Micro GPS for Nikon D2X D2HS D200 Project

Started May 16, 2006 | Discussions
az_av8r New Member • Posts: 13
Micro GPS for Nikon D2X D2HS D200 Project

Hi All,

I was not happy with the GPS setup from Nikon using the MC-35. Mainly I didn’t like the extra cable and didn’t want to be tethered to a GPS in my pocket. I also found the Red Hen Systems solution too big. So I decided to make one from the ground up

So here are my design rules:
1. Make it small and light (I already carry too much camera stuff)
2. NO MC-35 – Levels translate directly from the GPS to the Camera
3. Power the GPS off of the +5V from the Camera
4. Make it mount on the flash hot shoe

Now the prototype:

The unit is base on an individual 5Volt 20 Channel SiRF III GPS receiver with built in antenna. The unit talks directly NEMA0183, but only had 3V TTL output and needed a boost to talk to the camera that needed 5V levels. So this required the engineering of a little levels translator.

Some of the GPS module specs:
Extremely high sensitivity : -159dBm
10m Positional Accuracy / 5m with WAAS
Hot Start : 8s
Warm Start : 38s
Cold Start : 42s
Small : 30mm x 30mm x 10.5mm

The GPS unit is powered from the camera, so no batteries and it turns off as soon as the camera powers off.

The first GPS fix takes 1 minute (first time if the GPS has been off for a while) but after that the GPS will fix in 8-10 seconds. I typically just let it fix and then leave it on. The setup does use the battery a little faster (the GPS power load and the camera stays active while the GPS is running)

I still think the box is too big. If you look at the top picture, 50% of the volume of the box is air. Also I left the cable too long. The cable needs to be shorter.

Next Stop is doing the whole concept wireless at 2.4GHz.

Please leave me your feedback on the project

Rumpis Veteran Member • Posts: 3,089
Re: Micro GPS for Nikon D2X D2HS D200 Project

How much mA it takes from camera?

brokenz Veteran Member • Posts: 9,098
Re: Micro GPS for Nikon D2X D2HS D200 Project

I'm impressed. Can't wait to see what you end up with as a finished product!

Fit for release from a mental institution but banned from the 3-0-0-D forum since 6-2005.

quickclick Regular Member • Posts: 167
Usa a resistor to convert TTL out to CMOS in...

Use a pull-up resistor; if only the GPS outputs need conversion. Here is a data sheet:


Visionary Imagery, inc

d70_europe Senior Member • Posts: 1,208
exactly what I'm planing at the moment

I'm about to do the same. First problem I have is finding the right cable. Unfortunately the cheap from China delivered remote release cable was not as promised.

I would like to use power from the camera too. Did you take the regulated +5V from the camera? I wouldn't like to do so, especially because there is only power while the metering system is on?!
And did you just use the GPS receivers TTL output signal right into the camera?
Additional comment: I think yours is still too large


Jason Goldberg Regular Member • Posts: 160
Re: Micro GPS for Nikon D2X D2HS D200 Project

Very cool! I'm not sure all the photographers here realize it, but that SiRF III is a much more sensitive GPS reciever than the stuff we typically use. It will get a lock all kinds of places that the typical Garmin eTreks and Gekos will not (although garmin is using the SiRF part in some of their new products, like the Edge). Your solution looks ideal, except that you lose the ability to run a remote shuttler release (the one advantage of the MC-35 kit). Also, if the Nikon goes into Standby, does it keep energizing the GPS? I'd hate to think that everytime the camera went standby, I'd have to wait for a warm resync before I can shoot images with gps data in them.

If you are going to go wireless, have you considered just building a bluetooth reciever that outputs serial over the Nikon 10Pin? That way you could use all the off-the-shelf bluetooth GPS units already on the market.

You can buy a Holux GPS Slim 236 for about $120 ( http://www.pocketgpsworld.com/gr236.php ). It has a SiRF III chipset, uses a common Nokia phone battery that is good for about 12 hours, has a mini usb port (for 5V charging and to output serial). [yes it's slightly weird/confusing that they have a mini-usb port for serial, but it does give you convienent battery charging, and in your wireless mode you won't care about data out fo the port anyway].

I had considered cutting up an old MC-31 to direct wire the Nikon 10 Pin into the Holux 236 as my GPS solution, but the extra 10 pin pass-through port on the MC-35 is nice.

 Jason Goldberg's gear list:Jason Goldberg's gear list
Sony RX100 IV Nikon D750 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR +3 more
d70_europe Senior Member • Posts: 1,208
sorry - you already mentioned TTL adaption (nt)

no text

d70_europe Senior Member • Posts: 1,208
additional remote shutter release

Jason Goldberg wrote:

Your solution looks ideal, except that you lose the ability to run a
remote shuttler release (the one advantage of the MC-35 kit).

Why not including a simple small 3-pin stereo earphone plug? That will do the job for connecting an additional remote (mabye the one from which the cable for the GPS receiver was cut off).

OP az_av8r New Member • Posts: 13
Re: Micro GPS for Nikon D2X D2HS D200 Project

The whole thing uses 70mA. I only got the project running this weekend, so the change in overall battey life has not been tested yet.

Doug Hennessy Forum Member • Posts: 68
Re: Micro GPS for Nikon D2X D2HS D200 Project

Where does one find pinout information on the D200 10 pin connector?

rgolub Senior Member • Posts: 2,061
10 pin output specs

There are a couple of links that have at least part of the Nikon 10 pin output connector pinout. Here's a couple:



Have fun.

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 rgolub's gear list:rgolub's gear list
Nikon D700 Nikon D4 Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF +12 more
d70_europe Senior Member • Posts: 1,208
Ray Stuff Contributing Member • Posts: 802
I can't imagine that those wouldn't sell.

If RRS and some others can charge around 1K for a tripod head for a still camera you should have no problem getting any price out of those.

It looks way to handy to have, I'd sure like to borrow it for my California vacation in July !!

nice work


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'When trying to make art, don't make the camera do all the work.' from CBS Videographer Darryl Barton at NPPA boot camp.

'em_CT' Contributing Member • Posts: 612
I got 2 of ...

... the 236's, I will try to adopt one. To bad, I just got the Garmin GPS 18 LVC and I wanted to make that one fit.
You are right, the Holux SirfIII is much more sensitive.

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'em in CT'

a.k.a Egmont
PBase supporter

Ray Stuff Contributing Member • Posts: 802
An afterthought............

............. Could that puppy be potted or does it require constant fiddleing to keep it going? Potting might be the solution to simplyfying the case.

-- hide signature --

'When trying to make art, don't make the camera do all the work.' from CBS Videographer Darryl Barton at NPPA boot camp.

Smada Lesna Forum Member • Posts: 96
Slightly farfetched, but

it would be supercool if you could miniturize it more and put it inside the popup flash space. OK, that means actually ripping the flash out (and some people may want to use it with CLS, although I'm not one of them) so I guess that's not realistic for the majority of users. But couldn't it be glued to the popupflash cap after the warranty period of the camera expires?

Bjorn Rorslett actually glues this cap shut so it will never open I understood (I'm hinding behind his broad back here). The GPS would be on the camera at all times that way, or actually it would become part of the camera.
Very, very interesting project.

Skidpan Senior Member • Posts: 1,881
Very Interesting !

Just need someone to sell something like this !

Or even a kit !

d70_europe Senior Member • Posts: 1,208
the problem...

...is already the pure cost of a suitable cable. The only way seems to be using an expensive original Nikon equipment van dcut off the plug with cable. So prices for any kind of such products will be rather high.


OP az_av8r New Member • Posts: 13
thanks for the input

Thanks for the feedback and questions.

Let’s see if I can hit the some of the questions…

According to the specs on the GPS module it will use about 70mA plus a little more for the levels translator. I’m still working on the impact to the battery life.

Someone suggested just using a pull-up resistor on the TTL 3V to translate the levels to 5V for the camera. I tried this without any luck. The output of the GPS has an ESD protection diode (I’m suspecting) and I was just not able to get output high enough to get the camera to read it. Using a 1k Ohm pull-up did little to pull the signal up on O-scope. It would be nice if the output on the GPS was open collector, but it is not.

Once the camera starts receiving the GPS signal, the camera will not drop into standby. This helps because you don’t lose the regulated +5V. This uses more power, but keeps the GPS running between shots. If you switch the camera off, the GPS is off too.

The problem with making these to sell is finding the parts at a cost low enough to make a small profit. The raw GPS module is $75 and the Nikon cable is about ~$50. I have been looking at the MC-23 as an option – You get two 10 pin connectors for ~$65.

Several folks mentioned the Sirf III GPS was very sensitive and fast. I will 100% agree. In side by side test the little GPS module lock in a couple of seconds faster than my Garmin 60csx. Not exactly a scientific comparison, but it is fast.

Look for future progress reports.

Thanks again,


If you have more questions post here or e-mail me. AndyZoneX.com

jliechty Regular Member • Posts: 393
Re: Micro GPS for Nikon D2X D2HS D200 Project

Your project is incredibly interesting. I'd love to see you succeed to the point of commercial availability, because I'd much rather buy one from you than run several sets of parts attempting to build one myself.

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