This is a quick review of the Nikon GP-1 GPS unit designed for Nikon DSLRs that have built-in support for an external GPS unit. Traveling and photography go together, so the idea of geo-tagging and mapping your photos in Lightroom, Aperture or iPhoto is appealing to many of us. The price for the ability to geo-tag using a Nikon DSLR is a bit steep when you consider new point and shoot cameras include this feature and don’t cost much more, if any, than the Nikon GP-1 GPS unit itself. So is this added feature worth the $200?
1) Nikon GP-1 Specifications
- Acquired data: Latitude, longitude, altitude, time information
- Time required for satellite acquisition: Approx. 45 sec. (cold start), approx. 5 sec. (hot start)
- Power source: Supplied from camera body
- Receiving indicators:
- Red blinking (GPS data not recorded)
- Green blinking (GPS data recorded utilizing three satellites)
- Green solid (Four or more satellites detected, GPS data are more accurate)
- Compatible DSLR models:
- Nikon D5000, D5100, D7000, D90 (via accessory terminal cable GP1-CA90)
- Nikon D200, D300, D300s, D700, D800, D2X, D2XS, D2HS, D3, D3X, D3S, D4 (via 10-pin remote terminal cable GP1-CA10)
- * Some models may require an update to the latest version of firmware.
- Attachment: Attaches to camera’s accessory shoe or a camera strap via strap adapter GP1-CL1
- Dimensions: Approx. 2 x 1.8 x 1 inches
- Supplied Accessories
- GP1-CA90 for connection to the D90
- GP1-CA10 for connection to the 10-pin remote terminal of supported cameras
- Strap adapter GP1-CL1
- * Supplied accessories may differ depending on country or area.
2) GPS Performance
The GP-1 does a good job of what it is designed to do – tagging the latitude and longitude coordinates, but the altitude is not extremely accurate. I have found that the unit is a bit slow at locking in the satellites, other reviewers have found it to be within 30 seconds to a minute, my experience has been slower. I understand the concerns of being indoors, tall buildings, etc., but I found this to be the case even outside with no buildings or tall trees nearby.
The cable can get in the way of camera operation so I tend to place the GP-1 on the strap (a strap adapter is included), not the hot shoe. This may, MAY be part of the delay in satellite location lock, but I doubt it, because I tried to hold the unit in a manner that mimics the orientation of the hot shoe and I saw no difference in satellite acquisition speed.
Notice that the cord comes off to the side and can be a hindrance to making setting adjustments when it is placed on the hot shoe.
3) Battery Life
My biggest complaint is the battery drain that I have experienced with the GP-1 which is powered off of the camera body battery. I would estimate up to a 30-40% faster drain on my Nikon D300 battery and that might be conservative. It is not as bad on my Nikon D3s, but that’s because it has a much bigger battery. I have found myself disconnecting the unit frequently to preserve the battery life and I really wish I didn’t have to do that. I know I don’t have to geo-tag every shot, but disconnecting it all the time sort of defeats the purpose. It also slows you down because now you have to allow the unit to relocate the satellites again. If you are shooting wildlife, they don’t always pose until you get the satellite locked on. So you are faced with:
- Wait to get the GPS info in the metadata and possibly miss the shot
- Take the shot without the unit working but then, why have it?
- Leave it on all the time and buy extra batteries
4) 10-Pin Connection Cable
I have found the cable to be weak. Repeatedly pulling it out from the GP-1 unit end to disconnect it from the camera and conserve battery life may lead to the early demise of the cable. The 10–pin end of the cable that attaches to the camera screws in and does not lend itself to a “quick” disconnect and the other end fits tightly into the GPS unit. Make sure you pull from the connector itself to disconnect it, not just grab the cable and pull. I know that may sound obvious, but in a hurry it is easy to just grab the cable and pull. If you do that, the cable can separate from the connector end. Also, as I have already mentioned earlier, I sometimes had the GP-1 attached to my camera strap instead of the hot shoe and thus as I moved the strap, the cable will flex more than if left on the hot shoe. This repeated flexure also takes its toll on the cable longevity. Replacing the cable is easy but not cheap – $45 – so be careful with it!
Overall, I am pleased with the unit – it does work as advertised and certainly adds another dimension to my photos. However, you need to know what to expect as far as some small to moderate annoyances before you buy the Nikon GP-1, so that there are no surprises. Is it worth the $200? You decide. Note to Nikon and other manufacturers: On a prosumer or pro model DSLR, GPS should be included as part of the camera body. Sony does it really well on their new cameras like the Sony A77, so we know that it can be accommodated inside the camera body quite easily.
6) Where to Buy
The Nikon GP-1 GPS accessory unit is available for purchase from many online and local Nikon authorized resellers. Below are the links to B&H and Adorama: