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Author Topic:   Color vs. Monochrome SONAR Display
Frank O posted 09-16-2006 11:41 PM ET (US)   Profile for Frank O   Send Email to Frank O  
On my boat I have a fairly recent monochrome Lowrance SONAR/GPS combination unit, an LCX-17M. Can a case be made that a color unit would show more useful SONAR information? If so, how exactly would color help?

And -- would your answer be different if I mention that as a scuba-diving underwater photographer, my main interest in sonar is looking at structure/topography, not finding fish?

bsmotril posted 09-17-2006 07:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
I have both, and don't think it makes much difference as long as you are talking apples to apples, that is, if the monochrome unit has 8 levels of gray-black levels of signal strength differentiation, and you put that up against a color unit with 8 colors to define 8 levels of signal differentiation, you won't see much difference in what you can discern with the unit. But, if the monochrome has 4 levels of gray against an 8 color unit, you will see a better picture of the bottom. Where color becomes a benefit for me is when I use the chartplotter function to see chart detail, and under bright sunlight where the contrast on my color screen is better than the monochrome unit. Also, the vertical pixel resolution of the screen plays a big factor as well in how well the unit can differentiate close together targets, more so than color versus monochorme all else being equal. BillS
swist posted 09-22-2006 09:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
The last reply didn't quite answer the question I've always had - what exactly is the purpose of color on a fishfinder? (Pardon my ignorance). Must be something useful because all the charter boats around here seem to have these big-display color units.
bsmotril posted 09-22-2006 04:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
Different colors idicate different levels of signal strength from the returned sonar signal. It is very useful when you are looking for hardbottom structure on an otherwise silt, mud, or sand bottom. The color change tells you the hard spots where Snapper and their buddies congreate in the Gulf of Mexico. The whiteline feature also makes it easy to differentiate fish near the bottom fro the actual bottom itself. Also good for finding Thermocline, and determining the types of baitfish in a school; Rain Minnows give a different color return than do Poagies or Sardine minnows. BillS
swist posted 09-22-2006 05:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
Aha. So it also takes some education to learn how to interpret the colors....
Frank O posted 09-22-2006 05:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Frank O  Send Email to Frank O     
That's interesting about the thermocline -- you can see it on sonar, be it color or monochrome? Fish-finding aside, radical temperature changes are of a great deal of interest to divers.

Chuck Tribolet posted 09-22-2006 08:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
I can sometimes see a thermoclne on my B/W SONAR, but only
sometimes, but I also keep the sensitivity down (I'm looking
for fairly radical stucture, not fish (I'm a diver), and sure
don't want to see every kelp frond)


highanddry posted 09-24-2006 12:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for highanddry  Send Email to highanddry     
Some freshwater lakes have radical thermoclines, I think these do show sometimes much more so than those in saltwater. I see thermoclines with the 987c but have been in saltwater with it only once actually and there were no significant--sudden --thermoclines like in lakes. In a lake such as those in the Ozarks you can reach down into the thermocline (approx 25 feet) and it is drastic--icey cold! A twenty degree drop give or take and then another at greater depth of about 60 feet.
timing posted 09-24-2006 07:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for timing    
I’ve had both and find the color well worth the price for fish finders. More efficient in term of interpretation of objects / conditions. One specific scenario where color is much improved over grays: When fishing at the stern, the vivid color presentation is easier to see looking from some distance forward to the console’s

Point of caution on the color screens – if you use polarized sun glasses, before purchasing have a view of the unit with the shades on, and also move to the sides. Display quality could degrade under these conditions...

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