Even from a Distance – the Leica DISTO™ D510 is a Good Measure
Now and then I take out my example of the Original DISTO™ I tested way back then in 2001 (?) and just sit back and think how exponentially the development of electronics has taken place. What was then a cutting-edge but quite large device, that took up all of one hand and took accurate, but limited straight-line measurements has become a sylph-like creation that has not only been on diet to reduce its weight and size, but is now capable of measuring modes you only dreamt of and has “connectivity” as well.
In short, the new DISTO™ 510 is just astonishing and at first, I didn’t really know where to start on exploring the kinds of tasks that this new DISTO™ is capable of.
What I do know is that Leica Geosystems’ product development teams have been working on various incarnations of the DISTO™ Range for some years now and each time a new DISTO™ has emerged onto the market it has been smaller, smarter and better specified than the previous one. This has meant that Leica Geosystems has remained ahead of the competition by some distance (pun intended) and has effectively been the market leader for quality laser measuring devices.
The new DISTO™ D510 has a smart red and black livery that is as sharp as a new City Boy’s suit. All the main edges are protected by a black rubberized overmould and the keyboard has just 12 buttons to input all the functions.
The battery housing is underneath and a lockable lid opens to reveal the space for two standard AA batteries. Also underneath is the standard tripod socket screw and a fold-down multi-purpose bracket to enable the DISTO™ to be base-lined against a flat surface, among other things, for more accurate measurements.
While more complicated functions of the DISTO™ might take a little while to learn, the basic distance, square and cubed measurements that are most used by builders and surveyors are very easy to select. Once the “On” button is pushed and the icons appear on the colour screen, you can use the arrow keys to select the icon you need and start measuring. Very accurate measurements are only really limited by the operator’s own skill since the DISTO™ has an accuracy rating of +- 1mm. The greatest problem I have in making measurements is holding the DISTO™ still, which is why a tripod is often the best way forward. (also, investigate maximum/minimum measuring mode as this will help to get better results)
To start using the more complicated measurement functions you will need to load the CD-Rom that comes in the box onto your computer and read the further instructions. Frankly, I like the idea of the CD-Rom because I can choose exactly what language I need and proceed without having the usual diagram at the front of the booklet and the inevitable shuttle backwards and forwards between the diagram and the 27 languages in the manual. The instructions are clear and to the point, with clear step-by-step diagrams to illustrate the various measuring modes. With some care and time to experiment, there is no reason why any user couldn’t make full use of all the capability of the DISTO™ D510. It really is all there at your fingertips.
One of the modes that fascinates me is the ability of the DISTO™ to find the height of buildings or trees. Clearly, this is a valuable mode, since it obviates the need to physically climb a scaffolding and measure with a tape. A real Health and Safety hurrah.
It works on other things too. Despite the fact that a tree is a non-reflective surface, by aiming at the base of the tree to take the first reading and then the angle/height tracking mode takes over as you point the laser towards the top of the tree. The DISTO™ will then display the height of the tree on the screen as you go. This is made possible by the Pointfinder Function – basically the colour viewscreen on the DISTO™. This displays a picture of the target and has up to a 4x zoom function so that the target is actually seen on the crosshairs on the screen and therefore does not rely on the laser’s reflection for accurate measurement.
Builders and trades who lay out industrial buildings may also like the stakeout function that enables users to lay out repeated intervals to a set pattern. The DISTO™ will manage two different distances as required and all the user has to do is move the DISTO™ along the stakeout line until the device beeps at the required points.
Bearing in mind that the laser can measure up to 200 metres distance, the long range mode needs to be dialed in to measure longer distances in ambient light conditions that may affect the reflectivity of the laser. Again, this shows that the Leica engineers have basically thought of just about everything that surveyors and builders need and included it into the DISTO™ D510.
There are at least ten more functions that I haven’t mentioned that I don’t have space to include. But I do need to include the fact that the DISTO™ D510 is specified to IP65 weather and dust protection. This means that it would cope easily with dusty conditions on a building site and also with jetted water.
In the connected age we have come to expect that our electronic devices will speak to each other. The DISTO™ D510 is no exception. By activating the Bluetooth function, collected data can be sent to a smartphone, tablet or laptop. From there it is but a short step to entering the data into a database, sorting it into a meaningful format and transmitting it to a client or back to the office. This is genuinely smart working practice that has many implications for productivity for all the trades and professions from builders to estate agents and surveyors. So, although the DISTO™ D510 costs about £400 plus the VAT, when you take into account the cost of car journeys, trips into the office and dragging a tape measure around and just the sheer amount of time saved in taking the measurements in the first place, it is clear that the Disto will pay for itself in a jiffy. And it is just great fun to use too…