GPS4CAM review – geotag photos from any camera

GPS4CAM REVIEW

Finally I found a photo geotagging program for my iPhone (works with Android too) that really works and is quick and easy to use.   I’ve tried so many, this is the first one that worked first time and every time, even with multiple cameras.  Using  your smartphone, you can, at will, track your photography and tag the photos you want (in the photo EXIF information) with, latitude, longitude and altitude.  Works with Flickr, Picassa, google maps, SmugMug and more.

I have been looking for a long time, for a way to Geotag easily, photos from any camera, without a lot of fuss.  For some time, I have been looking at and trying out several different programs that would track my activity and movement while photographing, on my Smartphone. (in this case a first generation iPhone 4).   Some required that you upload your photos to a website or to save the tracking data to a cloud site somewhere.

Earlier today, while perusing various camera equipment forums, I stumbled upon a thread that addressed this vary concern, and learned about an app called GPS4CAM.   After several failed attempts with other programs that were very cumbersome or just didn’t work for me (possibly due to low compatibility or bugs when used on Macintosh computers).

As I do, I went to the website first to check out the program.   Upon my first read, I had a doubt or two that this program would be any better, but continuing along, I soon found that while there are several different ways to work with the program and app, but all are quite simple.   Important to me though was that I was not required to upload any information to the internet for processing, neither photos or the geotag trace files.   This is good!  I like to keep personal control over my information, probably a slight paranoia from my corporate Fraud and Compliance investigator days when I became acutely aware of how many ways information could be abused.

In the past I have spent hours or even a couple of days, trying to get some other GPS/geotag apps to work.  Many produce gpx trace files that can be uploaded into Aperture or Lightroom, but while they will log a trace pattern of your activity on the maps, they often do not actually add the location information to the photos they way it is claimed.   I always felt that there were too many hoops I had to jump through to get the information into each photos meta files.  GPS4CAM is simple and straightforward to use.  You do have download the photos to your computer to geotag them but it is a simple and quick process.  

Now of course there are other ways to do this.  For example, if I went out on a shoot, upon returning home I could “drag” all the images to a map location and they would be tagged with that location.  The only problem is that all photos will not be taken at the same exact location.   For instance, let’s say I spent a day visiting a National Park.   Over the course of that day, I may travel several miles and take photos quite a distance from each other, and unless I kept a written log of each place I went and where it was in the park, I may not be able to associate each photo accurately with its near exact location.    So while the photos will be tied to the park, they will not be tied to the location where the photo was taken.

GPS4CAM works differently from just about any other geotag app I have tried.   It is not even necessary to sync the time on your camera with your smart phone (though I do that anyway).   When you are ready to start out on your photographic journey, just start-up the app on your smart phone, set your preferences (works with both Apple IOS and Android) and start shooting.   When you are finished with your trip,  or taking a break, just stop the recording of GPS data.   You can always restart it.  At the end of your trip, close out the trip and on your smart phone the app will pop-up a “QR bar code”.  Take a photo of that barcode, and when you get home, or wherever you have a computer, you can use their free application to quickly and easily add the GPS information to your photo data, saving it to duplicate files in a folder/directory of your choice.  It calculates and stores (depending on your smartphone capabilities) latitude, longitude and altitude.  

Once I loaded GPS4CAM on my smartphone, I grabbed my camera and went outside for a few minutes.  I had my settings set for greatest accuracy and to update every 1 minute.   In the image at the top of this article, you will see 3 locations with pins.  GPS4CAM claims an expected accuracy of 10 meters (depending on the number of GPS satellites your phone can get readings from) under good conditions.  I forgot to see how many satellites I connected to, but the distance between each of the pins is not more then 15 feet or well under the 10 Meter (about 33 feet) claim of accuracy.   In the course of about 5 minutes I shot 4-5 different targets from the same number of locations.  (not all are included on the map above).   I then ended the recording, photographed the “QR bar code” that appeared on my smartphone screen, and went back inside.   I uploaded the photos to my computer, started up the GPS4CAM desktop app, which is very basic and simple.   Told it where my new photos were stored, and where I wanted the modified files saved.  In a few seconds all of the images had the geotag data  for their respective locations.   When I uploaded them into Aperture, my preferred photo database and editing software (very much like Lightroom), my images appeared immediately on the map.    Now if I upload any of those files to a web service that supports geotagged photos, they will immediately appear on any available map, like google maps, with a push pin image identifying the number of photos associated with that pin.  

By my best estimate, GPS4CAM identified all the locations I shot from within 10 feet.   My smartphone was in my pocket the whole time.  The skies were partly cloudy but mostly clear.  Some photos were taken while under trees.    GPS4CAM was updating satellite information every 1 minute (it is user adjustable).   It identified all of my shooting locations with a few feet.

It is important to remember that GPS is not a perfect technology.   The more satellites you can connect to, the better your accuracy will be.  (usually 3-4 is the minimum needed for any accuracy).    In some locations you may not be able to connect to a satellite at all to get a location reading.  

It is important to remember that generally, with some occasional exceptions, GPS/geotagging will not be effective if indoors, in the midst of big cities surrounded by skyscrapers or other tall structures that block GPS signals, on very cloudy or story days, or any other time there is not a reasonably clear sky access.   In some parts of the world, there may be only very limited or even no GPS satellite access.   It is also important to remember if traveling internationally, that some countries may have laws limiting or outlawing the use of GPS/geotagging.

Click image for a larger version.  This QR barcode has
been modified intentionally. 

SUMMARY
GPS4CAM is really much easier to use, then it is to describe how to use it.  I figured it out immediately on first try.

  1. Install the app on your smartphone.
  2. Download the very small and easy to use desktop software.
  3. Head out with your digital camera.  Start the recording with the App.  Enjoy your hours or days of shooting.  When finished stop recording and take a picture of the QR barcode that appears on your smartphone screen.  
  4. When you have access to your computer (laptop or desktop) just run the app to add the geo tag information to your images automatically.  The software will even compensate for camera and phone time discrepancies to ensure the correct photos are tagged.  
Now there are a few other bonuses also.  For instance, if you are an enthusiast or professional photographer who shoots with several cameras and lenses, you only need one app, one smartphone and one QR barcode for all the cameras being used at the same time.     Likewise you can also share the information with any friends you are traveling with who don’t have a smartphone or the app for their own use.   
Oh, you want to have the actual .gpx tracking/trace file?  No problem.  Just pull up your trip, each can be personally named however it works for you, and you can send yourself or anyone else the gpx trace file, to create maps or other images that not only show where you took photos, but the actual routes you took. 
You can save hundreds or thousands of trips on your smartphone, depending on your available smartphone memory.   
GPS4CAM is the first smartphone based photo geotagging tool I have found that really worked for me.  Once start it up and play with it once or twice, you will find that it is easy, quick and very intuitive.    
WARNING:  Do keep in mind that the information gathered by GPS and for Geotagging is your personal information, and it is your responsibility to make sure it is kept safe.  Geotagging is a wonderful tool for sharing photos and travel information, but like any personal information it can be abused by others if you do not take the responsibility to protect or modify it as needed.   Used wisely it can be not only fun, but even a lifesaver.   I recommend that you do not geotag personal photos taken at home, your children’s school or other places that are frequented on a regular basis.   Remember with GPS4CAM you can turn its information capture on or off at any time and resume it later (like when on vacation).   

Happy photography and travels.   If your camera doesn’t have GPS built-in, GPS4CAM will help you geotag the photos you want anyway.  

~Lightweaver

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