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.

Additional clarification: Elevation here refers to ANGLE, not height above sea level. It's the angle above the horizon. A negative angle of elevation is an angle of depression. I can live without angle of elevation, as long as the compass is reasonably reliable at high angles of elevation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – TFuto
    Commented Dec 29, 2013 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your budget seems low for the scope of what you're asking. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daenyth
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re-read the question: The problem is NOT "where is my camera" but rather "What direction is my camera pointing." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 11:41

5 Answers 5


There exists certain cameras which record this information automatically. The Pentax line of DSLR cameras from at least as far back as the K-5 have saved pitch (elevation) and roll (inclination) angles in its EXIF metadata from accelerometers in the body.

When used with a Pentax O-GPS1 addon (hotshoe mount) or with any model with built-in GPS (such as the K-3 II), you also get the yaw or bearing (direction you are pointing) angle from a magnetic compass, (true North) the speed (km/h) & heading (direction you are moving, true north) and the GPS latitude/longitude/altitude data in the EXIF metadata. the O-GPS1 operates on 1× AAA battery (Alkaline, Ni-Mh, or Lithium).

The O-GPS1 and all current models of Pentax cameras are weather sealed, as are most available lenses. This makes them ideal for trekking into the wild of nature. Wind, rain, & dust will not stop them.

You did not specify which camera you currently own, but this works as an all-in-one solution. To the best of my knowledge, no other DSLR camera maker yet does this. However, cameras with in-body image stabilization (IBIS) require accelerometers to work, and thus have them. This includes most, perhaps all, of the current the Sony α models. However, just because they use accelerometers for their IBIS, does not mean that they store the pitch/roll data in EXIF. Example, the Sony α77 has a built-in GPS which can record lat, lon, direction, and alt, but no bearing, (since no magnetic compass), and to my knowledge, no elevation nor inclination.

In addition, there are other non-DSLR cameras which may possibly have this information. The Olympus Tough 810 has a magnetic compass, and will show lat, lon, alt, direction & bearing in the EXIF data, but I don not believe it shows elevation and inclination.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Excellent answer. Thank you. While the compass bearing is somewhat erratic (specs claim 5 degrees) but even 10 degree error would be acceptable. I've marked this as best answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 13:38

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.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The Solmeta has only a 2 axis compass and does not record angle of elevation/depression. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 2:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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... \$\endgroup\$
    – Roddy
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 11:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 1, 2014 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

  • \$\begingroup\$ 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? \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 1:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 13:29

App solution

If you have an Android, I believe this app will help you lots: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.xyz.compass

For sure there might already exist some others, even for iOS.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Link doesn't work. How would this help? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 17:56

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.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 3, 2014 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ GPS info is easy. Lots of ways to do that. Camera orientation is not. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 11:44

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