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Garmin Oregon 550t Promises Hi-Res Topo Mapping Display, Touchscreen, and Integrated 3.2MP Camera

While GPS units are getting bigger and heavier, at least they are also becoming more functional. The Garmin Oregon 550t integrates 100k topo maps, a hi-res display, and a 3.2MP digital camera.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2009-05-07 10:54:00-06

Garmin Oregon 550t Promises Hi-Res Topo Mapping Display, Touchscreen, and Integrated 3.2MP Camera

The Skinny

  • User controls: Touchscreen
  • Camera resolution: 3.2MP with 4X digital zoom and geotagging capability, direct integration with Picasa
  • Compass type: 3-axis
  • Internal memory: 850mb (Micro SD card accepted for additional storage)
  • Topo Maps: U.S. 100k preloaded, with 3D capability, 24k maps available
  • Battery Type: NiMH (rechargeable), 16-hr battery life
  • Altimeter: Yes, barometric
  • Weight: 6.8 oz

Commentary

You may want to read the press release below, then scroll back up here for the commentary.

I've all but given up hope for a GPS that provided the minimal weight, battery life, tiny form factor, and basic functionality of the Geko 301.

So while I was intrigued by the Garmin Colorado 400t Review we published last year, I couldn't get terribly excited. Poor battery life, a less-than-bright-enough screen, lack of pre-loaded topo maps, and yet another change in user interface (the addition of a rocker wheel and button) couldn't capture my attention enough to upgrade from my smallish lightweight HCx, or, of course, my favorite and the one I use the most, my Geko 301.

The Garmin Oregon 550t may change that, but I'll reserve judgment until we get our hands on them.

I do like the prospect of longer battery life, a slight reduction in weight from the Colorado 400t, preloaded 100k topo maps for the entire U.S., and the additional of a digital camera.

Now, being sort of a camera snob, I don't have high hopes for the quality of the digital camera included with the Oregon 550t. However, the fact that it is integrated is pretty appealing to me, since I do a lot of day tripping via foot and packraft, especially to new and unknown areas. The idea of being able to grab a GPS like this, a jacket, and some food, without fear of not having a map or camera with me for documentation of the trip, is a seductive one.

For backcountry use, however, it gets sketchier. I'm not at the point where I can justify a 6.8 oz weight penalty in order to simplify navigation.

However, for complex navigation, where I may be spending inordinate amounts of time pinpointing particular spots, the Garmin Oregon 500t offers an attractive solution for me. I can envision using it to pinpoint a packrafting take-out on a nondescript river, when I'm trying to bushwhack as little as possible to a nearby trail. Or, when I'm trying to reach the entrance to a slot canyon from a high mesa. Or, when I'm trying to get over and the right pass or notch when on a winter traverse.

So, once I filter my GPS needs and wants through my own personal lens, what screams out to me about the Oregon 550t is not only its camera as a utility tool for journaling and documenting a trip, I'm eager to enjoy its usability, and specifically, its touchscreen. I can't imagine an application that is more suitable for touchscreen use than a GPS. Since the iPod Touch was introduced, I think a lot of folks have been patiently waiting for a true touchscreen GPS. I can only hope Garmin delivers and capitalizes on touchscreen usability, so we're not fiddling around learning the touchscreen at the expense of simply releasing trendy technology.

However, Garmin has a track record for well-researched, thoughtful, and usable products... so I am cautiously optimistic.

Manufacturer's Press Release

Picture perfect: Garmin® Oregon® 550 with built-in camera offers touchscreen GPS for all seasons, all reasons.

OLATHE, Kan./May 7, 2009/Business Wire — Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), the global leader in satellite navigation, today announced the Oregon 550 and Oregon 550t touchscreen handheld GPS devices, integrating a 3.2 megapixel digital camera, which creates geotagged images, and a 3-axis compass into the popular series of intuitive touchscreen handhelds. The waterproof Oregon 550’s easy-to-use interface and versatile features make it the ideal solution for customers looking for a multipurpose GPS device.

“As everyone looks for ways to do more with less, Oregon 550 and Oregon 550t can be the one GPS device you turn to for all of your activities, in any climate, on any terrain, at any time of year,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “Easy enough for beginners to master, Oregon will guide you in your adventures, capture the highlights and bring them back home.”

There’s no need to tote a separate camera in your pack or pocket, as Oregon 550's 3.2 megapixel autofocus digital camera with 4x digital zoom automatically geotags each photo with the location of where it was taken, allowing you to mark, remember and navigate back to that exact spot in the future. With this waterproof digital camera, you can take and view pictures in landscape or portrait orientation, and 850 MB of internal memory offers ample storage. These pictures can then be printed or stored and shared online, making every trip even more memorable. Once your Oregon 550 is connected via USB, you can use my.Garmin.com to detect Oregon’s photos, simplify the selection and uploading processes and then store those photos on Picasa, a popular online photo sharing community for friends and families around the world.

The built-in 3-axis compass and enhanced sunlight-readable touchscreen are two other key additions to the Oregon 550 and Oregon 550t (which features preloaded 100K topo maps for the entire U.S. in state-of-the-art 3D elevation perspective). The 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass shows your heading even when you’re standing still, without holding it level. And Oregon’s glove-friendly, color 3-inch touchscreen display is brighter and easier than ever to read and use in all conditions, responsive to the touch of your finger, yet resistant to the forces of nature. Weighing only 6.8 ounces, the Oregon 550 and Oregon 550t come with two precharged AA NiMH batteries. These batteries provide up to 16 hours of life on a single charge and don’t lose energy when not in use. The included battery charger saves you money and reduces waste as batteries get recharged and reused. Also in the box is a carabiner clip and USB cable for high-speed USB connections. A microSD card slot provides even more storage for photos, mapping and memory and allows you to view pictures from other devices with Oregon's picture viewer.

Highlighting its versatility, Oregon lets you customize five profiles — automotive, marine, recreation, fitness or geocaching — making the most useful features the easiest to access through shortcuts.

On the trail: With its high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and HotFix™ satellite prediction, Oregon 550 locates your position quickly and precisely and maintains its GPS location even in heavy cover and deep canyons. And you can store up to 2,000 waypoints, 200 routes, 5,000 geocaches and a tracklog of up to 10,000 points and 200 saved tracks. On the mountain: The built-in barometric altimeter tracks changes in pressure to pinpoint your precise altitude, and you can keep an eye on changing weather conditions by plotting pressure over time. On vacation: Explore with confidence, thanks to the detailed U.S. topographic maps preloaded in the 550t or the worldwide shaded relief basemap in the 550. On a mission: The simple-to-use touchscreen interface makes it easy to navigate efficiently and tackle your task quickly. In a group: With Oregon 550, you can share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches wirelessly other Oregon and Colorado users. Out geocaching: Go paperless with Oregon, which can store up to 5,000 caches, by quickly downloading cache information from Geocaching.com. Oregon stores and displays key information such as location, terrain, difficulty, hints and description, so that you don’t have to tote printouts with you. (And lucky geocachers may even stumble upon a limited-edition Oregon geocoin.)

And Oregon does the work of several devices, just by adding various accessories to suit your activity or optional MapSource® microSD cards preloaded with detailed maps.

On the road: Optional City Navigator mapping provides detailed street maps, millions of preloaded points of interest and onscreen turn-by-turn directions to your destination, and an optional Auto Nav kit adds a suction mount and car charger. On a hunt or on a hike: Using a separate TOPO U.S. 24K DVD or microSD card brings you the highest level of topographic detail available, with maps comparable to 1:24,000 scale USGS maps, featuring terrain contours, topo elevations, summits, routable roads and trails, parks, coastlines, rivers, lakes and geographical points. On the water: Add BlueChart® g2 maps, which provide everything you need for a great day on the water, including depth contours, navaids and harbors. On the run or on a bike: Ideal for a trail workout, the lightweight Oregon is compatible with Garmin’s heart-rate monitors and speed/cadence sensors, and an optional handlebar mount makes it easy to track your speed, distance, elevation and location.

And wherever you are, whatever you’re doing and whomever you’re with, you’ll always have Oregon 550’s built-in camera to capture the moment, record the location and share the memories.

Oregon 550 and Oregon 550t are the latest breakthroughs from Garmin, which has spent 20 years using technology and innovation to enhance users’ lives, making Garmin a household name in the automotive, aviation, marine, wireless, outdoor and fitness industries. For more about features, pricing and availability, as well as information about Garmin’s other products and services, go to www.garmin.com, www.garmin.blogs.com and http://twitter.com/jakesjournal.


Citation

"Garmin Oregon 550t Promises Hi-Res Topo Mapping Display, Touchscreen, and Integrated 3.2MP Camera," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/garmin_oregon_500t_gps.html, 2009-05-07 10:54:00-06.

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Garmin Oregon 500t Promises Hi-Res Topo Mapping Display, Touchscreen, and Integrated 3.2MP Camera
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Garmin Oregon 500t Promises Hi-Res Topo Mapping Display, Touchscreen, and Integrated 3.2MP Camera on 05/07/2009 11:32:48 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Garmin Oregon 500t Promises Hi-Res Topo Mapping Display, Touchscreen, and Integrated 3.2MP Camera

KEN LARSON
(KENLARSON) - MLife

Locale: Western Michigan
Update Issues on 05/08/2009 10:37:13 MDT Print View

I purchased an Oregon 400t November 2008. Since my purchase there have been nine (9) Software Updates starting 8Dec08 (Software Version2.70) and the last one was 30April09 (Software Version 2.97BETA). If this is any indication on what you can expect from the Oregon 500 Series I would think twice before purchasing a device until 90% of the glitches are corrected. It seems to me Garmin’s Quality Control(QC) team is pushed to the limit with the early introduction of the Oregon 400t and is relying on the individuals who purchased these devices to act as "in the field QC department". To keep up the changes of the Oregon 400t check out http://www.gpsfix.net

Edited by KENLARSON on 05/08/2009 10:38:52 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Colorado "old hat"?? on 05/08/2009 20:00:05 MDT Print View

I own a Colorado 300 W/ a Scan Ultra II(gold contacts) Disk 4 GB card. For some reason I can load only from the west coast to the Mississippi for the continental U.S maps even though the card has a 2.5 GB more storage available. Explain that one Germin.

I like my Colorado's great antenna in dense forest cover and canyons. My friend's Oregon didn't quite have the antenna capability of my Colorado. I could get signals when he often couldn't. But I wish my GPS had better battery life.

But, alas, the Colorado has been superceded by the Oregon. "Science" marches on.

Eric

Jørgen Taxt Walnum
(jtwalnum) - M
Re: Update Issues on 05/11/2009 07:30:08 MDT Print View

Ken: Are the software updates free and easily avaliable, or do you have to buy them from Garmin?
As long as there are just software updates coming, I certanly would not worry about it, new updates is a good thing :D
If on the other hand the updates only come on the newest version, and/ or you have to buy them I totally agree with you.

KEN LARSON
(KENLARSON) - MLife

Locale: Western Michigan
Update Issues on 05/13/2009 04:50:05 MDT Print View

Jorgen……All updates for the Oregon 400t are free from Garmin and you update them with a Garmin Program called “Updater”. Some of the 9 updates I alluded to were critical to the accuracy of the instrument while others were new additions. Update information is not sent to you either by mail or email.

When you purchase a “new” instrument it is wise to check your GPS for the Software Version to Garmins web site and using the Updater to download the most recent Software Version.

Edited by KENLARSON on 05/13/2009 04:57:30 MDT.