Top 3 Secrets to Geotagging Successfully

Geotagging failure at Japan's most famous temple in its #1 sightseeing city, Kyoto.

Though it could be argued that Kyoto's Kiyomizudera in Japan, the most famous temple in the entire country is at least in the general vicinity of this incorrectly geotagged photo, it's definitely not in the dense forest shown here. A quick check by the photographer with an online map or geotagging software map would have made this error immediately obvious. This geotagging failure and thousands like it can be found all throughout Google Earth via its Panoramio photo overlay.

If people cannot correctly geotag their photos taken in Kyoto at Kiyomizudera, Japan’s most famous temple in the country’s #1 most popular sightseeing city, a site that is clearly marked on every single map a person would be using for their travels in Kyoto, you might be tempted to ask what possible hope can there be for geotagging?

Geotagging is not and never will be a good choice for the casual and non-attentive hobbyist, unless results like those pictured in this post are good enough for the said casual and non-attentive hobbyist. However, for those who are willing to take a little care with their geotagging efforts, incredible accuracy is easy enough to achieve.

  1. POWER UP EARLY - Turn on your GPS datalogger or GPS equipped camera as soon as you can before you need to shoot. This may at first seem obvious because with any experience geotagging you quickly learn that the initial location acquisition can take a minute or more after powering up. But when the signal is weak or seemingly non-existent, it becomes even more important to power up early. Though the unit may have trouble acquiring a position when there is no direct line of sight to at least 3 GPS satellites, often a GPS datalogger, GPS camera, or other GPS device will eventually make a best guess at where you are from weak signals. The data is much less likely to be accurate when the signal is weak, but by getting something, even a frantic zigzagging line around the general area you were in or erratic coordinates on photos all taken in the same general vicinity, is still better than nothing. It will give you clues as to where you were and make it much easier to manually correct the positions using geotagging software with maps once you get home.
  2. TAKE MORE PHOTOS – Even if your GPS device doesn’t lock on until after you change position and after your photos are already taken, take a couple more photos once you notice your device is acquiring GPS data again (even if there is nothing you really want to photograph). Having something logged in the vicinity and around the same time makes it much easier to figure out where you were when working with maps to shift locations manually in your geotagging software.
  3. GPS SIGNALS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO GEOTAG – When all else fails and as an additional assist when you have no signal, you can simply take photos of your surroundings to document where you are. There is not always a corner street sign to turn to and snap, but there will be something. And if you are in a remote wilderness area, photograph in multiple directions around where you are standing to have photos that can help you manually correct GPS data once you are home and using maps to tag your photos. Even photos with no corresponding GPS data can help immensely. You can look at what you photographed from above using detailed satellite images and compare and find the pieces of the puzzle you need. If you are in dense vegetation in a ravine and there is absolutely nothing noteworthy to photograph for referencing on a map (as has happened to me more than a time or two), once you get into a clearing or on higher ground, take some more photos after you get a lock. Those clue photos can be invaluable later when you manually adjust the coordinates on your real photos.
Camphor trees, known as kusunoki in Japan, can be found at the entrance to Shoren-in, a temple on Kyoto's east side.

Another geotagging failure that could have been avoided by making a quick check before uploading. I happen to know this tree. It's an ancient camphor tree next to the entrance of Shoren-in, a temple on the east side of Kyoto. I'm sure the photographer was not trying to incorrectly draw attention to the corner of a small, barren neighborhood park as has been done with this incorrectly geotagged and untitled photo viewable on Google Earth and Panoramio. This park is also on the east side, but far more than a stone's throw north of Shoren-in.

Geotagging is simply the process of adding location data to photos. Instead of fretting over loss of signal when shooting, we must accept that geotagging is a pursuit that requires a little cleverness and forethought on our part to achieve the highest levels of success and accuracy.

Of course, if you are not as obsessive about accuracy as I am, you could just accept whatever you end up with from automation and say to yourself, “It’s good enough.”

But I will tell you there are some dramatically off the mark geotags on photos online (Panoramio, Google Earth, etc.) and I encourage you to avoid being one of the all-too-common geotaggers out there who don’t make an attempt at accuracy with their tags.

If a person is not willing to try to geotag their photos accurately, why bother to geotag at all? Just as you might find it slightly annoying to encounter a photo online that is not tagged correctly, your friends and others will not be impressed by your efforts to share location data if the data is perceptibly wrong.

I know Kyoto better than any other city in the world. I even know it better than my hometown. I bike through the large and small streets of Kyoto, Japan 20 to 30 miles a day (some days much more) almost every day I’m there. The number of inaccurate tags on photos taken in Kyoto is not small. I only know this because I know that city so well, but I’m sure the problem is just as bad everywhere.

I’ll conclude this post by repeating the question I posed 2 paragraphs earlier…
If a person is not willing to try to geotag their photos accurately, why bother to geotag at all?

Dan Savage [email]

Images:
First – The small red gate in this photo is one of the entrance structures at Kiyomizudera, not the main temple building. The Dragon Fountain at the top of the geotagging project site, Living in Japan – 3 Months at a Time, was taken just a short walk behind this red gate.
Second – Joudoji park where this geotagged photo incorrectly indicates the giant Shoren-in camphor tree can be found. This picture of the Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku no Michi) on the Savage Japan Podcast website, taken near where I live in Kyoto, shows a spot on Tetsugaku no Michi just a few yards east of Joudoji park. Though Joudoji park by itself is not very exciting and there is no giant camphor tree, community family events and other distinctive activities take place there. I sometimes pass by and find an interesting event underway. At the Living in Japan geotagging photo site, I’ll be posting images already taken at both Joudoji Park and the Shoren-in temple.

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Waterproof GPS Rugged Camera - Fujifilm's FinePix XP30

Waterproof Fujifilm FinePix XP30 rugged digital camera with built-in GPS.The Fujifilm FinePix XP30 GPS waterproof camera was announced a few days before this site was up and running and subsequently missed getting its own post as a newly announced camera.

Waterproof Fujifilm FinePix XP30 GPS camera from above.As I prepare to put together a general overview and comparison list of the features of all the new waterproof GPS rugged cameras, along with a complete list of all the cameras on the market that include GPS built in, I thought I should first put up a dedicated post for the Fujifilm XP30. The XP30 is the only new rugged GPS waterproof camera not yet discussed here.

Fujifilm’s XP30 GPS camera is available now, is priced lower than other recently announced rugged waterproof GPS cameras, and definitely deserves consideration.

I kind of like its early Apple iMac influenced color selection. The syrupy green is particularly striking, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready yet to own a green camera.

Waterproof Fujifilm FinePix XP30 rugged GPS camera's backside.

I’ll list the XP30′s main features below along with links to more about the other new waterproof GPS cameras, but I’ll avoid getting into details of the comparisons now because I’ll be adding the promised Rugged GPS Camera Comparison post to the site very soon.

Fujifilm FinePix XP30 GPS Waterproof Camera Main Features

  • GPS built-in
  • Waterproof to 5 meters (16.5 feet)
  • Shockproof up to 1.5 meter (5 feet) drop
  • Freezeproof to −10° C (14° F)
  • Dustproof
  • 5x optical zoom, 28 mm – 140 mm equivalent
  • 720p HD
  • 14.2 megapixel resolution
  • 2.7 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels
  • CCD shift image stabilization
  • Panorama mode
  • Available in Orange, Green, Blue, Black, and Silver. The official Fujifilm XP30 news release indicates the XP30 is also available in white, but none of the photos released by Fujifilm show a white version and I can’t find one for sale anywhere. The reference to white may be an error.
  • Common price as of this post: $239.95

Dan Savage [email]Waterproof Fuji XP30 rugged GPS camera comes in 5 colors.

Images: First – Fujifilm’s FinePix XP30 GPS camera in green. Second – Top of the XP30. Third – Back of XP30 GPS camera. Fourth – Fujifilm looks to Apple’s early iMacs for color inspiration. Fruitilicious colored cameras are popping up all over these days.


The upcoming waterproof and rugged Panasonic Lumix TS3 GPS camera info is here, along with a discussion about HD video issues relating to still cameras.
The Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS rugged waterproof camera post is here, and it includes a quick comparison between the Optio WG1- GPS and the Lumix TS3 GPS camera.
Information on Olympus’ new waterproof rugged camera, the Tough TG-810 GPS camera, can be found here.

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“Tough” Waterproof GPS Camera – Olympus TG-810

Waterproof Olympus Tough TG-810 GPS CameraCatching up with the new waterproof Panasonic Lumix TS3 and Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS geotagging cameras, Olympus has just announced the addition of built-in GPS to one of it’s new waterproof cameras in their Tough lineup.

Waterproof Olympus Tough TG-810 GPS Camera from above.

The soon to be released Tough branded Olympus TG-810 GPS camera offers many of the same features as the new Lumix and Pentax waterproof GPS cameras.Olympus Tough TG-810 GPS camera in black.It’s particularly pleasing to me to see so many rugged waterproof cameras being introduced with built-in GPS. If you don’t mind the data merging process and extra steps that are necessary, a standalone GPS datalogger is still the most versatile and best choice for geotagging. However, when enjoying wet and/or potentially violent activities, having GPS built in to a waterproof “tough” camera definitely provides advantages.

I’ve not yet seen a standalone GPS datalogger that claims to be waterproof and impact resistant. And even if there were rugged GPS dataloggers, I’m less likely to want an extra  little piece of gear dangling around when whitewater kayaking, climbing sheer rock columns, or engaging in other adventurous outdoor activities.

Built-in GPS geotagging capabilities are inevitably coming to all camera categories from all the major camera manufacturers in the near future, but the rugged category is the one where it will be most appreciated by me. Building GPS into waterproof and impact resistant cameras like the Olympus Tough TG-810 is a brilliant progression in the world of photography.

Olympus Tough TG-810 GPS camera back.Main Features of Olympus TG-810 GPS Camera

  • GPS with nearby landmark information in camera
  • Waterproof to 33 Feet
  • Shockproof up to 6.6 ft. drop
  • Crushproof up to 220 pounds of pressure
  • Freezeproof to -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Dustproof
  • Dual Image Stabilization (sensor-shift and digital)
  • Electronic Compass
  • Manometer (water and air pressure for depth and altitude monitoring)
  • 720p Video
  • HDMI output
  • LED Illuminator – Assist for Macro, Underwater, and Low-light closeups.
  • In-Camera Panorama Photos
  • 3D Photo Mode
  • Autofocus Tracking (including a pet mode for dogs and cats)
  • 3 inch 920,000 dot LCD
  • 28mm 5x Zoom Lens (28mm – 140mm)
  • Price: $399.99

I’ve written about the upcoming waterproof Lumix TS3 GPS camera here. The Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS camera post includes a comparison of the main features of the new Pentax and Lumix. Soon I’ll create a more detailed overview post with all of the currently available Waterproof GPS  cameras comparing their features side by side.

Dan Savage [email]

Images: First – Olympus Tough TG-810 GPS camera in silver. Second – Top of black TG-810. The 810 will be offered in silver or black. Third – Front of black TG-810. Fourth – The Olympus TG-810 features a 3 inch screen with 92o,ooo pixels.

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Canon's First GPS Camera, the SX230 HS GPS. And Yes, It Includes Trail Logging!

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS GPS camera from above.More significant to me than any other feature mentioned in the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS GPS press release, is the fact that the SX230 can be used as a trail logger in addition to geotagging photos.

In no other press release for the new GPS cameras coming out this year from other manufacturers have I seen trail logging mentioned. One must presume that the feature is not being included on those cameras, though it might be something that’s added in a firmware update later.

Congratulations are in order for Canon figuring out that it’s not so hard to turn a GPS camera into a GPS datalogger since they already have a GPS unit built in. However, I think a rugged camera such as the upcoming Lumix DSC-TS3 or Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS would be better suited for use in GPS trail logging. You could attach those cameras to your gear and let them get knocked around with less concern. But I’m still pleased to see the trail logging feature being offered and promoted with Canon’s first GPS camera. Let’s hope including this feature is the start of an accelerating trend as GPS cameras become more common. It’s such a shame to leave that feature out of a device that has the technological capacity to offer it.

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS GPS geotagging camera from front with flash extended.I’m not sure what kinds of fabric or materials will seriously inhibit reception of the relatively continuous GPS signals needed to record trail log data with the SX230. Through my whitewater kayak skirt and a kayak’s dense plastic body, I was able to get a signal at times as I wrote about here with the Holux M-241 GPS logger. You can often get weak signals and usable performance with that device when it’s shielded from the sky. In general though, with the M-241, material and obstacles of any kind that block line of sight to GPS satellites do inhibit performance.

The same issues with obstacles and material degrading GPS signal strength will plague all GPS cameras during geotagging and trail logging. Casio has a unique workaround with their Hybrid-GPS system on the new Exilim EX-H20G. I wonder if one day soon little wired antennas that could be optionally attached will be provided with some GPS cameras. You could snake the antenna up and out of a bag or backpack to continue accumulating data as you move around. This would also help keep the camera aware of its location for instant ready shooting when you powered up for stills.

Canon SX230 HS GPS Features

  • GPS of course
  • Trail Logging
  • 12.1 megapixels maximum resolution
  • 28mm Lens, 14x zoom with optical image stabilization
  • 1080p / 24 frames per second HD video with slow motion features at lower resolution.
  • 8.1 frames per second stills at 3 megapixel resolution
    (maximum shots per sequence unknown)
  • Optional: A waterproof case is being made for the SX230 GPS and its companion model the SX220 (without GPS).
    A dedicated waterproof camera would be my preference because of the bulk, expense, and somewhat clumsy interface waterproof cases add, but it’s nice that Canon is offering the option.
    Here is a link to Canon’s waterproof info page.

Canon PowerShot SX230 GPS Camera in Red (Pink), Black, and Blue.The PowerShot SX230 HS GPS is available in black, red and blue, though what Canon calls red appears more like a pink or fuchsia in the prerelease images.

With so many GPS cameras coming to market, it’s about time for a complete list of all the GPS cameras currently available combined with those scheduled for imminent release. That will be the content of an upcoming post here at Learning to Geotag.

Dan Savage [email]

Images: Top – top of Canon’s PowerShot SX230 HS GPS with its GPS hump evident. Middle – front of SX230 with flash extended. Bottom – SX230 body color options.

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New Waterproof GPS Cameras Compared - Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS vs. Lumix TS3 GPS

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS with carabiner strap attached.

The floodgates have opened. There is yet another new GPS camera announcement for the year. Pentax is adding a rugged GPS model to its Optio camera line.

Scheduled to be released in April, the new Optio WG-1 which has been priced at $349.95 will be joined by the Optio WG-1 GPS for $399.95.

Optio WG-1 GPS - front and back of Pentax's new geotagging cameraWith the price not yet announced for the upcoming Panasonic Lumix DSC-TS3, Panasonic will likely consider Pentax’s Optio WG-1 GPS price in making its final decision regarding the MSRP of its new rugged Lumix GPS camera.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Main Features
(with Lumix DSC-TS3 feature comparison comments)

GPS functionality ($50 Premium)

Waterproof to 33 feet.
[Shallower by 7 ft. compared to the upcoming Panasonic Lumix DSC-TS3's maximum depth.]

Shockproof from drops up to 5 feet.
[A little lower than the TS3's 6.6 ft. safe drop height.]

Crushproof, withstanding weights up to 100 KGF (kilogram-force).
[The Lumix TS3 has no crushproof rating.]

Coldproof
to -10 degrees C (14 degrees F).
[Same as Lumix TS3.]

Dustproof

[I believe this comes along with the waterproof rating by default.]

Wide angle 5X optical zoom lens
(28-140mm equivalent)
[Beats the Lumix TS3's 4.6X zoom by a smidgen.]

720p HD video at 30 frames per second.
[It is unknown what video capabilities the Lumix TS3 will have. Press release is unclear. I'm waiting to see an official declaration from Panasonic.]

Digital Shake Reduction (not optical)
[Lumix TS3 image stabilization is optical and should be superior.]

Digital Microscope Mode using 5 macro LEDs around the lens (as opposed to the 3 used in a previous version of this model) to illuminate close-up imaging.
[I have never tested this feature, but it looks interesting. It's not available on the Lumix. You can see some fun examples of photos produced with Pentax's Digital Microscope Mode using an older Optio W90 (3 LEDs) at Ned Bunnel's journal on Blogspot. Ned is the president of Pentax USA by the way.]

I just found out on Ned’s blog that Pentax USA’s offices are in Golden, not so far from where I live when I’m in Colorado. Clear Creek, which has several nice kayak runs starting upstream in Lawson, flows through a very scenic canyon area and right into Golden with many intense rapids along the way. Actually, the stretch below Lawson is one of the absolute best and longest non-stop stretches of serious rapids in the entire state of Colorado. I wonder what the chances are of picking up an Optio WG-1 GPS loaner to try out one day while kayaking this spring.

 

The Pentax Optio WG-1 and the Optio WG-1 GPS cameras both come with an optional carabiner.The Pentax Optio WG-1 (no GPS) is available in black or purple. The Optio WG-1 GPS camera comes in black or green. Both come with optional carabiners as well as standard wrist straps in their boxes.

The carabiner idea would seem to provide a possible solution for those who wish to use their GPS camera as a trail log generator in addition to geotagging their photos. You could attach this reasonably lightweight (5.9 ounces) rugged camera to a backpack or other gear with the provided carabiner.

Pentax provided a carabiner on the previous incarnation of this model which offered no GPS capability, and I have not read anything to indicate trail log generation is an included feature of the Optio WG-1 GPS camera. I’m not optimistic that trail logging has been included, though it probably could have been added with little effort beyond a few lines of code to save the data along with an addition to the camera’s user interface on the LCD.

Click here for an earlier discussion about the upcoming Rugged and Waterproof Lumix TS3.

It has taken a little longer than I thought it would, but GPS cameras and geotagging is finally starting to hit the mainstream. I think I’m getting this site underway just in time for the inevitable geotagging camera revolution. :-)

Dan Savage [email]

Images: Top – green Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS camera. Middle – front and back of WG-1 GPS. Bottom – purple WG-1 (base model without GPS).

 

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2 New Panasonic GPS Cameras - Lumix Rugged TS3 & ZS10 [+HD Video Discussion]

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS3 Rugged GPS Camera with compacc, altimeter, and barometer.Of the 2 new GPS cameras just announced by Panasonic, the rugged Lumix DSC-TS3 (available in 4 colors – see below) is the most tempting to me and could serve as a potential replacement for the old waterproof Olympus Stylus I use as my knock around, ultra-portable kayaking adventure camera.

Video quality is the biggest weakness of the also waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, etc. older Olympus camera I use when kayaking now. The video resolution of the new Lumix TS3, which is impossible to quantify from a press release Panasonic has made available for the TS3, should be a noticeable improvement in quality in the moving image department compared to my older waterproof camera.

I rarely shoot video with my “big” camera, though I expect that to change when I finally upgrade to the new main camera I’m looking at now which has very high quality video capabilities. But out on a river, people tend to appreciate video of themselves going over waterfalls in kayaks as much or more than they appreciate still images. In the past, my pocketable waterproof adventure cameras have been used much more for video than my main cameras  have been.

Ultra-high quality 1080p video that you could pull stills from would be the ideal for outdoor action. I’m not sure if that is a realistic expectation with the Lumix TS3, not having tinkered with one yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that stills from the videos (after reducing and sharpening) could make for occasionally satisfactory images at web presentation resolutions, despite the heavily compressed nature of consumer HD video.
[It seems that despite claims to support Full HD (whatever that phony marketing term means) and the implication of 1080p, the Lumix DSC-TS3 may actually only record 1080i and 720p. More below.]

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS3 Rugged GPS camera from above.GPS
I would have interest in taking a Lumix TS3 for a spin even without GPS functionality built-in. But the GPS function would be especially appreciated in this camera because you would likely be using the TS3 in circumstances where you wouldn’t want the hassle of dealing with a GPS datalogger that would not be as rugged or as resistant to moisture as the TS3.

I might prefer the versatility of a dedicated GPS datalogger on ordinary shooting days, but on days I’d be getting wet or dirty and subsequently choosing to bring the new Lumix TS3, I’m sure I’d be happy that I didn’t need to bring along a separate and more fragile item.

The following is a list of the Lumix DSC-TS3′s main features with some guesses about specifics. The TS3 will be available in March. Price to be announced.

*Lens: 28mm wide angle, up to 4.6x zoom

*GPS: Certainly with a standard GPS delay in first detecting your initial position when starting cold.

*Compass: Presumably for recording directional data in the EXIF file for each photo so you know which direction the camera was pointing when each photo was taken (not a feature I care too much about). I don’t know if the compass direction is indicated during use of the camera, but that would be a nice feature for navigation assistance. It should be easy enough to implement, so I suspect you’ll be able to use the compass feature as a standalone asset.

*Altimeter: With enough GPS signals, elevation can be determined with no other technology on board. Presumably, the dedicated altimeter is used to provide more reliable elevation information in the EXIF files. Though latitude and longitude can be triangulated with only 3 satellite signals, 4 are required to determine altitude. I presume the altimeter data will be observable on the LCD as well which would be a nice touch.

*Barometer: I’m not sure if the intention with the barometer is to help the user make weather predictions during hikes (unlikely) or if barometric pressure is simply recorded as part of each photo’s EXIF file as a novelty (possible). But I suspect the main reason a barometer is in this camera is simply because it didn’t cost much to include and Panasonic felt it could add to the Swiss army knife appeal of the DSC-TS3, even if the barometer feature is unlikely to be used by most purchasers.

*Waterproof: 40 feet (12 meters) up to an hour.

*Dustproof: IP6X Rated – No ingress of dust.

*Shockproof: Dropped from a height of 6.6 feet (2 meters).

*Freezeproof: 14 degress F (-10 C).
I’ve snowboarded in a lot colder temperatures than that, but any temperature protection is better than none I guess. The only digital camera I’ve ever had die on me completely did so during a winter shoot on a mountain.

*1080p Video (Uh, no.): 1920 x 1080 Full HD AVCHD.
What does Full HD mean exactly?
I’m definitely not happy with this invented-by-marketers term, Full High Definition video or Full HD. One would assume that it means 1080p, but does it? And if it does, why not say 1080p somewhere.

In this official press release from Panasonic, the company does not once use proper terminology in describing the video resolutions of the camera’s video features. Inexcusable.

But anyway…
If the information I have found hunting around online is accurate, the Lumix DSC-TS3 DOES NOT record video at 1080p. It records 60 field per second 1080i resolution video after splitting a 30 frame per second progressive signal from the camera’s sensor. The camera may also record 720 progressive video at 30 frames per second. I’m not confident that the data I’m finding online is accurate, so I’ll avoid elaborating on this too much and update this post later when I find something official from Panasonic that goes into the specifics.

I will say that if the camera is unable to process and save a file at 1080p 30 frames per second, but it is creating 1080i video by interlacing 30 progressive frames per second captured by the camera’s sensor…
Then it might be possible to reassemble 2 interlaced frames captured at the exact same moment in time to create a genuine, though highly compressed, 1080 “p” still image from a video clip created with this camera’s 1080i mode. Pulling stills from video is not something everyone will be interested in, but it definitely comes in handy when an appropriate still image was not initially acquired at an event, and it’s something I unfortunately have to do from time to time.

Typical 1080i modes record 60 moments in time each second for 30 frame/60 interlaced fields per second video, making reassembling 2 fields into 1 completely compatible single progressive frame image impossible without fuzzing the already highly compressed data even further.


Beyond eliminating the marketing goofiness of the newly invented phraseology of Full HD, I think there should also be an explanation required by law or an agreed upon industry standard that briefly explains on all HD product packaging how different compression methods can dramatically affect the appearance of HD video. Consumers should be entitled to know, without spending hours researching, that they are not always comparing apples to apples with HD resolution numbers. (1080p is 1080p is 1080p not.)

I don’t see that happening anytime soon (or ever), especially if manufacturers are now already starting to feel they can get away with omitting all references to any kind of meaningful HD specifications in their product promotions as the new Full HD designation allows.

I’m quite sure that rant did nothing to improve the universe.
Moving on.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS3 Rugged GPS camera from the back.3D Photo Mode: Joining Sony’s 3D capable GPS geotagging cameras in the marketplace, Panasonic’s new Lumix cameras also offer a 3D function. Like the recently announced Sonys, this 3D effect is created by combining 2 images shot through the same lens. I have not seen any 3D images resulting from this technique, but I must assume the 3D effect is not as good as what one would expect from a dual-lens system. Otherwise, why would Panasonic be offering a dual-lens 3D option on its Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras?

I’m sure the multiple and distinctly different perspectives provided by a fixed dual-lens 3D camera setup would be preferable, but even with only minimal interest in 3D technology, I’m still quite curious to see what these small portable cameras can do with a single lens 3D system.

Though I don’t anticipate having a strong desire to shoot a lot of 3D stills in the immediate future, who knows what the more distant future might bring? Maybe everyone will one day be wearing 3D glasses whenever they use a computer. If so, we’ll all be integrating 3D content into our websites and some of the 3D content photos generated today might very well end up as online content in the future. But for that to happen, we’ll need to be able to convert much of the present day 3D photography content into whatever universal standard is decided upon.

For the near future, I suspect 3D photography is likely to remain a novelty just for dabbling in on occasion. When I see hoards of users putting on 3D glasses as they turn on their computing devices, I’ll take that as a serious indicator that the tides have turned and that I need to jump on the 3D bandwagon with my photography.

Location Services: Though not as appealing to me on paper as the mapping features available in the new Casio Exilim EX-H20G GPS camera, GPS integration in the Lumix TS3 does notify you of major tourist spots in the world, indicating the Countries/Regions, States/Provinces/Counties, Counties/Townships, Cities/Towns/Villages and Landmarks close to you. Maybe I would see more benefit to that feature if I experienced it in action, but I’m not very titillated by the concept at the moment.

If this camera is successful for Panasonic and they continue developing the category, I’m sure full mapping services will be included in the next generation.

Social Networking: The TS3 supposedly facilitates uploading photos to Facebook. With no Internet connectivity, I can’t imagine it helps too much.

I’m not a rampant social networking photo uploader. I prefer to ponder and carefully select images before sharing them with the world, but I know others feel differently and might welcome any help, however small, that could contribute to the process of sliding photos into Facebook accounts.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS3 Rugged GPS camera in blue, orange, red, and silver.What makes the Lumix DSC-TS3 appealing to me is its unique place in the market as a durable water resistant camera that can also geotag photos. I would be tempted to buy one as is, but once Panasonic adds navigation maps to the LCD as they certainly will in the next version of this model, this camera will be irresistible as a knock around, go anywhere camera.

So the question for me is whether or not I’ll be able to wait a year before I upgrade from my old Olympus rugged camera. And.. what else will appear on the market during that one year wait?

Maybe Panasonic will upgrade the TS3′s firmware to include maps (if there’s enough memory on board), and we won’t have to wait a year for this to become the near perfect pocket navigation camera it could be.

Of course, my enthusiasm for the Lumix TS3 must be tempered by the fact I haven’t even touched one yet.

The Lumix DMC-ZS10 GPS camera, pictured here in blue, might be more appealing for those not seeking protection from moisture, dirt and rough handling. The DMC-ZS10 shares many features with the DSC-TS3, but in addition to a wider 24mm lens, the ZS10 has a more powerful 16x optical zoom and a touchscreen back. The ZS10 is also due out in March. Price to be announced. Panasonic’s DMC-ZS10 Press Release

The compact=Dan Savage [email]

Images: Top 4 Photos – Lumix DSC-TS3. Bottom – DMC-ZS10.

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Mac GPS Geotagging Software - HoudahGeo & HoudahGPS - Holux M-241 Compatibility

HoudahGeo geotagging software - Holux M-241 datalogger compatibilityNote: I’ll be writing about the overall features and functionality of Houdah Software’s HoudahGeo geotagging application in the future, but to keep these posts manageable in size, I’m going to break things up and first address HoudahGeo’s compatibility with the Holux M-241 datalogger.

Because this is a new site and a few of the early posts have been about the M-241, a fair number of the first visitors are ending up here due to Holux M-241 searches. So I want to cover the M-241 compatibility aspect of HoudahGeo and HoudahGPS first. I intend to test a variety of GPS dataloggers, GPS software and GPS cameras with both the Mac OS and Windows operating systems as this site grows. Look for a general review of HoudahGeo’s features and performance soon.


HoudahGeo
is a full featured commercial Mac geotagging software product that is also capable of importing GPS data from GPS recording devices, including some dedicated GPS dataloggers.
HoudahGeo currently costs $30 for a single user license, but may be downloaded for free and used without a license for projects that require no more than 5 photographs to be geotagged at one time.
HoudahGPS is a free tool intended only for importing GPS data into your computer or for converting GPS data to a different format. HoudahGPS may be downloaded for free here.

HoudahGeo and HoudahGPS Compatible Device List
Garmin
GlobalSat BT-335
Holux GR-245
Holux M-241
MTK (iBlue, Qstarz, …)
Magellan
NaviGPS/LocoSys GT-11/BGT-11
Wintec WBT-100/WBT-200Wintec WBT-201/WBT-1000
iPhone – GPSRecorder


When I was initially trying to find ways to get GPS data into my Macbook and geotag the corresponding photographs, I came across HoudahGeo which at first seemed like the perfect solution.

HoudahGeo was quite friendly and easy to use as you would typically expect a Mac program to be, but at that time, Houdah Software’s developer had not yet established compatibility with the Holux M-241, my first GPS datalogger. I was surprised, because of the few dataloggers out there, the Holux M-241 was one of the more well-known in what was and still is a fairly small niche market. It turns out that HoudahGeo relies on an open source tool called GPSBabel, and GPSBabel was not yet supporting the Holux M-241.

I had to find another solution to get GPS data into my computer from the M-241.
BT747, another open source project, which runs on Macs and PCs (and supported the M-241) was not the elegant solution I desired, but it got the job done. I wrote about BT747 here just a couple of posts ago and until now I’ve continued to use BT747 as my exclusive means of importing data from the Holux M-241.

Though I could not import data using HoudahGeo, I have been using HoudahGeo to connect GPS coordinates to my photos after I get the GPS data into my computer.

Houdah Software did later attempt to add M-241 support because of M-241 support being added to the open source software Houdah’s geotagging products are based on, GPSBabel. I’ve attempted to use Houdah’s new option for importing data from the Holux M-241 with both HoudahGeo and HoudahGPS a few times, but to no avail. Houdah’s developer acknowledged in the Houdah Forums that he didn’t own an M-241 to test with and I presume that had something to do with the software not working for me after the first M-241 enhancements.

Recently I was tinkering with connecting a Holux M-241 directly to more recent versions of HoudahGeo and HoudahGPS, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the Bluetooth icon on my M-241 turn on when attempting connections with both.

I decided to test HoudahGeo and HoudahGPS more thoroughly and report here on whether or not BT747 is still needed by Mac users who use the Holux M-241 as their GPS datalogger. Can Houdah’s products finally eliminate the pesky BT747 step in my geotagging workflow?

 

 

HoudahGPS - Geotagging software for importing GPS data logs to Macs.HoudahGPS / Holux M-241 Compatibility
We’ll start with HoudahGPS because I like importing my data separately and saving a copy of the data with my photos before geotagging.

You’ll need to pair your M-241 to your Mac via Bluetooth first to use the Bluetooth option. This link will get you started in pairing an M-241 with Bluetooth. You can ignore the information related to an older version of BT747 found on that site’s page.

I must add here that at no time have I been able to get my Holux M-241 to be recognized via USB. My unit may have a defect, or… I may have simply not jumped through the correct hoops in the correct manner. (though how much more difficult should it be than plugging in a USB cable)

Bluetooth is working fine with my device, and I have had the unit far too long to return it. So I continue down the Bluetooth path. Bluetooth would be the connection method I would choose anyway, leaving one less wire to worry about at my workstation. But I do wish I knew why my USB connection attempts don’t work.

So, does HoudahGPS work?
Clicking on the acquire button in the top right corner of the interface after making the obvious parameter selections for a Holux M-241 does indeed result in the M-241′s log files being transferred to my Macbook and saved in the folder I select.

I easily saved a test data log in the GPX format as I do with BT747, and I was able to import the file into HoudahGeo, Houdah’s geotagging application. I then successfully geotagged the photos I took during the time frame the test log was generated.

HoudahGeo / Holux M-241 Compatibility
Next I tried to import the same data directly from the Holux data logger into the HoudahGeo geotagging software, bypassing the process of saving the log file in the computer first as is allowed by HoudahGPS.

3 main steps to geotagging with Houdah Software's HoudahGeo.This importing process worked seamlessly as well, though I prefer to import and archive my GPS data logs first with my photos, instead of importing directly to geotagging software.

Summarizing
1. For those M-241 users who are less concerned about archiving data
and simply want to tag their photos quickly so locations can be accessed by mapping software or online web galleries, importing directly to HoudahGeo‘s latest version is now an option. I experienced no difficulty in inputting GPS coordinates directly via Bluetooth from my Holux M-241. Tagging the corresponding photos with the latest version of HoudahGeo was automatic and hassle free.
2.
Using HoudahGPS instead of BT747 for importing log files for archiving now seems to be a legitimate and reasonable option. HoudahGPS has a much simpler and intuitive interface compared to BT747 and for most Mac users it will be a better choice for that single task.
3.
The latest version of the free BT747 application is a full featured software option compared to the free HoudahGPS importing utility. BT747 can be used for geotagging in addition to importing data logs. If your budget is limited and you’re willing to plod through its interface to figure it out, BT747 may be a good one stop option for some Mac based Holux M-241 users. I’ve written more about BT 747 here.
4.
For now I’ve decided to switch from using BT747 to using HoudahGPS for importing my GPS coordinates from the M-241. The main reason I’m switching is because the couple of downloads from the M-241 to my computer that I’ve done in testing with the latest version of HoudahGPS have both been quite speedy. Though BT747 has been generally reliable in its ability to get data into my computer, its speed has been erratic in the newest version.

Without changing any variables in the interface of BT747, I get surprisingly different speeds and I’ve confirmed that it’s not related to the size of the files being downloaded from the Holux M-241. Occasionally I get a rapid data transmission speed as I always did with the previous versions of BT747, but more typically I get an incredibly slow speed that is quite unpleasant to be forced to wait for. Perplexing.

Since I empty my data logger at the end of each shoot day and save the data log with each day’s photos, I’m quite happy to avoid the frequent data transmission delays of BT747 and stick with the also free HoudahGPS utility as my default importing tool for now. I’ll hope HoudahGPS maintains a consistent data download rate.

If HoudahGPS continues to work well for me when moving GPS data into my computer, I may be hesitant to upgrade when a new version is released.  After experiencing the degraded performance of BT747′s more feature rich latest version, I’ll likely follow the ain’t broke, don’t fix it mantra with GPS data log importing utilities in the future.

Dan Savage [email]

Images: Screen grabs from Houdah Software’s HoudaGeo geotagging application and HoudahGPS, their GPS data importing and file conversion utility. The last image is a composite showing the 3 straightforward, color coded steps used by HoudahGeo during its geotagging process.

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GPS Camera with Indoor Geotagging - Casio Exilim EX-H20G

Casio EX-H20G GPS Camera with navigation maps on back LCD.The Casio Exilim EX-H20G is a new-to-market GPS camera that offers a unique and very appealing technology that Casio calls autonomic positioning. Casio refers to their new position identifying system that blends autonomic positioning with GPS technology as Hybrid-GPS.

Hybrid-GPS uses an accelerometer and a direction sensor to estimate the distances and directions moved from the last confirmed GPS position once the camera is unable to continue determining its location via GPS satellites. That allows the camera to continue geotagging photos with estimated positions even when you’re inside or at a location where the camera has no direct line of sight to 3 GPS satellites. 3 satellite signals is the minimum requirement to secure a position. The camera switches back to more accurate GPS location detection once you move back into range of enough GPS radio signals.

The camera also searches for GPS signals every 10 minutes when it’s turned off. Casio suggests this helps speed up position locks once powering up by keeping the camera always somewhat aware of its location, assuming the camera is not being carried in a manner that prevents it from receiving GPS signals. Checking your location every 10 minutes could also theoretically allow the camera to function as a trail log generator. I haven’t yet found information that confirms or denies that the new EX-H20G has the capability to record and save a trail log.

One can manually shift GPS coordinates with geotagging software to correct errors that occur when you go inside or are blocked by obstacles outside. But it certainly would be nice to have reasonably accurate positions already recorded and tagged on photos that are taken out of range of GPS satellites as Casio claims the Exilim EX-H20G makes possible.

Casio EX-H20G GPS CameraAnother dramatic feature of the EX-H20G is a built-in map service that lets you see where you are on the camera’s LCD. This could turn the EX-H20G into a legitimate navigation device in addition to being a camera and geotagger.

I’m very interested in seeing the mapping feature in action. Map services could be an important step in GPS camera feature progression. Maps would be an immediate and easy to understand tangible benefit to drive casual photographers towards GPS capable cameras. I hope the new high-end camera I’m considering purchasing doesn’t have to wait beyond its next generation to have GPS and mapping features added.

Of course iPhone and other smartphone users are accustomed to having GPS mapping technology and geotagging in their pockets already, but they are stuck with photographs that are limited in quality by the tiny speck of a lens built into those devices.

It’s interesting how lower-end cameras such as this new Casio are starting to get extremely valuable new features long before higher-end models.

Ironically, high-end users can sometimes be slower to embrace progress, and the camera manufacturers likely don’t want to rock their lucrative high margin, high-end camera sales until the often slower thinking and more skeptical professionals and prosumers realize new technology is a good thing.

Anecdotal, but I remember a professional photographer acquaintance of mine who not so many years ago confidently proclaimed he would never be upgrading to a digital camera because they were less efficient and not suited to his work. He shot promotional stills for television productions. Of course he now uses the latest and greatest digital camera and raves about it. And his clients would not accept work shot any other way.

On the other hand, I suppose it’s not such a bad thing to have technology vetted and more fully evolved on the low-end first. The mapping and GPS features that are inevitably coming to high-end photography equipment should be more mature and capable by the time they’re finally added.

Announced in September of last year and now available for purchase at $349.99, there’s still no thorough review of the Casio Exilim EX-H20G available online. Learning to Geotag may be a little too new to be on the radar of most camera companies, but when I do start receiving test cameras in the mail, I’ll be sharing the results of putting more of these devices to use with my real world projects.
Update: That was quick. Casio has dropped the retail price to $299.99 for the Exilim EX-H20G. The deluge (well, more than a trickle) of new GPS cameras coming to market probably contributed to this substantial price reduction.


Engadget has put up a good hands-on general overview that includes a video of the camera in someone’s hands. More extensive reviews should be coming from photography sites soon.
Casio Exilim EX H20G (with Hybrid GPS) camera review at Engadget
This second link will take you to one of Casio’s detailed information pages for the camera.
Casio Exilim EX-H20G Official Product Page

Dan Savage [email]

Images: Top – navigation map on the back of the Casio EX-H20 GPS camera, Bottom – front of 14.1 megapixel EX-H20G with GPS “hump” visible at the top of camera.

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Free GPS Datalogging Software - BT747 for Macs, Windows, & Linux

Bt747 - GPS data importing and geotagging software.The Good
To say I’m grateful that the free BT747 software exists would be an understatement. When I first started tinkering with my geotagging setup, BT747 software seemed to be the only solution for getting data from the Holux M-241 into my Mac. I own a copy of XP, but I try to avoid launching Windows unless absolutely necessary. I prefer to keep my projects on one operating system. Incidentally, BT747 also runs on Windows machines and other platforms as well.

The Bad
BT747 is open source software that caters to the tech hobbyist and it is not user friendly for the casual geotagger. It’s definitely getting better; for example, the latest version of BT747 allows me to skip opening a shell/terminal window and entering a computer line command every time I want the computer to recognize my Holux M-241 datalogger via bluetooth, as was required with earlier versions.

And the latest version of the software provides capabilities far beyond simply sucking GPS data into a computer and converting it to the various formats you need for other easier to use geotagging software.

BT747 is becoming a very powerful piece of software, but if it’s not fun and easy to use, there won’t be much use for it in the world beyond a small number of geotagging hobbyists. That’s even more true now that so many friendly software products are showing up.

The cryptic and unappealing name BT747, a name that only a software engineer could love, is probably enough of a clue to give you an idea about what you’re getting yourself into if you find yourself needing this tool.

Also worth mentioning, the latest version of BT747 typically downloads my GPS coordinates at much slower speeds than earlier versions of the software, taking at least 400% longer, possibly even more. Occasionally it downloads at the same speed as previous versions. This is not an issue of file size and I am not changing parameters in the interface. It is a very unpleasant mystery.

The Bottom Line
Though there are many new software tools appearing these days that work with GPS data, some web based and some that run on a desktop, it’s still possible that you may encounter difficulties pulling data from your GPS datalogger and other GPS devices. Geotagging is getting easier, but we’re still in the early stages and some geotagging puzzle pieces fit together better than others.

Initially, I needed BT747 to get my data into my computer from a Holux M-241. If you find that the software you’re attempting to use for geotagging with your computer will not also easily import data from your GPS device, then BT747 might be your next logical step.


Below are a few links to help you get the ball rolling if you want to try BT747.
You might want to set aside considerably more than 15 minutes for your first attempt. After you get it working once though, you’ll be fine. :-)

BT747 Main Page
BT747 Download Page
BT747 GPS Logger Device Compatibility
BT747 Official Documentation
I usually strongly recommend reading manuals and documentation, but in this case you’re likely to find the instructions unnecessarily confusing and reading the documentation may actually impede your progress in getting the software to work. I suggest avoiding the documentation unless you absolutely cannot make progress on your own.

Below are a couple of handy links from the Trick77 blog about BT747 that relate to my personal setup using a Holux-241 and a Mac.

How-To: Holux M-241 with BT747 v.1.52 GPS logger software over Bluetooth
This link contains information about Bluetooth pairing the M-241 with a Mac and then goes into details about using an older version of BT747.

BT747 GPS logger application with new user interface
This link is from the same website and discusses a few issues regarding BT747′s latest incarnation.

Keep in mind that when digging through any website’s recommendations that involve complex and often misunderstood topics, 100% accuracy is not guaranteed. Be prepared to drift and experiment away from step by step directions you find online or when looking for tips.

I appreciate some of the people who write as much as they do on the topic of geotagging, but I rarely find completely accurate accounts of how to proceed when reading technical information pages about geotagging. I suggest always remaining skeptical of what you read in the sometimes messy world of geotagging.


Soon on Learning to Geotag, I’ll be writing about HoudahGeo, a slick commercial software package for Macs that I use to work with GPS information after importing the data into a computer using BT747.

Houdah Software’s HoudahGeo and a standalone free tool HoudahGPS, both reliant on the open source software GPSBabel, claim to support importing data from Holux M-241 dataloggers. I’ll be testing those claims again with the latest versions after having no success importing with Houdah’s commercial Geo and free GPS software tools in earlier releases.

Dan Savage [email]

Image: BT747′s main screen visible upon launching program.

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1st Geotagging Experience - Gunnison Gorge, Colorado

Kayaking on the Gunnison River in the Gunnison Gorge of Colorado.

Some kayaking friends were trying to put together an overnight Gunnison Gorge trip just before my departure to Kyoto for my first 3 months in Japan. I’d been halfway hoping this Gunnison trip wasn’t going to come together because of all that I still had to do before leaving for Asia, but the weather cleared just in time for this excursion and off we went.

The run is 13.4 miles through a deep and very scenic canyon that could at times potentially inhibit reception from GPS satellites. It requires a steep and rigorous 45 minute trail hike down into the canyon with your boat and all your gear to get to the put-in. The rapids are only Class 3 or 3+ at typical water levels, so it’s not a trip that offers much whitewater excitement. But it was still a pleasant experience and a great opportunity to test my new GPS datalogger for the first time.

For this trip I decided to limit my technology cargo and leave my podcast audio equipment at home. I just brought along a new GPS datalogger and a waterproof camera. My aim was to focus intently on this first stab at geotagging. I was happy to have a chance to get started with a real adventure, instead of walking around my neighborhood with the Holux M-241 and a camera as I might have done if this timely Gunnison Gorge trip had not occurred.

I experimented with the Holux M-241 throughout the canyon and it was pretty easy to use. However, figuring out how to get the location data into my computer was far from easy. I’ll discuss the subsequent data integration challenges in the next post.

In the end, I did end up with a nice little trail log that I could open and view in Google Earth and I was also able to determine exactly where each photo was taken.

I had to put the GPS data logger under my kayak cockpit skirt to keep it dry when we were approaching rapids, but that didn’t noticeably interfere with the accuracy of the trail log because I was able to keep the device out most of the time. And I can confirm that the trail log I created does indeed follow the route of the Gunnison River when I open it in Google Earth.

Interestingly, on one occasion I noticed the Holux M-241 still had a satellite fix as I removed the device from its shielded position under my thick kevlar kayak skirt.

I’ve read on Garmin’s GPS info page that the radio signals from GPS satellites can penetrate plastic. Incidentally, that Garmin page provides a good detailed overview of GPS technology, but from what I can find in their product listings, Garmin has not entered the GPS datalogger business. Their focus is on navigation devices and all of their products seem too large to be used practically as simple, out of the way GPS dataloggers.

I’ve also experienced that in some buildings, especially when I’m not too far from a window, I can at times obtain a position with the M-241, despite having no line of site to the minimum 3 satellites required. However, in those circumstances, the accuracy does tend to fluctuate.

Apparently kayak boat plastic and/or kayak skirt rubber and kevlar can partially allow for the passage of GPS radio signals, but for best results you’ll need your device out in the open with a broad expanse of sky above you.

Dan Savage [email]

Image: Me paused in a flat water section of the Gunnison Gorge.
We camped in Hotchkiss, Colorado by our takeout on the Gunnison River the night before paddling. Three in our group also camped in the canyon the next night around the midpoint of the Gorge. My friend Ivan and I did the whole run in one day so we could get home by the second night.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Gunnison Gorge, it will be discussed in the future on the Savage Snow Podcast. Here’s a link to the Bureau of Land Management’s official web page for the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation & Wilderness Area. For stories, photos and videos of far more intense whitewater kayaking than was found in the Gunnison Gorge, please visit the Water Section of the Savage Snow website.

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