Reviewing the Merax GPS Logger

I’ve been using the Merax Photo Finder for over a year now as my geotagging solution. There are some minor annoyances, but overall I’m quite happy with it.

Don’t be confused…
It’s a GPS logger, not a navigational system. Its only job is to know where it is and where it has been. It has no idea about waypoints or how to get back to your car. From time to time people asking me about it will hear GPS and say something like “Oh, so at least we won’t get lost!” to which the response is something like “No. This just gives the news networks something interesting to show while they’re talking about where the bodies were found.”

How does it geocode photos?
It doesn’t. When you get back to your computer a piece of software looks at the timestamp on your picture and looks up your Lat/Long for that time in the GPS log and assumes that the logger and the camera were in the same place at the same time.

Pros:

  • Very easy to log data. – Just turn it on a wait a few seconds until the lady’s voice tells you she’s tracking satellites. Nothing else to it.
  • Small. – I hang mine from the top of my backpack when hiking/biking or pack it in a small waterproof container for kayaking/snorkeling.
  • Good reception. – The Merax picks up very well. The most common signal loss I’ve had with it has been when on steep mountains with high terrain above blocking a large portion of sky (and thus the signal from some of the sats.)
  • Long battery life. – I’ve never outlasted the battery on this thing. It goes into low power mode when it senses it hasn’t moved in a while and wakes up again when moved. The battery is rechargeable via USB.
  • Not just for photography. – In fact, it’s not really FOR photography either. It just logs GPS data so you can use it for whatever you like. I enjoy taking it on hikes and later using the log file to plot lines on Google Maps to share with friends.

Cons:

  • Old, not so friendly interface. – It really feels like the software was an afterthought. More likely it’s a poorly thrown together attempt to pretend that this logger is all about photography. I could go on and on about how poor the software is. However, I only use the software for configuring the unit and downloading the logs so for the most part I avoid the headache. (I recently had an email from a reader who had lost his copy of the merax software. He was finally able to get through to Gisteq support an download a copy from them.)
  • Not well documented. – If you decide to configure the Merax to work in a manner other than how it came from the factory you’d better be a self-reliant geek. The documentation is spartan to say the least and their website is no use at all.
  • Software reliant. – It would be nice if you could read the Merax as a flash drive and just copy the logs off directly. Too bad. If you want the logs you’ll need to use their terrible software or again dive into the land of geekdom and possibly hack together something on your own. Good luck with that.


Conclusion

If you’re looking for a simple, solid logger and don’t mind a few extra steps in your workflow, the Merax Photo Finder may be the one for you. If you don’t know what a com port is you might be happier with something else.

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7 Responses to Reviewing the Merax GPS Logger

  1. Mark says:

    I am just starting to mess with geocoding and just got this unit today. What software do you use after you download the logs from this unit?

  2. jon says:

    Hey Mark,

    For writing the geodata to my RAW images I’ve been using a program called GeoSetter (http://www.geosetter.de/en/). It’s free (he accepts donations if you find it useful) and works well enough once you get it set up. I’m hoping that someday Adobe will add a real geocoding solution into LightRoom.

    Thanks for the question!

  3. Rob says:

    Hey Jon,
    You mentioned that the batter life was good and you hadn’t had any troubles ‘outlasting’ the battery. Can you give me an idea of how long that has been? Are you talking day trips, a long weekend, or as long as a week?

    I’m looking for something that would be good for at least 5 days.

    Thanks

  4. jon says:

    Heya Rob!

    A few trips ago I forgot the USB cable so I wasn’t able to recharge it. I think it lasted me about 7 days of use (probably 5-8 hours of logging every day) and that’s on a many year old unit. I feel pretty confident saying that it’ll easily last you ~40 hours of full on logging use (and a new one probably longer.) If you’re going to be away from power, you could always look into a solar charger with USB output. :)

    Jon

  5. Rob says:

    Thanks Jon, Sounds like it’s worth a try and should at least get me through some long weekend trips.

  6. Francisco says:

    Hello Jon,
    I wonder if Merax subject is still valid…!
    I’m not using my Merax since 2009 and now Google seems to have changed something on the API side so the software woks fine except it does not accept the API key that I get from Google. Do you have an idea of what changes I have to do?

    Thanks

  7. jon says:

    Hmm. Not sure. I haven’t used mine in forever either. I imagine that product’s life span is over (the software side, at least.) I’ve had success using the log files the tracker generates with a software product called GeoSetter, but that’s been a while as well…

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