Mar 21, 2011

Leica Disto D210XT Review

This is a slightly revised review that I wrote on Amazon for the Leica Disto D210XT Laser Rangefinder.
Leica Disto 210X in hand.

I bought the Leica Disto D210XT as a quick and easy way to measure distances for pulling focus, so this review is focused on that kind of functionality. I don't need to measure the volume of a room, or any of the advanced functions that this device offers. This isn't the cheapest laser rangefinder on the market, nor is it the most expensive It's in the happy middle ground. The functionality is very similar to the Leica Disto D2, however the D210XT is dust and waterproof according to IP65 standards. You can literally put the unit under running water to clean it. The Disto D210XT also comes with a 3 year warranty. I chose the D210XT over the D2 and other cheaper rangefinders because in the long run, the price difference becomes minimal, and the ruggedness of the D210XT offers more peace of mind.

Carrying case is included, playing cards are not.
It's small! Actually just about the perfect size for a hand-held device. Any smaller and it would be hard to hold. It is just the right weight to feel like a solid piece of equipment, not a toy. The unit takes 2x AAA batteries. Awesome. I hate electronic gadgets that take expensive or difficult to find batteries. (I'm looking at you, Streamlight Scorpion)

I use the eneloop rechargeables, which lasted a full week of heavy use on a feature. Leica rates it at 5000 measurements per set of batteries. The "On/Measure" button has a raised dimple, which makes it easy to find. The rubber grip sticks to your hand, but the rubber also sticks in the included holster, which makes the unit slightly difficult to remove.

The Quickstart guide fits nicely in the belt holster's hidden front pocket.

Speaking of the holster... One day I thought I had lost my Disto, but it turns out the unit fell off my belt. I had no idea how this happened until I looked at the back of the holster and realized that the belt loop has a velcro release! Not the greatest design for a $200 tool. I'd rather it be a solid loop.

The screen displays the past 4 measurements, which is handy for when I need to take several measurements. I can take multiple measurements, then use the screen as a reference while I mark my focus wheel. This is a nice feature that is lacking on cheaper rangefinders.

Accurate at 7".

When you turn on the unit, the laser is automatically on. Press the On button again to take your first measurement. You can turn the illumination and beep on or off, and it will recall those settings when you cycle the power. The illuminated screen makes this device perfectly usable in the dark.

You can change from what point the device measures, either from the front or the back of the device. The default is the back of the device. But unlike beep and illumination preferences, as soon as you turn the device off, it reverts to measuring from the back.

One neat feature that I've used a few times is the Min/Max mode, achieved by holding the "On/Measure" button for two seconds. This mode gives you a real-time distance readout, and displays the minimum and maximum distances measured on the LCD.

Min and Max distances displayed on top and the current distance is on bottom.

There are a few missing features. It's Imperial Units only, there isn't a way to view distances in meters. If you need meters, check out the Leica Disto DXT. It does have meters! (and a few other modes too). Hold the "Historical Memory/Units" key down to cycle between 6 modes:
  1. 0.000 meters
  2. 0'0'' 1/8
  3. 0 in 1/8
  4. 0'0'' 1/16
  5. 0 in 1/16
  6. 0.00 ft
There isn't a tripod mount, which is a bummer. And the laser is nearly impossible to see if you're filming in bright sunlight. A feature that some (more expensive) rangefinders have is a viewfinder that allows you to view where the laser is pointing, even in sunlight. However, I did see a clever hack that used a compact monocular taped onto the side to offer similar functionality.

Despite a few minor shortcomings, I have found the Leica Disto D210XT to be invaluable, especially on shoots where we are moving at a blistering pace and a director who insists on shooting the rehearsal. Being able to gather multiple measurements quickly and accurately makes this gadget a fantastic companion for any camera assistant.

Manufacturer's Website

If you found this review helpful, help me out by clicking on the Amazon link below!


shane said...

Hey that was a great review, I ordered one myself. Are you sure about the imperial part? The manual indicates metric measurement as well!


Kyle Peters said...


Thanks! And you are absolutely correct! There are a total of 6 modes, one of which includes meters.

Alex Funke, ASC said...

I spent two years as Motion Control Supervisor on The Hobbit, and the Disto was used, perhaps, more than any other tool. This machine is *Bombproof!* Thanks for a very valuable review, and, seriously, if you are getting a rangefinder, don't even bother looking at anything else.

Benny said...

That's a cool gadget!
I have an older version