ATP Photo Finder Mini – Hands On

Now that I’ve spent a little time with the image geotagging ATP Photo Finder Mini, I thought I’d share my first impressions of the device.  I’ve actually been putting this off for a while now for one reason – the ATP Photo Finder Mini only tags JPEG images.

Even though the manual never comes out and says which kinds of image files that it supports, I contacted the company to find out.  The answer – RAW files are not supported.  Generally speaking, if I’m using a camera that supports RAW capture, I’m shooting RAW.  I finally bit the bullet and carried my Rebel XSi along with me for a day for the sole purpose of shooting JPEGs for the ATP Photo Finder Mini.

So, what’s it do?

Well, the Photo Finder (what I’ll call it for the sake of brevity) comprises of a couple main components – a GPS device and a dock.  Essentially, you carry the GPS device with you while you are shooting.  It comes with a handy little carabiner that you can fix to your belt loop or camera bag while you shoot. You don’t have to do anything different (other than shoot in JPEG) and you can really just forget about the device.

One thing you want to make sure you do is to set your camera’s internal clock correctly.  The device uses the GPS log to “tag” your photos once you plug the GPS unit and memory card into the dock.  It adds a longitude and latitude line to your EXIF metadata – now you are geotagged.

But . . .

I can only assume that the Rebel XSi is not supported by the device because I cannot open the files now that they’ve been tagged by the unit.  I tried to import to Lightroom – no luck.  I tried to open with Windows Preview – no luck.  I tried uploading directly to Flickr – no luck.

Then, I followed up with the Rebel XT’s JPEGs and it worked just fine.  I get longitude and latitude in the EXIF.  Getting this info to an actual map on Flickr, however, has proven more than my patience can handle tonight.  I’ll report back on this endeavor later.

Let me also take a moment to gripe about the clunky interface and instructions for the Photo Finder.  While the GPS device itself looks pretty cool and handy, the dock has a rather cheesy and small LCD with four buttons and a menu system that doesn’t always make sense.

I like to be able to pick a product up and use it.  I admire intuitive designs and features.  The Photo Finder is lacking sorely in this area.

If a product is not intuitive, then I require that clear and appropriate instructions explain how to use it.  Sadly, the Photo Finder fails here as well.  The instruction manual seems like an after thought, with no clear organizational intent and it has far too many typos and grammatical problems.

Again, nowhere in the manual, on the box, or elsewhere in the packaged materials can you determine that the device does not support RAW files.  Only one confusing part of the “Basic Features” even alludes to such a limitation:

The built-in SD/MMC/MS and CF card reader socket in the multi-function docking.  Mapping GPS data to JPGs without a PC environment.

I can hardly call this Feature clear on the point of file-type support.

At this point, I cannot recommend the ATP Photo Finder Mini.  This may be due to the lack of intuitive design and poorly-written manual.  In the event that I discover my disappointment is due to user error, then I’ll report back.  For now though, there have been too many complications to feel comfortable using the device – even aside from the JPEG limitation.