Canon GP-E2 on 5D Mark III

Podcast 335 : Canon GPS Receiver GP-E2 Review

A few weeks ago I picked up the new Canon GPS Receiver GP-E2, and have had a chance to use it a few times, and draw a few conclusions, so today, we're going to take a look at this new device. Note too that this is really my first foray...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
38 Comments
  • Eric
    Posted at 19:07h, 18 May Reply

    That’s interesting review. Too bad that Nikon GPS unit needs a cord (and sometimes takes >5 minutes to find its place), because with an L-plate it’s too much of a hassle. Way to go Canon!

  • Sam
    Posted at 05:14h, 23 May Reply

    Great review, waiting for mine to arrive. I’m in the same boat, new to geotagging.

    I was told by a Canon rep. in Hong Kong that current consumer GPS technologies, the kind that could fit into a Pro-Level DSLR’s, are not powerful enough to consistently and accurately penetrate the materials used in the construction of DSLR bodies, such as magnesium alloy etc.

    Seems plausible. DSLR’s are quite thick compared to iPhone’s and stand-alone taggers.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 08:37h, 23 May Reply

      Thanks for the comment Sam. That does seem plausible. The point and shoots with GPS aren’t built with these materials.

    • Tim L
      Posted at 11:05h, 23 May Reply

      I’ve been told this as well.

    • Petri Lopia
      Posted at 15:42h, 04 August Reply

      Well… you could always put gps-antenna on top of your camera and still have all other electronic of what GPS needs inside of the camera body… So I can’t see magnesium alloy body to be reason why there is not gps inside.

  • Tim L
    Posted at 11:06h, 23 May Reply

    Another great review, Martin! Thanks for your efforts.

  • peterKx
    Posted at 01:21h, 26 May Reply

    Or you can use your smartphone to log your GPS record track, export it in GPX and put the information together with Lightroom 4. Of course, you need to synchronize the camera clock with the cellphone first.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:49h, 26 May Reply

      For sure Peter, but as I said above, I simply never did that. I wanted Geotagging to be as simple as it now is.

  • Chris
    Posted at 16:58h, 27 May Reply

    Narry a mention of whether this unit will work on any other Canon DSLR ?
    For the price you pay I would have expected Canon engineers to have had an extra menu item which would have shown the condition and status of the GPS receiver.
    A clever engineer / device firmware programer ( and are not ALL Canon engineers clever ) could fit this functionality into a couple of lines of assembler.
    I expected more from Canon
    Such an expensive unit with so much intelligence which becomes simply a dumb block !
    Maybe Canon is like so many other international companies — run by the bean counters who only understand the “bottom line”

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 17:30h, 27 May Reply

      Wow! There’s a fair amount of pent up frustration there Chris.

      There is a screen on the camera showing the status of the GPS Unit, and you can use the device to create a track log that can be applied to other Canon DSLRs. When compared to some other standalone GPS units, I’d say this is quite reasonably priced.

      Martin.

  • Chris
    Posted at 01:11h, 28 May Reply

    Hi Martin ,
    From my reading it appears that this unit will not work on older DSLR’s ( not even the 5D MarkII ? )

    In essence this unit then becomes a dumb logger. One could get one of those for maybe US$ 30 or less ? and then follow the same procedure of a track log using time sync and geo-code that way ( As people have been doing for a couple of years now , and which you found “clunky” )

    The screen indication is one simple icon which merely registers whether the GPSr has received an almanac and is now receiving NMEA strings. When I mentioned a menu item I meant something like I see on my Trimble using Terrasync.

    I am not expecting Canon to produce a survey grade GPSr for a DSLR — although I am sure they could if they wanted to.

    All that I am saying is that there is a lot more functionality locked up in the hardware that just needs some clever programming to free.

    One also wonders why Canon could not have produced a GPSr unit that would work on older cameras ( The 5D Mark II is now an “older” unit )
    To pass ( parse ) an NMEA string such that it registers in an image EXIF is hardly rocket science !

    I would really like to know what Canon’s thinking was on this implementation ?

  • Martin Bailey
    Posted at 09:21h, 28 May Reply

    Hi Chris,

    That is correct, that it only works directly with the 5D Mark III and 1D X currently, and kind of works with the 7D, but with limited functionality.

    All other DSLRs are supported by applying the coordinates to the files later, but like you say, this is nothing different to what we can already do with other loggers.

    There is a full screen on the GPS menu on the 5D Mark III that let’s you know a lot of information on how the GPS is performing. I just didn’t include a photo of this, because it would have had my home location displayed, which I obviously don’t want to plaster all over the Web. It’s there though, not just an indicator on the top LCD.

    If you don’t own a 5D Mark III or 1D X though, I agree that this is probably not the way to go.

    It’s certainly not perfect either, even on the supported cameras. The only way I can get my tracklogs off this thing for example is to use Canon’s Map Utility. If that restriction was not in place, I would be able to just grab the tracklog files and geoencode photos from other cameras right there in Lightroom (once Jeffrey Friedl changes his plug to fix a Canon bug), and this would save me from using Map Utility altogether.

    Martin.

  • Chris
    Posted at 17:28h, 30 May Reply

    Hi Martin ,
    I believe that one can use a GPS file format conversion program
    GPSbabel to do what you want.

    http://www.gpsbabel.org

    Not sure if that would fit into your work flow — but perhaps worth a try ?

    Best wishes

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 18:49h, 30 May Reply

      Hi Chris,

      GPSBabel will work with the GP-E2, once an update has been added to over-ride a bug in the GP-E2 which basically writes in the log file that the device has no satellite lock, despite it having one. This is what Jeffrey Friedl found anyway. He’s going to fix it his end, and release an update.

      The problem with that though is that I still need to go into Canon’s Map Utility to actually transfer the log to my computer. So far I’ve found no way to access the device without Map Utility. If I could easily grab the log files, it would be great to be able to do all tagging for second cameras in Lightroom with Jeffrey’s plugin, but if I still have to crank up Map Utility, it would probably be easier to just geotag second camera photos right there.

      It’s a shame that Canon have been a little overly protective on that front. If anyone knows of a way to grab those tracklogs without Map Utility though, that would be great.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

  • Ken Lee
    Posted at 02:25h, 12 August Reply

    Martin,
    Great review. I am enjoying the GP-E2. Still can’t figure out how to
    plug it into the USB port in my computer. Microcenter told me to buy a mini to USB adapter online. I did, but it didn’t fit the GP-E2. Contacted Canon and they want me to buy an expensive cable via telephone ordering. No info online. When I attach it to the camera and then plug the camera’s USB connector into the computer, the computer thinks I want to download the photos in the camera.

    Ken

    • Petri Lopia
      Posted at 04:12h, 12 August Reply

      Ken…. You can use that same USB cable which came with your camera.
      Just attach that cable between your computer and your GP-E2 and it should work.
      Hopefully Martin didn’t mind that I answered even that Ken asked from you =)

      • Martin Bailey
        Posted at 09:07h, 12 August Reply

        Don’t mind at all Petri, thanks!

        Ken, Petri is right. Just use the USB cable that came with your camera. Note that the USB terminal on the GP-E2 is under a nicely concealed rubber flap that you have to lift up.

        Cheers,
        Martin.

        • Ken Lee
          Posted at 09:39h, 12 August Reply

          Thank you so much Petri and Martin! The cable came with my camera did the trick.

          • Martin Bailey
            Posted at 11:01h, 12 August Reply

            Good to hear Ken. Thanks for letting us know.

            It is a little strange that Canon don’t include this cable with the unit. I guess they assume that people will already have one with their camera, but they don’t mention that at all, and even tried to sell you a new one!! Something needs fixing there.

            Anyway, glad you’re all sorted.

            Martin.

  • Matt Brandon
    Posted at 23:32h, 30 October Reply

    Martin, maybe I missed it, but you didn’t say anything about the battery life of the unit. Does it suck power? Most GPS units really drain their batteries rather quickly.

    Now that some time has passed since you wrote this review, any updates?

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 23:35h, 30 October Reply

      Hi Matt,

      The battery life is really quite good. I have used this unit a lot over the last six months and I’ve only changed the battery three times. I can’t say how many days etc. as I turn it on and off between shoots, but it does pretty well. Certainly not annoying in any way.

      Cheers,
      Martin.

      • Matt Brandon
        Posted at 07:56h, 01 November Reply

        Thanks Martin and thanks Petri. I just ordered mine.

    • Petri Lopia
      Posted at 23:23h, 31 October Reply

      I was almost two weeks in Africa and had GP-E2 on my Mark III all the time. One AA battery lasted about a week when update time was 15 seconds.
      So at my two week vacation on Africa I used just two batteries on GP-E2.

      Photos from my trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whig/sets/72157631863321970/

  • Yamaha Home Theater
    Posted at 23:20h, 31 October Reply

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  • Margolin Meir
    Posted at 05:46h, 29 January Reply

    I tried the GPS with my Canon 650D and your report was very helpful. I have some tables but I hope I will over come.
    Meir

  • Robert van Koesveld
    Posted at 18:02h, 08 May Reply

    Hi Martin
    have you ever been able to download the track log under osx 10.8.3. MU seems to not recognise the camera since I have upgraded. Worked before.
    cheers
    Robert

  • Alan Duncan
    Posted at 06:12h, 27 June Reply

    Hi Martin,
    A useful article – thank you. It’s obviously a while since you wrote this, so I was just wondering as you mentioned future versions of Lightroom, whether in fact they had included GPS direction info in the EXIF data in Version 5? Or anyone?
    I was also wondering if anyone had any experience of using a GP-E2 in a light aircraft [for aerial photography] in terms of getting a good, reliable signal?
    Many thanks,
    Alan.

  • coarasa
    Posted at 23:36h, 22 June Reply

    Very nice review. Do you know or anybody else if the receiver included cables are just USB cables? Or where to buy them?
    I bought a second hand one that came without the cables. I have a canon EOS 7D so I will need this cable. In the manual it tells you not to mix both ends, meaning one is clearly marked to be connected to the camera and the other one to the WFT or GPS.
    Thanks in advance!

  • Seemore Tate
    Posted at 03:57h, 01 December Reply

    it does not work well for indoors, even trying to identify North with it indoors cannot be relied on, but in the countryside or town it is excellent.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 12:08h, 01 December Reply

      This is correct Seemore. The unit has to be able to ‘see’ the sky and the satellites.

  • duncan dunnit
    Posted at 19:00h, 04 March Reply

    having had the canon for 2 years now i feel It would be great were it to come with a boster that one can place beside a window and plug in to a thirteen amp socket, thus boosting the signal inside a room. I find shooting panoramas indoors can be a pain when I need to follow a direct specific path and I cannot rely on the canon gps.

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