Peter Carey gives his impressions and a review of a simple and inexpensive GPS Data Logger, handy for geotagging images.
I freely admit to being something of a gadget geek. And as such, I’m always on the lookout for justification for acquiring cool new gadgets. This week’s acquisition is an Amod GPS Photo Data Logger with bundled software to help geotag photos. If you’re new to geotagging, check out this Digital Photography School article by Collin Spencer entitled How to Geotag Images where he explains the how and why.
My main reason for grabbing this fairly inexpensive device ($70US at Amazon.com)is an upcoming trip to Nepal. I’ll be trekking for a total of 19 days and would love to have my photos marked with location data for possible use in mapping. I’ve fiddled with it before and posted some photos on my Smugmug account which will show geotagged photos, but I don’t want to have to carry around my large GPS on this trip. Part of me wants to be without gadgets this trip and part of me wants to bring them all, so the Amod is my attempt at a compromise. The Amod device seems to fit the bill as not complicated, but still techy enough to get the job done. This then is an out of the box, day 1 review of the Amod AGL 3080 GPS Data Logger in use for geotagging.
The box the logger shipped in is pretty spartan. It contained the logger in plastic wrap, a USB cable, keeper strap and a CD. Except for the CD, they probably could have fit all of this in a large box of kitchen matches. The device requires 3 AAA batteries (not included) and then it’s time to start playing!
The picture above shows the front of the device with its three LED displays. The top light is a memory full indicator (also doubles as a “Waypoint Marked” indicator when in use), the next is satellite signal status and the last is a battery light. On one side is a power button, on the other side is a waypoint button used to mark your exact location if needed. The back is the battery door for the 3 AAA batteries. The top has a loop for the keeper strap and also has the covered USB miniport. And that’s it. It’s real simple in design and a very shiny black plastic to boot (which I’m sure will not be so shiny after 19 days on the trail).
Operation is simple; hold down the power button for 3 seconds until all lights turn on. After which the satellite LED will turn solid green. Once the unit has acquired a good GPS signal (fairly quickly thanks to the onboard SiRF III chipset) the satellite light will blink green. And that’s all there is to starting the logging process! The green LED will go solid any time the unit can not acquire a signal, such as in a tunnel and most buildings. To turn the unit off, hold down the power button for 3 seconds, all the lights turn on and then the unit powers off. I doubt there can be a more simple unit to operate. The keeper strap feels ok but I’ll be upgrading it to a metal carabineer and strap to ensure it doesn’t break on the trail. The buttons are easy to press and have a good responsive ‘click’.
Additional operation includes changing the frequency and data logged. New out of the box, the unit will record all information every second. This allows for approximately 72 Hours of run time before the memory is full. If recording just the basic information and only every 10 seconds, (the longest interval that can be selected) 2880 hours of data is logged.
I took the unit with me on a tour of lovely Clinton, Washington to see just how accurate the readings were. Most locations were free of trees but the unit was in the center consol of my truck after the initial photographs. After driving around for an hour I headed home to check the logged information for accuracy. At home I plugged the unit into a USB port on my PC and it showed up as a standard removable drive named GPS Tracker. This is heaven for those who have struggled with other GPS hardware and drivers. It couldn’t be more simple and it just works. The data is recorded in NMEA format with a different log file created for each use.
The unit comes with a free program called AmodGPSTracker which is simple to use. First point it to the photos (either on the camera or downloaded via your favorite downloader) and it will check the Exif information for date and time. Next, point it to the GPS data file by browsing to the GPS Tracker and then the appropriate file. It then tags all the photos with the appropriate information. There’s a button to view the images on a Google Map as well as a button to save the tagged photos. Lastly there is a button to synchronize the time between your camera and the GPS data. This is a very important step to make sure the images are synced correctly. To accomplish this simply type in the time your camera currently shows and the program does the rest!
Now that the photos are geotagged, let’s see how accurate the unit is. Live data for the test can be found on this Smugmug page. From my own experience having the unit record a track point every 10 seconds, I’d say the unit is very accurate in my location (open skies, fairly flat terrain). Some geotags were exactly on the spot or within 10 feet. An example can be found at left (click image for larger view). The unit was sitting on the hood of my truck almost exactly at the pinpointed location facing East for the photo of the ferryboat.
For my money, the Amod AGL 3080 GPS Data Logger is as simple and useful as they come. I will report back after the Nepal trek where its durability will be tested daily. For now, the small, innocuous device performs as advertised and present an easy, no hassle method for geotagging photos while on a trip or just around town.
Peter is an avid photographer who enjoys travel, portraiture and wildlife photography. A travel related blog of his past and current shenanigans can be found at The Carey Adventures.