Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
Good Feature Set, Decent Software
on August 18, 2009
The GiSTEQ CD110 GPS logger and PhotoTrackr software together with a PC are a complex system trying to do a simple thing, add accurate location information to photos. In this review I'll try to answer some of the questions I had when making a purchasing decision to hopefully help you do the same.
CD110 Pros: GPS performance, configurability, size, replaceable battery
CD110 Cons: Poor lanyard design, battery cover
PhotoTrackr Pros: Versatile, simple interface, Google Maps API integration, no activation code (v2.4)
PhotoTrackr Cons: Not entirely user-proof
Platform 1: Windows Vista SP1 (32-bit) with PhotoTracker v2.3.821.0
Platform 2: Windows XP SP3 with PhotoTrackr v2.4.610.1
When I received the CD111 I was surprised by the packaging, it was in a compact sleeved box like a typical mobile phone. Everything inside was individually wrapped conveying a sense of quality. The logger itself is small and quite light, measuring 3" x 1-3/4" x 7/8" and 2.4 ounces, battery installed.
The battery resembles a mobile phone slab style battery and fits behind a sliding cover. While the logger was charging prior to first use I decided to install the lanyard. Unlike most lanyard rings where you thread the lanyard under a bar and then loop it on itself, the battery cover actually forms one side of the lanyard ring and when the cover is removed the lanyard is slipped in from the side. Closing the cover closes the ring and traps the lanyard. This is a poor design because the cover is retained by a weak spring latch so if the cover loosens there is the risk that the logger will separate from the lanyard and be lost.
The package includes a printed manual, something rarely seen these days. It's a small booklet that is essentially a reprint of the electronic help file but given the number of features that can be performed by the three buttons it's nice to be able to toss a small manual into your camera bag.
According to the manual, when the logger is charging a green indicator flashes, going solid when charging is complete. Contrary to the description in the manual, what I have found is that powering the unit for charging actually turns it on and the LEDs flash in accordance with the normal power on scheme (both red and green LEDs). If the unit is plugged into a USB charger however, it can be turned off via the normal power button and the green LED will flash until the unit is charged at which time the LED will turn off. Curiously, if the unit is plugged into a computer USB for charging, it cannot be turned off via the normal power button and the LEDs behave as previously described.
The package came with v2.3 of the PhotoTrackr software. This software requires activation and there is a 3 activation limit. I installed v2.3 on my Vista system and it worked immediately with no problems, even upgrading itself to the latest v2.3 build and upgrading the logger to firmware v4.2. I was impressed that this was all done without leaving the program, a benefit to those who are squeamish about standalone updaters.
A quick check of the GiSTEQ website showed that v2.4 of the PhotoTrackr software was available and best of all, it required no activation. I installed PhotoTrackr v2.4 on my XP system without any problems. Luckily, firmware v4.2 is compatible with both of the current v2.3 and v2.4 software versions. Software features discussed in this review will apply to both versions unless otherwise stated.
The logger talks and makes other noises. The voice says, "satellites positioning", "satellites fixed" and "low battery". The other noises seem to have been lifted from Windows system sounds. Volume can be controlled in four steps, off, low, medium and high. The LEDs flash to indicate power on (green), satellites fixed (red), and USB communications (orange). These can also be extinguished by putting the device in "stealth" mode.
My seat of the pants comparison to Garmin and Magellan GPS devices is that the GiSTEQ performance is comparable. I was concerned that the MTK GPS chipset might not meet expectations formed by experience with the SiRF III chipset but these concerns are unfounded. The warm and cold acquisition times are comparable and reasonable.
My last concern with the hardware was the driver vs. driverless argument. This has turned out to be a non-issue. Since a program has to be used to write location information to my photo files (geocoding) my real concern should have been how does geocoding affect my workflow and does the need for a device driver affect this process? The answers are, workflow isn't affected and the need for a driver is transparent to geocoding (in this case).
Geocoding can be done any time after both photos and corresponding GPS log are downloaded to your computer. Within PhotoTrackr there is an "Add Images" function which writes location data to the EXIF information within the photo file. The photos are not copied so additional disk space is not used.
Leveraging the Google Maps API is brilliant. Whether you love or hate Google you can't argue with the fact that it works as well as many and better than most. In addition to the map view you have access to Google's satellite photos. Viewing your photos in the context of a satellite photo seems very intuitive.
I use Google Picasa and the program's integration with Picasa is seamless. From within PhotoTrackr I select the photos to be uploaded and the destination folder. Click, and off they go. I can even downsize the photos so they take less space. The two features that I miss are embossing (I like to emboss a copyright onto each uploaded photo) and the ability to create new folders. The latter can still be done from my browser so the workaround is pretty painless.
When the logger is first connected to the computer it sets its timezone based on the computer's timezone. I changed the timezone on my XP computer and also set the clock 5 minutes fast to verify that the logger uses the initial setup to determine the logger timezone and GPS time for synchronization purposes. Connecting the logger to computers in different timezones does not affect the synchronization time. Synchronization is important because your camera clock must be set to the logger clock in order for the software to match a place to a photo. Note that it is the time embedded within the photo's EXIF data that is matched to the waypoint time within the GPS log that is matched and not the file creation times that are used.
Logging parameters can be set from within PhotoTrackr when the logger is connected. There are a lot of customizable parameters and changing any of them is very straight forward. Type in the new value, click OK and you're done.
I made the mistake of deleting a log file and breaking its associations with the corresponding photos. After a little trial and error I restored the photos and log files by simply re-importing them. Luckily, when PhotoTrackr deletes a file it only deletes the reference to it from the database. The file (log or photo) is intact on disk.
The CB111 is a decent GPS logger with a full feature set. Once set to your preferences you should rarely have to mess with it, aside from charging it and turning it on and off. The PhotoTrackr software is the real star of the show, and it works extremely well. Eliminating the activation feature is a huge improvement. In fact, if you have any compatibility questions you should simply download the software from GiSTEQ's website and test it yourself. The program comes with sample photos and log files so you can test compatibility with your system, your photo sharing site and your workflow. GiSTEQ has created a walled garden with their software so you can do almost everything needed without leaving the program and that is quite an accomplishment.