Forgotten in its old age

by Aditya

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"Geotagging" has been around for a number of years now. Why haven't the major camera producers (Canon, Nikon, etc.) gotten around to installing internal GPS systems in their point-and-shoot cameras to automatically geotag photos? Even more so, why not in SLRs which don't have the same size constraints?

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8  
I don't think it's possible to answer this question without lots of speculative crystal-ball gazing into what 'the camera companies' are or are not thinking/planning/doing. Just sayin'... –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 24 '11 at 7:30

8 Answers 8

There are now 17 digital cameras with GPS. It's a simple search on Neocamera: http://www.neocamera.com/search_camera.php?gps=1&by=feature

If you look at the Refine Results column (the orange box) in the above page, you'll see the break down by category (9 compact, 1 large, 1 SLD, 2 DSLR and 4 ultra-compact at this time).

Nikon is still missing from there and it is mostly expected. Big players tend to play it safe and have less pressure to shake things since they already have a good chunk of the market. They do try sometimes though, as you may note from Nikon's two cameras with built-in projectors and one discontinued model with GPS (P6000).

Canon recently introduced the Powershot SX230 HS which is their first camera with built-in GPS.

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Couple of reasons:

  1. GPS suck in a lot of battery power. Mostly because unlike the camera itself they need to keep running (you can't just turn it on when there is a click because the gps needs to find the co-ordinates and initialization takes time)
  2. Low ROI: With apps like GeoTag for smartphones, its relatively easy to tag photos.
  3. Most of the celebrity photographers who are the testers of new models and request features for cameras are studio photographer who have no need for geotagging.
  4. Only street and nature photographers need this feature. Most of the hardcore nature photographers (e.g that of National geographic etc) don't use the normal prosumer cameras on the market. They need something with water proofing, weather proofing, light weight etc.. not sure if they carry an external gps unit.
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It's a niche feature that requires extra hardware (which increases manufacturing and warranty costs). It makes camera interface more confusing. It eats battery and there are privacy concerns, so many users might choose to keep it switched off even if they had the feature (but why would they still want to pay for it?).

An average point-and-shoot user snapping family pictures simply doesn't care. I have geotagged some of my photos in past, but didn't see the value for most pictures.

Entry level systems are competing on price. Upper level systems are built modularly, and accessories usually yield a higher margin to the manufacturer and resellers. As long as customers don't turn down new models because they lack built-in geotagging, there's no need to add the feature.

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Don't forget that GPS only works when you are outside, with a clear view of the sky. Really expensive GPS chips can acquire satellites indoors or under heavy tree cover, but given they typically cost more than point and shoots, I doubt you will find high end chips in cameras.

Mobile phones have GPS chips because they are required by US and Europe law for location during 911 calls and other emergencies. Most of these do not have high end chips, instead they have chips that require first narrowing location via cell towers.

So, P&S don't have GPS often because GPS chips that work are very expensive, or require GSM/CDMA connections.

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As someone who owns a GPS enabled camera (Samsung ST1000), I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it sucks! I have had mine for a couple of years now, and i think i successfully took about 6 photos with it that ended up being GeoCoded. it takes about 5 min to find a satelite and lock on, but in all fairness, when it does it works grand. I have gone back to carrying a External GPS logger and importing that into Lightroom. It also works grand when shooting on multiple Cameras (I shoot on either a Canon 5dMKII or Sony NEX-3 and Lightroom works grand)...

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Agreed; the acquisition time is quite bad on all I've tested. –  Dan Wolfgang Mar 2 '12 at 14:31
    
I think the best way of using GPS or location on a camera would be the way the iPhone or other Smart phones work: look at the wifi hotspots around, or use cell sites... Wifi would work in the city, but in areas where there are no wifi hotspots, looking for cell sites might work also... write it as a meta data file that can be processed by the import software which can convert to GPS data... or just connect your phone to your camera? –  TiernanO Mar 5 '12 at 11:47

I came to this site after a google, since I wanted to know whether it is better to have GPS in a camera. I was comparing Canon SX220HS and SX230HS cameras. The only difference between the two is the GPS in the latter. Price difference is negligible. I don't mind having a GPS, but have decided to buy the one without. I think this is a somewhat useless feature. If I go to Beijing or Bangalore or Boston, I know that I'm in Beijing or Bangalore or Boston. It may be useful if I am completely out of mind with a prolonged "hangover" (the movie) effect, then yes GPS helps. Or if I am moving to different locations on a single day.

GPS on a camera is a waste of battery, added software and hardware, added radiation (even if it is safe - in whatever small amounts), added cost and added complication. Decided on 220SX.

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On radiation: GPS recievers are not radio transmitters. They just receive signal. That signal is hitting you whether you carry a device with you or not. –  mattdm Dec 5 '11 at 11:58

I'm using the Panasonic Lumix TZ10 one of the earlier GPS models that have a really working GPS. I have to say that it doesn't add much in my oppinion. Also some stated above, that it consumes a lot of battery.

That is true, but when i'm going for a photographing day (holiday or so) i charge my camera's before i leave and you can shoot 1 day with GPS on if you like.. so for me the battery consumption isn't an issue.. just the fact that you can't use geo-tagging in photo-books ;-) is the main reason i say.. if you don't have GPS in your camera.. who cares.. it's not like you can use it to navigate :P

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Looking at the question from another angle, you probably have a GPS camera already (or will have one pretty soon) and that's your smartphone. Image quality of high end smartphones is almost on par with the average point & shoot cameras, plus they can automatically geo-tag you photos and upload them to your online photosharing service of choice. Plus, there's one less device to carry around (not a DSLR replacement, mind you).

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