THE BIG 3 – COMPARING BEST DIGITAL LEVELS

When a certain job requires a high-precision data considering height or elevation of some object, land surveyors turn to digital levels to do the job. In this article, I will compare the 3 top of the range digital levels from prominent land surveying equipment manufacturers. In the end, some alternatives are also presented, showing just how tough the competition is nowadays.

Digital levels

Levels (digital) usually represent a standard piece of surveyors equipment, used mainly in combination with leveling rods for determining height or height-difference between points, where at least one point must have known elevation. Below is the review of 3 digital levels from reputable surveyor equipment manufacturers, comparison table with technical data and a few alternatives, should you want something else than Leica, Trimble or Topcon.

Leica

Leica LS15 is a digital level for demanding levelling tasks on any site. It features some interesting automated functions that allow users to easily demonstrate their measuring skills while effectively completing any project. LS15 has autofocus, features a touchscreen displays, which supports color visuals and also a camera, that helps you aim at the invar (or other) rod.

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Leica LS15

Trimble

The Trimble DiNi is a field-proven digital level designed for any job site where fast and accurate height determination is required. This instrument can be used for applications such as precise leveling of flat and sloping surfaces, establishing the vertical component of grade and ground profiles, subsidence monitoring, and establishing the vertical component of control networks. It features long battery life, easy to use software and industry’s smallest measurement field of 30 cm of code rod.
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Trimble DiNi

Topcon

Topcon DL-500 series digital levels was developed to maximize work efficiency and minimize human error,providing consistent measurement precision and speed, regardless of operator skill. It incorporates cutting-edge Random-Bidirectional (RAB) coding technology and an optimized digital processing algorithm. This instrumnet works even when the staff surface is partially shaded, or in dim lighting conditions as low as 20 lux, a single button triggers measurement and the DL-500 still provides reliable results. This Topcon device also features the world’s first “Wave-and-Read” technology, that provides an additional survey style option. It allows a rod operator to wave the staff forward and back, instead of keeping the staff plumb.This simpler method is faster, easier, minimizes the fatigue and is (at least Topcon say so) as accurate.
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Topcon DL-500

Comparison table

Based on the official data from the manufacturer’s data sheets, I present you the comparison table. I compared those instruments in 9 categories, that (hopefully) represent some technical abilities and also other attributes, that may concern a typical user, such as price, weight and operating time.

table

As we can see from the comparison table, Leica and Trimble are really close with technical data of their products. Leica leads the way with the shortest measuring time and longest range, and (same as Trimble) has incredible accuracy specifications. On the other hand, it weighs the most of the 3, and is also the most expensive instrument. Topcon’s DL-502 offer a bit less accuracy than the competition, but makes up for it in the price and weight department.

Alternatives

As we know, there is always alternative instruments from other manufacturers, that may also be interesting to some people. I choose to present 2 interesting digital levels from Sokkia and Spectra precision.

Sokkia SDL1X

Sokkia made an interesting digital level, that features Intelligent Auto Focus, wireless operation – an innovative technologies are implemented for great performance and precision. Sokkia claim, that the SDL1X can reduce measurement by up to 40 percent compared to manually focused digital levels, by using it’s wireless remote trigger, that eliminates measurement errors caused by touching. Fast specs: 0.2mm for 1km double run(invar), range 1.6m-100m, measuring time 2.5s, operating time 9 hours. Price: 2,200€.

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Sokkia SDL1X

Spectra precision

This is more a simple, easy to use instrument, that can be used for different surveying tasks. It’s versatile on-board software provide consistent precision, performance and productivity, but its technical specs aren’t close to the big 3. (accuracy: 1.5mm for 1km double run/invar). But with the price of only 1,200€, it may be a good instrument for some users.

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Spectra precision Focus DL 15

What to choose…

There is quite a dilemma, if you are in a market for a digital level. Leica and Trimble represent safe-bets, but if you don’t mind using some other instrument, based on the technical data and the price factor(almost 3x cheaper than Leica), the best digital level for you is probably Sokkia SDL1X!

Sources: http://leica-geosystems.com/products/levels/digital-levels/leica-ls15-and-ls10, https://www.sccssurvey.co.uk/leica-ls15-digital-level.html, http://trl.trimble.com/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-240688/022543-327C_DiNi2007_DS_0713_LR.pdf, http://www.topconsolutions.com/site/files/1074/126715/424416/581297/DL-502-503_BROCH_7010_2062_REVA-FINAL.pdf, https://us.sokkia.com/products/levels-accessories/automatic-levels/sdl1x-digital-level
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