Columbus V-900 geo tagger (Review)

My trip to Iceland was my first serious photo trip. And, since baby girl is coming soon, it will probably be the last one for a while too! Anyways, I seriously geared up for this trip and brought with me every single gadget I could think of.

The first of these gadget I want to talk you about is the Columbus V-900 geo tagger. I may have bitched a bit (ehh.. a lot) about Aperture 3, but one of its coolest feature is the addition of Places. While I could complain for a while about the way it was implemented (like the requirement to be connected to the internet), it is still a great tool for the travel photographer.

I am sure some of you are thinking “Why use a separate device? The iPhone can do the job!”. True, but having a separate gps has a few benefits:

  • it has better reception / precision
  • much longer battery life
  • smaller
  • more robust
  • always in tracking mode

I am sure the iPhone can handle the requirements of most people, but if you are not comfortable having your iPhone hanging from the back of your bag while in the rain, please keep reading…

The device

As you can see on the picture below, it is much smaller than a GPS or iPhone. This is a nice thing when you think that you will have to carry it with you all the time. Also, its simplistic design ensure that you don’t accidentally turn it on/off. While it is not water resistant, I have found that putting it in a ziploc bag does’nt affect performance while keeping it safe.

The front panel of the device has a single button and 3 status LEDs. While the device captures your location every few seconds, you can also click on the button when you are at a special place to make it easier to identify the location afterward. This is a feature I should have used more during my trip to set some reference points to ease the photo-GPS associations.

The features

The geotagger comes with a lot of features but I have to admit that I restricted myself to the bare minimum: geo tracking. For examples, the Columbus can beep when you exceed a predetermined speed, record voice messages or be connected via Bluetooth to your computer to acts as a GPS.

In my case, I received the unit only a few days before my trip and read the instructions while on the plane. Not wanting to jeopardize my logging, I stayed away from all these features.

Once the trip is captured, you have to transfer it to the computer. I dont understand why but the computer will not recognize the card while it is plugged in the V-900, you have to use a separate card reader. It is not so much of a problem but still, it means you have to carry one more peace of hardware in your bag.  It is also worth noting that the USB cable used to charge the device cannot be used to plug an external HD to your computer. I discovered this the hard way. So, if you plan to carry a single USB cable for both your Columbus and External HD, you better use the HD cable for both.

Now that your log files are on your computer, you have to convert to a format that is readable by your favorite application. In my case, I had to convert them to the gpx format for Aperture. The task is done using the free application provided by the manufacturer. IMPORTANT NOTE: the version that comes in the box does not export to gpx, you have to get the latest version (free on the manufacturer website).

Conclusion

My overall impression of the device is positive. While it is not the cheapest of the bunch, its high precision and long battery life make it stand out from the rest. I would advice it to every travel photographer or location scouts. There are some hurdles, like the cheap USB cable, but nothing to worry about.

Amazon does not sale this device but offers instead the VGPS-900 which looks pretty much the same. I just dont understand the bad reviews because the device has been working flawlessly for my whole trip.

For those still waiting for the story about my trip, here is a teaser of the locations we shot at. FYI, my plane landed in Akurery and we drove around the island clockwise.

Edit: I have had two visitors pointing me toward the Amod AGL3080 GPS Data Logger. It is a cheaper alternative and with Aperture 3 geo tagging, it solves the biggest issue owners had: linking pictures to GPS data.

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...

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