Review of the Macsense Geomet'r GNC-35 GPS receiver for Nikon

Discussion in 'Other Cool Gear, Camera Bags, Camera Straps' started by jonbauer, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. Hi All,

    Macsense has been making a GPS receiver that worked with a bunch of Nikon cameras, but not on the D300. I wrote them an email asking them to let me know when support for the D300 was implemented. Last month, I got a note informing me that the Geomet'r GNC-35 was released, which supports the D300 as well as the D200, D2Hs, D2Xs, D3, and Fujifilm S5 Pro.

    I didn't see any reviews for the Macsense products, and I saw that Macsense is based in Burlingame, only 15 minutes or so from my house, so I asked if they would give me one for a period of time to review. They obliged and here's my review.

    What is it?

    The Geomet'r GNC-35 is an inexpensive solution for Geotagging - it's only $149.00 - available on Amazon. It uses a very fast SiRFstar III GPS chipset to track up 20 satellite channels to tag your Exif data with GPS coordinates. The unit is able to capture longitude, latitude, and altitude. The GNC-35 is a small GPS unit that uses the power from your camera's battery for power. It has an internal battery that it uses to keep the internal clock working. It has a mechanical switch for powering the Geomet'r on and off. It comes with enough velcro to attach the unit to your camera strap, or with an included hot shoe mount that I found useful. It also comes with software which shows your pictures on Google maps.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonbauer/2672506102/

    Hardware

    The Geomet'r is pretty solidly built and seems pretty water resistant (I didn't put that statement to the test in rain or otherwise though). It connects to your cameras 10 pin and also screws in - very nice. There's a little power switch on the back of the connector which is rubber coated and has a good solid feel to it. The GPS receiver is compact - about 1.5 inches square, and about 3/4 inch thick. It has a small LED which blinks when it is searching for the satellites, and stays steady when it is tracking. Unfortunately, the LED is very hard to see when the device is mounted on your camera. You have to look underneath the unit and into a small translucent window. On my D300, I can see if it's locked on as the GPS indicator will blink when the device is seeking, and stay steady when it's tracking. The coiled cable is long - about 4.5 feet when extended, but when fully coiled, is only about 15 inches. Overall, I'm pleased with the quality of the hardware.

    20080715-003-GNC-35.jpg

    20080715-002-GNC-35.jpg

    20080715-005-GNC-35.jpg

    One minor gripe I have is the position of the connector when it's attached to the camera. It connects at a sharp angle away from the body of the camera, and it forces me to remove the device when putting the camera into my bag. If it were mounted in a vertical fasion on the camera, I believe I'd be able to pack the camera without removing the device. It also makes it tough to change lenses as it partially blocks access to the lens change button.

    IMG_0371.jpg

    Usage

    Since the chipset that is used is the SiRFstar III, it's very quick to lock onto the satellite signals. Macsense says that is takes about 42 seconds from a cold start, 38 seconds from a warm start, and 1 second from a hot start. My experience matches these estimates.

    When you plug the unit into the camera, the unit starts to look for the satellites. If you power off your camera, the Geomet'r will stay on and keep tracking the satellites unless you unplug it from the camera, or you shut the unit off manually. There's no auto shut-off, so you need to be aware of the powered up status to prevent over draining your camera battery.

    Once you are locked onto the satellites, you can see your position, altitude, and UTC time by using the D300 Setup menu, then GPS, then Position. Of course, if you are locked and take a picture, that position is then written to the Exif data. If you then upload to Flickr, Picassa, iPhoto, Elements, etc. then you will be properly geotagged. My tests worked without flaw.

    The big issue that I have with this unit is this: If you go indoors, and the unit stops tracking the satellites, it does not retain the location data it had when you stopped tracking. If you take a picture at this point, you will not get any location data. Macsense says that this was an intentional decision - that there are scenarios that would cause you to get erroneous data if it retained the location data - ie: if you get on a train. I agree that there is this potential, but in my case, I'd want to keep the last known location when I enter a building, house, museum, etc. I understand why they made the decision they did though.

    Software

    The software that comes with the Geomet'r was, in my experience, not very good. The good news is that you don't really need it. Once your photos are tagged,

    you can upload away - you should be fine.

    Summary

    While it does have 2 flaws - no auto shut off and no location persistence when indoors, I really like the GNC-35. For $149, there's really nothing else I've seen that can provide this functionality. It's solidly made, and does exactly what it promises - geotags your photos, as long as you are locked onto the satellites.

    Please let me know if you'd like me to test anything further or need any other info!

    Hope this helps someone out there!

    - Jon
     
  2. fks

    fks

    Apr 30, 2005
    sf bay area
    hi jon-

    does this have to be mounted flat, or can it be mounted on the camera strap? thanks,

    ricky
     
  3. According to the manufacturer, it can be mounted on the camera strap - I didn't test it, but I don't see why it wouldn't work as they say.

    - Jon
     
  4. Surprised this thread has not gotten more looks. I have been all over the map on deciding which unit I want. Cableing mess with my Garmin is almost out of the question. One dangle is enough.
    Is the units selectable? I see elevation in meters and would prefer feet.
    Glenn