All You Need to Know About Rotating Laser levels.

What is a Rotating Laser Level?

A Rotating Laser Level is a piece of equipment that can project a laser beam 360 degrees either in a horizontal or vertical plane.  The rotating laser level uses a beam that is projected on to a rotating mirror set a 45 degrees so that the laser beam can be projected on a horizontal or vertical plane through a complete 360 degree rotation.  In most rotating laser levels, this mirror spins at 600RPM, which is fast enough for the projected laser line appear as a solid line to us.

More advanced Rotating Lasers can also be set to a grade from the Horizontal plane, these are often just referred to as Grade Lasers within the surveying and construction industries.

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What is the range of a Rotating Laser Level?

Most Outdoor Rotating Laser Levels have a working Range of up to 800m (875 Yds. or 2625 ft.) diameter, or up to 400m (437 Yds. or 1312 ft.) from the Rotating Laser.  This works out to cover a total working area in excess of 502,500m² (700,000 Yds² or 5,408,900 ft²). This range is large enough to cover most construction sites within the United Kingdom.

Spectra Physics  LL 300 S Rotating Laser Level providing level information on site for a waste tank installation
Spectra Physics Rotating Laser Level at work.

What is the Rotating Laser Level accuracy?

The Accuracy of a Rotating Laser Level is quoted in Arc Seconds. The best rotating laser levels have an accuracy quoted of 10 arc seconds to the horizontal plane. As long as the tripod is set up within the range of the self-levelling motors, then the rotating laser level will set itself to within the 10 arc seconds accuracy quoted. 

In the real world, this accuracy would be seen as being either 5mm (5/8 Inch) above or below the rotating laser level when standing 200m (219Yds.) away from the rotating laser level. There is a table at the bottom of this page with a list of current rotating laser levels in order of their accuracy.

How do you know if a rotating laser level is accurate?

The method for checking the accuracy of a rotating laser level is based on the principle of the two peg test that is used for Automatic (Dumpy) Levels. This is a check where the level is set up and a measure of the difference from two unequal positions is calculated, if the difference is minimal then the level is considered to be accurate.

A procedure for checking a rotating laser level can be found here. 

If you are interested in how a two peg test works for Automatic (Dumpy) Levels then look here.

If you want to know how to do quick and easy checks on automatic (dumpy) levels then check out this article.

How do you set Rotating Laser Levels?

Setting up a rotating laser level is very simple and straightforward. Set up the tripod on a solid surface that can support the weight of the tripod and laser.  Extend the legs in turn until the head of the tripod is near horizontal, you don’t have to be accurate on this just enough for the rotating laser level to self-level.

Secure the rotating laser lever on the tripod and secure using the locking bolt on the tripod. Switch on the rotating laser level and once it has self-levelled the laser mirror should start spinning. Use the receiver and a known datum to work out the height of collimation of the rotating laser level.

Can a Rotating Laser Lever be used to take Reduced Levels over a site?

A rotating laser level can be used for taking levels and working out reduced levels around the site. The procedure for doing this would be the same as taking them with an Automatic (Dumpy) Level, a method for doing a levelling traverse can be found here.  It would be difficult carrying out with a normal E-Grad staff as adjusting the receiver and ensuring the E-Grad staff is plumb, so an easier solution would be required.

One solution would be to have a staff that could be extended to the desired height and the reading being done at ground level.  This can be done by using a telescopic rule, like this one the Nedo mEssfix that is available on Amazon.

Using a telescopic rule, like the Nedo mEssfix, is easy, just clamp the receiver at the top of the rule and adjust the height until the receiver gives a constant tone to indicate the height is achieved and read the height of the tape display.

Can the Rotating Laser Level be set at a Specific Height?

The rotating laser level can only set at the height of the tripod supplied. Generally the tripod supplied with the rotating laser level is an aluminium tripod with adjustable legs to enable the tripod head to be levelled. 

If you want to be able to set the rotating laser level to a desired height then you would need to get a telescopic tripod like this one at a good price on Amazon.  This will allow you to set up the rotating laser level next to your desired level datum and adjust the rotating laser level up to the desired height.  This especially handy when levels are referenced from say FFL (Finished Floor Level) in a warehouse that is being constructed.

Can any Type of Receiver be Used with a Rotating Laser Level?

Different manufacturer’s receivers will work with different rotating laser levels as long as the light frequency is similar. It would be prudent though to use the same manufacturer for both the rotating laser level and the receiver to ensure that maximum accuracy is achieved. This will also ensure that the maximum working range is available when needed.

When using the red beam rotating laser level receivers it has been observed that the amber flashing lights fitted to plant in the UK can set off the receivers.  This can be identified by a bleeping form the receiver in time with the flashing amber lights.  This is usually confined to situations within a few metres of the plant and depends on the ambient light level.

Rotating Laser Level being used to provide Concrete Floor Levels.

Why are there Green and Red Beam Rotating Laser Levels?

Most of the outdoor rotating laser levels use the red colour laser beam which is a low power laser beam and is safe if it catches your eye.  But for us it is difficult to see this laser beam clearly as it is in the upper ranges of the light spectrum that we can see.

We are much more able to see the green band of light as it is closer the centre of the light spectrum that we can see.  The green rotating laser levels are still safe if it catches your eye.  Green rotating laser levels are more prevalent in the interior construction industry where being able to the rotating laser level line is more practical than using a receiver.

How to see the Rotating Laser Level Beam.

If you need to see the rotating laser level beam then a pair of coloured glasses are the solution.  Quite often these are included with green beam rotating laser levels, but are often missing from the red beam rotating laser level kits.  They don’t cost much to buy and can be easily bought like these red glasses and these green glasses that I found on Amazon.

The Best Rotating Laser Level?

Specifying a certain rotating laser level as the best one is dependent on the task that is going to be undertaken.  I would suggest that you should certainly consider the top three rotating laser level manufacturers as being Leica, Topcon and Trimble. 

Leica have the Rugby series of rotating laser levels and these have proved very popular and reliable on construction sites within the UK.  The current range of Leica rotating laser levels are the Rugby 600 range.

Leica Rugby 600 Series Range of rotating laser levels
The Leica Rugby Rotating Laser Level Range

Topcon were the first manufacturer of rotating laser levels to offer a 5 year guarantee on all of their laser products.  The current rotating laser level from Topcon is the RL-H5A.  If you want to know more about this rotating laser level then you can find information on it here.

Trimble produce rotating laser levels under their Spectra Physics range.  They are not as widely used in the UK compared with the Topcon and Leica rotating laser levels, but they are worth considering as they are just as good as the others mentioned.

What is the most accurate rotating laser level?

The Topcon RL-200 series of Rotating Laser Levels is the most accurate laser level currently available. According to our research, Topcon Rotating Laser Levels hold the top 4 positions in regard to accuracy, as shown in the table below.

Below is an overview of the Rotating Laser Levels that are currently available to buy from various outlets.  This list will hopefully narrow down your search for your next rotating laser level. This list is by no means all the rotating laser levels currently available and the information quoted is taken from the manufactures literature.

ManufacturerModelWorking Range
AccuracyWorking Time
(Single Charge)
Current Price
TopconRL-20011004mm at 200m100Hrs
TopconRL-H5A8005mm at 200m100Hrs
Topcon RL-SV2S800 5mm at 200m 120Hrs
TopconRL-H5B40010mm at 200m100Hrs
LeicaRugby 6809001.5mm at 30m60Hrs
Spectra PhysicsLL300S8001.5mm at 30m60Hrs
BoschGRL 500 HV5001.5mm at 30m25Hrscheck current price
Johnson40-65846001.6mm at 30m100Hrs
Johnson40-65415001.6mm at 30m33Hrs
Johnson40-65355001.6mm at 30m33Hrs
LeicaRugby 6105002.2mm at 30m60Hrscheck current price
LeicaRugby 6206002.2mm at 30m60Hrscheck current price
LeicaRugby 640G4002.2mm at 30m60Hrs
LeicaRugby 6405002.2mm at 30m60Hrscheck current price
Spectra PhysicsLL300N500 2.2mm at 30m 90Hrscheck current price
FukudaFRE-102AR6002.3mm at 30m25Hrs
Johnson40-6950L4502.4mm at 30m16Hrs
MakitaSKR200Z2003.0mm at 30m60Hrs
Spectra Physics LL100N3503.3mm at 30m50Hrscheck current price
PacificHVR 505R1523.3mm at 30mN/A
StabilaSTB-LAPR1502406.0mm at 30m80Hrs
HiltiPR 2-HS A12600N/A16Hrs
The most accurate laser levels currently available.

Check Out the Current Prices for Rotating Laser Levels

Find out the current price and availability of recommended Rotating Laser Levels from Lichfield Survey Supplies Ltd.

Related Articles

Leica Rugby 620 Rotating Laser Review

Topcon RL-H5A Rotating Laser Review

How to check a rotating laser level

Best Laser Levels Available Today

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This is the website where I share the information that I have learnt, the tips I have been given and the tools that I use day in, day out whilst surveying and engineering.