A rangefinder is a distance measuring device that uses different measuring principles dependent on the type of rangefinder being used.
In this article, we would be looking at the things to look out for in Rangefinders and go over them in some details.
We would also look at them in the different categorizations or typing they fall under. Before then, let’s talk about the different types of rangefinders.
Types of Rangefinders
Rangefinders are grouped or categorized under the type of ranging principle they employ in measuring their distances. Types of rangefinders include,
This type of rangefinder sends out laser beams to the target object, the beams sent out are usually infrared lights. The beam of light starts out very narrow and by the time it gets to the target object, it is wide enough to hit the target and reflect off of it. The reflection is bounced back to the rangefinder.
The distance to the target object is measured by the rangefinder using the time it takes for the laser beam to travel to and fro the target object. Precise accuracy is achievable but it can also be impacted by a couple of other things like the reflecting capacity of the target object, rain, obstacles, and over ranging.
Optical rangefinders use the coincidence ranging principle with the aid of mirrors and lenses. This working principle creates two images or double images on a mirror and then the images are merged into one by rotating a dial. The dial has a distance read feature that displays the distance to the target object when the double images merge into one.
The ultrasonic rangefinder uses sound waves sent from a transducer, the sound waves are targeted at a target object and the waves are bounced off the target and sent back to the receiver. Distance is also measured by calculated the time it takes for the waves to travel to and fro the rangefinder. Certain things like external soundwaves and noise amongst others can affect the accuracy of the ultrasonic rangefinder.
There are other types of rangefinders but their ranging principles are similar to the major types of rangefinders listed above. The other types are,
The full meaning of RADAR is Radio Detection and Ranging. This type uses the same ranging principle as the laser rangefinder. The only difference is that while the laser rangefinder sends out laser beams, the RADAR sends out radio waves to target objects.
However, the mathematical aspect remains the same because the laser rangefinder uses light beams and the RADAR uses radio waves, and essentially, both radio waves and light travel at the same speed so the distance calculation remains the same.
Radio waves have a very long range hence they can cover distances like ships and aircraft. They are also not affected by certain weather conditions like fogs and they can be used in the wee hours of the morning, at night, or very sunny days.
This type of rangefinder works much like the ultrasonic rangefinder because they make use of soundwaves to measure the distance from a target object to the observer. Also similar to the ultrasonic, this principle calculates the time it takes for the waves to travel to and fro the target object.
This range finding type is superior to the others because of one major feature advantage – it can range underwater. This is superior because light waves and radio waves have difficulty traveling through water media.
This range finding type uses the same light principle as the laser rangefinders and RADAR rangefinders.
These rangefinder types are all unique and useful in their different ways but the laser rangefinder is the most common and popular of them all because it is the most versatile in functions. The laser rangefinder can be used for golfing, hunting, foresting, surveying, photography, and a host of other things.
Some amazing examples of rangefinders are: Impulse 200, Sonin 60, Lytespeed 400, and Ranging 400. Laser rangefinders include: Bushnell Trophy Xtreme Laser Rangefinder, Leica Optics Impact Laser Rangefinder, Yardage Pro Rangefinder, and Leupold RX-950 Laser Rangefinder to list a few.
What To Look For In A Rangefinder
For the purpose of this article, we will not have the time to go through all the examples and tell you in excruciating details the things to look out for. What this article will do is tell you everything you need to look out for irrespective of the type, the ranging principle, and the model.
This method would prove to be a better way of making you better at selecting good rangefinders no matter what type or model you intend to purchase. I would differentiate them in terms of functionality and then list out the things to look out for based on those functions.
What Things To Look For In A Golf Rangefinder
Distance estimation is very important to the game of golf and players have to have a certain knack for distance measurement that would enable them to know what golf club to select and what intensity of force is required to hit the ball.
Even the sloppy rise and fall common in every golf course field is known to affect many golfers who are just starting out. With rangefinders, players can easily navigate this tricky path with the slopes with slope mode. The things to look out for in a rangefinder include;
In golf accuracy will singlehandedly determine how far you go and the number of strokes you take for every round. When getting a rangefinder for golfing you need to ask what the error margin is and the accuracy of the rangefinder is pretty much determined.
The accuracy of many amazing rangefinders is +/- 5 but many manufacturers have improved their products to be +/- 1 and some even claim to be +/- 0.5. Whichever error margin for accuracy you decide to go with, just make sure you have done some research on the manufacturers to make sure they stay true to the label on their rangefinder model.
2. Slope Reading
Slope reading might not be necessary for other rangefinders being used for other purposes. However, for golfing, it is a crucial aspect of distance reading. Slopes in golf course fields are a necessary design feature and a good rangefinder has to be able to calculate the actual distance to a target and the changes in elevation caused by the rise and fall of slopes.
3. Battery Life
The longevity of battery life is dependent on the rate at which the rangefinder consumes power. The battery capacity is also determinant of the length of the battery life. Getting a rangefinder that wouldn’t leave you stranded in the middle of the course is a coveted gadget many pros are on the lookout for and you should be also.
Rangefinders measure the distance to a target object, naturally, the object would appear smaller to a viewer observing with human eyes, especially if the distance is far. The magnification feature of rangefinders helps to increase the size of the target by 4-8x for a lot of rangefinders and this does not in any way change the clarity of view of the image.
The process of a rangefinder measuring the distance of the target object is called ranging. Every rangefinder comes with a minimum and a maximum ranging capacity. What this means is that, if a rangefinder has a maximum ranging capacity of 500 and the target object you intend to calculate its distance is about 1000, then your rangefinder is not the best for that particular range. If the target is within 400, then it is all well and good.
6. Weight and Size
This is entirely up to the preference of the user and their comfort needs. However, rangefinders usually come in compact sizes and designs that offer optimum comfort, ease of usage, and functionality.
7. Scan And Stabilization Mode
This feature is important for users who have shaky hands and have issues stabilizing the focus of the rangefinder on the target. Rangefinders with this feature are amazing for users that have this challenge, it helps them track and connect the laser or waves to the target.
8. Priority Level
Priority level speaks on how rangefinders detect and focus on target objects. There are two priority rangefinders.
- First priority mode rangefinder; these are the rangefinders that can identify and detect the first target they come in contact with. These types of rangefinders are great for ranging in areas or locations that do not have obstacles or obstructions.
- Second priority mode rangefinder; these are rangefinders that focus on the objects behind the first object they identify and ignore the first one. Basically, they ignore the images at the front and focus on the images behind that first image. This rangefinder type is ideal for locations filled with obstacles and obstructions. Many golfers alternate between these two priority modes but if you intend to purchase a rangefinder, then you need to know the type of priority mode you are trying out for.
Other things to look out for are pretty much straightforward and explain themselves, like,
- Display screen
- Production materials
What Things To Look For In A Hunting Rangefinder
Hunting encompasses both bow hunting or archery and rifle hunting. These are the things to look out for when looking to purchase a rangefinder for hunting.
For hunting, you need a rangefinder that has about 1000 meters or more ranging capacity.
2. Size and Weight
This is important for hunters because they move around a lot and some cover a lot of distances on foot. A comfortable size and weight rangefinder is important.
3. Battery Life
Like I mentioned in the golf rangefinders previously. Battery life is extremely important because no one wants their rangefinder to die on them in the middle of the forest or on a hunting expedition. Getting a rangefinder with good battery life is important when going rangefinder shopping.
4. Goniometer And Ballistic Calculator
In hunting, the distance is critically important but the height of the hunter or the target object is also just as critically important and the goniometer and a ballistic calculator would correct differences in height calculations and distance calculations. These features help hunters observe their hunting location from any terrain especially rugged terrain or mountain tops.
5. The Casing
You may think this is flimsy until a rangefinder you think is safely tucked away in its casing falls down and starts malfunctioning. Look into the details of the casing of your rangefinder, some rangefinder cases are designed to be tight and shockproofed. Some are designed to withstand certain weather conditions like fogs, rain, or water.
Like I mentioned before, magnification is extremely important especially for hunters. Stealth and quiet are important for hunters and they need this feature to get them really close to their prey and view it clearly without actually getting close to them and scaring them off.
Other things to look out for are;
- Accuracy and precision
- Production material
- Display screen or viewfinder
Now that we have covered the two major functions of rangefinders, the others are surveying, foresting, and a lot of other things. I will list some main things to look out for in any rangefinder that I haven’t mentioned before in this article.
- Aiming Point or Reticle
- Compatibility to the weapon of choice (Rifle, Shotgun, Sniper)
- Long-range target shooting
- Lens coat
- Image display
At the end of the day, rangefinders are useful and needed for a lot of reasons but these are just some of the things that are important to look out for when you are getting a rangefinder. Like I said before, laser rangefinders are very versatile and they offer a lot of these features but you should not be limited to this alone. It is important that you ask questions and do some little research, even something as simple as asking the store attendant could go a long way into helping you get further clarity.
Kevin is the owner of this blog. He is a science graduate and loves to write on optics. He has created this blog to share some of his knowledge on Rangefinders. He loves to play video games also.