I’ve had it for quite a while and love it: a new and improved of my original GPS design for my D200. This time it’s smaller, practical and easy; just mount it on the flash shoe, plug it in to the 10-pin connector and turn it on! Within no time at all GPS coordinates will be flowing into the camera.
This version eliminates the need for the expensive MC-35 and even the special 10-pin connector. I’ve opted for a quick GPS receiver and encased everything in a small black box with a flash shoe mount. Because it is powered through the camera’s power source, a switch on the side of the box turns off the GPS. Version 3 should include a battery, rechargeable through a USB connection.
Read on for directions on how to create your own GPS.
- 4.7Kohm resistor (x 2)
- 10Kohm resistor
- 2.2Kohm resistor
- NPN Transistor
- IC PC Board
- SPST Micromini Toggle Switch
- 3x2x1″ Project Enclosure Box
- USGloblSat EM-406A GPS
- Remote Cord for Nikon D200 – find a cheap (<$10) one on eBay
- Small cable ties
- Velcro with a sticky mount
- Epoxy stick
- Soldering iron & solder
- Wire cutters
- Needlenose pliers
- Exacto knife
It’s quite a simple project; just four resistors, a capacitor, the GPS, a switch and some soldering. The goal is to make it tight so it fits in a small enclosure that can be mounted on the camera. I prefer to do a dry run without any soldering to see how it all fits together; I would suggest you do the same.
Although I have used this successfully with my camera, I cannot guarantee that it will not harm your camera, even if all directions are followed exactly. By constructing this GPS following these directions (or even using them as a basis for your own project), you do so at your own risk and agree to hold me harmless from any damage done to your camera.
The wiring diagram depicted above is the top view of the PC board. My handwriting shows four resistors (r1, r2, r3, r4), a transistor (with emitter, base, and common leads), Red, Black, and White wires, and the six leads to the GPS (number 1 through 6).
- R1 – 4.7K ohm
- R2 – 10K ohm
- R3 – 2.2K ohm
- R4 – 4.7K ohm
Attach a wire (preferably red) between the PC board and the switch. This will be used to cut off power to the GPS.
Cut the switch off of the cheap remote cord to expose the measly three wires in it. If you happen to have a 10 pin connector with ten wires then you will have to do things a bit differently.
Attach the red wire to the other terminal of the switch. Note the picture depicts a SPDT switch and has an additional terminal. You can choose to leave the switch out as it is a bit obtrusive on the box but doing so will keep the camera active and drain the battery quickly. Alternative, you may prefer a switch with a lower profile such as a slide switch.
Attach the black and white wires to the PC board. The location of the white is depicted with a “w” in the wiring diagram although the picture should help to clear up where it goes.
Attach the black wires, numbered 1 through 6 to the locations on the PC board. Wire 3 is connected to the emitter and wire 6 to common of the transistor. The other four wires should be readable.
Solder the connections on the underside of the PC board, if you haven’t done so already. I like to fit everything together first and when I’m happy, do the soldering and then snip the extra wire. You can see from the image that I am not an expert solderer; just make sure that the solder does not stray.
Attach the GPS to the PC board using velcro, connecting the white 6-pin connector to it.
Wrap a wire tie around the wire and through a hole in the PC board, make a tight connection to provide strain relief. This is a very important step because if it is not done, one tug on that wire will disconnect something on the PC board making the GPS inoperative.
The device is finally beginning to take a recognizable shape!
Create two holes on the long side of the enclose, one to fit the wire through and the other to hold the switch. Make the hole for the switch the size specified for the switch. Remember both the switch and wire will be on the same side as the 10-pin connector on the Nikon body with the switch to the front of the box. If the holes will be different sizes, pay careful attention to where the holes are made.
Carefully insert the PC board, wire, and switch into the enclosure. It should fit in there tight. Make sure to secure it to the box if there is anything loose. You can screw the top cover onto the enclosure; we are almost done!
This is the tricky part: making the connector. With an exacto knife, strip off the rubber on the 10-pin connector of the cheap remote cord. The goal is to get the plastic piece with the 10 holes and three pins. With patience, the rubber can all be removed and the pins extracted. The pins must be located in different holes than their original location. You’ll want to cut the wire to a size that would ultimately fit between the enclosure and the camera with just a little bit of slack.
- White wire – pin 1 (receive)
- Red wire – pin 3 (power)
- Black wire – pin 7 (power ground)
You’ll want to hook GPS power to pin 3 on the camera which always has +5V while the camera is active; note that by keeping the GPS on, this pin will continue to have a +5V supply as receiving the NMEA data keeps the camera active. Using pin 2 to power would keep the power to the GPS flowing even while the camera is off and this would be sure to drain your battery quickly.
It takes a bit of patience and luck to extract the pins, clean them, reinsert in the correct location and solder the wires to the pins. Be careful as the pins are often numbered looking into the connector although you will be soldering on the outside of the connector.
Once you have confirmed everything is correct, plug it into your camera and turn the camera on, making sure the switch on the box is in the on position. You should start to see the flashing GPS symbol on the display of the camera within a few seconds. If you don’t, turn off the camera and disconnect the connector and recheck your work. After a bit, the GPS symbol will stop flashing and will be solid (you may need to have a clear view of the sky for a lock to be made). At this point all we need are a few finishing touches.
Carefully disconnect the module from the camera. To make the connector secure, fashion some epoxy in the shape of an elbow connector around the bare wires and the 10-pin connector making sure to secure the pins in the connector. Make certain to leave enough room on the connector to plug it into the camera (about 1/4″). Also, make the elbow bend such that it lines up with how you want your cable to flow. Hopefully you can do a prettier job than I did!
Finally, to make the mount, fashion one out of a hot shoe adapter or take the mount from the bottom of an old, broken flash and mount it to the base of the case. This will give the GPS a place to sit while taking photos. You may need to get creative with how to attach it. The next version will need to add a flash mount on top of the GPS so we can use the GPS and flash at the same time.
Good luck! I look forward to hearing your results and would love to see pictures of your projects.