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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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€.
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.
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