Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Google Maps Satellite Imaging

Google Maps now has satellite imaging for the UK. Unfortunately, it’s not very good.

There’s two basic problems. The first is scale – the satellite imaging is not to the same scale as the maps. Horizontally they’re fine but vertically the images appear to have been shrunk – sure, you see more on the screen but it makes everything look out of proportion.

Then there’s the actually quality of the maps. You can’t zoom in nearly as far as you can on the US maps and even zoomed out the quality is rather poor – the images are quite dull and blurred.

The aerial photography offered by Multimap is much better – while it’s not quite up to the same standard as the satellite imaging offered by Google for the US it’s still an improvement. With Multimap’s photos you can actually make out individual buildings – with Google you can’t.

Update: Gah, should have done some more research. The quality of the imaging varies across the country – there are ‘pockets’ of high quality imaging in places like London and Manchester, which is up to the same standard as the US imaging and much better than that of Multimap. Unfortunately all of their Yorkshire mapping is low quality, so while you can get up close and personal with the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, Bradford is just a dull blur. Make of that what you will.


  1. The same level of detail appears to apply worldwide. Scroll over to the continent, or even to Australia and there’s satellite imagery all the way across.
    Keyhole clearly have a far better coverage of the US, but on their website they suggest there are ‘pockets’ of high-resolution imagery all over the place.
    In fact, the photos for places like Christchurch is definitely high-def, comparable to Multimap.

  2. The image quality also seems to a bit random: Out of curiosity I tried Swindon, they have high resolution for parts of north Swindon (you can see the Honda factory in a lot of detail) and a lot of fields and farmland. But the rest of it is the useless low resolution. Similar if you try Glasgow, you get a bit in the southwest and parts of the Clyde, but the centre of Glasgow is in the low resolution again.
    What’s the point of that?

  3. It’s quite amusing looking at the postcode of my old house – the middle bit is low quality with the left hand side high quality and the right hand side ultra-low quality. Edinburgh is also quite a decent comparison of the two qualities.

  4. Give them time, give them time! I’m sure that in time (when they get some nice data from the satelites) all regions (in the UK) will have decent zoom. The entire globe is current shown on one level. In the mean time, surf around the US. But I can’t wait… come on Google!

  5. Yeah pretty impressed. Tried the NASA version of the same thing a while back and that was painfully slow when dnloading the satellite imagery. But then, that was generating 3D renderings from the imagery.
    My home town of Warrington shows up in decent detail. Not enough to say ‘hey there’s my house’, but enough to go ‘Ooo Warrington!’ Google’ll get there eventually… good start tho.

  6. Portsmouth and Congleton where I used to live are really crap. However Dublin, Ohio is great. Keyhole is a really great program for navigating around here – looking forward to google earths release.

  7. I seem to recall attempting to look at the satellite version of Google Maps a few months ago & it was really low res. I gave up pretty quickly but I think the current version of Bradford is better resolution than it was then. Also the current hi-res stuff is in obvious blocks & they were not there last I looked so it looks pretty clear that Google is progressively adding blocks. As for the scaling, it does seem odd, if anything it seems that the satellite images were taken from the south, perhaps in an equatorial orbit?

  8. I have to agree. Multimap gives me a better view. Google’s Keyhole is no better with this.
    Unlike Keyhole I doubt this is good for sightseeing though!
    Heh look, I can see my street.