How Do I Choose the Best Surveyor Transit?

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  • Written By: Amy Rodriguez
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 08 August 2019
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The best surveyor transit depends upon the type of location where the instrument will be used, which may range from a small job site to areas multiple acres in size. Choosing an instrument also requires consideration of your experience in adjusting and setting the transit correctly for the most accurate results. In addition, there are two main surveyor transit types: non-electronic and electronic.

A surveyor transit allows you to measure angles and determine straight lines across a section of land for determining property lines or land elevation features. The first step to take in selecting the best surveyor transit is inspecting the instrument's exterior. The outside surface should be free of any dents or debris, indicating a drop or strike across the instrument's body. Even a slightly damaged transit can be considerably out of specification, causing repeated failures while you try to determine accurate angles.

Small job sites do not require a high magnification transit type since the visual area is extremely limited. You can choose a relatively inexpensive transit with low magnification as it will still offer the same accuracy as a more powerful and expensive model. The selling party or business should ensure a tight calibration before giving the transit to you.


Large job sites, such as golf course construction areas, require the highest magnification possible for viewing far objects. You will find that there is a wide variety of magnification values, escalating in price as the value increases. Most transit shoppers will confer with an instrument specialist for determining the most cost effective choice for the individual project.

Non-electronic transits have simple viewing optics with horizontal and vertical crosshairs for orienting the transit's position. You must be able to set the transit up precisely for accurate readings. The instrument's body must be leveled with its leveling screws, moving the transit's level bubble into its center location as the unit sits atop a sturdy tripod.

Electronic transits are significantly more difficult to operate, incorporating a small computer and display screen to show angle measurements. You can choose this transit type if you are a seasoned surveyor. Apprentice surveyors should probably use the non-electronic or manual transits to prevent unnecessary and time consuming mistakes due to complicated calibration of an electronic transit.

Non-electronic transits tend to have easily replaced mechanical parts if damaged over time. Electronic transits, on the other hand, can have software updates to their computer portions. Older electronic transits may not function correctly if the software expires or is no longer updated by the manufacturer. Purchasing an electronic surveyor transit therefore requires research on the age of the model and its intended shelf life.


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Post 2

Thanks for your input here. I completely agree that the best current instrumentation is the robotic total station, but I had many surveying customers who simply could not afford the technology (typically small surveying groups, rather than the large corporate entities).

In all fairness, I included all the practical choices for surveyors within different pricing ranges. Many of my more experienced customers felt that the "tried and true" technologies of the past were more trustworthy. I suppose it's all about comfort and reliability in the end.

Post 1

A Surveyors Transit should be displayed on a shelf as an artifact and not used for any kind of surveying.

If you're very careful, a small building could be laid out. The successor to the transit is the theodolite and very few surveyors still use them. I keep one around but I'm considered an old timer.

The total station came next with the addition of an onboard distance meter. The robotic total station is the latest and greatest. The article is a little outdated.

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