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ATP Photo Finder

Feb
18
2008

Geotagging photos has become increasingly popular recently as GPS devices have become more popular. For those of you asking just what “geotagging” means, it takes a log of your travels from a GPS and matches up where you have been with photographs based on time. A geotagger can look at the timestamp of a photo, find out exactly where you were at that time based on the tracklog, and then encode information into the photo (hidden in the file) with the latitude and longitude the photo was taken. Then you can “map” your photos. This process requires several pieces to make it work, and they don’t always play nice together. Enter the ATP Photo Finder which aims to help with that process. How does it work, and how well does it work? Read on.

Physical Design

ATP Photo Finder GPS Picture TrackerThe ATP Photo finder is simple enough. The device is a simple small box about 3.25 x 1.75 inches and very light weight. Inside is a SiRFstarIII chipset to find your position, and a small internal memory to record a tracklog of your travels. On the top is a tiny screen which displays basic status information or your current coordinates, along with a few lights to indicate power, GPS, and memory status. On the side is a power button and two other navigation buttons. On the back is a battery compartment where you insert two (not included) AAA batteries. Battery life is described in the manual as being about 7.5-8.0 hours based on 1,000mAh batteries. I was using 900mAh batteries and was able to achieve about 5 hours of battery life.

Speaking of the manual, it needs a bit of grammar checking. While I’m far from perfect, the manual is almost entertaining to read due to the numerous grammar mistakes. If you read it aloud you will sound like Borat. Here are just a few of the highlights.

Page 1: To avoid any unpredictable reason cause the malfunction of

Page 2: Please backup you file

Page 3: Store data up to two month

Further disturbing is that they describe basic information about how GPS works and say that the satellites orbit “about 20 kilometers (about 12.4 miles) above us”… Last I checked they were in orbits between 20,000 and 22,000 kilometers above earth. The list of errors goes on and on.

ATP Photo Finder GPS Picture Tracker LanyardThe Photo Finder does come with a thin plastic lanyard with a clip and while I haven’t broken it yet, I’d probably want to rig up something more sturdy for my outdoor activities. It is nice to have however since to get the best possible reception you will probably want to clip it on to a backpack or perhaps your belt. The lanyard is at least designed so that when the GPS is hanging from the lanyard the antenna is facing up.

ATP Photo Finder GPS Picture Tracker BatteryThe first ATP Photo Finder I received wouldn’t turn on. In the end I discovered that the battery contacts were defective. The device simply wouldn’t turn on. The batteries also wouldn’t say in place unless the cover was on… they would just pop out of place which didn’t leave me with a good feeling that they would stay in place well. The replacement I received did power on fine, however the batteries didn’t seem to be held in place any tighter and wouldn’t stay in place (at rest) without sliding the cover on. During operation there were several times I found the device had simply powered itself off without me knowing about it and I suspect this weak battery connection had something to do with it.

The screen gives information such as if the device is turned on, if it has a satellite fix, etc. Unfortunately the screen is very dim and difficult to read outside. I was constantly removing my sunnies and shadowing the display with my hand to be able to read anything on the display while outside in bright sunlight.

By the way, the Picture Tracker is not waterproof, nor water-resistant.

Setup, Usage

ATP Photo Finder GPS Picture Tracker SD CardSo the idea is pretty simple. Turn on the GPS and let it record a tracklog of your trip. Take pictures at will. When you are done, take the SD card out of your camera, place it in the ATP Photo Finder, and let it geotag the images. Then use the tagged images in your own mapping application such as Google Earth.

The ATP Photo Finder does not support timezones…. it always works in UTC time. Since the tracklog needs to match up with photos based on the timestamp of the photo, your camera will also need to be setup in UTC time. This is a huge bummer for me. Now all of my photos are stamped several hours off from when they were actually taken. So in order to get the location information into the picture, the time of the picture needs to be incorrect. This would work if the photos were embedded with not only the time, but also the timezone, but they are not.

So out I went for a snowshoe adventure with the Photo Finder (aka GPS Picture Tracker). I turned on the GPS and fastened it to my backpack. I setup my camera with the incorrect time to match the UTC time on the GPS, and started my hike. Along the way I took a few photos from different spots. At four different spots along the route I checked on the GPS and found that twice it had somehow powered off. Hmmm… that can’t be good.

After my trip I took the SD card out of the camera and inserted it into the GPS. It started matching up photos with coordinates, taking about five seconds per image on the card. When it was done I took the card out, and downloaded the photos into my laptop.

ATP Photo Finder GPS Picture Tracker USBOf the photos I took, only about half of them were geocoded. The others must have been taken while the GPS had mysteriously powered itself off. The others worked okay however. If you have Google Earth installed, you can download the KMZ file (approx 1.5 MB) I created which shows a few of the photos that were tagged. (You will just have to miss all of the other photos I took which were not tagged while the GPS took a nap.)

Destination

This photo finder is a fantastic idea. A small, light weight GPS to record a tracklog of your position. Better than other devices on the market that stop there, this device can also read an SD card and do all of the geocoding for you before you import the pictures to your computer.

But I’d wait for version 2 on this device. The power issues ended up making incomplete tracklogs which in turn caused many photos not to be tagged with any location information. I also didn’t like the idea of all of my photos having to be tagged in the UTC timezone.

30 Responses


  1. Very helpful review. The power issues appear to be a deal killer for me. I was planning on buying this for a vacation in the rain forest, but will look for a more reliable solution.

    JDL - March 12th, 2008
  2. I just purchased an ATP Photo Finder in the US from Costco.com. The unit I received is white with a blue backlit screen, P/N AF-GPSMWB-0A, Software Version 1.6. I am experiencing several technical issues with the device:

    – The Photo Finder is unable to quickly acquire satellites. I placed the Photo Finder next to my Garmin ETrex Vista. The Garmin acquired 4 satellites within three minutes. It took the ATP Photo Finder more than an hour to acquire a signal. I live in high elevations and rarely have trouble with satellite reception.

    – If the Photo Finder eventually locks onto satellites, the unit seems to freeze. UTC time is frozen and does not progress, negating synchronization with my digital camera. Also, pressing the arrow buttons does not change the display to GPS coordinates. Often the blue flashing light and backlight remain illuminated for about a minute and I must hold down the power button for about 10 seconds before the Photo Finder eventually powers down.

    – On the first day of use, the Photo Finder successfully geotagged two photos, but the coordinates were more than 10 miles off.

    – The instruction manual is riddled with grammatical errors and technical inaccuracies. For instance, the manual fails to mention the Time Zone feature. My Sony Digital Camera does not offer UTC time, so Time Zone sync is rather important, but it’s unclear how to select a time zone: the arrow keys simply scroll through zones. Additionally, simultaneously holding down the left/right arrows does not reset the unit, as explained poorly in an operating table.

    – My batteries also do not fit securely. The cover must be attached to secure the two AAA batteries.

    – The lanyard loop and carabiner are made of amazingly cheap plastic, reminiscent of something out of a Happy Meal. For an $88 device, I expect quality construction, or at least a sturdy belt clip. I would not feel comfortable attaching the Photo Finder to my backpack on hikes.

    – The screen is quite difficult to read, especially in bright sunlight. Major, major negative.

    – Windows XP SP2 recognized the ATP Photo Finder as a flash drive when attached by USB. The GPS data appears as text files organized by date. Recent files contain garbled characters, indicating a serious hardware or software error.

    – The ATP website (www.atpinc.com) provides no link to technical support or product registration. The product box lists support@atpinc.com as the sole method to reach support. I’ve sent an email explaining these technical issues and have yet to receive a reply. I will be not be surprised if I do not receive a response.

    While an excellent product in concept, the ATP Photo Finder is an amazing disappointment. I realize my unit is likely defective, but I have little confidence that a replacement unit will improve my experience. It’s unfortunate that David Pogue did not provide an accurate review of the Photo Finder in his New York Times review of the Consumer Electronics Show. Most notably, the ATP Photo Finder is cheap for its price – from the plastic casing, the buttons, the backlight and the flimsy rubber shield over the card-reader slot. I simply await return shipping labels from Costco and I likely will not reorder.

    CHAN - March 13th, 2008
  3. Hi,
    About the UTC time zone problem : there is something about this subject in ATP’s FAQ :

    Q: How Does the Photo Finder compensate for the time zone I’m taking pictures in?
    A: As your photos are geotagged, the Photo Finder will ask you to input the time zone in which your photos were taken. This will allow for your photos to maintain a correct time stamp while working with GPS GMT time.

    Can you have a try and confirm us this is true ? If I understand, it is possble to re-set the correct timezone AFTER the photos have been geocoded…

    SebaFil - March 24th, 2008
  4. SebaFil, the manual i was given didn’t mention that and I don’t recall it prompting for a time zone. I’ll have to check in a few days when I get back to my office, but I don’t recall it prompting for anything.

    Tim - March 24th, 2008
  5. SebaFil – My PhotoFinder prompted for the Time Zone after I inserted my MemoryStick. It asked for the zone as a GMT integer, i.e. -7 or +6.

    FYI: I returned my unit. I am still so disappointed with this product. I pray that future versions are better.

    CHAN - March 24th, 2008
  6. This product showed so much promise but I have to agree with CHAN. It is clunky and way to hard to operate. It takes forever to get a signal and provide the time. The UTC adds an extra step of complexity and there is no real support. Not ready for prime time.

    JimS - March 26th, 2008
  7. The reviews regarding this product are helpful because they honestly talk about the product’s shortcomings. I’ve looked into the ATP Photo Finder but based on these reviews it doesn’t seem to work properly. I have a PhotoTracker geotagging device (from Gisteq) but it also has many shortcomings. Has anyone come across a photo geo-tagging device for a point and shoot camera that actually works properly?

    Mark Mayer - April 14th, 2008
  8. I’ve just bought a photofinder.
    I putted correctly the battery in photofinder and pressed the button 3 seconds :
    – green light during few seconds but unfortunaly the light didn’t stat green and turned into red.
    Message 1 “GPS Picture Tracker – V1.6 by ATP ”
    Message 2 “GPS Picture Tracker” -Flash – 123M
    Message 3 “Acquiring GPS signal ….”
    Message 4 “GPS Picture Tracker” Power Off
    No time for acquiring GPS signal…
    I tested several times and I assumed that the battery connection is defective as precised in the description above…
    Bad news for me…

    Balcon - April 27th, 2008
  9. Hi, Balcon: I think your problem is the battery, suggest you change a couple brand new batteries.

    GaryC - May 3rd, 2008
  10. I bought the PhotoFinder from Costco for 1 month.
    It works with my SONY T9 and Canon 810. I compared it with SONY GPS-CS1, although the appearance is bigger than SONY’s, but I felt the function desgin is much better than SONY’s.
    (1) Card reader: it’s easy to use it, I never need PC and software to tag the GPS into my photos. And when we have a trip with friends, we only need ONE PhotoFinder can most people can use it.
    (2) LCD screen: Although it’s too small to read the contents, but I just need to watch the UTC time and adjust my camera. It’s not big as my Garmin Navigator but easy to carry. Always I put it on my pack. If you didn’t have correct time when you took pictures, it can’t be tagged any GPS information. So SONY can’t provide the LCD to show the time and let me refer to adjust.
    (3) All the digital camera foramt, ATP already provided a PC side revised software, you can download it from photofinder.atpinc.com/manual.html

    For my Nikon D40, it also can work but not support directly. I ask ATP why not ? They replied me the new version can support and it can upgrade the firmware.

    That’s my experience, I think PhotoFinder is a magic box.

    GaryC - May 3rd, 2008
  11. After reading above reviews, now I know that my experience is probably not just a bad unit. Mine says software version 2.0. Problems I have: (1) acquisition time is horrible, (2) screen is almost impossible to read.

    I have attempted to acquire fix more than 10 times in 5 days. Twice it was successful within 5 minutes, all other times I gave up after 10 to 15 minutes and just powered off. A few of those times I tried with my Delorme PN-20 – needless to say, it acquired at least 4 satellites in less than 2 minutes.

    This version of software prompts you for time zone when you put the memory card in – yay! Unfortunately it may be impossible for you to read the prompt due to poor display and tiny characters. Note, however, that no other trackers can even update your memory cards, so this product is miles (kilometers) ahead of others – if only it would work.

    Sadly, I’ll have to return it.

    Oh yes, like others here, I have received no reply to my emails.

    Glenn - May 7th, 2008
  12. I bought the ATP photo finder and tried it out twice now. It is version 2.0 firmware and is black and green.

    Screen is incredibly hard to read.
    Tried it w/ an Olympus 720SW (xD card) as well as a Canon G1 (CF Card).

    Mapped to Olympus and it mapped all six photo’s tom my home address where I was transfering the gps tags. But I took the pictures 6 miles away up on Mount Diablo.

    Then today I tried the Canon and took six pictures three of them in three different locations – all in Walnut Creek, CA. After mapping them and looking at the pictures in MS Pro Photo Tools application it had mapped a GPS coordinate off the coast of Guinea, Africa. All six pictures had the exact same gps coordinates too.

    The strange part is the KML files – those upload into Google earth and reflect the true location track. Very weird. I want to like this product but it isn’t intuitive and/or has issues still.

    I’ve emailed them twice and hoping for a return email or call. Else it’s back to the big box store for a return and wait for version 3…

    Clayton - May 8th, 2008
  13. I picked up the Photofinder when I bought a new camera a couple of weeks ago. What a waste of money.

    1. In NYC it took well over 30 minutes to aquire a satellite signal.
    2. It lost that signal promptly when I as much as walked under a bridge or past a tall building – hard to avoid in NYC.
    3. The screen is horrible and impossible to read.
    4. The battery compartment is flimsy, batteries are not securely held in place.
    5. It doesn’t work with RAW files. I use a Ricoh GR for street photography. I compose everything in black and white, but shoot in RAW so I can control the conversion process to b/w manually.

    My advice? Wait for something better, that is actually supported by the makers.

    Andrew - May 22nd, 2008
  14. I recently received a sample of the latest version from ATP. Many of the issues described have been taken care of. You just need to follow the directions and set the time zone on the unit.

    Tim - May 28th, 2008
  15. Update to my comment (#12)after using the device.

    I’ve spoken with two of the ATP team in Sunnyvale and they cross shipped me a replacement with upgraded software to address an issue I was having. I tried the unit this weeken up in Tahoe and it seemed to work ok.

    Given the size and what this unit does I think it is pretty cool. It certainly needs some additional tweeks to make it easier to use, but the team at ATP seems eager to get it right as evidenced by their willingness to cross ship me a replacement.

    I’m going to keep the unit and use it as I’m a gadget guy and hopefully they will continue to update/upgrade the firmware and make those updates available to their customers.

    The acquisition times didn’t strike me as any longer than other GPS devices – a cold acquisition in a new location can take time, particularly if you aren’t out in clear view of the sky. Mine initially took awhile in Tahoe, but the rest of the weekend it synched with the GPS quickly.

    My wish list for improvements would include:

    A longer period before the screen dims – mine seems to dim within seconds.

    A better screen – just can’t see it very well unless it is perfect conditions.

    A better/more intuitive UI, but perhaps there are limitations given the screen, etc.

    More intuitive display of battery life, storage used/available, etc. The lights don’t provide enough information.

    Better info on time zones and mapping to UTC. I didn’t even think about daylight savings when trying to synch until an ATP rep suggested I make that change.

    A user forum site with FAQs, etc, to support users.

    Thanks ATP. Your product has a way to go, but it does work and once you figure it out it’s pretty simple.

    Clayton - May 28th, 2008
  16. I bought the ATP as a gift back when I first heard of it around Feb 08. Finding it a Costo was a plus. I had given it to my brother-in-law who did not set it up until we met for a trip to Scotland. Once there he tried to set things and the unit began self-powering off after a few minutes. This problem became worse in quick order until it would not stay on longer than the the display of the initial start-up screen indicating the firmware version. I have since returned it as defective and was planning on just getting another one, figuring I just got a lemon. However, after reading these other posts, I think there are serious flaws in the circuitry or design of the unit. My unit was green with a white end-cap at the top. I don’t recall the firmware version, but it must have been a fairly early one. I think I’ll have to find something else for the time being. If anyone gets one of these to really work reliably let us know.

    Fred - June 2nd, 2008
  17. This is the worse device I have purchased in over five years. I have a podcast with thousands of viewers and my review of this unit will be terrible. It did not work with a SanDisk 4.GB card, it did not work with an eye – fi, it did not work with a Samsung NV11 or a Nikon D70. The display is impossible not hard to read. I am returning it to Adorama for a refund and if I don’t’ get that , I will be pursuing this further with the company. I wanted to love this unit and recommend it to the thousands of people who hear my podcast. I simply can’t do either.

    Victor - June 4th, 2008
  18. Bought the unit to use on motorcycle trips I wish I had read this review BEFORE hand! I tried several ways to make it work, but every bad thing posted above happened. I’m 56 and don’t yet need glasses, but trying to use and read the product was all but IMPOSSIBLE in daylight. I took it to Big Bear lake this weekend for one last try. The unit could see the pictures on my memory card but kept reporting a “failure” to tag them. GREAT idea TERRIBLE execution. I’m returning the unit and looking elsewhere.

    Ken B - June 8th, 2008
  19. Can anyone confirm that this really doesn’t work with RAW (I shoot Canon)? This would be a huge disadvantage, but I don’t see that noted anywhere else.

    Bob - July 8th, 2008
  20. It does NOT work with RAW at all. I sent mine back

    Victor - July 8th, 2008
  21. Now I am really glad! After reading all previous comments I am happy to see that it is not me! I purchased my Photo Finder about 2 months back and used it extensively in Iceland, Middle East, Africa and Europe. Beside all the unprofessional hardware like the unreadable display, I did not manage to record one single day without mishaps. Very often the data recorded is corrupt and cannot be read by XP, Mac or Vista. It happens on a regular basis that in a Log-File a few minutes are recorded correctly and then the device obviously writes some corrupt data which destroyes the whole file or – if checked with a file checker – deletes everything behind the corrupt data. The software provided on the ATP homepage is a joke for itself: it crashes every now and then and is far away from being reliable. Because of my camera I cannot syncronise directly and therefore I need a software. Meanwhile I have found GeoSetter, a freeware which really deserves the name software.
    I have already sent my ATP Photo Finder back to the company where I bought it, but they refused to take it back up to now. But I will not give up. ATP Photo Finder is only a waste of money!!

    Hans - July 16th, 2008
  22. Can you tell me please where can I purchase the APT Photofinder in My city Milano italy?

    Paolo Bellini - October 28th, 2008
  23. This device will not tag pics on an SD card from a Nikon D60, even though the web site claims that is a compatible camera.
    The device turns itself off randomly so all my trips are incomplete and in sections.
    Sometimes the device will not turn off at all until I remove the battery.
    Battery life is less than claimed.
    The small screen uses a dark gray on black font and is unreadable in anything but a dark room.
    The data shown is lat/long, it apparently does not calculate elevation.
    The ‘work-around’ software hangs my system.
    Even when the device is stationary, it shows that it is moving up to 200 yards in all directions, randomly. This level of inaccuracy is not acceptable.
    The waypoints it shows in Google Earth have incorrect time stamps – possibly a bug when dealing with daylight savings time?
    There is no tech support contact on the web site – just a useless FAQ.
    I have had no response to my emails to the company.

    I returned the device for a refund. As other comments said, good idea, terrible execution.

    Michael - November 2nd, 2008
  24. Wouldn’t you accomplish the same thing if you had an exsisting GPS device, and just look at that and log the coordinates of each photo? seems like a waste of money to me. Just an opinion though.

    Ryan - March 10th, 2009
    • You could… the idea of products like this is that it is automatic and embeds the information into the picture’s meta data itself. So it saves time and work… when it works.

      Tim - March 10th, 2009
  25. Fisher Price My first GPS Design….
    NO Quality Control on product at all…. what are the guys doing the reviews on this thing smoking?

    Wow what a piece of junk. Just ordered unit from costo. First thing I noticed was the battery contacts mounted off center in the battery compartement making contact with the – side of the battery impossible. Obvious quality control problem (or complete lack of it) since a quick Power on test at the factory would have found it. Then the unit comes up with the “GPS Error Power down 3 secs” message and powers itself off. 100% failure right out of the box… Nice. Can’t believe Costco carries this junk.

    Caribiner is 100% lightweight plastic (not lightweight in term of composite material or carbon fiber) I mean really light weight. For the $ I expected it to be plastic, but not that low of quality. If you buy this picture a couple of guys assembling this in a garage (in Twain somewhere) and you get the idea. Screen is super tiny.

    Agree with other posters. Idea is good design could be, but executed very poorly.

    Doug - April 3rd, 2009
  26. This unit worked great with my old IXUS 400 but now that I have a new camera an Olympus u1030sw, the geotracker no longer seems able to geocode my files. What a pisser as with my old camera it worked very well. Also a bit dissappointing that I bought this because it was Mac compatible but now I see that the in computer solution is only for PC. That doesn’t seem very compatible to me.
    Any suggestions would be most welcomed.

    Thanks,
    Jim

    Jim Bowes - April 5th, 2009
  27. Thank to everyone who posted comments here – you have saved me much grief.
    I will look at the Nikon P6000 with built-in GPS.

    Regards
    RB

    Roger - September 7th, 2009
  28. Just purchased my Photo Finder pro on the WEB and if I had read this before… This product simply does not work. I use a Sealife DC1000 camera, I tried 4Gb Sandisk media and 8 Gb Practika media to no results. The unit powers on, I give it the time zone it gets satelite info and when comes the time to tag the photos it simply does not do it. The screen tells me it’s taging the photos but when I take the media to my Imac with Iphoto 09, the picture does not have geotaging as part of the metadata. Wast of money!

    Rick - December 15th, 2009
    • It is such a shame that this product works so poorly. I bought two of these units for my company but after a few months of struggle (I had to take the photo off my the disk I had in my new Olympus and copy them onto the older disk from my Ixus 400 and it still gave me problems) that I have stuck them in the closet never to be used again. I would not even sell them as I would feel badly for whoever I sold my problems to. I now use a Garmin 550 which does not take great pictures but embeds the GPS coordinates directly into the photos saving me a huge amount of time and hassle. Sorry Foto finder – great idea but your technology just lets you and all of your customers that fork our in my case 100 euros a pieced down. I give this product a thumbs down.

      Jim Bowes - December 16th, 2009



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