I'll fess up – I'm a gadget geek. I"ve been a touch surprised at how Nikon had been ahead of the game with a small GPS that could tag images via connection to their cameras via USB. There were a few attempts at integrating the GPS via USB but you had to have a WFT device – which was super pricey, and you still needed a supported GPS device too – so ~$1,000 to tag images, no thanks.
I had seen other Geo-Tagging devices that would essentially log a trace and would then tag your .jpg files with their locations, but these devices didn't support RAW files, and I shoot exclusively in RAW.
I was a bit happier when the 1D X was announced and along with it was a much smaller GPS tagging device, the Canon GP-E1, that tied into the camera directly, via a utility port on the side of the camera. Still a touch on the pricey side, but at least this unit wasn't the size of half a battery grip.
Then the 1D X was delayed, the 5D3 announced with availability just around the corner. With it – the GP-E2 was announced. I liked that the device supported both the 1DX as well as the 5D3 from the hot shoe (a curious way to get the connectivity, but it will connect to multiple disparate devices that way), and to the 7D via a usb connection.
So the die was cast. I ordered a GP-E2 with my 5D3, and hoped that it (okay – and the BG-E11 grip) would show up before I headed to California to shoot the Amgen Tour of California last week… no luck.
It was here when I got back, however; I soon had it out of its box and was ready to test – but I got broadsided by a nasty cold and have been essentially worthless (some might argue that is *not* atypical – LOL) for the last two days.
The device is a touch larger than I expected. Most, if not all, of the images I had seen of the Canon GP-E2 were without a camera body in the image. So the fact that it is easily larger than the pentaprism of the camera took me a bit aback.
I was still also mulling over my reaction to the "hot-shoe" connectivity. While it would give me the most accurate data (including compass direction and angle of the camera, I think) I wondered about how vulnerable it was going to be if I was out on a moto with it in the hot shoe. I've not really had any problems with a flash mounted on a camera from the moto, so this shouldn't be too big a problem, but I'd not be able to use my flash on my 5D3 (which is how I ran things in Cali this year – pending post on that).
The thought of using a USB cable to connect the GPS to the camera seemed even less ideal from the back of a moto. I think it would a) open the side of the camera (okay – and the GPS) to rain and dust contamination, and b) be easy to knock out of the socket when reaching for the camera, etc. So I started looking into the under mentioned pure "logging" capabilities.
So there isn't much to the device. An opening for a single AA battery, a rubber cover over the data connection, and a three position switch. Canon also include a carrying case (so you can attach the device to your belt or camera strap easily, two different lengthed cables to connect your camera to the GP-E2, and a small drawstring bag to carry the lot in. After putting in the battery (not included), sliding it into the hot-shoe of my Canon 5D mark III, and flipping on the power switch. I was able to go into the camera's menus to setup the device.
It lets you set the date/time on your camera from the satellite signal (very nice, easier than the laptop time-set process – two shakes and my 5D3 was "accurate"). This can be set automatically, manually, or can be switched off. The other "setting" is the ability to define the "position update timing". IMHO, it is a no-brainer to set this at the minimum refresh time of every second; this still allows for over four days of logging on the device before you start overwriting older days' logs. You can view the current GPS info (lat, lon, elevation, date/time and signal strength). The last thing you can do is to calibrate the compass on the device – it shows you three sequences of movement of the camera with the GPS mounted on top to let the device align itself correctly. But compass direction of the photograph is no where on my radar – My main concern, from posting images into various image services, is to get the city, state, zip and country added to the files. This saves me tons of time; as I won't have to remember where a shot was taken while mid stage (where towns are small and go by pretty quickly).
I didn't think it was too necessary to try connecting the receiver to the camera – it would "just" work as advertised. After a day or two to mull it over, and enticed by statements such as "There is no need to connect the receiver to the camera" – I wanted to test with an "un-supported" camera (For direct tagging – the 1DX and 5D3 work via USB/Hot-Shoe; 7D works via USB).
So I fired up the GP-E2 into "log" mode, hopped in the car, and did a quick run for some dinner. I had set the time on my 5D3, so I brought up that display and matched the time setting manually on my Canon 1D Mark IV. On the drive, I shot about 50 images along the way; not really aiming, just actuating the shutter.
Tagging the Files:
The one step in the process that didn't immediately click – was how to get the log file off of the GP-E2 and onto my laptop. The cables included with the device call the connector on the GPS end a "digital" connector, and the other end is a mini-usb to connect to the camera. I knew this wouldn't connect to my "standard" usb ports on my laptop. Looking at the port on the GPS itself, it looked different enough that I figured I needed to find an adapter to connect the cable that came with the GPS to the laptop.
I read through the GPS manual, there was zero description on how to accomplish this. Finally, I downloaded the Canon Map Utility manual off of the software disc – it just said to "use the cable included with the camera"… Hmm… could it be that easy? A closer look showed that the outer shape of the socket on the GP-E2 was indeed USB Mini shaped. I gingerly tried it, and voila! It worked.
From there it was pretty easy. I copied the files onto my hard drive into a directory in the "normal" file structure I employ for Lightroom. I then launched the map utility.
A quick "File" > "Add Images…" to select all the files in my latest directory, voila – they now appear in the left column of the app. Then I turned on the GP-E2, connected it to the USB port, clicked the "GPS log files" tab in the utility, and chose "File" > "Import GPS log files from GPS device…" The data is now on your laptop. Now just go back over to the "Images" tab and click "Edit" > "Automatically add location information".
The system now does warn you that "If (Time difference] in the GPS log file is not set correctly…" (it goes on for a while). Essentially, if you time on your camera is off by an hour from the GPS, and you shot for two, your locations may be shifted for one of the hours and the other may not show any gps info. Just be sure to sync your camera with your GPS before you start your shoot. I'm not sure what you could do at this point – I guess you could hop into some utility to adjust the "shot" time, then come back and refresh the data…. It would be nice if Canon let you set an offset (in both hours and minutes) so you could fix this now… perhaps that will show in a subsequent version of the software.
After you clear the warning, you have the option of reviewing your location info before you commit it to the files. You just need to click the "Save" button below the map (they put it in a very noticible blue area below the map).
The 59 files took about a minute or two to save (I should have, but didn't time it). I'm not sure what he delay was, but it may be looking up specific country, state, city, and "sub-location" aka "neighborhood" info for each image and saving it. I'll try this again on a larger set to see if this is really a long delay… If so, I may tag the GPS info only into the images I'm pushing to my image-server… those 40-50 may go a LOT faster than 1600-1800 images from a day of shooting a race.
The Map Utility actually has a pretty nice display – it shows the trace of the drive I took, and it puts pins in the map where each photo was taken. It is enough to know if your time-sync was on or off and you have plenty of choices on how you want it to display. It leverages Google Map data, so you have the standard "Map", "Satellite" or "Hybrid".
For Lightroom – the trace itself isn't displayed as it only has the individual image info… I guess it could play "connect the dots" but it wouldn't follow the actual path taken (unless you managed to only stay on straight roads and took a pic at each corner – LOL). It does bring up "sub-location" – which is sort of interesting – it labeled the shopping center I drove through as a neighborhood I had never heard of. Suffice to say – it worked like a champ, and I'm looking forward to my next multi-day stage race to shoot.
After this quick test, I will most likely use the GP-E2 attached to one of the cameras I use on a shoot (so that 1/3 or more of the shots will be pre-tagged) and I can then tag the other images via the process above; or I can just tag the shots after exporting selected files from Lightroom if tagging 1600 images takes a long time. I'm thinking I may just tag all the images this way as I won't have to worry about if I want to mount a flash to the 5D3, etc.
Short version – you should be able to use one GP-E3, attached to your belt, to tag all cameras on any shoot. Just be sure to sync the time on the cameras with the GPS before each shoot.
I'll post again after I've used it a bit more.
Thanks for reading; and as always, let me know if you have any questions.