photoGPS at Photokina

On this trip to Cologne I have been geotagging my images. If you are not familiar with the term, geotagging is a way of embedding location information in your image files so that you can tell where a picture was taken.

The process goes like this: You carry around in your camera bag, or pocket some GPS device that can store all of your movements or “tracks”. You turn on this device and let it record while you are photographing.

When you are done you download your images to your computer. Next you download your GPS track to your computer. A software program compares the time on your images and the time on your track to determine the longitude and latitude when you pressed the shutter release. This information is then written into the “location” field in the EXIF data section of your image file.

Currently this is not necessarily an easy process, though it is getting better. Some of the pitfalls include the battery life of the GPS devices. If you are using a GPS that has a color screen and does point to point navigation, the battery might only last a few hours. There are less complicated (and also less power hungry) devices called GPS loggers that attempt to solve this problem.

The photoGPS introduced by JOBO at Photokina solves the power problem in a different way. (This gets a little technical.) A typical GPS unit reads signals coming from the geostationary GPS satellites and triangulates the radio signals, calculating where the GPS is. JOBO realized that you don’t really need to calculate where you are when you take the picture, so if you just log what data the satellites send, you can calculate where you were later–when you are on the computer and power isn’t an issue.

This solution means that the photoGPS only needs to be powered up for a short time and only when a picture is taken. It doesn’t need to create a track. It doesn’t care where you are between pictures. So this device mounts on the hot shoe of your camera and gets a trigger to log the GPS data when the hot shoe in engaged. This means the unit will run two to three weeks on a single charge. The system I am using right now will only go for a day at the most, so I end up worrying about whether I shut it off.

The second big stumbling block is time. If you don’t synchronize the time on your camera with the time in your GPS unit it will be difficult to match the two. If you want accurate placement of your GPS data this is a must. Now with some software there are ways to create the offset if your time is off but the photoGPS approaches this differently.

Since the photoGPS isn’t building a track, it is only creating geo-data for each image. The JOBO software can automatically compare the time between images and the time between GPS points to line out the GPS data with the images. Like other geotagging software, the JOBO software logs on to a server to transform longitude and latitude into useful country, city, and points of interest information. This unit is making geotagging much easier.