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Two years ago when I originally wrote this article, sales of GPS Navigation devices were in high gear. Most of you already know how a GPS device works:

  1. receives multiple satellite signals
  2. determines the geographic location by 3D triangulation
  3. displays your position superimposed on a map on its small LCD screen
  4. accepts your desired destination
  5. provides driving turn by turn instructions to reach the destination

I was interested in adding location data to my snapshots – “geotagging”. Geotagging is equivalent to performing steps 1. and 2. I found my geotagging solution in the reasonably priced PhotoTrackr.

After synchronizing the PhotoTrackr with your camera’s timestamp, it’s quite simple to use. When you’re ready to take pictures, simply power on the PhotoTrackr and it starts to record your geographic location every few seconds. When you’re done taking pictures, power the device off. When you transfer your images to your computer you also transfer the data from the PhotoTrackr. The included PhotoTrackr software matches the timestamp of the photo with the timestamp of the geographic location data and displays thumbnails overlaid on a map. Cool. The software then updates your images with the additional geotag information.

Yesterday I retrieved the yellow GPS device from the bottom of my camera bag to make sure that it is in working order since I’m getting ready to repeat this itinerary in a few days. I found that it’s still AOK after two years of reliable service. I also googled “PhotoTrackr DPL700” and found that this device is available from several places (Adorama, B&H, Amazon) for about $69. Following is the original article.

Written:September 2008.

Last week I returned from a short business trip to Europe. As is my usual custom, a camera accompanied me. But I also stuffed a small gadget into my carry-on bag.

The PhotoTrackr is small and colorful – about the size of a salt shaker. As it’s name suggests, it helps you keep track your photos. The PhotoTrackr is a minature GPS receiver. Turn on the little device when you’re taking photographs and it records your physical location to its built-in flash memory. Later, you transfer this information to your PC or MAC with the included software to match the GPS timestamp to the timestamp on each of your digital photos. By geotagging your photos, you can instantly recall where each photo was captured.

Since this five day jaunt to Europe was my first extended travel with the PhotoTrackr, I was anxious to give it a workout. The first stop was England and my first opportunity to check it out was when I hopped on the Underground for a trip from Heathrow Airport to central London.

Here the PhotoTrackr software displays the subway trip in dark blue and and identifies my photos as red pushpin icons. It displays the mapping information using Google Earth – choice of Map, Satellite or Hybrid (a combination of the two). When you hover the mouse over one of the pushpins, the software displays a thumbnail of photos taken at that particular location.

My next stop was Cologne, Germany. You can see that I tracked the return trip by car from Cologne to Brussels, a distance of about 200 kilometers.

The trip back to Brussels is an easy one via the autobahn. We stopped for coffee in Maastricht. You can’t tell from the map above, but there are multiple pushpins near Maastricht. Enlarge the map and more detail is revealed. You can now see the path along which we walked in the old town area as we took various pictures of this Dutch city’s lovely architecture and riverfront.

My return took me from Brussels to Chicago with a transfer of planes in London. For the trip home, I turned on the PhotoTrackr to see if it would track my flights. You can see that the little GPS receiver did a fine job. Notice the the break in the blue path line near Greenland. Here I had to temporarily turn the PhotoTrackr off to change its single AA battery. You can also see a thumbnail of a photo that I snapped while over the eastern Canadian coastline.

All in all, I’m happy with the results that I’ve had from the PhotoTrackr. Another advantage of the PhotoTrackr is that I can use it with any camera that records EXIF data (almost all of them). You might call it an apolitical photo device. I’ve geotagged photos taken with Canon 5D, Canon XSi, Canon 40D, Nikon 700, Nikon 90 and Olympus 1030. One slight problem is that the battery compartment cover no longer closes fully. I am using a small piece of duct tape to keep it closed. The GisTEQ customer support staff – the maker of the Photo Trackr – has promised to send me a no-charge replacement cover.

I picked up the PhotoTrackr Lite – DPL700 via the Internet from Adorama in New York City for about $95. For more information see the GisTEQ website.

It looks as if geotagging will become more common in the future. Already cameras such as the Nikon P6000, Samsung HZ35W and Panasonic DMC-ZS7 have built-in geotagging. And many mobile devices such as the iPhone, Droid or others automatically add geotagging data to your photos. If you would like to easily add geotagging information to your pictures, an easy-to-use device such as the PhotoTrackr can do the trick regardless of which camera you use.

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