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by evan-pak

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I have a survey project where I need to record not only the location, but the direction (bearing and angle of elevation/depression) that the camera was pointing at the time the picture was taken.

I would prefer not to have to buy a new camera.

I don't need another GPS. I need to use a handheld GPS to get to each photo spot anyway, and integrating the GPS info with the photos is an easy exiftool script.

I don't want external cables. This is an all weather project in bushy terrain, Cables catch on things, and require open port covers. Similarly I don't want 'big lumpy things' like FotoMapr. (Which also has GPS that I don't need.)

The ideal solution would be a device the size of a pair of stacked nickles that would attach to the camera's hot shoe. The device would have a 3 axis compass so that I could get direction and elevation angle. It would record these along with a time stamp at the time the picture was taken. Calibration to turn raw data to true north, true elevation would happen at data merge time. The device would have a mini-usb port for calibration and data retrieval.

If it requires power, I'd like it to get it from the hot shoe, but battery is acceptable. The unit should have a cost under $100

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Essentially the same question: How common is it for cameras to have a gyroscope?, although the wording about a gyroscope kind of sends it in a direction about terminology rather than solutions. – mattdm Dec 29 '13 at 17:41
You can build one easily, but $100 is kind of a stretch. All HW cost can be that low (though for prototype quantity, that is tought), but you will have to spend time on writing firmware/embedded software, too. – TFuto Dec 29 '13 at 21:04
Perhaps helpful or useful for others: what solutions exist that don't meet your needs? Are there any GPS units that do everything? Are there devices that require external cables that do everything? Are there devices that cost more than $100 that do everything you need? – Dan Wolfgang Dec 30 '13 at 3:18
There are various products that attach to the camera that include a GPS in addition to an electonic compass. I don't want the extra battery drain of running two GPS's. (I need a hand held one to get to to grid point to take the pictures.) I also don't want cables, open port covers, as these catch on bushes and low hanging trees. – Sherwood Botsford Dec 31 '13 at 2:09
Your budget seems low for the scope of what you're asking. – Daenyth Feb 28 '14 at 15:45
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Get a Casio Pathfinder watch - it has altitude and a compass Set your camera and watch to the same time Take a picture of your watch - always at the same relative position as to camera, each time you take a photo you need a reference to - Match the GPS logging time to the camera time and mark a waypoint when you take a picture, or also photograph the GPS screen if the GPS shows direction and altitude you dont need the watch. Or - use a sundial and note the shadow and the time, this is how colunbus did it.

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1. The casio watch does not measure angle of elevation. 2. You have taken a fractional second process and turned it into a procedure. I'm looking at doing several thousand shots a day. – Sherwood Botsford May 3 '14 at 12:48

If you have a Nikon, one of these Solmeta Geotaggers could help:

Also, look at this question: Is there any combination of camera, GPS and software which support the GPSDestXYZ exif tags?

And don't forget that smartphones have built-in compasses. You could look for a smartphone photo app that added heading as an Exif tag, and then take a "secondary" shot with the mobile. This would also geotag the photo for you, so yourt merge could just match up timestamps from the two photo streams and merge orientation and GPS from mobile images to main camera.

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The Solmeta has only a 2 axis compass and does not record angle of elevation/depression. – Sherwood Botsford Dec 31 '13 at 2:10
In addition it has a cable and requires an open port cover. The Pro version has a 3 axis compass, but it is not clear from the website if it just uses this to get an accurate bearing when the camera is not horizontal, or whether it records the vertical angle as well. It still has the issues with cables and ports. There are various cameras that have at least the bearing built in. Unclear about elevation/depression. I am looking at taking 4000 pix/day. Smartphone won't hack it. – Sherwood Botsford Dec 31 '13 at 2:20
For 4000 pix per day I think you need a more sensible budget. You'll be carrying 20 batteries, probably! And a couple of weeks of that could take your shutter mechanism to the brink of failure... – Roddy Dec 31 '13 at 11:19
Most high end DLSRs are good for a hundred thousand shutter cycles. My experience with my old Nikon D70 is that it would do a thousand shots on a single battery charge. I had 3 batteries for it. And if I can do this project with older cameras, I can pick them up for a few hundred -- cheap enough that I can carry a spare body in my pack. This is a proof of principle: To get sufficiently detailed pix in enough places that vegetative surveys can be automated with 'face recognition' software. My initial run will be about 40,000 pix. A hand held GPS can do a day on rechargable NiMH batteries. – Sherwood Botsford Jan 1 '14 at 14:44

Sorry for the last answer.

You could get an Android or iPhone application built to record the direction and other data needed.

The idea is this: connect and interface with your mobile instead of the GPS unit. When the camera clicks, phone receives a signal. Your phone's internal GPS and gyroscope records the direction and the phones GPS records the remaining data.

You will need

  1. An expert who can build such an application.
  2. A Cellphone with gyroscope and GPS unit

The following are the phones with a gyroscope, according to my information

HTC Evo 3D



Huawei Ascend P1

Huawei Ascend x

Huawei Honor

LG Optimus 3D

Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy S IV

Samsung Galaxy S V

Sony Xperia P

Sony Xperia S

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You'll end up with data about the direction and angle of your phone, based in its internal gyroscope. How does that help with recording the angle and direction of the camera? – MikeW Apr 17 '14 at 1:07
No. I've got an iphone. While it has the equipment to do this, it would mean pointing the phone with the camera and pushing a button, This is right up there with having to hit the 'mark' button for every pic on the GPS – Sherwood Botsford Apr 19 '14 at 13:29

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