I’ve never really been one to embrace change. As evidence, I still had a water bed until 2004, and even then it took my family throwing it away while I was out of town to finally get me out of it. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly at the front of the line when these Laser Distance contraptions came out. I spent a great deal of time learning to read a tape measure properly, and anything that rendered that effort useless seemed like a waste of time. I eventually realized that if everyone looked at things like this we’d still be using microfilm and cranking our cars to start them. With a ton of measuring in my near future, I decided now was as good of time as any to make the jump.
The folks at Johnson sent over their top model, a feature packed 40-6005 for me to try out. When I first took it out of the box I admit I felt a little intimidated. After about 5 minutes of playing around with it, I was able to take straightaway measurements, but clearly this was one time the instruction manual was absolutely essential. This didn’t exactly excite me, as instruction manuals for electronic devices are typically hard to follow, but to my surprise, the manual was very easy to understand and follow. It was well written, to the point, and after 10 minutes of reading I felt confident I could utilize every feature of the meter at a satisfactory level.
The layout of the tool is pretty simple and easy to follow once you read the manual. The 8 button control panel is of the “blister” variety which I prefer on a tool like this as it keeps dirt from the job site out of the tool and can be easily cleaned off with a moist cloth. Like most devices that cram a lot of functionality into a small package, all buttons also perform secondary functions by holding them in rather than tapping them. The LCD screen features on screen setting/mode indicators making it easy to determine what is going on. It also has back-lighting that can be toggled on and off as lighting conditions dictate. The rubber coated underside of the tool features textured sides which, when combined with the supplied wrist strap, make the unit very easy to hold securely.
The 40-6005 offers 4 modes of measurement:
Length Area/Square Volume/Cubic Indirect/Pythagoras
The features on this unit are numerous. The unit allows you to conduct measurements from 2″ up to 230′ in standard or metric. Standard measurements can be displayed in feet, inches, combination (Example 13′ 7″ 11/32) or as decimal numbers. This unit stores up to 20 previous measurements and allows you to add or subtract one measurement from the previous measurement. The measurement process is also fully customizable. The laser can be set to start in the on position or the off position, allowing you to effectively “shoot” or “capture” the laser’s position. I personally use the “capture” setting, but I suppose it’s always nice to have options. Additionally, the unit has the ability to take continuous measurements. This allows you to aim the laser, walk toward or away from the target, and get updated reading every couple of seconds with the last 3 measurements being displayed on screen. Another nice feature is the time delay option. Some positions in which measurements need to be taken make it difficult to hold the unit and engage it at the same time. The 40-6005 circumvents this problem by allowing you to set the measurement on a timer from 3 to 15 seconds giving you plenty of time to get the unit properly positioned for the reading even in difficult or obstructed areas. Measurements can be taken from three positions on the unit. The base, the head, or (for corners) from the tip of the corner bar which flips into and out of the bottom of the unit.
All this makes for a simple, easy to understand, yet fully customizable, user experience. It sounds pretty complicated, but after 10 minutes of reading and 10 minutes of trial (with little error) I felt comfortable enough with the tool to toss the manual in the drawer.
Indoors the unit performed flawlessly. At no time did we experience any difficulty whatsoever in seeing the laser or taking a reading, regardless of lighting conditions. Outside in the bright afternoon sun of a clear, mid July, day, it was a little more difficult. Under these conditions we were only really able to get readings out to about 75′. I don’t fault the meter for this, in my mind it’s just the limitations of the technology under the most difficult conditions. The further the sun went down, the longer the readings we were able to get. By evening we were getting readings out to 175′, and by dusk we were getting consistent readings out near the full 230′ range of the tool. Johnson claims accuracy to within 1/16″ over the 230′ range of the tool. We took 15 test measurements from 10′ to 100′ and could find no discrepancy to dispute this claim. We liked the audible tones as well. The unit emitted a faint clicking sound when the reading was being taken and a beep when it was complete. Also worth noting is the speed of the calculations. This thing is quick! By the time we could turn the unit around and look at the screen, the calculations were complete. Clearly it was much smarter than me.
Overall we were very happy with the 40-6005. It does what it was designed to do. The quality, accuracy, feature set, and ease of use, make it a fine choice for both professional and DIY’ers alike. As I mentioned earlier, this is Johnson’s top shelf model. While it’s performance justifies it’s price, occasional users may find the professional price to be cost prohibitive. If so, Johnson also offers the 40-6004 (130’capability) as well as the 40-6001 (165′ capability), with both offering the same (or very similar) features. While we can’t honestly say anything negative about the unit, back-lit buttons would be a fantastic addition. The supplied nylon belt holster is very nice, but this is a precision instrument, so for those of us not walking around the job site in khaki pants and polo shirts, an optional hard case would be a good addition as well. Johnson has positioned themselves as a leader in laser leveling and measurement technology and the 40-6005 is a fine example of that. If you need an accurate, easy to use, distance meter, you can buy from Johnson with confidence.