In May we went to Iceland on a two-week round trip. On this trip I borrowed the Nikon GP-1 Geotagger from a friend to see what all the geotagging fuss was about. The result after the journey was quite clear. With more than 2.700+ pictures from the trip I could pinpoint the exact location of each shot, which proved to be very convenient as many shots had been made on the road. I host my pictures on Picasa mainly, and with the geotagging-information an album map was created automatically. Nice => Wanna have, too !
The GP-1 proved reliable and handy, but it comes with two drawbacks.
- It has no internal power supply and sucks the camera’s battery dry quicker than you can spell “recharge”. Usually one battery charge keeps me taking pictures for a few days with my D300s, but in Iceland I needed 1.5 charges per day !
(Note: At the beginning of the trip it was quite cold (middle of May), but it became warmer eventually with T-Shirt weather on our last day in Reykjavik. I could not detect a significant change in the battery life during the trip, so I rule out that the temperature had a grave impact on the battery life).
- No indoor function. When the receiver gets no signal from the satellites, it writes nothing into the EXIF data. Other geotaggers are more clever. When the signal is lost, they take the last known position and write it into the file. Comes in handy when you are in a city, often entering buildings and other structures.
Bottom line: I decided it was time for me to permanently enter the world of geotagging, but not with Nikon’s GP-1.
My requirements for the Geotagger were:
- internal power supply
- direct entry of the GPS coordinates into the EXIF data
(some systems track your trip independently with no connection to the camera and when you are back home you have to synchronize your pictures and the tracker; the tracker writes the GPS information taken at a certain time into the picture which has been taken at the same time. This is extra work and therefore not desirable)
Researching blogs, forums and podcasts I quickly found one candidate: The Solmeta N2 geotagger. It matches all three before-mentioned criteria and sports some additional features:
- on/off/auto button (auto = GPS tagger on when the camera is on)
- 2-axis compass to show the direction in which the shot has been taken
- when the internal battery is empty, the N2 automatically draws battery power, so you do not have to rely on a charged internal battery
I got my Solmeta on eBay directly from China. Yes, I am an evil customer destroying the distributors in Europe, shame on me. What got me was the special offer on eBay: I got a wall or charger as a free gift with the tagger (I chose the wall charger since this will be the preferred way of charging the thing; I am not a camping guy, so it is not likely that I will not have access to a wall plug for a longer time when travelling).
With the expensive but very fast express shipping (35 US$) the geotagger cost me 144 €. The shipment went very quickly, but the packaging was quite ppor for the price: The geotagger came in a standard DHL plastic document bag. :-/ The box is quite noble, made out of rugged cardboard with a manget (!) snap-on lid.
- geotagging module (54x35x20 mm, 35 g)
- connector cable to the camera (available for all Nikon pro DSLRs, the D90 and D5000 and some Fuji DLSRs)
- Remote control, to be plugged into the Solmeeta N2 (important, since the geotagger cable goes into the camera’s 10-pin connector which is usually for the remote)
- charging cable (USB on the one side, special whatever flat connector on the other side)
- camera strap snap-on connector (if you need the camera’s hotshoe)
- pouch for storing the geotagger
- CD with manual, drivers and Google Earth (hell, are they allowed to do this ?)
- complementary wall charger.
The equipment makes a very good impression. The casing of the N2 is solid and does not have the cheap aroma of some other third-party equipment from China. The installation is simple – charge the N2 (mine was charged when it arrived), connect the N2 with the camera, switch the thing on, wait for the signal (green steady light) and start shooting.
I used the N2 for a week on vacation. It performs as it is supposed to – writing the GPS data (incl. altitude) and the heading into the EXIF data. I enjoy having a long camera battery life and, as previously learned, having the GPS information at hand is quite useful when managing your photos. After one week and 1.000 pictures the battery still has juice (the product spec sheet states 20 hours with the internal battery). But there are also some minor drawbacks which I do not want to hide…
- when used on the hotshoe, the N2 is quite long and hovers above the built-in flash. The flash can not pop up any more. Very minor drawback, since you can mount the N2 also on your camera strap using the provided adaptor. (Is the built-in flash usable with the Nikon GP-1 ? I can’t remember having tested that)
- the connector cable uses a special custom plug. If lost or broken it might be difficult to find a replacement
- the plug on the N2 looks like it could wear out after some time. Many cycles of stuffing the camera into the bag and pulling it out again might tear on the connection and damage it over time. A more rigid connection would be desirable – for example with a plastic rim around the plug which receives the cable and supports it.
- I did not take any measurements, but I had the impression, that the receiver takes quite a few moments before it finds the GPS signal. My impression with the GP-1 was, that it found the signal quicker. But again, this is my gut feeling and I used the two modules in very different locations (open wild in Iceland – urban area in France…)
The first three points are cosmetic issues in my humble opinion and I can live with them quite well. The last point will be subject to further investigation. In the field I could work with the N2 very well, so the time-to-signal was not impeding my shooting.
Bottom line: The Solmeta N2 is a reliable and sturdy geotagger with good value for money. It comes with a variety of accessoires (remote, strap connector, pouch, cables) and proves to be a good choice in the field. I am satisfied with the product and can humbly recommend it.
Enough for today, thanks for reading,