Today’s Question: Why don’t today’s cameras have the ability to know by themselves what Time Zone they’re in via GPS? I guess that, currently, to take care of Time Zones it’s either (a) manually as you describe or (b) through a synchronization with an external GPS device. Am I correct?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I’m sure there must be some cameras that will set the time zone automatically based on GPS. However, inexplicably, the cameras I’m familiar with can update the time based on the GPS signal, but do not set the time zone for you automatically. This is simply a matter of the camera manufacturer not including such a feature on their cameras, which seems like a bit of a glaring oversight to me.
More Detail: Quite a few digital cameras include a built-in GPS receiver, or support an accessory GPS receiver. One of the features of having a GPS signal is the ability to set the correct time based on the information contained in the GPS signal. However, with the cameras I’m familiar with, this option does not adjust the time zone based on your GPS location, so you’ll still need to remember to set the time zone manually.
At the moment my primary camera, for example, is the Canon EOS 7D Mark II (https://timgrey.me/canon7d2). One of the reasons I originally opted for this camera is that it includes a built-in GPS receiver. This enables my photos to be automatically tagged with location information in metadata. Later, I can view my photos directly on the map in Lightroom Classic, for example, which I find very helpful.
Within the menu system for my camera you’ll find that you can choose to have the time on the camera automatically updated based on the GPS signal. However, when you select this option you are only updating the reference time. You can think of this as the camera updating the current Universal Coordinated Time (UCT). However, this automatic update does not include an update to the current time zone setting for the camera.
Let’s assume, for example, that I have my camera set to the Chicago time zone, but I am currently in Italy. When I choose the option to have my camera’s time updated based on GPS, the time on my camera will very accurately reflect the current time in Chicago, but my photos will be tagged with the wrong time for my current location (Italy).
I can’t imagine why it isn’t possible to have my camera automatically update the time zone setting based on my current GPS location, so that the time shown in metadata for all of my photos can be consistently accurate, provided I have a good GPS signal. After all, in general I don’t mind if the time in metadata for my photos is off by a few seconds, but I don’t want it to be off by a few hours. And since I’ve forgotten to update the time zone for my camera more times than I’d like to admit, I really wish my camera could set the time zone automatically, in addition to updating the actual time based on GPS.