Panasonic disabling GPS in their cameras to please China
GPS may not work in China or in the border regions of countries neighboring China. Depending on the locations, it may not be possible to correctly receive the signals from GPS satellites. In such cases, positioning may not be possible, or a significant positioning discrepancy may occur. Information measured on this unit is only a rough indication. Do not use it for technical purposes.
Now I’ve been scratching my head ever since trying to figure out why this is. GPS works in China; after all, it is a GLOBAL positioning system. I haven’t heard anything leading me to believe that there is country-wide jamming. And as far as I know, the Chinese haven’t started levying tariffs on non-Beidou compatible products, like the Russians did to jumpstart the GLONASS market. Maps often have huge errors in China, but that wouldn’t give you imprecise coordinates. In a back and forth conversation on Twitter yesterday, Stefan Geens suggested that they may just be trying to get around the fact that mapping requires a license, and that perhaps the Chinese equate geotagging to mapping. This is the most plausible explanation I’ve heard, although at least one other brand does seem to work in China…
The GPS in my Lumix camera is disabled when in China. The camera gives an information message that it disables the GPS while in China. i was pleasantly surprised that Nikon does not disable the GPS in China but places some limitations on its use. The locations using the GPS in China seem to be off by about 500 ft to the west. In addition, the map function does not work in China and there are not location points for China in the database. (Via NikonUSA)
It turns out that geotagging is indeed illegal in China, and Nikon either isn’t in compliance or has found another way to deal with the situation (perhaps by generating an offset error). Clearly though, the Chinese haven’t banned the use of cell phones with GPS, which are quite capable of geotagging, though you may want to be careful where you go with them.
Finally, despite reaching out to Panasonic, I still don’t have a definitive answer on all this. It does seem clear that they are intentionally disabling the GPS in their cameras to satisfy the Chinese, but what’s posted on their website is deceptive and dumbed down:
Image via @ogleearth