DISTO D5 vs E7500i

There have been a few folks ask me about the new DISTO – “Should I get the new one or the D5, or the D8?” – or some variation of this question. You old timers know all about my involvement with the development, design and deployment of the original DISTO Plus back in 2003/2004 and that I stay involved with Leica Geosystems on this stuff. Some of you were even involved when we field trial new devices and get a chance to give feedback. But for “newbies”, I’ve been to the home office in Switzerland several times, been through the manufacturing and testing facilities a few times, taken a team with me on more than one occasion and the DISTO folks have been to our offices a few times – we know each other. I get a chance to have input on new devices from time-to-time and I value that experience highly. Because the DISTO is meant for a market segment considerably wider than the US Fee Appraiser market, sometimes the things I think are important simply don’t float to the top or make the final cut, but sometimes they do.

You all know that I consider the view-ability of the screen to be a very important factor in using a mobile device. I sometimes say “Kind of hard to use a device if you can’t see the screen.” Folks that use devices like regular cell phones, tablets and a DISTO out in sunny conditions know what I mean. Those of you who haven’t (yet) should really consider the value of a good screen!


I believe that the “Digital Viewfinder” (most might say “camera & screen”) on the new E7500i is much superior to the previous models and for that reason alone, it’s worth the small price increase over the D5. It also has a much newer implementation of Bluetooth. To get Bluetooth in the previous series, you’d pay somewhere close to $250 – $300 more than D5 and step up to the D8. The D8 had other advantages, but that was what most appraiser types saw as the main difference, and since most of the sketching software out there did not really take full advantage of the extra features, most appraisers settled in on the D5 as the better choice.

To recap a previous thread example, this past weekend, I measured a 4,000+ SF one-story with a host of measurement challenges. (Yes, I still remember how to measure and sketch a house, LOL) I used a D8 and my prototype E7500i (marked with the European “D510” badging. Summarily, I was significantly faster with the E7500i than I was with the D8, even though I gave the D8 the advantage by doing my initial measurement with the E7500i (second time around is always faster.) I believe the reasons were related to the much improved screen – I could simply see my long distance targets better – those that needed the Digital Viewfinder. I could tell no difference to my naked eye in the “dot” but I found that I used the Digital Viewfinder on the E7500i on about 80% of the shots and struggled with the D8 on the approximate 45% of the shots where it was necessary using the D8. I measured in “old school” form – grid paper, pencil and DISTO with a fiberglass tape at my side “just in case.” In other words, my time savings (and cursing) was not considering any other “electronics” – I did not even use any of my own released or beta sketch programs. Someone else followed after my rounds doing their own test with a D5 and a D8 to test the time saving of using BT with properly written sketch and data collection software. FWIW, they beat my times handily, but we’re not here to talk about SOFTWARE today.

Today, when I got home, out here in Hooterville, I took my prototype D5 and my prototype D510 (E7500i) and put them on the same deck railing where I’ve shot many of my outdoor tablet screen shots. I shot from our main house over to the Guest house – a distance of about 136′ and took some pictures with an old Panasonic DMC-TS3 (a semi-rugged “sports camera I’ve recommended in the past) and have posted a composite shot below so that you can see the difference in the screen when subjected to full South Texas sun. As always, the shots are unaltered in any way except for cropping and reduction in pixel count.  What you see is not as clear as what I see in my original photographs due to the fact the images uploaded here are further “blanched” but I think you’ll be able to see the difference quite clearly between the two screens.



In the first shot, I switched the two devices between shots due to the angle of the sun and how it can affect LCD screens. In the second shot, I cropped in to show the difference in the difference between the “magnification” – that is, at 1x zoom, the view is “closer” and I simply used the 2X zoom for this shot since the other shots were at 1x. You’ll note that the distances read differently, but that is NOT because the DISTOs are inaccurate. Look at the images any you’ll see that I was simply being hasty and the actual target locations are slightly different. Our Guest House, BTW, is at a slight angle in relation to the Main House railing, so it is appropriate that the distances are different.

Anyway, to my way of looking at this, the E7500i is the preferable device over the D5. Sure, it costs about $100 more than the D5, but for ME (and I suspect most of you) it is well worth it, even if you don’t use the Bluetooth! On the flip side, that makes it  $100 LESS than the D8.  Also new to the E7500i is the Bluetooth 4.x which allo ws it to be used with an iPhone or iPad – the previous models used a Bluetooth protocol which was specifically blocked by Apple. One of the things most can appreciate about the way Leica Geosystems deployed BT4 is the considerable battery savings – this BT Smart is MUCH more efficient than the previous versions, so much so that the recommended mode is simply to leave BT on all the time (unless you never use it anyway.) The potential “downside” (for some) is that not all older tablets or phones support BT4. All of the new Tablets coming to market, including the new 10-hour $600 – $700 Windows 8 tablets I’ve covered DO support BT4 So, if BT is important to you, just make sure your device lists Bluetooth 4 in the specifications.

Hope this helps! I’ll be doing a few more test shots to cover some other questions in the next week or so.