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Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie

 

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jasonic

Mar 15, 2011, 8:58 PM
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Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie Can't Post

I'm working on my AFF A Licence and want to start buying some of my own gear. Helmet, Alti, goggles, freefly pants.

What should I buy for an Alti, Digital or Analog or is it simply personal preference? The Visio II seams reasonably priced (I guess)... Any recommendations would be helpful...


monkycndo  (D License)

Mar 15, 2011, 9:04 PM
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

For a first alti, suggest the Alti III Galaxy. No batteries and bomb proof.


InfiniteSky  (B 33221)

Mar 15, 2011, 10:28 PM
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

I got a digital alti early on. I can read a digital display much faster than an analog display. And to me being able to read my altitude as fast as possible is pretty important.

However, batteries do die and I've had a couple jumps where it didn't work (faulty battery, replaced it and haven't had problems since). Analog altimeters can stop working on jumps as well. Which display do you find easier to read?

I'd say keep using the student altimeters until you have your A, then buy your own alti. You'll have time to save up some extra cash and get one that'll log as well as tell altitude. And you'll (hopefully) be jumping with other people and can look at their altimeters if yours dies on you.

FWIW I prefer the fact that if my digital alti stops working I know it as soon as I look at it, unlike an analog where I'm likely to burn through some altitude before I realize the needle is stuck.


bofh  (D 13995)

Mar 16, 2011, 12:37 AM
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

This has been discussed before, you might find some interesting answers with the search function.

Anyway, take a look at the AltiTrack. Its a digital altimeter with an analog face. After opening you can flip it over and see the digital display on the back. I find it easier to read in freefall than a viso because of the bigger display (which becomes really hard to read if the goggles leak air and you get some tears in the eyes). It can also be connected to a computer and then read to Paralog.

After getting a really tiny main, the digital side became harder to read when in full flight since the higher air speed would cause the altitrack to flap around, so now I jump with a Viso too.


popsjumper  (D 999999999)

Mar 16, 2011, 12:58 AM
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

The recommendation has always been, and will always be, an analogue to start with.

Monkey's recommendation for the Alti III Galaxy is a good one. It will serve you well for a long, long time.

A digital is recommended as an after-market (so to speak) add-on.

I find the analogue is much easier to read. It's just like a clock face that you are already intimately familiar with and you don't have to actually stare at it to read little numbers on a display. A quick glance tells me and I can even read it in my peripheral vision...no need to focus my eyes and distract my attention away from what's going on around me.

Additionally, some people have had issues with digital displays combined with polarized lenses in your goggles. Something you'll want to test before you buy that digital display.

The Alti-track is also good as already suggested. Combined analogue interface with digital record keeping.


I'll go one step further...
I noticed you mentioned freefly pants. Obviously you intend on going that way as soon as possible.
It has always been, and will continue to be, recommended that one get proficient on one's flat flying before going that route. Here's why....

It doesn't matter what you are doing in the sky while playing and having fun. When it comes time to deploy, where do you want to be? On your belly, stable at pull time. It would be nice to be able to do that fluently and consistently regardless of the situation in which you may find yourself at pull time.

I hope that helps.


(This post was edited by popsjumper on Mar 16, 2011, 1:04 AM)


ast4711

Mar 16, 2011, 1:11 AM
Post #6 of 32 (2676 views)
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Re: [popsjumper] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

One thing to consider is batteries.

I learned that sooner or later you will face a situation where the electroinic device simply stops working because of an empty battery. If all is well this happens on the ground, but one or two times, I missed the check on the ground and found myself in the plane without an alti at all...

These digital altimeters require more maintainance simply because of the needed batteries! This is why a plain old analoge alti is a very good investment to start with...

alex


GLIDEANGLE  (D 30292)

Mar 16, 2011, 3:43 AM
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

In the last year I have changed from an Alti-2 Galaxy to an Alti-2 N3 as my primary visual altimeter. I made the change because I have old eyes (and an old brain). I wear progressive trifocals, which have a narrow vertical strip of lens with good near vision. I found that I could not read my analog Alti without turning my head excessively. Also, despite having used circular analog watch and clock faces for decades, even when I got a good look at my analog Alti, I often had trouble interpreting it.  Contrary to what you might think, I found that I often had trouble determining what value the needle was pointing to. I broke off early several times due to MIS-reading my analog Alti.

Here are the pros and cons about the N3 from my perspective:

PRO
•Large characters - easier to read
•Less mental gymnastics necessary to read data
•Canopy alarms let me keep my eyes on traffic and navigation rather than my Alti.
•I am finding that knowing my freefall speed after a jump is helping me get better at predicting how fast students will fall.
•remarkably durable for a precision electronic device.
•waterproof.

CONS
•Greater snag hazard than my Galaxy
•Does not play well with polarized sunglasses
•Rechargeable battery requires me to think ahead and check the battery on Thursday night before a weekend of jumping. 
•I perceive it as being more vulnerable to failure than my Galaxy... Which may or may not be true.
•More than twice the price of the Galaxy!

I am considering mounting my Galaxy on my rig's mudflap as a backup to my N3.


jasonic

Mar 16, 2011, 8:05 AM
Post #8 of 32 (2574 views)
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Re: [popsjumper] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for everyones advice! It helps to hear what experienced jumpers thank... The reason for freefly pants is to prevent spending a lot of money on a suit when I don't know what I should buy yet but at least I could get out of jumping in jeans.... I still have a lot to learn before thinking about freefly....


JohnRich  (D License)

Mar 16, 2011, 8:07 AM
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

Review: http://www.dropzone.com/...p;sb=score&mh=25


tdog  (D 28800)

Mar 16, 2011, 9:40 PM
Post #10 of 32 (2475 views)
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

I 100% say digital!

Here is why:

1) It is future proof (when you do night jumps and want the backlight or are using it for canopy - you will have it)

2) Analog gets stuck when it breaks. Digital goes blank or shows you an error code or serial number. No matter what your experience, if your altimeter is showing a serial number, you know you can't trust it.

3) I broke my analog twice, each time dropping it onto concrete from 4 or so feet. My digital should be broken with everything I have done to it, but it has lasted over 1000 jumps without a glitch. It falls out of my locker at least once a weekend to the concrete. (Buy the rubber condom for the neptune - it works!)

4) It tracks your jumps. It is useful for education purposes too as you can go back and see where you pulled versus where you thought you pulled.

5) Everyone who is less than 40 years old grew up with digital displays, not analog. VCRs, wrist watches, alarm clocks next to your bed and your microwave are all digital. I will bet 50 bucks to anyone who wants to bet that I could take 5 people off the street who never have skydived and show them an analog and a digital altimeter and all of them would instantly prove they can read a digital quicker and more accurately. Why would someone with a few jumps under their belt suddenly read an analog quicker? (A reason why newbies have a harder time reading the analog dial is it spins backwards. Every clock they have read in their life spin forwards. It adds even more confusion).

But - I go back to the most important reason... Mode of failure. I have a video on my harddrive called "how low can you go" on a re-currency jump where I pitched at my harddeck in the jumpers face as my final attempt to get them to pull because they kept tracking thru their pull altitude and did not see any of my other attempts to get them to pull. They checked their altimeter 22 times on the jump, and their alti was found stuck at 7 grand when they landed and I saw in the video their alti was accurate in the plane and when we were docked seconds after exit. I never have seen a digital read the wrong altitude on failure, but I have seen them do stuff that says, "I am not trustworthy" such as a serial number on the display. I can teach anyone - "If the altimeter does not say an altitude, know you are on your own and have to make appropriate decisions." If you have an analog the conversation is much more complex: "If you feel your altimeter is not reading the right altitude...."

IF your DZ requires analog until you have X number of jumps... Borrow one and buy a digital.

I personally like the Neptune (although I like the older software better unfortunately).


labrys  (D 29848)

Mar 16, 2011, 10:24 PM
Post #11 of 32 (2466 views)
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

Lots of good comments here.

There's always a chance that an altimeter will fail. It's a lot more likely that a digital one will have issues than an analog one. It's not just that batteries can die, but that they can act odd in certain circumstances. I went through a stage with my Neptune where it would reset to 0 on jump run and I'd land with it displaying negative numbers or garbage. Sometimes it would reset to 0 on opening. Mostly when it got cold.

That said, I considered the relative frailty of a digital alti and bought one as soon as I gained some comfort with my eyeball evaluation of altitude because I really completely suck at reading some kinds of visual indicators.

Pops mentioned earlier that an analog is a lot like a watch and that most people are used to evaluating a dial.....that didn't work well for me. An analog alti might look like a clock, but it runs "backwards" in freefall and I had a much harder time processing that information than a nice digital number.

All in all, though, I think that analog works best for most people early on. I was freaked out about my problems with the analog at first but looking back at the issue 700ish jumps later I realize that my biggest problem was figuring out whether the thing said 5K or 7K and that's not really a huge deal in the big picture. I just opened high on a number of coached jumps as a result.

I'll end my ramble with this.... unless you have the same sort of weirdly specific visual-spatial dyslexia that I have, I'd recommend an analog for starters, Get a digital when you aren't nervous about jumping without an altimeter anymore.


(This post was edited by labrys on Mar 16, 2011, 10:36 PM)


dragon2  (D 101989)

Mar 17, 2011, 12:36 AM
Post #12 of 32 (2446 views)
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Re: [tdog] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

Quote:
2) Analog gets stuck when it breaks. Digital goes blank or shows you an error code or serial number. No matter what your experience, if your altimeter is showing a serial number, you know you can't trust it.

Don't know where that line comes from, seen it before, but I have also jumped with digital alti's wrong by 800ft to 13000ft and in between.


tdog  (D 28800)

Mar 17, 2011, 6:28 AM
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Re: [dragon2] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Don't know where that line comes from, seen it before, but I have also jumped with digital alti's wrong by 800ft to 13000ft and in between.

It came from personal experience with my gear and all my friends gear and seeing the statistical fail rates in the real world. I guess you have had different experiences. I am wondering if the digital, in freefall, failed that catastrophically, or if it showed warning signs in the aircraft or on the ground before failing....


dragon2  (D 101989)

Mar 17, 2011, 6:34 AM
Post #14 of 32 (2412 views)
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Re: [tdog] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

One of the problem alti's showed signs in the aircraft (800ft off), it showed me being at 4k when I was in my landing pattern. Another one of these altis caused a cypres fire (alti WAS faulty but IMO so was jumper...)

Another one was a RTFM/too-good-pilot problem: if you fly at 1k for 20 minutes your neptune will now think that it is at ground level. This will not happen with an analog alti.

Another time the alti just went nuts in freefall (-13k?~!?), due to a broken temperature reading thingie if I recall.


tdog  (D 28800)

Mar 17, 2011, 6:51 AM
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Re: [labrys] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
It's a lot more likely that a digital one will have issues than an analog one.

To me there are two types of issues. Issues that you know in freefall or in the aircraft, such as a battery warning or a device that turned off due to bad batteries versus issues that give false readings with no warning.

I have had more "issues" with digital. But each time I knew my alti was not working and did not trust it.

When my analog broke the 2nd time, it would give a reading 2,500 feet too high, thus causing low pulls for a person who does not identify it in time. It would always read OK on the ground once adjusted. It would read OK in the aircraft to about 10,000 feet. But after 10,000 feet it would continue to artificially climb in addition to the real aircraft climb. So it would read higher based on the time the aircraft was at altitude. To make things more complex, the model would "max out" at about 16,000 above sea level under normal use, but our jumprun is closer to 18K, so it always read 1,500 feet or so lower on jumprun and would "catch back up" once in freefall. It was only when I watched it continue to climb to a reading of about 20,000 feet when we were doing a few go arounds, when I realized how the alti was always off when I landed.

I have seen analogs get stuck and give confusing readings. I have seen digitalis "reset" or give a screen with a serial number. I 100% of the time have known the digital failed. I did not know the analog failed until I landed and it was off and wondered why my friends tracked off early and everything "felt low".

Thus I will accept the digital issues over the analog issues as my more favored device.

In reply to:
It's not just that batteries can die, but that they can act odd in certain circumstances. I went through a stage with my Neptune where it would reset to 0 on jump run and I'd land with it displaying negative numbers or garbage. Sometimes it would reset to 0 on opening. Mostly when it got cold.

That is a bad battery, I can confirm because I had the same thing - except mine would show a serial number on opening. Batteries lose voltage and ability to deliver current when they are cold (think of your car starting in the winter). The neptune seems to need additional power on opening to switch modes from freefall to canopy, as I went thru 10 jumps where I knew the battery was low and I pushed the limits to see what would happen. I have had both the most recent software versions, and with both software versions, it never showed a false altitude. (I did not push any buttons). Instead it showed a screen I knew was not trustworthy.

All that being said, the battery replacement was not the device's fault, mine. AND most importantly, the altitude/error message/screen message was a clear indication of failure, where an analog has absolutely no method of telling the user "I am dead" in freefall as it ONLY and ALWAYS gives an altitude reading.

All that being said, I still believe the digital altimeter is more reliable for a skydiver, not because it will always work, but because most of the time when it fails it tells the user it failed, where an analog may or may not be more "reliable", but the mode of failure gives a false reading that requires the end user to think "this just does not make sense, could this thing be broken, maybe I should tap it to see what it says when I do."

P.S. I know my opinions are strong on this - not trying to hurt anyone else's feelings. Just expressing what I believe.Smile


(This post was edited by tdog on Mar 17, 2011, 6:55 AM)


Premier NWFlyer  (D License)

Mar 17, 2011, 8:22 AM
Post #16 of 32 (2387 views)
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Re: [tdog] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

Then you have your digi-analog altimeter going haywire. My Altitrack "lost" about 1500 feet on one jump. Not the first jump of the day, it had worked fine on previous jumps, batteries were fresh, etc.

It was a team training jump, so I doubt I looked at it the entire skydive, since my internal clock for those jumps is pretty well set (plus my eyes, my audible, and my teammates as backup). After I'd opened, cleared my airspace and done my housekeeping I noticed my alti said I was above 3,500, which is either one hell of a thermal, or an alti malfunction. Interestingly, it kept moving downward as I descended towards landing, but it still read about 1,500 feet upon landing.

However, the digital logger registered an accurate freefall time and opening altitude. Go figure.

Reset it on the ground and have had no problems with it since.


Ron

Mar 17, 2011, 9:02 AM
Post #17 of 32 (2366 views)
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Re: [jasonic] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

The choice is yours.

I prefer analog since I can just glance near the thing and see where I am. I do not have to even look at it, just notice it (like I do a clock). When I use a digital, I have to read it.

Cost should be a factor. Digitals are normally more expensive.

Logging software is not really that important. I assume you will also get a ditter of some type and it has logging software.

Use for night jumps.... Well unless you planning on doing a bunch of night jumps should not be a factor... I have 100 (?) night jumps and never used a lit alti.

But what I would do is have a buddy set both and flash them at you. See how fast you can read it. The one I can read faster is the one I would buy.


millertime24  (C 38793)

Mar 17, 2011, 9:39 AM
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Re: [monkycndo] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
For a first alti, suggest the Alti III Galaxy. No batteries and bomb proof.

+1 I understand the whole "analog can stick" argument, but I will give you my personal experience with one.

Shortly after graduating AFF I bought a Galaxy (jump #8 IIRC). Throughout the time I've owned this altimeter (yes I still use it) I have dropped it a few times on concrete, had to clean the mud/dirt out of it from PLF landings, banged it against the a/c multiple times (usually during climbout and exit), have had it banged on by others in freefall, been stepped on a few times, and most recently it spent the night submerged in rain water (at LP when I left it in my upturned helmet outside overnight).

After all that it still works very well, and now it is used on my mudflap for wingsuiting. I'm sure others haven't been so lucky, but mine has NEVER failed. Go with one. You'll be happy you did. Oh yeah, and it doesn't need batteries to work.


tdog  (D 28800)

Mar 17, 2011, 9:41 AM
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Re: [NWFlyer] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

Quote:
Then you have your digi-analog altimeter going haywire. My Altitrack "lost" about 1500 feet on one jump. Not the first jump of the day, it had worked fine on previous jumps, batteries were fresh, etc.

I have a digital. I have an analog. I don't have one of the hybrids. It was the analog that, when above 10,000 feet, would keep climbing to about 20,000 feet.

FYI to all. I was just riding my motorcycle down a busy highway and tested the how quickly I could glance at the digital spedo and the analog tach. For me, the digital was quicker every time. Everyone's brain works differently, so I like Ron's advice of test it.


GLIDEANGLE  (D 30292)

Mar 17, 2011, 10:53 AM
Post #20 of 32 (2317 views)
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Re: [tdog] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

Quote:
I 100% say digital!

Here is why:

1) It is future proof (when you do night jumps and want the backlight or are using it for canopy - you will have it)

The solution to that is very simple. Buy an analog Alti with a glow in the dark dial. My Galaxy has that feature and it works great on night jumps.

WARNING: NOT ALL Alti-2 Galaxys have this feature! It is an optional feature.... But WELL worth the couple of bucks it costs.


millertime24  (C 38793)

Mar 17, 2011, 11:38 AM
Post #21 of 32 (2297 views)
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Re: [GLIDEANGLE] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Quote:
I 100% say digital!

Here is why:

1) It is future proof (when you do night jumps and want the backlight or are using it for canopy - you will have it)

The solution to that is very simple. Buy an analog Alti with a glow in the dark dial. My Galaxy has that feature and it works great on night jumps.

WARNING: NOT ALL Alti-2 Galaxys have this feature! It is an optional feature.... But WELL worth the couple of bucks it costs.

Are you talking about the dial or the back face?


DiverMike  (C 40024)

Mar 17, 2011, 12:08 PM
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Re: [millertime24] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

He is probably talking about the face.

On a confusing note about the Alti - they have a 'free' program to create a custom face. All you have to do is send in your altimeter and pay $12 for shipping and handling. If you want a glow in the dark face, it costs an additional $60.00. I even tried to get a stock glow in the dark, but the quote was still $60.00. It doesn't make sense to me how they will take your artwork and create and install a custom dial for free, but charge you out the ying-yang if you want a glow in the dark face.


sundevil777  (D License)

Mar 17, 2011, 1:04 PM
Post #23 of 32 (2260 views)
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Re: [DiverMike] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
He is probably talking about the face.

On a confusing note about the Alti - they have a 'free' program to create a custom face. All you have to do is send in your altimeter and pay $12 for shipping and handling. If you want a glow in the dark face, it costs an additional $60.00. I even tried to get a stock glow in the dark, but the quote was still $60.00. It doesn't make sense to me how they will take your artwork and create and install a custom dial for free, but charge you out the ying-yang if you want a glow in the dark face.

That is very strange about such an extra fee for what should be a std face.

Attached is a pic of what a glow in the dark face looks like at night vs day

For those thinking that an analog takes longer to 'read' than a digital, that may be due to caring about the 'detail' of whether you are at 9k or 7k etc. If all you really care about is your proximity to break off altitude and your hard deck, then a custom face with only those indicators actually makes a lot of sense, and would prevent your brain from bothering to spend any extra time evaluating unnecessary detail. I think I might consider a custom face to do just that. Some custom faces from the alti website that to some degree accomplish that are also attached.
Attachments: glow in the dark.JPG (37.4 KB)
  free custom dial face.JPG (47.7 KB)


DiverMike  (C 40024)

Mar 17, 2011, 1:44 PM
Post #24 of 32 (2246 views)
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Re: [sundevil777] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

They don't waive the labor when installing a glow face, but do when installing a custom face. Last spring I got a custom face that made the alti difficult to read. I sent it back in to get a standard face and they wanted to charge me more. I had to take a standard face, add a tiny JPG to it, and submit it as a custom face to get the free custom face. I was willing to pay the extra $4.00 for a glow in the dark but they wouldn't do it without charging me $54.00 to put it in.
Attachments: AltiQuote.jpg (60.3 KB)


labrys  (D 29848)

Mar 17, 2011, 6:03 PM
Post #25 of 32 (2201 views)
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Re: [tdog] Altimeters Digital vs Analog newbie [In reply to] Can't Post

Quote:
That is a bad battery, I can confirm because I had the same thing

Negative on that confirmation. The manufacturer determined that it was not a low battery. Twas an issue with firmware and hardware in the cold. And to whoever claimed that digitals only suffer total failure, that's also a negative. I've had mine reset half way up and be 6 to 7 K low at exit. It's rare but it happens.

I think digitals are great and they work really well for me, but I also think that analogs are statistically more reliable.


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