Favorite external geotagging device?

I’m using an iPod Touch, which lacks GPS, and manually geotagging hundreds of obs on my slow, infrequent internet is awful, and probably not all that accurate. It’s time for a change. For those who use an external GPS logger- what do you use?
Although I’m looking for something that doesn’t require a subscription, I’d be curious to hear about anything yall are using.

I’ll taking it on backpacking trips, so it would be an extra plus if the GPS data could be imported directly to the iPod w/o need for a computer, in case I get really socked in and want the extra security of being able to follow the route out.

Thank you!

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Hi Blaserk,

I take photos with a GPS incapable DSLR, so here is my workflow: I either use the GPX Tracker app on my iPhone (smaller day trips) or I use a Garmin Oregon or eTrex (for longer days and expeditions with rechargeable batteries - eneloop) for recording the track. GPX Tracker is nice because you can easily share the track to anything that is bluetooth or network capable but it uses my phone battery that I often use for ID and like to preserve on trips. That is where the Garmins come in. There are als Garmins that can share via bluetooth or WIFI but they are a bit too expensive for me at the moment hence I’m not very familiar with them. To geotag the photos, I simply use the feature provided in Lightroom CC (of course Lightroom does have a subscription price). For 1000 photos it might only take a few seconds. This gets the Job done pretty quick for me! I hope this helps.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have a GPS capable phone. But thank you for the leads on the Garmins and workflow! It’s so interesting to hear everyone’s processes.

That’s a toughie, I think that even if you were to find a GPS unit you would still be forced to manually enter in GPS coordinates of observations. In order to automatically have coordinates when you upload an observation you would need the coordinates to be written into the image files.

There may be some equivalent but back in the day I used to use an app called gps4cam. Basically, you would start the app when you start taking photos, and it would record your track until you stopped it. I forget the next step (I think it involved photographing the QR code then opening the files in a program on the computer) but basically what it would do is it would sync the time of your route with the times of the photos taken, and write the GPS coordinates of where you were when that photo was taken into the image file. I’m not sure if there would be some workaround or otherwise.

I eventually found this too tedious (AKA I’m just too lazy) so I bought a GP-E2 for my Canon camera, which attaches to my non-GPS enabled DSLR and automatically writes in the coordinates to each photo.

Sorry I don’t have a better answer, but I think the key to making things easier for you is to find a piece of equipment or equipment+software combo that will write coordinates into your photos somehow.

Good luck!

Once you find a device to record your GPS tracks (since you’re phone isn’t GPS capable), you can use the free software gpicsync to automatically sync the track file to the photos (super easy–just select folder containing pics, select track file, and hit the sync button:
https://sourceforge.net/projects/gpicsync/

But since you’re wanting to do this on your iPod touch, you’d need ipod app that does the same thing. That may not be possible to find something with the degree of compatibility that you’re seeking. I think you’re probably asking for the moon!

Any handheld GPS device will record and display your track so that you can hike back out (and use to sync your pics when you get to a computer).

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I have used a Garmin GLO 2 Bluetooth GPS receiver for at least 5 years with an iPad. I am intrigued to see it is still being sold ($129 from Amazon, $99 from Garmin). It works very well and you can just stick the receiver in a shirt pocket (gotta remember to charge it, of course). It makes the iPad completely GPS enabled for all apps that use GPS. There might be something smaller now (this is about the size of a small computer mouse, but flat) but it is fast and accurate and reliable.

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It’s great to hear that you had a good experience with these! I had looked at these (and a variety of similar devices) in the past as a way of reducing the drain on my iPhone battery while geotagging but decided they would be too expensive for their capabilities and the fact that they still tied me to a mobile device. I did like their idea a lot though and wished I could have tried one without having to buy it. As much as I know, I like that they reduce the drain on the phone battery but I ended up using the other Garmin devices I had/have access to (though these would be much more expensive to buy than a Garmin GLO 2 or similar). Still, I would suggest that instead of spending $100 on such as device to give an iPodTouch GPS capabilities, @Blaserk might be better of buying an older mobile device (iPhone 7 or 8 also available for around $100) which would buy built in GPS capability and a better camera on top (which would work great for shorter 1-2 day trips).

That’s true that for the same price you could get an iPhone with a better camera! As for draining the phone battery, I always carry a backup battery recharger in my field pack, Nothing more frustrating than running out of juice in the field.

I know it’s not exactly what you are asking, but I have used two different types of small pocket cameras that had gps in them. I’ve used a Nikon waterproof camera and an Olympus Tough waterproof camera, both with gps that you can turn on. Older models of these cameras can sometimes be found used from reputable dealers, or you can try buying refurbished ones that come with a short warranty. There are several other good brands of waterproof pocket cameras with gps available too. The new ones are under $500 to buy, and you have the added benefit of being able to buy extra batteries for them. I find the pictures from these little cameras to generally be better than my iPhone 8 pictures. If you are using wifi to connect your iPod to upload pictures to iNaturalist, most of these newer cameras will let you connect to a phone or whatever using bluetooth or wifi, so you can transfer pictures to your device, then upload them to the internet. Most of these cameras have a very nice macro mode too. They will weigh more than an iPod, but still light weight for taking backpacking. Check into them and see what you think.

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I have used a series of GPS loggers over the years. My favorite was the Holux M-241 which looked like a roll of Kodak film. It had a display that could show a clock or the current coordinates. It would run for about 36 hours on a single AA battery. I used it with my DSLR to geotag photos once I got back to the office. Sadly, it died when the GPS week numbers rolled over and the company never had an update for the device. I wrote a paper about the process that you can read here. This process will work with any GPS logger and camera but all the software I use is Windows-based and I’m not sure if there is something similar that will run on an iPod.

Another GPS that has lasted through 15 years of getting carted around the desert is the BT-747 logger. It has no display and just two modes: logging and Bluetooth. I used it with ArcPad on a laptop to do vegetation mapping before tablets existed. It will run for days on its built-in battery.

We also have several garmins but they are heavier and bulkier with shorter battery life due to the display.

Don’t know if this will work on an iPod Touch, but investigate GPS Log on the Apple Store. When I bought it, the cost was $7.99. Allows you unlimited position “spikes” with ability to add text description and a photo. If you want to try before purchasing, download GPS Log LITE for free - allows you 5 spikes before you have to clear all to continue.

PS: I use GPS Log on my iPhone 11 to record positions and descriptions for shells that I collect.

I use a Bad Elf GNSS Surveyor. That one is $650 and for most uses it’s probably overkill. In good conditions it’ll give you about 1 meter accuracy. The Bad Elf GPS Pro is more affordable ($250) and less accurate (they say 2.5 meters; I’ve only used one a little bit, but that sounds about right). I’ve used both of them with an iPod Touch, though my primary usage is to get better GPS accuracy with an iPhone. When paired with iOS devices, both of these will send GPS data directly to the operating system’s location services, so it acts just like a signal from an internal GPS receiver would. Any app that would normally pull GPS data from an internal GPS receiver will pull GPS data from the Bad Elf. They also don’t require any kind of subscription, have good battery life (they say 24 hrs; I’ve usually gotten better than that on new devices; battery performance declines over time, of course), and tracks and points can be recorded directly on the device (it’s not the most user-friendly thing in the world, but it works fine).

Bad Elf also makes several plug-in GPS receivers. The idea of having something sticking out of the device all the time does not appeal to me, though your mileage may vary.

I’ve also used a Garmin inReach for this purpose. It seems to have comparable GPS accuracy and battery life to the Bad Elf GPS Pro and similarly seamless integration into iOS. It also gives you the ability to send and receive text messages in areas with no cell service, although that functionality requires an ongoing paid subscription.

A device like the Garmin GLO might be a more affordable alternative to those listed above. I know there are a few other similar devices on the market as well. The Bad Elves & Garmin inReach are the only ones I’ve used, though.

I use essentially the same workflow as @mycoweise and have GPS tracks going back to 2005 (I knew they’d come in handy some day! :)) I think there are free alternatives to Lightroom but the ones I have tried do not work with RAW files (only JPG, TIFF etc). Lightroom I guess technically doesn’t add the geotagged location to the RAW files either – because it doesn’t modify those files – but the exported after edits and geotagging have the GPS info so… good enough for my needs. I use a Garmin eTrex. Edit: the only problem I have with my current Garmin is that the batteries don’t seem to last a long time before they need recharging. My previous eTrex model could easily last a week, this model seems to run out of charge in a day or so :( I probably have something wrong in the settings though

Thank you for all the replies!

I don’t mind waiting until I have access to a computer to use a geotagging software and mass upload, although I believe there are iOS apps that will tag photos from a GPX file.

I looked at this one! Was hoping to find something either smaller or cheaper (I know it probably won’t be both), but it’s definitely on the list

Uh oh, here’s the part where I have to admit I’m a luddite with tiny hands- the iPod purchase came after more than a year with only a dumbphone and an iPod shuffle, and deciding I needed something capable of email, at least occasionally, even if it just stayed in my closet most of the time… and when I realized how big phones had become I balked at anything larger than the iPhone 5s I had for work years ago. I am painfully aware that upgrading to a nicer device is the objectively correct answer here…but we’ll see whether stubbornness or logic wins out, haha.

I’ve been debating this for awhile! Having something photo-capable for iNat was one of my catalysts to get the iPod, and I looked at a lot of pocket cameras as well. As I get more interested in slime molds and mesofauna, having better macro is a huge draw.

Hey, I read your post about these when I was pouring through the forum history earlier! When I search for the BT-747 logger I only find software, not an actual device. Am I looking in the wrong place?

I was very interested in their lightning connector receiver until I saw it was discontinued. I figured not having to connect over Bluetooth would save my iPod’s battery, but I guess it might get in the way of pictures. Good to know you like their products.

The best free alternative to “Lightroom” is “Darktable” (https://www.darktable.org) which runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux, and supports raw formats for most common camera brands. Relevant to this topic, like lightroom it does automatically process gpx tracks and add geolocation to photos.

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I usually just track using my phone (AGPS tracker, theres both an online and offline version). Then i geotag the pictures using Geosetter on computer.

Any GPS recorder (GPS watch, phone, etc.) + Lightroom. That’s probably the cheapest option. Plus it’s fast and easy. If you carry a phone just download a free GPS recorder app and you have the GPS track at no cost. Lightroom is $10/month, which is far cheaper than any GPS device you might purchase. Plus you get all its photo editing and tagging capabilities.

This seems to be the closest to the old BT-747

https://www.amazon.com/Q-1000XT-BT-Q1000XT-Bluetooth-Waypoints-Vibration/dp/B00144PH1S

I’m in a similar boat. It would be helpful if I am not one of the only people constantly telling Canon and Nikon to incorporate GPS back into their point and shoot cameras.
It can’t add but a few cents in material costs to them or additional size. The ones that had them in the past worked excellent! The last Nikon I had worked better than a badelf I have even!
Now I’m left to these horrible phone apps I have to remember to turn on, link to the camera, drain phone battery, or don’t work when I need them to.

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