GiSTEQ Photo Trackr Mini DPL900 GPS Data Logger

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

       A pocketable GPS data logger for travelling photographers and those who enjoy sharing photos via social websites.Although we’ve looked at several GPS data loggers in the past few years, we haven’t published reviews of them because they didn’t provide the features or functionality we felt most photographers require. However, the GiSTEQ Photo Trackr Mini comes close to meeting the needs of at least some Photo Review readers and is affordable and very portable.  . . [more]

      Full review



      Although we’ve looked at several GPS data loggers in the past few years, we haven’t published reviews of them because they didn’t provide the features or functionality we felt most photographers require. However, the GiSTEQ Photo Trackr Mini comes close to meeting the needs of at least some Photo Review readers and is affordable and very portable.

      For readers unfamiliar with GPS data logging, it combines satellite tracking with mapping software that stores location information in the Exif metadata of still pictures or video clips. This will help you pinpoint where pictures were taken so you can record and review trips and access details of exactly where you travelled and where you were at any time of day.

      The GiSTEQ Photo Trackr Mini is quite different from the hand-held units used by bushwalkers or in-car GPS units because it provides no display facilities. Roughly twice the size of a typical USB thumb drive, it has a similar USB ‘A’ plug for connecting it to a computer. This is the only interface port on the device and it’s protected by a pull-off cover that fits snugly enough to exclude dust and moisture.


      The GiSTEQ Photo Trackr Mini showing its relative size. (Source: GiSTEQ.)


      The key controls and displays on the Photo Trackr Mini. (Source: GiSTEQ.)

      Built into the body of the device, under the smart (and highly visible) yellow and black plastic shell is a GPS receiver for picking up satellite data and a flash memory chip on which this data is stored. There’s also a battery to power both operations. Everything else depends on software.

      The supplied software works with Google Maps, allowing you to display maps of your trip containing thumbnail images of shots taken at different points en route. The software also includes an automated slideshow function that displays shots, titled with the location in which they were taken.
      Before you can use the Photo Trackr logger, you must install the Photo Trackr software on your computer. If you’re a Windows user (as we are), the first time the software is launched it will prompt you to obtain a Google Maps API key. This requires you to set up a Google account. (For some reason, this step isn’t included in the start-up instruction for Mac users, who may find the device simpler to use and more versatile.)

      We had some initial problems obtaining a key that worked but solved them (with assistance from the local distributor) by setting up a new Google account. After that, the software worked as planned. And, for photographers who wish to avoid social websites like Flickr, Picasa and FaceBook, you don’t need to enter anything in the required space in the setup interface to access the main functions in the software.

      In order to use the  Photo Trackr successfully, you must first synchronise the time stored in the unit with the time stored in any cameras you plan to use on a trip. (That’s right; the device and software can be used with multiple cameras – as long as all are in synch.) This is essential because all calculations determining position are time-based.
      Once the software is installed, you simply go outside and switch on the GPS, waiting until it picks up the required number of satellites for a ‘fix’. It doesn’t matter how you hold the device, as long as it has a clear view of the sky. A flashing LED on the device indicates it is recording a signal.

      It’s wise to allow at least a minute for the GPS data to be collected and stored in the device when you’re working in optimal conditions. Picking up satellites will take much longer if you’re under trees on urban corridors surrounded by tall buildings. Once you’re sure the data is recorded, bring the GPS indoors.

      Plugging the Photo Trackr device into the computer’s USB port will open a screen that helps you to synchronise the times of the cameras with those in the device. This is easy; you simply adjust the date and time in the camera to match the figures displayed on the screen. Once this is done, the device is ready to use.


      The time synchronisation wizard displays the time detected by the GPS tracker.

      When you begin using the software you find it already contains a list of pre-loaded ‘users’. You can delete these and replace them with your own name and information – and you can add other users as required. (This could make the device handy for real estate photographers as each member of staff could store their own data sets, which could be managed on a single computer in the office.)


      The User Management interface lets you add new ‘users’ to the system.
      Data Logging
      Once the system and camera(s) have been set up, you are ready to go out and take pictures. But before the first shot is taken, make sure that your GPS is fixed (red LED flashing) for at least one minute to make sure any minor differences in time setting between GPS and camera are eliminated.

      If you plan to be out all day – for example on a bushwalk – simply switch the GPS on and leave it with a clear view of the sky. There’s a loop on the top of the device that will allow it to be attached to a camera bag or backpack or tied to a loop on a hat.

      At a pinch, it could be placed in a shirt pocket, although reception may not be as good. Avoid using it indoors as reception will be severely attenuated and the device is unlikely to pick up any satellites to get a ‘fix’.

      When you’re out taking pictures you can tag a waypoint whenever you need by pressing the middle button on the PhotoTrackr unit. Otherwise, before going on a shoot, use the Settings page in the software to set the device to automatically record waypoints at intervals between one second and one hour (3600 seconds). Alternatively, you can choose the Distance option and specify a minimum speed of movement to keep the device recording location data.


      The Hardware Settings page.


      The Software Settings page.

      The Photo Trackr records latitude, longitude and altitude information and will automatically re-set information as you travel between one time zone and the next. As long as you sync your camera with the GPS time, there is no need to re-adjust the camera time when you’re travelling.
      Viewing Records
      On returning to your desk, you simply plug the Photo Trackr into a USB port on your computer. This automatically launches the Phototrackr software and displays the Geotag Wizard page. Clicking on the Download button initiates the download of the GPS data from the device into your computer.


      The Download button on the Geotag Wizard page.

      A window is displayed on the screen showing the Photo Trackr is connected to your computer and allowing you to track the download.


      Tracking the download of GPS data.

      The next step is to move down to the Geotag button and click the Add Photo button at the lower right corner of the screen.



      The Add Photo button.

      At this point you can upload image files to the software in several ways; directly from a connected camera or card reader or indirectly from a folder on your computer. As the files are loaded, they will be geotagged and displayed as thumbnails on the Photo Management page. Once all the photos have been uploaded, hitting the Finished button takes you directly to this page.


      The Photo Management page.

      When you click on a thumbnail, the selected image is displayed in a window in the bottom left corner of the page. Exif metadata from the shot is displayed in a pane above it and a map showing the location of the shot appears in a large window below the thumbnail window. Just above the map pane (on the left side) are three buttons (circled in red), which access the Slideshow, Google Earth and Rotation functions.
      The slideshow displays a large thumbnail image with the name of the location where it was taken below it and a Google map and smaller thumbnail plus time and location co-ordinates in a pane to the right of the image. Both panes change as the slideshow advances. The location information below the picture isn’t particularly precise. It’s best seen as an indication of the district in which the shot was taken rather than an exact position.


      The slideshow display.

      You can view photos and log files in Google Earth by clicking the Google Earth button. (Note: you must have Google Earth installed in your PC in order to use this function.) The Rotate button only works in one direction so if you vary the orientation of your camera when shooting in portrait orientation be prepared to make a couple of clicks to view images the right way up.


      Clicking on the Google Earth button takes you directly to the site where the photo was taken, providing a view in Google Earth.

      If you move on to the Trip Records page, you can view a map and time line for each of the trips you have logged. The time line also shows the altitude of the waypoint and the speed at which the Photo Trackr was moving when the waypoint was recorded and you can click on a waypoint on the map to view its geographic co-ordinates.


      Trip records.

      If you’ve indicated you use a particular image-sharing website, clicking on the My Online Photo tab will take you directly to it. Otherwise, this tab takes you to Flickr, where you can create an account if you so desire.

      The About tab accesses information about the software plus a Help page and a link to an upgrade to a Pro version of the software, which sells for US $19.99 and supports raw files. The basic software only works with JPEGs and video clips.
      Because the Photo Trackr continually updates its location from the satellite data, it can be used to log trips almost anywhere in the world – as long as there’s adequate satellite coverage (and corresponding maps with sufficient detail). However, you will need to keep re-adjusting your camera’s time to the local time zone you’re in to keep track of where shots were taken. (Many digital cameras provide facilities for changing time zones automatically for trips.)

      Trip route records can be stored in the Photo Trackr for three to four weeks before the device should be connected to a computer to download the data and recharge the battery. An indicator in the Logging Settings section of the software interface shows how much storage memory has been used. You can also erase trip data to clear space for settings covering a new trip. The software also supports reverse address geocoding, which means it can show the address where the picture was taken.

      As the device operates by syncing the time of your camera with the bundled software, it works with all cameras – including video camcorders. It is also compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Mac OSX operating systems. The battery recharges each time the device is plugged into a computer and we found it required no additional charging and would easily handle a full day’s shooting.

      Our main complaint with the software is that it’s difficult to view the files stored in the Photo Trackr (as you can with a USB thumb drive) so you can delete specific trip logs. All you can do is ‘clear’ the logs stored in the device – and that means everything. This is the recommended practice once you’ve geotagged your pictures and videos but it may not suit some potential users.
      Buy this device if:
      – You want a handy, compact device for embedding location data in your photos.
      – You’d like geotagging facilities for several cameras and /or camcorders.
      Don’t buy this device if:
      – You require a device that will work when carried in a pocket.
      – You require a device that displays location data without requiring a computer connection.





      Device type: GPS data logger with 65 channels satellite tracking
      GPS Chipset: Skytraq
      Sensitivity: -160dBm tracking
      Antenna: Built-in low noise patch antenna
      Battery Life: 17 hours in continuous operation mode
      Average start time: 29 (cold)/10 (warm)/1 (hot) seconds
      Update Rate: 1 Hz
      DATUM: WGS84 (user definable)
      Logging data interval programmable: by time (1 second ~ 30 mins) or distance (2 to approx. 65.5 kilometres)
      Position accuracy: <3m 2d-RMS; DGPS: 2.5m
      Internal memory: 2MB flash memory for data logging, with 16 bytes binary data/record for up to 250K
      Interface: USB
      Dimensions: 77.5 x 28 x 17.8 mm
      Weight: 32 grams (including battery and end cap)





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      Rating (out of 10):

      • Features: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Versatility: 8.0
      • OVERALL: 8.5