photogps

I know a lot of people have been after me to test the Jobo photoGPS unit, so when I did the shoot of Tiger Woods at Tavistock a couple of weeks ago, I took the photoGPS along to give it a real world in-field test. After testing it for a while, I called my assistant Brad Moore, who was back at the office, and I said, “Brad, you can’t imagine how much I hate this thing.”

Three Strikes is Not Enough!
Usually, if a product has three strikes against it, that’s enough for me, but this one already had two strike against it before I even left my office so I thought I’d go ahead and give it extra room for a few more strikes just in case it turned out to be worth it in the end. I really wanted to have an open mind give it a fair shake, but here’s how it played out:

Strike One: The GPS unit doesn’t draw it’s power from the camera—instead you have to charge it separately before you use it. It takes two-hours for a full charge.

Strike Two: It doesn’t come with a power adapter to charge it. Instead, you connect it to the USB port on your computer to charge it. What this means is that at some point, when your battery runs down (though it supposedly has a crazy-long battery life), you’d better have your computer nearby or your GPS accessory is done until you can get back to your computer. I didn’t have my laptop with me at the golf tournament, but I didn’t use the GPS long enough for it to run out of battery (you’ll see why soon). Note: there are third-party USB chargers, like Griffin’s which let you charge USB devices right from your car, but of course, you’d have to buy this separately.

Strike Three: The Jobo photoGPS fits sits atop your camera by sliding into your camera’s flash hot shoe mount. I slid mine into the slot, then started to head out to the course. After a few minutes I heard the sound of my photoGPS hitting the concrete sidewalk. I looked down and it was in pieces. I snapped it back together, and to its credit, it still worked. A few minutes later, it fell off again. And again. And again. And then I put it in my camera bag for the rest of the day.

Strike Four: The Jobo photoGPS requires a separate software package for it to do it’s thing (this isn’t that uncommon when geotagging). When you’re finished with your shoot, you have to connect the Jobo photoGPS to the computer where you downloaded the files, using the same included USB cable that you use to charge the unit.

Strike Five: Now, you launch the software and it tries to match the photos with the GPS information that is now downloaded from the GPS unit itself, but you also need a live Internet connection while you’re doing this, so it can ping the main photoGPS server. The software is pretty easy to use—it’s just that you shouldn’t need a software application for something as simple as this. Note: There is another software app for GPS/File matching that’s pretty popular called “HoudaGeo” but it’s an extra $30.

Strike Six: The GPS information is not embedded into the Raw file. Instead it appears in a separate sidecar file, and if the sidecar file and the image file get separated—the GPS information will no longer be with the file. Also, if you’re shooting Raw, and you already have an XMP sidecar file, it won’t write into that XMP file—it has to make it’s own XMP file. (If you shoot JPEG, once it matches everything up, it overwrites your JPEG with a new file that has the GPS info inside it). Worse yet; if you don’t have an Internet connection, don’t even consider working on your raw files (keywording, adding metadata, etc.), because once you match up the GPS info, it will overwrite your XMP files and all your keywords and metadata are gone.

Strike Seven: Since you can only use this on your camera’s Hot Shot flash mount—-you can’t use a flash (pop-up or otherwise).

Up to this point, the only GPS I’ve really spent much time with is the di-GPS mini from Dawn Technology (now for Nikons and Canons), which I love (more than ever, now) because:

(a) it draws it’s power from the camera itself [no charging beforehand].

(b) It stays in the hotshoe (and if it did fall off the hotshoe, the cable connected to your camera’s 10-pin shot would keep it from falling to the ground and breaking,

(c) it doesn’t require any software to work

(d) it embeds the GPS info directly info the file

(e) It doesn’t have to sit in your flash hot shoe, so you can actually use your flash. Instead, you can connect it your camera strap, leaving your flash (and/or hot shoe) still usable.

(f) Unlike the Jobo photoGPS, the di-GPS is nearly invisible to the user. You connect it and it does its thing without any input from you whatsoever.

Pros: The only “Pro” I can come up with is that it will work with digital cameras (including point and shoots) that don’t have a 10-pin connector.

Cons: Seven Strikes! If I had to go through all this to get GPS data into my files, I simply wouldn’t do it (unless it was absolutely required by my line of work).

The Bottomline
In some ways, the idea is great, and offers those who don’t have the necessary 10-pin port (the same one where you’d plug-in a cable release on your camera) required by GPS units like di-GPS a way to have access to GPS data for their images. However, in my opinion, the Jobo photoGPS is a poor choice for anyone that can use just about anything else. It’s a hassle to use, it falls off easily (which makes it prone to break), and has too many disadvantages to make it a viable choice, especially for working pros.

I just got Nikon’s new GP-1 GPS in-house, and I’m curious to see how this compares to the di-GPS, because sadly the Jobo photoGPS won’t even be in contention. The unit sells for around $170.

About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.

4 Comments

  1. One major issue you seem to have missed is the unique way that this unit works. It is not a GPS logger in the traditional sense. Traditional GPS devices take about 30seconds or more to latch on to the satellites when they are first turned on. This unit is completely different, it starts up captures the signals and logs them in 0.3 of a second.

    The second advantage of the system is in it’s power management. As it is only active for 0.3 of a second per shot the battery lasts almost a week. Most GPS loggers can only make it through a day or so.

    How is it able to do both of these things. Quite simply it doesn’t work like a normal GPS logger. It does not log your position it simply records the raw time signals provided by the satellites. This means that another computer in JOBO is required to decode those times when you tag the images. This is why it needs a network connection and why you have to use their software for the process. It’s also why the battery life is so good.

  2. I think this review was somewhat unfair. I own two photoGPS
    units and here are some responses to your points

     

    1) Drawing power from the camera? No it doesn’t and yes it
    would be nice, but they’ve made it a generic unit that will work on just about
    any camera with a hot shoe and how would you propose they make it draw power
    from any random camera on the market? It’s a generic GPS.

     

    2) No it doesn’t come with a power adapter but I guess they
    figure you’ll charge it when you offload the data. Some other options I use are
    my iPhone charge (or any other power supply that has a USB port, the cable
    supplied with the GPS plugs in directly). I also use it with a HyperJuice
    external battery pack I bought for my MacBook, it has a USB port to charge such
    devices. I think a lot of people would have USB power supplies these days, I
    would rather not carry another one.

     

    3) The GPS falling off the camera. Yes I agree, this is a
    major weak point they need to fix, they need to make it attach to the camera
    more securely yet still allow it to be removed and attached quickly. I used a
    cable with a sticky pad designed to stick on lens caps and secure them to the
    camera on mine and attach the cable to the camera strap. This has saved the GPS
    unit countless times. Not perfect but works well.

     

    4) Has separate software. Yep, it’s a generic unit, I don’t
    see this as a problem.

     

    5) I agree that I would like the software to work without an
    internet connection.

     

    6) The GPS data not embedded into raw file. Well, this comes
    back to the generic nature. The software doesn’t know about endless raw file
    formats. It would be nice if it wrote into an existing XMP sidecar file though.
    So it could be improved a little but I don’t think it’s an actual issue it not
    writing to the raw file. Personally I don’t want any software touching the raw
    file ever.

     

    7) Not being able to use the hot shoe while in use. Yes, it
    would be nice if they supplied a low profile plug with a pass through, so you
    could attach that to the hot shoe, fit a flash in it and run the wire up the
    camera strap to the GPS unit attached to the strap or on my shoulder or
    something like that. It would also make it easier putting my camera in and out
    of my shoulder bag and not have to remove the GPS unit each time.

     

    I think your review misses the main point in that this is a
    generic GPS unit that will work with just about every camera with a hot shoe.
    Yes it would be nice if it could draw power direct from every camera and yes it
    would be nice if it embedded the gps data into the files while still on the
    camera, but I feel that would be a difficult task given it’s designed to be
    generic and so needs it’s on-board battery and software to match up the GPS
    captures.

     

    I would rather see them fix a few minor issues with this
    generic unit and perhaps release a second model that perhaps integrates better
    with popular Canon, Nikon, Sony DSLR’s though. Given the work in making it work
    with these different cameras, I imagine the price would be higher.

     

    All that said, we used our photoGPS units on two Canon 60D
    cameras all through Europe for 6 weeks where many thousands of photos were
    taken. The number one problem was it not securing well enough to the camera
    (the cord I attached save them many times). If they fixed that and made an
    adapter cable so I could mount it on the camera strap, I would not have any
    issues with it. The battery life is also good and it records a GPS fix in a fraction
    of a second.

     

    Overall the units are great and have further potential if a
    few minor things fixed. There is room for second a more specific
    Canon/Nikon/Sony model though that integrates better.

  3. Scott, I was looking for the di-gps after you mentioned it in your KT travel class. Is it really $928.00? Surely not.

  4. I agree about the comparison. I shoot Canon but Scott apparently is a Nikon/Adobe only type of guy. The only issues I had with the JOBO was that while it stayed on my XT and XSi, it was loose on my 60D. I saw that the new one (now half the price I paid) has shims included. I may look at creating my own “lock” using a 3D printer.

    the other item that bothered me a bit was that with the geotag data was added to the file, additional locational data was added that was unnecessary (nearest McDonalds, nearest attraction, etc.).

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