for hiking/biking/vehicle travel and ocean boating and look forward to purchasing a D200 to add one more dimension to my adventures. My D70 has been wonderful. I would like to learn how to pin point my photography locations when viewing an aerial map on my Laptop PC. I have Topo map software, but what is an easy source of Aerial photos that can be used for Lat/Long coordinates?

Jim....

OP wildportraits Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: What is your source of Aerial Photographs for calibrating?

This url a view from VirtualEarth of a picture taken in the butterfly house at the Woodland Park zoo:

http://virtualearth.msn.com/default.aspx?v=1&cp=47.669~-122.3515&lvl=19&style=hhttp://virtualearth.msn.com/default.aspx?v=1&cp=47.669~-122.3515&lvl=19&style=h

The numbers in the url are the latitude and longitude.

You can also view the album on smugmug:
http://maps.smugmug.com/?feedType=geoAlbum&Data=800519

If your monitor has high enough resolution it shows the picture of the butterfly shows that it was taken at one end of the butterfly house.

Both VirtualEarth ( http://www.virtualearth.com ) and GoogleMaps (which is what is used by SmugMug) have pretty good aerial coverage for much of the US.

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