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Trimble S Series Total Station comparison


Shopping for a used Trimble Robotic Total Station

UPDATED: January 2017

Back in 2006, Trimble introduced the S6 total station into the market. Back then, selecting a total station from Trimble was simple (wasn’t everything). If you wanted a robotic total station from Trimble – you had one choice – the S6.

Today – the process of selecting your next instrument is like ordering a coffee from Starbucks, only a lot more expensive. The choices and combinations are overwhelming and most seem to overlap each other. Personally, like most of us in this industry, I like simple – black coffee. Hopefully, we can clear the fog, and help you make the best – educated decision possible.

Let’s look at the lineup. It is not too difficult to find each of the corresponding Datasheets – so, that’s where we started. Below is a summary of each unit, based on our personal experience, customer and dealer feedback and specification sheets provided by Trimble. There are 1000+ ways to compare these instruments. Each instrument has it’s specialty and place in the market. For our comparison, we focused on the basic needs of a Robotic Total Station.

*This page is best viewed on a larger screen. Some images and information may not display on smaller displays, such as smartphone's


Trimble S6 (Version 1)

Introduced in 2006, the Trimble S6 came with Carl Zeiss optics and MagDrive - electro-magnetic technology. The S6 has fewer moving parts over any of it's predecessor’s and competitors - reducing the need for constant - and expensive servicing and calibration. Compared to the Leica TCRP's service cost of $2,300, the S6 doesn't require any kind of serivce. The owners manual simply suggests a field calibration - which can be performed by the user (at no cost). A typical calibration - performed by an authorized Trimble service center, will cost you around $500 - depending on location (typical US charge).

The S6 instruments will last a lifetime if treated properly. Seriously, as we cross into 2017, not much has changed. These instruments are still rock-solid and extremley dependable.

With current used prices ranging from $10,000 to $16,000, and NEW prices starting at $25,000 - we so no difference between the dependability of a 2006 instrument and one from 2016.

Available in Servo, AutoLock and Robotic versions.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

MagDrive™ electro-magnetic technology with SurePoint
DR 300+ Distance (Range without prism). . . 1300 m *normal, 90% reflective surface
DR Plus (Range with single prism). . . . . . . . 2500 m (8,202 ft)

ROBOTIC SURVEYING

Passive prisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 m–700 m (1,640–2,297 ft)
Trimble MultiTrack™ Target. . . . . . . . . . . . 800 m (2,625 ft)


Trimble S6 (Version 2)

The S6 experienced only a few upgrades around 2010, including - slightly faster MagDrive technology and most significantly - optional VISION technology (remote camera) and L2P service (low-jack type subscription). Some time around late 2012, DR 300+ terminology gave way to "DR Plus". This is just a change in name - not function. DR300+ and DR Plus have the exact same specifications.

Trimble offcially 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”
DR Plus (Range with single prism). . . . . .2500 m (8,202 ft)

ROBOTIC SURVEYING

Passive prisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 m–700 m (1,640–2,297 ft)
Trimble MultiTrack™ Target. . . . . . . . . . 800 m (2,625 ft)

Notable Options:

- Locate2Protect real-time equipment monitoring
- VISION


Trimble S3

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 1).

The first is Active Tracking - which is the ability to track Active Prisms, such as the MT1000 and AT360 prism's.

Active Tracking was a standard feature for the S6, but an option for the S3. All S3's will track passive prisms, so if you are surveying large rual areas, this is not an issue. The upgrade is around $3,200 and can be performed aftermarket.
Additionally - the DR distance (Direct Reflex) in the S3 was turned down from the factory – reducing the reflectorless distance measuring from 1,300 meters to only 400 meters - which also reduced it’s tracking distance in Robotic mode.
I have heard rumors that the DR function can be tuned back up to match the S6 – we are looking into this.

Other features left out are: Bluetooth, mini display, and integrated optical plummet (use's optics in tribrach instead).

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

Available in Servo, AutoLock and Robotic versions.
MagDrive™ electro-magnetic technology with SurePoint
DR Standard (Range without prism). . . . . . . 400 m (1,313 ft) “normal, 90% reflective surface”
DR Standard (Range with single prism). . . . . 2500 m (8,202 ft)

ROBOTIC SURVEYING

Passive prisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300–500 m (984–1,640 ft)
Trimble MultiTrack™ Target. . . . . . . . . . . . Not Listed – TBD

Notable Options:

- ActiveTrack (Active prism tracking)


Trimble S5

Replacing the S3, is the Trimble S5 which was introduced in 2015 - as part of a new line up (including the S7 and S9). Similar to the S3, the S5 is marketed as the economical RTS.

What’s new in this fleet is - They are slightly faster than the S6 and S3, include optional VISION technology, and the Locate2Protect service.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

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

ROBOTIC SURVEYING

Passive prisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 m–700 m (1,640–2,297 ft)
Trimble MultiTrack™ Target. . . . . . . . 800 m (2,625 ft)
Trimble Active Track 360 Target. . . . . 500 m (1,640 Ft)

Notable Options:

- ActiveTrack (Active prism tracking)


Trimble S7

Replacing the S6, the Trimble S7 was introduced in 2015 as part of a new line up (including the S5 and S9). The S7 is marketed as the “all-in-one” version with the latest upgraded VISION technology, Locate2Protect service, and 3D scanning as standard options.

Available in Robotic versions only.

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

MagDrive™ electro-magnetic technology with SurePoint
DR Plus (Range without prism) . . . . 1300 m “normal, 90% reflective surface”
DR Plus (Range with single prism). . . . . .2500 m (8,202 ft)

ROBOTIC SURVEYING

Passive prisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .500 m–700 m (1,640–2,297 ft)
Trimble MultiTrack™ Target. . . . . . . . 800 m (2,625 ft)
Trimble Active Track 360 Target. . . . . 500 m (1,640 Ft)

Standard Features

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


Trimble S8

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 and accuracy, making it the only choice for high-speed railway and other, super-precise applications.

MagDrive™ electro-magnetic technology with SurePoint

QUICK SPEC SUMMARY:

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

ROBOTIC SURVEYING

Passive prisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .500 m–700 m (1,640–2,297 ft)
Trimble MultiTrack™ Target. . . . . . . . 800 m (2,625 ft)

Notable Options:

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


Trimble VX Spatial Station

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 dot's 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.

Bottom line on the VX; Why buy anything else? It does everything a robotic total station can do - plus add's precise 1" accuracy, 3D scanning and rich imaging deliverables. You simply can't go wrong.

MagDrive™ electro-magnetic technology with SurePoint

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)

ROBOTIC SURVEYING

Passive prisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .500 m–700 m (1,640–2,297 ft)
Trimble MultiTrack™ Target. . . . . . . . 800 m (2,625 ft)

Notable Options:

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


Trimble S9

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

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)

ROBOTIC SURVEYING

Passive prisms. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .500 m–700 m (1,640–2,297 ft)
Trimble MultiTrack™ Target. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 800 m (2,625 ft)
Trimble ActiveTrack 360 Target (DR Plus EDM). . . . 500 m (1,640 Ft)
Trimble ActiveTrack 360 Target (DR HP EDM). . . . . . 200 m (656 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 Technology Glossery

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.

If desired – maybe for a project down the road (no pun intended), 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 One man operation. Robotic enabled instruments allow a single person to perform all survey tasks. That’s in theory of course. Probably a debatable topic – for another article.

Trimble DR Technology

Direct Reflex (DR) technology enables measurement without a prism on almost any type of surface.

DR HP

(S8 and S9) offers higher accuracy when measuring to prisms.

SurePoint

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

FineLock

Detect targets without interference from surrounding prisms for high precision applications in close quarters such as rail alignment, deformation monitoring, and tunneling applications.

Long-Range FineLock

Option extends functionality 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 and measure with live video feed from the instrument on their data controller. Surveyors can see everything the instrument sees without a trip back to the tripod.


In summary, if you are looking for a quality Trimble total station, any one of the S series instruments is a solid and reliable choice. For those on a budget, look for an original S6 or S3 .These are stellar performers that are in very high demand in the used market place. After 10 years of working with the S6, we have yet to see one that has had a major failure due to manufacturers defects. The culprit in almost every case was abuse, improper storing, and transporting. Even the first batch of S6's from 2006 - if properly cared for, will perform today, as well as they did when they were first introduced.

This information is current as of 12/12,2016. We did our best to ensure accuracy of details, options, standard features and specifications. Please use this information as an additional guide to help you make a decision. As always, when spending a large sum of money, make sure you get information from multiple sources. A Trimble Dealership is a great source to get current and competitive information.

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

Trimble S series Brochure - 2016Trimble S Series Brochure for 2016 (includes SX10)

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