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Trimble S Series Total Station Comparison

Shopping for a used Trimble Robotic Total Station

In 2006 Trimble introduced us to the S6 total station. Soon after its introduction came the S8 and VX instruments with greater accuracy, longer DR range and added scanning capability. Today these phenomenal instruments have been updated and replaced with new faces, including the S3, S5, S7 and S9. The choices and combinations can seem overwhelming, so we put together a quick highlight of each instrument so you can quickly compare one versus the other, to help focus in on the instrument that's right for your application.

Trimble S6 (Version 1)Trimble S6 Product Comparison

Introduced in 2006, the Trimble S6 included Carl Zeiss optics and the latest MagDrive technology. The S6 has fewer moving parts over any of its predecessors and competitors - reducing the need for expensive servicing.

The S6 instruments were built to last. These instruments are rock-solid and extremely dependable. With current pre-owned prices ranging from $8,000 to $12,000 (originally over $25,000) these instruments have both retained their value and present a great opportunity to save!

Available in Servo, AutoLock and Robotic versions.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

MagDrive™ electro-magnetic technology with SurePoint
DR 300+ range without prism . . . >800 m *normal, 90% reflective surface
Range with single prism. . . . . . . . >2500 m (8,202 ft)

HP version has greater accuracy but reduced DR range . . . . . >150 m 90% reflective

 

Trimble S6 (Version 2)Trimble S6 Version 2 comparison

The S6 experienced a couple of upgrades around 2010, including DR Plus EDM technology and optional VISION (digital camera). DR Plus replaced DR300+ and offers extended prism-less measurement range and faster measurement times (from 3-15 seconds down to under 5 seconds.) Trimble officially stopped production of the S6 in 2015, replacing it with: S5 and S7.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

Available in Servo, AutoLock and Robotic versions.
MagDrive™ electro-magnetic technology with SurePoint
DR Plus (Range without prism) . . . . . . . >1300 m “normal, 90% reflective surface”
Range with single prism . . . . . . . . . . . . >2500 m (8,202 ft)

Notable Options:

- Locate2Protect real-time equipment monitoring
- VISION

 

Trimble S3Trimble S3 without front panel

The Trimble S3 was introduced around 2010 as a less expensive option for surveyors. There are only a few features that separate the S3 from the S6, (ver 2).

The first is the option of Active Tracking - which is the ability to track Active Prisms, such as the MT1000 and AT360 prisms.

Without the Active Tracking option enabled, the S3 will track passive prisms, so if you are surveying in large, open rural areas this is not an issue. If you have an S3 without Active Tracking, you may be able to upgrade it, though it's very expensive and not recommended. Additionally, the S3’s reflectorless measurement capability is reduced to 400 meters – which is significantly less than the 1,300-meter capability of the S6, but still a very long distance (much further than most of us can see at 30x magnification).

Other features missing in the S3 are: Bluetooth, mini-display, and integrated optical plummet (use's optics in tribrach instead).

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

Available in Servo, AutoLock and Robotic versions.
DR Standard range without prism . . . . . . . >400 m (1,313 ft) “normal, 90% reflective surface”
Range with single prism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . >2500 m (8,202 ft)

Notable Options:

- Active Tracking (Active prism tracking)

Trimble S5Trimble S5 Product Comparison

The Trimble S5 was introduced in 2015 to replaced the S3. Similar to the S3, the S5 is positioned as an economical instrument that has many optional features available which can help keep the upfront cost down.

What’s new in this fleet is - DR measurements are faster than the S6 (ver 1) and include optional VISION technology, and the Locate2Protect service.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

Available in AutoLock and Robotic versions.
DR Plus range without prism . . . . . . . >1300 m “normal, 90% reflective surface”
Range with single prism . . . . . . . . . . >2500 m (8,202 ft)

Notable Options:

- Active Tracking 

Trimble S7Trimble S7 Product Comparison

The Trimble S7 was introduced in 2015 as part of a new line up. The S7 is a direct replacement for the S6 – including multiple accuracy options as well as the latest VISION technology, Locate2Protect service, and 3D scanning as available options.

Available in Robotic versions only.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

DR Plus Range without prism . . . . >1300 m “normal, 90% reflective surface”
Range with single prism . . . . . . . . >2500 m (8,202 ft)

Standard Features

- Locate2Protect real-time equipment monitoring
- VISION
- SureScan @ 15 point per second

Trimble S8Trimble S8 Product Comparison

Originally introduced in 2007, the S8, also received some optional upgrades in 2010, including: Auto-focus, VISION, L2P, DR HP, FineLock and .05” accuracy. The S8 was focused on precision, long distance and accuracy, making it the only choice for slope stability monitoring, high-speed railway and other, super-precise applications.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

DR Plus range without prism . . . . . . . >1300 m “normal, 90% reflective surface”
Range with single prism . . . . . . . . . . . >2500 m (8,202 ft)
DR HP range with single prism . . .  . . . . . . >3000 m (9,800 ft)

Notable Options:

- Locate2Protect real-time equipment monitoring
- HP (High Precision) versions offer .05 angle accuracy, but reduced DR distance
- FineLock
- Long-Range FineLock
-VISION
- Automatic Focus

 

Trimble VX Spatial StationTrimble VX Product Comparison

Originally introduced in 2007, the VX Spatial Station was basically an S6 - with the added functionality of 3D scanning and digital imaging.

Designed to capture images, shapes and details and combine them with precise x,y,z coordinates, the VX essentially provides office staff with the "full picture" of the project. It really was a leap forward for survey technology - Instead of points on a screen, the VX delivers images that are accurately georeferenced.

The VX can create ortho-rectified images for GIS systems after processing in RealWorks software, or export to Google Earth. Along with the S6 and S8, the VX saw minor updates in 2010.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

DR Plus (Range without prism) . . . . . . >1300 m “normal, 90% reflective surface”
Range to single prism . . . . . . . . . . . . . >2500 m (8,202 ft)

Notable Options:

-VISION *ver 1
- Automatic Focus
- SureScan @ 15 point per second

Trimble S9Trimble S9 Product Comparison

More options than a Starbucks coffee! The S9 comes in at least 10 different configurations! Introduced in 2015, the S9 replaces the VX and S8 in both precise and long-range applications.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

DR Plus (Range without prism). . . . . . . >1300 m “normal, 90% reflective surface”
DR Plus (Range to single prism). . . . . . >2500 m (8,202 ft)
DR HP (Range to single prism). . . . . . . >3300 m (9,800 ft)

 

Notable Options:

- Locate2Protect real-time equipment monitoring
- HP (High Precision) versions offer .05 angle accuracy
- FineLock
- Long-Range FineLock
- SureScan @ 15 point per second
- VISION
- Automatic Focus

 

Trimble S Series Total Station Comparison

 
Instrument Angular Accuracy EDM Technology EDM Accuracy - Prism Range - Single prism VISION Prism Tracking Type Scanning Technology / speed
S3 2 or 5" DR 2.0mm + 2ppm 2,500 m (8,202 ft)   Passive / MultiTrack*  
S5 1,2,3, or 5" DR Plus 1.0mm + 2ppm 2,500 m (8,202 ft)   Passive, MultiTrack, Active Track 360  
S6 (ver 1) 1,2,3 or 5" DR 300+ or DR HP 2.0mm + 2ppm 2,500 m (8,202 ft) Passive, MultiTrack, Active Track 360  
S6 1,2,3 or 5" DR Plus   2.0mm + 2ppm Option Passive, MultiTrack  
S7 1,2,3, or 5" DR Plus 1.0mm + 2ppm 2,500 m (8,202 ft) Standard* Passive, MultiTrack, Active Track 360 SureScan | 15pps
S8 0.5 or 1" DR Plus or HP .8mm +1ppm *HP 3,000 m (9,800 ft) Option Passive. MultiTrack  
S9 0.5 or 1" DR Plus or HP .8mm +1ppm *HP 3,000 m (9,800 ft) Option Passive, MultiTrack, Active Track 360 SureScan | 15pps*
VX 1" DR Plus 2.0mm +2ppm 2,500 m (8,202 ft) Option Passive, MultiTrack SureScan | 15pps
SX10 1" Lightning 3DM/td> 1.0mm + 1.5ppm   Standard* Advanced AutoLock BandScanning @ 26.6kHz

*Some features originally listed as a Standard item, or an Option, may change over time.

 

Trimble technology terms

Servo

S series Servo instruments are intended to function like a traditional total station, with some automation benefits. The biggest advantage of the Servo S6 over a traditional total station is when setting/staking out, the instrument calculates and automatically aims towards the calculated position of the selected point.
Additionally, the instrument will automatically point towards a selected reference target to check for instrument movement during measurements. Other than that, you do the rest.

Servo instruments can be upgraded to AutoLock, or even Robotic. Of course, the upgrade will cost more than buying a Robotic unit in the first place. These units operate best when using the TCU controller, as they are locked onboard the instrument - as opposed to fumbling around with a separate data collector.

AutoLock

Autolock enables the instrument to automatically lock on to and follow a prism. This means that the instrument is taking care of the pointing, and that position can be continuously updated as the target moves around the jobsite. Autolock is especially useful for site topo measurements. It is also useful when working in poor visibility and dark conditions.

Tasks such as measuring a round of angles can also be automated. Autolock eliminates the need to repetitively lock and unlock the horizontal and vertical axis, as well as target focusing. Bottom line – this feature saves time in the field.

Robotic

Robotic enabled instruments do not require anyone to physically position the instrument. Robotic total stations have built in drives that operate both horizontal and vertical axis and will automatically follow and track a prism. This enables single-user operation – as all tasks are performed at the rod with the data collector communicating to the instrument via wireless radio.

Trimble DR Technology

Direct Reflex (DR) EDM technology enables measurements to almost any type of surface. DR standard vs DR Plus vs DR300+ range differs depending on site conditions (dust, light, atmospheric conditions) and the color of the object you are measuring, i.e. dark objects reflect less light than lighter colored objects. 

DR300+

Typical ranges in clear conditions: 

Kodak Gray Card (18% reflective). . . . . . . >300 m (984 ft)
Kodak Gray Card (90% reflective). . . . . . . >800 m (2625 ft)

DR Standard**

Typical ranges in clear conditions.  **Reduced in some instruments (S3 & SPS610)

Kodak Gray Card (18% reflective). . . . . . . >300 m (984 ft)
Kodak Gray Card (90% reflective). . . . . . . >800 m (2625 ft)

DR Plus

DR Plus was introduced in 2010 and is roughly twice the distance and offers faster measurements. 

Kodak Gray Card (18% reflective). . . . . . . >600 m (1969 ft)
Kodak White Card (90% reflective). . . . . . . >1300 m (4265 ft)

DR HP

HP stands for "High Precision" which offers increased accuracy but at the expense of distance (1300 meters DR Plus vs only 150 meters for HP). 

SurePoint

Ensures accurate pointing and measurements by actively correcting for unwanted movements like wind, handling, and sinkage.

FineLock

Uses a more narrow field of view to detect targets without interference from surrounding prisms.

Long-Range FineLock

Extends distance measurements (to prisms) to 2500 m with 1 cm accuracy.

Automatic Servo Focus

Sets the optical focus for quick manual aiming when monitoring points in DR mode – with Trimble Access

VISION

VISION technology gives surveyors the ability to remotely see, capture and measure with live video feed from the instrument. Surveyors can see everything the instrument sees without a trip back to the tripod, but it's real value is utilizing the photographic data in Trimble Business Center, which overlays survey data on
the captured panoramic still images, enabling the surveyor to efficiently document
features that were surveyed.


Final Thoughts:

Trimble S series total stations are dependable, reliable and maintain their value over time. All iterations are excellent performers and can last a lifetime when cared for.  

If you're looking for a robotic instrument that can also provide machine control guidance for Trimble, Accugrade and GOMACO 3D system (Universal Total Station) - please check out this article: Trimble SPS Series Total Stations Comparison >>

Please use this information as a guide to help you make your decision. Some features and functions listed as “standard” or “optional” may change over time.

 

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