Review: Geotagging with Easytag GPS module (Nikon GP-1 compatible)

If you’re an avid geotagger and own a Nikon GP-1 (or compatible) on-camera GPS receiver, you may have found yourself in a situation where you had to take a photo even though your GPS unit wasn’t ready, thus leading to inaccurate or even missing latitude/longitude coordinates in your photo. A GPS receiver usually needs at least 30 to 40 seconds to acquire an accurate position fix in the open once you turn the camera on. Depending on your subject, that can be quite some time. An on-camera GPS unit like the Nikon GP-1 also puts quite a strain on your camera’s battery life.

On the other hand, if you’re using an off-camera geotagger like the Holux M-241 there’s always some sort of more or less complex post-processing workflow involved to store the GPS readings in your photo’s metadata header. I sometimes forget to switch my Holux M-241 on when I’m outside with the camera or even worse: I usually forget to take it with me at all. Doh!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a GPS unit that sits on the camera (so I don’t forget it at home), runs on its own power but still is able to immediately store GPS readings in your photos whenever you take them? Running on it’s own power has the advantage that when you’re outside with your camera, you can simply forget about hot/warm/cold startup times or draining your camera’s battery and just concentrate on the non-GPS-side of photography.
This is where the Easytag GPS module (a.k.a. Easytagger) comes into play. The Easytagger is a hybrid between an off-camera and an on-camera GPS logger. Judging from the product description, this thing seems to be the jack of all trades:

  • Stores GPS info directly to a photo’s metadata header (no matter if NEF or JPEG)
  • Data logger mode: Ability to log a trail (a series of GPS readings) to a microSD card using the popular NMEA format
  • 2-axis magnetic sensor to record heading
  • Barometric altimeter
  • Built-in rechargeable 500mAh Li-Ion battery, and in case it’s emtpy, draws power from the camera
  • Unique design to allow mounting on flash accessory shoe and the built-in flash to be used at the same time
  • Multi-model compatibility: simply use the appropriate data cable. 10-pin: Nikon D200, D300, D300s, D700, D3/D3s/D3x, D2/D2x/D2xs/D2Hs. 8-pin: Nikon D90, D5000
  • No setup required, just plug and play!

But does the Easytagger really live up to its expectations? I’m going to have a close look at the Easytag GPS module from a Nikon D700 and a Mac user’s perspective.

What’s in the box (I ordered the whole shebang):

  • Easytag GPS module
  • 2 GB SanDisk microSD card
  • Shutter remote switch
  • USB cable
  • Camera connection cable
  • USB microSD card reader
  • Mini-CD with manual and some GPS-related software (Windows only)

Prices start at US$ 139 for the Easytag GPS module (not including shipping). The Easytagger is available with different options that can be added up according to your needs and there’s also a less expensive shipping option now. It comes in a nice box which is something you don’t get to see a lot when purchasing electronic gadgets directly from China.

The mini-USB connector and the microSD slot openings are covered with soft plastic latches. The Nikon 10-pin plug sports an alignment mark so plugging it in is a quick and easy job.

If the Easytagger is switched to the ‘on’ position, the current GPS readings are stored directly into the photos you take. If the unit is switched to the ‘all’ position, all GPS readings are additionally recorded to the inserted microSD card. Every time the switch is moved to the ‘all’ positon, a new track log file is being generated. The GPS readings are logged in the popular NMEA format.

On the Mac, the track log can be processed into a Google Earth or Google Maps compatible format using my favorite free GPS data logger software BT747. If you’re an Apple Aperture 3 user, you can import the track log directly from the microSD card into an Aperture project. To be able to import it into Aperture, the log file extension has to be renamed from .txt to .log.

Apple Aperture 3 is unable to display the heading, neither in the metadata viewer nor in the map itself. But the heading information is in the photo and waits for Apple to make use of it. If you’d like to see this feature in Aperture 3, why don’t you leave a note here?

The next screenshot shows the mother of all geotagging applications: GeoSetter. Unfortunately, GeoSetter is Windows-only. Displaying heading information from an Easytagged .NEF photo is a piece of cake for GeoSetter:

The GPS module needs to be level to the ground in order to determine the correct heading. Just like the compass the iPhone 3GS.

According to Photoshop’s photo metadata viewer, this is the GPS information that’s stored in the photo:

         <exif:GPSVersionID>2.2.0.0</exif:GPSVersionID>
         <exif:GPSLatitude>47,8.278N</exif:GPSLatitude>
         <exif:GPSLongitude>8,25.6392E</exif:GPSLongitude>
         <exif:GPSAltitudeRef>0</exif:GPSAltitudeRef>
         <exif:GPSAltitude>335/1</exif:GPSAltitude>
         <exif:GPSTimeStamp>2010-03-13T12:35:55Z</exif:GPSTimeStamp>
         <exif:GPSSatellites>07</exif:GPSSatellites>
         <exif:GPSImgDirectionRef>M</exif:GPSImgDirectionRef>
         <exif:GPSImgDirection>10600/100</exif:GPSImgDirection>

Performance and accuracy

After a cold-start the Easytagger usually picks up a satellite fix within a minute in the open with unobstructed view. To get an idea about its accuracy I took both, my Easytagger and my Holux M-241 for a walk in the neighborhood. My intention was to compare both track logs visually on a map but on several occasions, the Easytagger just created an empty track log file with no data in it even though I put the switch in the ‘all’ position. So, in the end I had to give up comparing accuracy as the data logging functionality in the Easytagger didn’t seem to work reliably. I was able to retrieve some track logs from the microSD card though but usually not when I really needed them.

Battery life

To get an idea about battery life I switched the fully charged Easytagger in the ‘all’ position and put it in a place with good GPS reception. Once it ran out of batteries I just had to analyze the track log and calculate the elapsed time between the first and the last log record. Battery life is around 10,5 hours before the Easytagger has to be recharged. But even if you accidentally run out of power, the unit is able to suck the life out of the camera’s battery! Be prepared that this will drain your camera’s battery rather quickly.

As there is no data logged to the microSD card in the ‘on’ position, I assume the battery lasts slightly longer.

The thing with the flash

The main idea behind the “unique” design of the Easytagger is to “allow mounting on flash accessory shoe and the built-in flash to be used at the same time”. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with a Nikon D700. When the Easytagger is mounted, the built-in flash only extracts about half way. There needs to be some form of clarification in the product description as for what camera models this statement is valid.

Room for improvement

While using the Easytag GPS unit I also found some annoyances and I’m sure at least some of them could easily be fixed by the manufacturer. The numbers don’t necessarily reflect the importance. I just added them in case somebody wants to address them in the comments.

  1. Once the unit has a satellite fix, the green status LED is continuosly turned on. To me, this seems like a waste of precious battery power. I’d rather have two different flashing intervals to save as much power for geotagging as possible.
  2. The constantly lit status LED (once the unit has a fix) isn’t bright enough for outdoor use. Looks like a tiny SMD LED with a too large light diffusor on top that eats a lot of light. Basically, the green LED is useless this way.
  3. The inclusion of a barometric altimeter sounds pretty cool. The problem is that – at least in my case – the readings are not consistent. I’ve had some situations where it was pretty close but usually it’s way off (around 100m). Barometric altimeters usually are very precise in a relative way but they have to be calibrated regularly to be accurate on the absolute scale.
  4. I’m desperately missing a camera strap adapter to mount the Easytagger to the strap in situations where the hot shoe is needed for something else. Or, at least on the D700, I want to use the pop-up flash.
  5. It would be very useful if the NMEA track logs would show the date when the track log was created or when the last track record was written instead of  the fixed 8-8-2008 date. Once there are a couple of different track logs, the only way to separate them now is by the index number in the filename. This kinda offsets the ability to store 2-3 years of GPS readings on a 2 GB microSD card if you have no idea at what time a particular file was recorded.
  6. Once the Easytagger is mounted on the hot shoe it won’t accidentally slide off too easily but it would be nice if there was a way of locking/tightening it to the hot shoe.
  7. Once the unit is recharged the red LED is not turned off completely, it’s just less bright.
  8. Occasionally, log lines in the txt file don’t have a CR/LF at the end which is in violation of the NMEA standard and the affected sentences most likely won’t be considered by any log processing software.
  9. I’ve had one situation where the Easytagger just wouldn’t get a satellite fix. I was in the open field with no buildings within 200 yards in any direction – perfect conditions for a GPS receiver. At the same time, my Holux M-241 was picking up the signal with no problems. After doing a compass recalibration the Easytagger started working again but I’m not sure if that really was the reason it came back from the undead.
  10. The manual could be improved. For instance, at times the Easytagger quickly flashes the red LED between the solid green LED. What does that mean? What’s the GPSSETUP.ini on the microSD card for? Can the Easytagger be flashed with newer firmware revisions and if yes, how? How is the barometric altimeter being calibrated? Is it possible to change the 10-second log-interval to a different value?

Conclusion

From a photographers view, the Easytagger brings geotagging to a whole new level. Lots of interesting features crammed into a small box for a moderate price. Fast e-mail support! The unit caught a lot of attention when I took it with me for an outdoor photography session with my photo club. Automatically geotagging a photo works like a charm and is as easy as it can get.

The data logging function didn’t work reliably in my case. I may have gotten a faulty device though and if I get a replacement unit, I’ll certainly have a look at it again. At least on a Nikon D700, the “unique” design isn’t very helpful. I can’t fully extract the flash and the Easytagger even touches my forehead when looking through the viewfinder which at times feels annoying.

The Easytagger certainly has a lot of potential but some details and inconsistencies need to be addressed before I’d consider it my #1 geotagging device for photography.

I ordered the Easytagger  directly from the Chinese manufacturer but there’s also a new distributor in Canada in case you live in North America. If you want to see the Easytagger in action have a look at these training video clips.

21 thoughts on “Review: Geotagging with Easytag GPS module (Nikon GP-1 compatible)

  1. Great review! We are constantly working to improve and refine the EasyTag. Some of your issues are higher priority (#4, #5, etc.) than others and some, while on your list, have minimal effect on functionality (#6).

    We are working on a clip, similar to a giant metal money clip so the EasyTag can be clipped anywhere.

    The log files do contain the date and time:
    $GPRMC,214928.743 [hhmmss] ,A,4338.7292,N,07927.8808,W,0.21,155.20,060310 [day month year],,,A*7D
    but hopefully we can write these directly to the file itself. (8/8/08 was the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics).

    Please keep in touch and we will work to address these issues. Your feedback and constructive criticism has been very helpful.

  2. Thought you might want to know that it also doesn’t allow the flash to popup correctly on the D5000. I also bought it specifically over another very similar unit for this feature. I’ve been in communication with the chinese company and gave them some ideas how to include brackets/standoffs that let you put it on without interference. I roughly sketched up the ideas, but I didn’t do a full up design cycle as I don’t have access to my modeling tools from up at work while I’m at home. I haven’t heard anything back since I sent the pdf package with the recommendations that would make the feature that was the deciding factor for me truth rather than fiction.

    Darren

  3. Great review. Also read Terry White’s review. I did not realize the problem with the flash but it is something to consider. I do like the idea of the SD card and recording the track. Will be interested to see what updates are available as mentioned above. Considering the Solmeta right now and leaning that way.

  4. There is a lot of chice now out there.

    With compass + Logger + Indoor Function
    ==> Solmeta Geotagger Pro

    With Logger + Direct Start + Indoor Function
    ==> Dawntech Mini 3L
    ==> Dawntech Pro L (sealed + ruggadized)
    Dawntech have the best cable orientation (straight up) I have seen

    Without cable but with Bluetooth + Indoor Function + very small
    ==> Foolography unleasehd

    All here (There is a google translate on the right top!): http://www.gps-camera.eu/wisse.....ungen.html

  5. Andrew Weinstein

    The EasyTagger i just got included a pedestal to place the unit on. When the pedestal is in the hot shoe it raises the tagger up by about 2 inches so it no longer interferes with the pop-up flash (on my D300). It also came with a looped velcro to attach the unit to the camera strap instead of the hotshoe.

    Question: Is Geosetter the only progtam that “sees” the compass data? Doesn’t seem to be recognized in PhotoMechanic or LR2. The compass doesn’t seem very accurate any, but just curious. The device itself works perfectly. i’ve had no problems with the route logging.

  6. I really appreciate the detailed review.

    Many suggestions mentioned above has taken into action now. We make a bracket as Darren suggested. Thank you Darren. And we improved the manual. We change the led to blue and make it more bright when outside. We fixed the problem of fixed 8-8-2008 date.

    Now almost all of the things mentioned above is no more a problem. Thanks for all your help.

    Also we released a bluetooth product and our next target is direct gps solution for certain Canons.

    Best wishes to you All.

    Bryan

  7. I ordered and received my EZ Tagger from the manufacturer in China instead of the distributor Canada, in May. Mine came with a hot shoe bracket designed to raise the GPS enough to allow the camera’s pop up flash to work as advertised (it was a major reason for choosing this brand). It worked without interfering with the camera’s pop up flash operation at all.

    I found that the included cable was too short for use with my D7000 when the GPS was mounted to the hot shoe bracket. The GPS port on the D7000 is closer to the bottom of the camera than other Nikon DSLRs. The cable was able to reach between the connectors, but it put strain on them. I was concerned that this strain might eventually break soldered joints in one or both connectors.

    I contacted the manufacturer to explain the problem and included photos of the setup along with a suggestion to make the cable about an inch or so longer. I received a prompt reply from Bryan Shan thanking me for bringing the problem to his attention. He promised to make a cable long enough to work with the GPS as advertised without straining, and send one to me ASAP. As promised, the longer cable arrived at my Massachusetts address a few weeks later and fit perfectly.

    I’ve found the company and Bryan to be very responsive to my concerns and suggestions. Initially, I had some reservations about dealing with a Chinese company directly – but that turned out not to be an issue at all. I’ve had zero language barrier issues with Bryan, as he is fluent in English (my Chinese is horrible). The product works great. The company cares about its customers and their opinions, and is quick to respond. I’m very pleased with the value of my purchase, and highly recommend the EZ Tagger GPS.

  8. After reading the review and comments here I have ordered an Easytagger unit. I had trouble ordering the unit because Australia was not listed as one of the destinations on the order form – there were only U.S. states and territories. I eventually tricked the form into accepting my order by specifying AFO/FPO Pacific as the destination for my order. The order is now on its way so the trick worked but it would be much more convenient if the order form listed non-U.S. destinations like Australia. I have only mentioned this in the hope it helps others who encounter the same problem in ordering.

  9. I ordered one of these after reading the review and I am extremely happy with the unit. It picked up GPS fast and was nice and simple to work with. For an extra $3 I even got a remote trigger for it so it’s a bargain for the whole kit!

  10. I’ve been using my Easytag for a few weeks now and I’m very happy with it. It works perfectly with my D700.

    One minor thing. When the Easytag is set up on the hotshoe and I move my tripod/camera to a different location, the movement while walking causes the cord to become unplugged from the Easytag unit. I would like to see a firmer connection between the cord and the unit.

    Overall I’m very happy with the Easytag unit and recommend it to anyone looking for a geotagger.

  11. I got my Easytag about a year ago. It has been sitting on my Nikon D7000 from the very first day.
    I have a few comment.
    -The LED on top of the device is shining too bright. When I out in the evening shooting I dont want everybody to see that i am having my camera in my hand. A pice of paper taped to the LED solved the problem.
    -There are no fastening devise on the hotshoe connection. Just friction keeps the Easytag in position on the hotshoe. I would very much like to have a fastening device to prevent the Easytag from falling of the camera.
    -I experience the same problems as Robert does with the cord connected to the Easytag. It falls of too easyily.

    Even with the comments above, I just love my Easytagger!

  12. I would like to install the geotagger in my battery grip. Does anyone now, how the dimensions of the platines are? The dimensions of the geotagger box itself are too large to fit. Does anyone have pictures of the geotagger unscrewed?
    Thank you very much

  13. Be careful if you pull the Geotagger apart. I did it once and wouldn’t do it again. It requires small and dextrous fingers to reassemble. I don’t recall what the innards looked like except there was a plate about 47 x 27mm by maybe a couple of mm thick.

  14. I bought one… and I’m glad I did…
    It works perfect woith my Nikon D7000

    I ordered it directly in China: http://e-geotag.com
    Perfect delivery to Belgium within 15 days.

    And very important:
    they have a great after sale service. I’ve got a quick and correct answer on all my questions.

  15. In my posting of march 7th 2012, I was very happy with my geotagger, even tho I had a few comments.
    I purchased two geotaggers in the same order. One for me and one for my friend. Both Geotaggers worked perfect until last summer. My friend got a problem with the connection between the GT and his camera.
    My geotagger had a problem with loose contact between the cable and the geotagger itself. The connection gor worse as time went by, and on my summer vaccation, i was not able to connect my geotagger to the camera at all.
    I contatced Brian at Geogtagger and was advised to return the old GT’s and he would replace them.
    My friend decided not to return the geotagger and got himself a new one from another company.
    I liked my Geotagger and did return my GT to the adress Brian told me to use. The GT was returned in August 2012.
    In september i send an email to Brian, asking for status on my GT. He asked what adress I had used, whitch was the one he had told me to use, and after that time, nothing has happened.

    So, both of the geotaggers I ordered back in 2011 had connection problems and finally stopped working.

    So far, a new geotagger has not been replaced, after almost 6 months waiting time, nothing has happened.

    Looks like I will get myself a SOLMETA GEOTAGGER very soon!

  16. Thank you Roland, And sorry Willy,

    We cherish every our customer and our service may not be perfect, but we always try our best to do bussiness and services with our customers.

    I can not tell where went wrong and sometimes the post office do lost the packages. But anyway we will settle the problem till your satisfaction.

  17. Just got my EasyTagger couple days ago.
    Day 1 at beach could not in multiple tries get satellite lock (Apx 10-15min try times)
    Day 2 took unit for walk along beach and left on, got first lock in apx 20-30 min (Didn’t check constantly)
    My iPhone 5 (No WiFi) app MotionX locked in seconds and showed strong Satellite signal.
    I found the unit was very quick to lose lock. Relocks after turning unit off then took 3 to 5 minutes.
    I’d say the unit has very poor sensitivity and accuracy.
    I feed the data into Google’s GPS Visualize and fount it showed me walking randomly on water out in bay. LOL but not funny.
    I’d give this unit a Fail

  18. I just purchased the newer version with the MTKII chipset and this thing rocks. It takes somewhere between 45 to 60 seconds to lock into the satellites(as long as you don’t move i.e. driving in a car). If you will like to compare the MTKII chipset with other chipsets please go to http://www.canadagps.com/KB_04.html The Auto geotag indoor feature works flawlessly, especially when you do your own geotagging with other software.
    I purchased the Bluetooth version for my Nikon D7000, It works great but I use the self geotagging feature(recording coordinates every 10 sec) since my wife has a Sony NEX 5 and I geotag pictures from both cameras. Calibration is easy just follow the instructions.
    I’m a MAC user and I use myTracks app that I downloaded from the Apple store for $15. Easytagger creates a txt. file, you will then go to GPS Visualizer website http://www.gpsvisualizer.com and convert the file to a GPX file. You will then load that GPX file into myTracks with the pictures and voila. The great thing about the eassytagger is that it writes the file with the location and time so you don’t have to worry with the offset time on the pictures when you geotag them. This way I can geotag my wife’s and my pictures. It really does not take that long FYI I take RAW pictures and I’m station in Guam and this thing works in this little island in the middle of the Pacific.
    The flexibility of the geotagger was the reason I bough it. The Nikon GPS unit needs to be connected to the camera(limiting the use of the flash/hot shoe) at all times for it to work, with the eassytagger in the manual mode you don’t have to, the eassytagger it’s so small that I just leave it in my camera bag. There are other geotagging devices, but with old chipsets and for the same price.
    Costumer service is top notch. Before I purchased the product I had a lot of questions and Bryan, easytagger costumer service representative was very quick with his responses, and very technical btw.

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