Buying my first robotic total station - Trimble S5 or Spectra Focus 35 or...?
I'm finally going to make the long-overdue leap into the robotic world of total stations. I've primarily used Topcon manual TS and have never had any issues with accuracy or longevity, but from reading around this forum it appears that Topcon robotics is hit or miss. I think I have narrowed it down to either the Trimble s5 (or possibly a used s5/s6) or a new Spectra Focus 35 ($15-$17k). I'm completely new to robotics, but currently, I run Survey Pro and typically work on either small-medium construction projects, topo highways and sometimes traversing deep into the woods.
As I understand from reading around this forum, robots don't work as well when there are a lot of reflective surfaces or heavy brush. The Trimble S-series looks great with its Active prism technology, but the Focus 35 is much more appealing price-wise. I considered buying used, but I've seen the way many field crews treat their equipment and with all these delicate and sensitive parts I just don't think it's worth the risk to save a few thousand. I'm tempted to pull the trigger on the Focus 35, but the passive prism tech has me worried and also I just can't find that many people talking about it compared to the Trimble S-series. Can anyone advise this robot newbie?
I love my S6.
The active tracking really does work well, especially on busy sites.
Mine also has 'vision' - which allows you to see where it is pointed.
But I'm not a total Trimble fanboy
The refelectorless isnt that great.
And you are forced to use a Trimble controller
On balance, to me, the ease of use makes it worth the extra cost.
I also have access to a couple of S8's - higher accuracy, but slower to turn and not as good at tracking, even in active mode. Most days they get left on the shelf
I learned a hard lesson when I bought my first robot, DC and software in 2010. I went to the Topcon dealer and took a quick spin around the parking lot with a salesman and a new robot and pulled the trigger on a new 9003 robot with an FC2500 DC and TopSurv software.. In the weeks and months that followed, I learned to hate TopSurv and I changed how I set up traverses to avoid situations where the robot could see cars and signs. It would chase anything that gave a stronger return than the prism before realizing that it had been fooled and swinging back to me. I worked around that guns quirks for nearly five years before making the jump to an S6 with active track prism.
The active prisms are heavier than their passive brothers but for me its worth it when working in obstacle rich or reflective environments. That being said, I also switch to a lighter passive prism if I'm working on a wide open site with no shiny objects in sight. FWIW, I have also seen folks here with passive robots of various brands say that they don't have problems with them chasing cars or shiny objects like I did. I suspect everyone's experience is a bit different depending on the types of jobs and environments they work in.
I will personally not buy a robot, field computer, or field software without first taking them for an extended test drive on real world jobs. There's no other easy way to find their strengths and weaknesses for the types of projects and locations that you work in.
We have a Leica 1205 robot using passive prism technology and have just acquired an S5 with a TSC3 and MT1000 prism. Setting both up for a side by side comparison clearly showed the benefit of Trimble's active tracking technology and superior Trimble Access software. For using on both construction jobs with reflective distractions all around and bush work where line on sight isn't always great, the S5 finds the prism and maintains lock. Trimble Access has some handy functions, like the joystick, turn +/- 90 or 180 with the tap of one button. These are real helpful if you've moved a significant distance, lost lock and want to turn the instrument to you. Also, when coupled with an R10 RTK, you can work in both the RTK and TS world.
I went with an S6 for my first robot, and havent regretted it. The Focus instruments are cheaper, for sure. But in the long run, with the S5 and an MT1000 prism, and you're golden. The Focus does not have active targeting, so you'll lose lock a LOT. Nothing more frustrating when a 4" diameter tree crosses your path with the gun, it will lose you. And after regaining lock a thousand times a day, a lot of production is lost. If price is the issue, look for a used S5. I bought my S6 used for about $8k, and the only thing wrong with it, is the eyepiece wont focus, so I just used another tribrach until I can afford to fix the eyepiece for the plummet.