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The verdict

The list prices shown should be taken as a guide as most manufacturers and dealers would be prepared to negotiate particularly if more than one instrument is involved. There are also good deals obtainable through leasing and hiring instruments. Ask about peripherals such as mini prisms, spare batteries, target sets and communication software - their cost may make you wince.

All instruments are manufactured to the highest quality and should be able to withstand the toughest site conditions. Accuracy, range and in-built computerisation do vary but only slightly but the choice of any one over the others may be decided more by your feelfor the instrument. Don't forget though to check backup and service - this can vary.

Recommendation

Mike Fort says: 'A hard choice but I think that the Leica TC303 is the pick of the bunch on account of its excellentspecifications and its use of standard camcorder batteries. Leica also has arguably the best backup service.'

Peter Lloyd says: 'The Nikon DTM-520 offers similar functionality to the Leica with the added benefits of a 10-hour battery life and a guide light.'

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