Which camera has a really reliable GPS?

May 2, 2011 at 2:05 pm  •  Posted in Q&A by

Since I’ll be traveling extensively in Europe this summer, I want a new camera with a built-in GPS that will record the location for every photo that I take. Which camera has a really reliable GPS? My sister owns one and less than half her photos include the location data. Why would that happen?
— Jackie R.

You should be aware of exactly how in-camera GPS works, Jackie, and why no system is 100% reliable. Any Global Positioning System acquires data from some of the 24 satellites orbiting the earth. The receiver calculates its position by precisely timing the signals from at least three of the sources. This does require an unobstructed line of sight to the sky. It then uses triangulation to calculate your exact coordinates; that can take several minutes. It’s impossible indoors and may fail (or be very slow) near tall buildings or under very heavy cloud cover.

A camera with a built-in GPS receiver is ideal for travel photography whether in Canada or anywhere on earth. I wish I had taken one while touring India, since it would be great to remember the exact location where many of my 1500 images were made. © 2011 Peter K. Burian

An in-camera GPS receiver records the location data.  After you download the photos to a computer, you can view them with a map re: the location with the included software. You can also upload photos to a free sharing site like www.picasaweb.com or www.panoramio.com so your friends can view them with small Google maps as to the shooting location.

Any camera with a built-in GPS can record the location data for your photos. This feature is useful when you want to remember exactly where each image was made and also when sharing your photos with friends on-line, at Picasaweb or Panoramio. © 2011 Peter K. Burian

Dozens of cameras include built-in GPS and I have tested only a handful of such models. However, I have been highly satisfied with the speed/reliability of the GPS in the (very versatile) Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 and the ZS10. Both can be set to continue tracking your location even when the camera is off, so the GPS data will be available quickly when you turn it on. They also provide a bonus. In addition to the latitude/longitude, they can identify specific landmarks in many countries, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a very useful feature in my experience.

One Comment

  1. irwin barrett / May 7, 2011 at 12:56 am /

    In a number of my digital ( Canon 5D) images and a lot of slide scans images I’m seeing in shots with a lot of blue sky with tonal gradations from dark to lighter blue -even after noise reduction with Define 2.0- what looks like blotches or clumping of darker or lighter blue specks in the various transition zones from dark to light. I have noticed it rarely in other images with out of focus darker to lighter backgrounds but mostly in blue sky images. Is this just noise that can’t be fixed? Sometimes before noise reduction I think I can see the blotching pattern hinting through. This is a problem I’ve never heard or read about . What is going on? Hope you can shed some light on this.Thanks.Irwin.

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