Nikon GPS units

 

Nikon GP-1 / 1A

 

A rather new and sophisticated accessory is the Nikon GP-1 global positioning system, introduced mid 2008. The Global Positioning System (GPS)* is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides reliable location and time information in all weather and at all times and anywhere on or near the Earth when and where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible by anyone with a GPS receiver. In cases of emergency - however - that same government can shut down the whole system!

*GPS was created and realized by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and was originally run with 24 satellites. It was established in 1973 to overcome the limitations of previous navigation systems.

How does it work?

The Nikon GP-1 can be attached via the accessory shoe of a Nikon digital camera, or - if that shoe is used by e.g. a flashlight - you can clip it onto your clothes or camera strap. The cable (see below which one fits which camera) has to be plugged into the relevant camera plug, enabling you to ad geotags to your images, so you can record latitude, longitude, altitude and time information. The unit has no built-in compass. In the exif data of your Nikon View software you'll see these data. The GP-1 is powered by the camera it is attached to; it has no on-off switch and it has no battery compartment. Just unplug the cable to the camera and the unit will switch off. Its weight is 23 gram.

The GP-1 can be attached via a Nikon cable GP1-CA10 (of which two versions exist) to the Nikon digital SLR cameras D2x, D2Xs, D2Hs, D3, D3X, D3S, D4, D4s, D5, D200, D300, D300S, D700, D750, D800, D810, D850, D3100, D3200 and D7000; via cable GP1-CA90 to the Nikon D90 and D5000, D5100 and Coolpix P7700/7800. Via a USB cable (UC-E4) it can be connected to any PC running Windows 7 or older OS. The Nikon MC-DC2 remote control can be connected, too. A special clip is supplied for attaching the unit to a strap.

The Nikon GP-1A was introduced (almost surreptitiously) with the introduction of the Nikon D-600 SLR. It has a software upgrade to be able to communicate with the Nikon D-600 only, when using cable CA-10A.

Beware of the fact that the Nikon GP-1/A (as nearly all other GPS devices) works in the open field/water, only!! Indoor use (building, cave, tunnel, even afforested areas) will obstruct any connection with satellites. The GPS module must have free access to the satellites above us.


GPS module placed on a Nikon D800E


When starting the GP-1/A the GPS module need approx. 45 seconds (cold start) to search for satellites and download data. When already in use a ‘warm start’ will take 5 sec. only. As long as the GP-1/A is in operation every second it will contact the satellites. Even if you’ve shut off your camera the GPS module will remain standby up to three hours. In the menu of the camera you have to choose the GPS feature. In the upper LCD screen of the camera you will see a GPS sign.
The GP-1/A has three status lights: a little blinking red light indicates that the GPS module is searching for contacts and downloading data; a blinking green light indicates that there is contact with at least 3 satellites; a permanent green light indicates that 4 or more satellites have been located. It may be clear that 4 or more satellites will increase accuracy. Each time you are taking a picture relevant data will be stored on the memory card. All data can be seen in the EXIF toolbar (see GeoTag button) of Nikon View NX. A map (borrowed from Google Maps) will show you the location. The geographical reference coordinate protocol is WGS84 (WSG = World Geodetic System). If the GP-1/A will fail to connect a satellite it will use and/or indicate the last position kept in its memory.

GPS Module placed on a Coolpix P7700 and (not very ergonomically) connected by the extremely expensive CA90 cable

 

The time used in the geotag data is very accurate as the Global Positioning System is using an atomic clock. The time registered by GPS devices is UTC (Coordinated Universal Time - in military circles aka 'zulu time'). UTC is almost equal (less than 1 second) to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

 

Note 1: since the GP-1/A is powered by the camera's battery, take some spare batteries with you as power consumption is relatively high.

Note 2: in the above picture GPS data are shown in the playback mode of any digital SLR; using a Coolpix camera you'll see these data in Nikon View software only, NOT on the LCD screen of the camera!

Note 3: the GP-1 connecting cables used with the GPS unit are easy to break as they are placed in a weard position; to buy new ones will cost you a fortune ( for a GP1-CA90 you have to fork out more than $ 70,-!!)

BTW: Nikon digital SLR cameras mentioned above may be connected (via cable Nikon MC-35) to other GPS systems (Garmin eTrex-series, Magellan SporTrak-series) as well, as long as these systems are using the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA)0183 (version 2.01 and/or 3.01) protocol.

 

Nikon GP-N100

This little and very light (21 gram!) GPS unit has been made specially for the Nikon 1-series cameras, introduced in September 2011. It has more or less the same features as his taller brother, although it has an A-GPS switch for a very fast start-up (3 sec.)! This GPS unit may be fitted into the accessory shoe without further connectors and/or cables. If a green light is shown the unit will have contact with at least 3 satellites. For better coordinates, you may download GP-N100 Utility software with 'Assisted GPS"-files from http://nikonimglib.com/gpn100u/ . These files can be used for two weeks only. If you need the info at a later moment you have to update these files. All GPS data will be shown in the EXIF-files or can be downloaded via USB-interface.