Nikon GP-1 GPS: An accessory I really want to like

Nikon GP-1 GPS: An accessory I really want to like

After several years of reliable geotagging with my Red Hen GPS unit, I was eager to test out Nikon’s GPS accessory, the . I was really hoping that, being from Nikon, it would more seamlessly integrate with my DSLRs and my shooting experience than third party solutions. Unfortunately, while the is certainly a competent and effective product, it needs some serious work before it outshines less expensive options already on the market.

The is a smallish GPS receiver that comes with cables to connect to either a 10-pin DSLR connector for pro models, or the newer accessory connector on mid-range models like the and Nikon D90. It also includes a small clip so you can attach it to your camera strap if you need your camera’s hotshoe for something else. The cables are quite sturdy and fit very snugly at either end (which is helpful when the GP-1 inevitably slips out of your hotshoe and is held up only by the cable).

Operating the

The is pretty much foolproof. It turns on with your camera and is powered by it. There is no on or off switch – or any other switch for that matter. Once the GP-1 has been on long enough to get a lock its LED shines solid and the GPS indicator comes on in the camera LCD. You’ll want to decide whether to let the GP-1 stay on and drain your camera’s battery – making it instantly accessible and guaranteeing that even your first frame will have GPS data. Alternatively you can use your camera’s Menu to set the meter to turn off even when the GPS is on. You’ll save battery that way but you need to give the GPS a few seconds to transmit a new position when you activate your camera again. In both cases the GPS itself stays on for three hours after the camera has been used – unless you unplug it – so watch your battery carefully.

Once the GP-1 has a lock, captured images will have your latitude, longitude, and elevation recorded. One great feature of any camera-attached GPS is that data is recorded to both JPEG and Raw files – many applications that merge existing GPS tracks with your images only work with JPEGs. Because the GP-1 does not have a compass, even modern Nikon DSLRs which can record the direction you’re facing won’t get one to record. Most current image management product, and image sharing sites, will then let you see your images on a map or even make tracks or trips from them.

What the needs to be a loveable product.

First, for the price the should really have compass capability, which has become quite common in competitive products. The hot shoe mount also needs a lock. After decades of building flash units with various kinds of locking hotshoe mounts, it is odd that the GP-1 can easily slip out depending on how you carry the camera. With luck, future Nikon GPS units will also find a way to be more tightly integrated with the camera, perhaps even in the form of an optional, internally mounted module. It is topsy-turvy when $300 have a GPS included while $3000 DSLRs don’t.

Getting going with the

In fairness, the is a very competent product and does its job well, if you can live with its shortcomings and price. If the is right for you, you can .

DSLR GPS alternatives

Solmeta: If you aren’t hung up on the Nikon name, the DSLR GPS offerings from Solmeta are definitely worth a look. They have a range of models, with the entry level version featuring replaceable cords and a built-in battery, the intermediate model upgrading the compass and having a fixed coiled cord with power coming from the camera, and their top of the line unit adds a location LCD and 2GB of internal track memory for later downloading – as well as a built-in battery. All the Solmeta units include built-in compasses for adding image direction to your GPS data.

Promote: If you’re on a budget, . I haven’t used one, and some reviewers didn’t think much of their accuracy compared to dedicated GPS units, but I’ve been in the field with shooters who rely on them and are quite satisfied.

Redhen: Redhen offers the , a tiny bluetooth adapter that fits on the 10-pin connector of your DSLR (it only works with Nikon’s “pro” DSLRs with 10-pin connectors) that can be used with any Bluetooth GPS. It isn’t cheap, at $195 just for the adapter, but if you want the flexibility of using your own choice of GPS and don’t want to mess with cables or your hotshoe, the tiny bluetooth radio is a lot less intrusive.

Track merging: Another option is simply keeping track of your position with any GPS that keeps industry standard track logs, and then merging the data with your images. This takes more effort after the fact, but doesn’t require fiddling with a custom accessory. There are a lot of new options for merging software since the last time I wrote them up, but I’ll be writing them up in more detail, especially the very promising geosetter.