Sep 3, 2015

Review: Promote GPS

Specifications:
  • Provides latitude, longitude, elevation and date/time information
  • Dependable 20 channel GPS receiver powered by SiRF Star III chip
  • Supports WAAS / EGNOS / MSAS
  • No batteries required - powered directly from camera
  • Low power consumption for longer shooting sessions
  • Automatically powered on/off along with camera exposure meter
  • Satellite almanac is automatically memorized for quick hot start
  • Made in USA
  • Price: $149.95

Beau's Thoughts:
Geo-tagging images is a great way to help organize your portfolio and is something I have been doing after Lightroom introduced the 'Map' module in version 4. The ability to add GPS data to images has been a big help on both personal and work projects. In the past I would sync the time between my camera and Garmin eTrex hand-held GPS, set the device on the dash of my vehicle, and then sync the tracking data with the images in Lightroom.

While this worked well for most trips, I ran into situations, capturing images for an environmental site surveys, where the intervals my eTrex was recording data was spaced out too much and I wasn't getting accurate locations when Lightroom interpolated the images into the track file. The results left me relocating many of the images with in Lightroom's Map module. It was then that I decided to start looking at GPS units that would connect directly to the camera.

I jumped onto Nikon's website to begin reviewing my options, cursing the fact that GPS is not built into Nikon pro-bodies! (really? Companies can place GPS chips in watches and you cannot place on in a camera!?!?)  The problem I was immediately faced with was trying to justify the $312 price tag for Nikon's GP-1A GPS unit and the $56 for the GP1-CA10 cable needed to connect it to my camera.

After doing a little bit of online research I came across Promote Systems' GPS receiver for Nikon pro-bodies with the 10-pin port, like my D300s and D700, and I found myself reaching out to see if I could borrow a unit for my trip to Overland Expo in Arizona. The lovely team at Promote Systems was gracious enough to lend me a unit for the trip.  Well the month long trial period turned into two which eventually resulted in me purchasing the device, but more on that later.

The Promote GSP clips onto the camera's hot-shoe mount and then the cable runs down to the 10-pin connector on the front of the camera body. The device is powered directly by the camera, with an on/off switch located on the side to prevent the battery from being drawn down when not in use.

I am impressed with the overall functionality. Although I found it hard to tighten down the 10-pin connector with my fat fingers, it wasn't impossible. I was initially concerned with the body's plastic construction, but found it to be on par with the Nikon GP-1A and has held up to the rigors of travel. Overall GPS accuracy was what I would have expected, and continues to provide the coordinate information needed for travel and work photography. I am able to zoom in with Map module to locate images take at different locations during a trip or site survey, which has been a big boost to my workflow!

Zooming into my Overland Expo photo gallery

Testing the Promote GPS did come with a bit of a learning curve.  I noticed a few instances, during my trip to Overland Expo, where images were not being tagged with the coordinate locations. I contacted the technical support team at Promote Systems and was able to talk through my camera settings and how I was using the GPS. It turned out I wasn't giving the device enough time to 'wake up' after not taking photos for a while. The team said:
In default mode, camera will power down its exposure metering to conserve power, and that also powers down the GPS. When shutter button is half pressed, this reactivates metering (and powers on the GPS) – but it needs a second or two to reestablish satellite link. The safest thing is to half press the button, wait until “GPS” icon goes solid on camera LCD, then shoot.
This made a lot of sense to me, you can see in the Lightroom screen capture below I was able to get consistent GPS locations for the images of the Land Cruiser but took a few seconds into capturing the Jeep images before it began recording the location. Knowing this, I began anticipating when I would want to start capturing images, pressing half-way down on the shutter button a few seconds before a photo, to give the device enough time to wake up and reacquire the GPS signal.


Conclusion:
Once I learned about the nuances of using the Promote GPS, specifically how the device goes to sleep, I never ran into another issue with the device not geotagging my images. I would recommend the Promote GPS to anyone with a Nikon pro DSLR camera looking to streamline their geotagging workflow. As I mentioned, Promote Systems was kind enough to send me a demo unit to try for a few months and by the end of the demo period I went ahead and purchased the unit.

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

1 comments:

sailorcolin said...

Have you ever used the BadElf GPS Pro? That along with HEMA maps on an ipad mini is my current setup.

- Colin R
colinrupp.com