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I do a ton of mapping from a motorcycle or car shooting photos of POIs as I go. Later I correlate my photos and my GPS track to help me add what I saw to OSM. Because this practice is unsafe I'm looking for a better way to capture still photos as I drive along. I'm hoping that with a suitably configured Go Pro I could point my head at a road sign or other POI and capture usable images that I can geolocate later inside JOSM. If one can set the Go Pro to shoot a still image every 2 or 3 seconds it might prove to be a workable alternative. Of course the image quality might not be high enough for this use. I'd hate to spend $3-400 on one only to find that it won't do the job.

Does anybody out there have experience using a Go Pro this way?

asked 10 Jul '15, 05:06

AlaskaDave's gravatar image

accept rate: 16%

edited 10 Jul '15, 18:29

DaCor's gravatar image


What you are going to be missing is the direction data that Mapillary requires. This article describes one way of obtaining this. You can also use a “standard” gps as Mapillary provide a tool to do this: I would check that these programs work on your computer using your current camera and GPS before investing in a GoPro. There is also an article on the Garmin Virb Elite.

These will not work for you if you're thinking of trying to pan your head to take pictures at a significant angle to your forward direction. You can manually adjust the direction using GeoSetter: but it is time consuming. I’ve tried panning a head mounted camera on a bicycle with an HD Drift in time lapse mode and it isn’t that easy to the extent I gave up. You’ll need to do it for the time lapse period to ensure you get a picture. As has already being mentioned if the shutter speed is slow (i.e. poor light or you’re travelling to fast) you will get blurred pictures. I doubt it will be very practical on a motorbike.

The cheapest option I’ve found is to invest in a second hand Canon camera (i’ve used an A810, £30-£40 on ebay) and run CHDK: There is a script you can install that will enable you to operate the camera in time lapse mode. I have mounted one of these pointing out of the passenger window (90 deg to travel direction). Up close the pictures were often blurred. Forward facing their fine and it will take better pictures in low light conditions than my smart camera given the larger lens. You can also zoom in and get rid of the dashboard if mounting it inside. You can get away with a cheap camera mount inside the car but it worth investing in a good quality one for outside. I’ve used the PanaVise 809 to mount the A810 attached to the outside of with window so the camera sits above the top of the car. Good in rural areas to see more above hedges and walls but not good for the camera if it rains!

Hopefully the above is of some help. The GoPro is a good action camera but may not be the best option for mapping.


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answered 10 Jul '15, 18:52

dud1's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

Great information, thanks.

Based on the Amanzi blog post, what I want to do is possible. He uses time-lapse photos just the way I want to do it except I'll use the much better approach of geolocating with JOSM and a GPS track from my Garmin Montana. I still cannot determine resolution quality because all his shared video data has been compressed to transfer quickly on the Internet. I wonder what the original recording and stills looked like.

I do have a small Canon point & shoot that I use now for this purpose. It works well but is hard to use while driving. The main reason for looking at GoPro cameras is to have a hands-free method of collecting data during my motorcycle tours.

Thanks again

(10 Jul '15, 22:45) AlaskaDave

You are much better off going with a Garmin Virb for this purpose. I got one for capturing images for uploading to Mapillary and picked up multiple holders for it so I often give it to people in work to capture images for me on their daily drives

The virb will write GPS & compass info to the exif data of each image so its a LOT less hassle than using a GoPro for the same purpose.

I spent a long time researching various cameras and at the time I got one (Apr this year) it was a toss up between the virb and a GoPro. IO ended up going with the Virb purely due to the ease of use for what I was going to be using it for.

Since then there is a newer version of the Virb out which looks even better than the one I picked up

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answered 10 Jul '15, 18:29

DaCor's gravatar image

accept rate: 2%

edited 10 Jul '15, 18:33

I suggest to search and view some videos made with a GoPro while driving, e.g. on youtube. This should help to determine if the video/image quality is sufficient for video mapping. I guess it will be sufficient for identifying road signs and maybe reading restaurant names but won't be sufficient for identifying most house numbers. So it will depend on what you are trying to do.

Also note that there are far cheaper cameras available that will be sufficient for reading road signs, e.g. for collecting max speed information.

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answered 10 Jul '15, 08:00

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scai ♦
accept rate: 23%

To properly read many POI names (shops, restaurants), the camera should be pointed sidewards. This will increase the moving blur you see and might make it harder to read the names. On the Dutch forum a lot of discussion is going about this type of gear. I believe they are rather successful to use it for traffic signs, placement of sidewalks, surfaces etc. You might ask them for more info in this thread -- English will do

(10 Jul '15, 12:17) escada

Thanks for the feedback. I have looked at YouTube videos but it's hard to compare their resolution with what could be had from still shots. Shooting video for a 5 or 6 hour ride isn't feasible (battery & storage limitations) so I would be shooting still photos every couple of seconds.

@iii - I'll visit those links when I get the chance.

@scai - to which other "far cheaper" cameras are you referring?

(10 Jul '15, 18:16) AlaskaDave

Dave, you can find excellent reviews of dashcams and action cams on I use a Drift HD Ghost S for mapping (3s time lapse mode, cycling) and upload the images to Mapillary (1) so other mappers can use my observations too. I add the geolocation and direction from my GPS data with Javawa's Fotogeotag which works quite easy. Compared to photo cameras, actioncams like Gopro, Drift, Sony, Garmin Virb etc have a wider angle that they can capture, are water/shockproof and often have a remote control for convenience.


(11 Jul '15, 09:30) ligfietser

@AlaskaDave "eyeCam" for example. I don't own one but according to youtube videos it will be sufficient for identifying road signs. And there are various similar cheap cameras available. The video quality of a GoPro camera will be higher of course.

(13 Jul '15, 10:26) scai ♦

So you have 2 approaches:

both have their pros and cons, so I can just recommend to give them a try. If a Gopro has a good performance might to be discussed.

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answered 10 Jul '15, 06:17

iii's gravatar image

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question asked: 10 Jul '15, 05:06

question was seen: 6,603 times

last updated: 13 Jul '15, 11:35

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum