If I bought a Total Station used off of Ebay, maybe a Topcon or Sokkia for maybe $1000 to $1500, could I use it to get a computer file containing distance and horizontal and vertical angles to hundreds of targets? What does it take to get a file containing these as ASCII text or “Excel” .csv comma separated variables? Does it require dedicated software on the PC to transfer data from the Station or to convert it from the Station’s proprietary binary format?
Can such a Total Station read targets other than prisms? Can they read targets like reflective tape? Can they read rocks and trees and concrete and ground surfaces and dark rusted steel? I assume the possible distance would be much shorter with a less reflective target, but is there a rule of thumb like 1/10 the prism distance for a flat white painted target and 1/100 for a dark earth or rusted or wet rock target?
Is Ebay a good place to start? I haven’t found many used surveying equipment stores and nothing I can easily drive to…
What’s it cost to rent?
Any other advice?
My hobby is surveying old historic sites. I would like to be able to distance to a few hundred feet maybe. My current instruments are a horrible cheap “builder’s transit” and a $400 Stanley TLM300 distance meter that works really well to dark objects as much as 100’ away and to safety reflectors much further (supposedly 600’). I don’t need near the accuracy of even the cheapest and oldest Total Stations I have found, but really wish for the speed and accuracy of measuring and recording dozens or hundreds of points and downloading them somehow to the computer. I am very good at programming, using PCs and RS232 ports and the like, and even hacking simple binary file formats.