Moderated Discussion Areas
  ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
  SONAR Units with Recording Capability

Post New Topic  Post Reply
search | FAQ | profile | register | author help

Author Topic:   SONAR Units with Recording Capability
jimh posted 02-18-2008 11:42 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Other than the SONAR units made by LOWRANCE, are there other manufacturers who make SONAR units which have the ability to record the raster display onto digital memory chips and provide the ability to play back the recordings using a personal computer?

Also, on the LOWRANCE units or on others with this capability, in what motion picture file format are the recordings made? Are they in a standard motion picture file format like .MOV or similar?

jimh posted 02-18-2008 11:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Also, if someone has a recording from a LOWRANCE or other SONAR unit, I would like to see if I can play the file. Any chance you could email it to me for a test?
Frank O posted 02-19-2008 07:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for Frank O  Send Email to Frank O     
Jim, my Lowrance LCX-25C does not output SONAR data in any standard video format. The log files have an extension .slg and, to my knowledge, are in a proprietary format that is only viewable on Lowrance's free SONAR viewer software downloadable here:

One of the options on that page is to download the log viewer software with some example SONAR records. If you'd prefer a sample file from a fellow boater, I'd be glad to send one of mine this evening.

I talked briefly once with one of my buddies who also has a Lowrance unit about the idea of capturing the log viewer's output into a standard video format. However, we didn't get very far in pursuing that. The owner of a local charter boat in our area put an animated GIF file on one of his web pages that I believe shows the output from a Lowrance unit:

(In order for this to show the animation correctly, you must be viewing it in software capable of handling animated GIF files.)

Chuck Tribolet posted 02-19-2008 07:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The high end Humminbirds can record to some sort of flash


jimh posted 02-19-2008 10:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I downloaded from the LOWRANCE website the SONAR LOG VIEWER software which has two sample files.

One interesting feature of the Sonar Log Viewer (SLV) application is that is has some post-recording processing capabilities. By that I mean that it is not simply just a capture of what was on the screen of the SONAR, but, rather, it acts like it is a capture of the actual raw data from the SONAR, pre-display screen. You can apply post-recording controls to the data, such as adjusting the screen clutter, changing the sensitivity, adding echo processing, and so on. I don't know if all of this functionality is entirely legitimate or just simulates what might have gone on in the real-time display, but it is somewhat interesting. You might be able to enhance the presentation of the data by tweaking the controls during playback to reveal something more clearly than you saw in real time.

There is also a record of the latitude and longitude for each "echo" that was recorded. That is quite useful, too, in term of gathering a historical record of the SONAR event that was recorded.

Frank--That animated GIF file was quite interesting. I wonder how the fellow made that file!

bluewaterpirate posted 02-19-2008 10:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
I had a Lowrance LCX 19c installed on my Whaler 4 years ago and I could record my sonar data to my MMC chip (if I remember correctly a 12 mb MMC would give me about 21 minutes of raw sonar data. I could view by either using the simulator mode in the LCX 19 or by downloading the viewer from Lowance. I used to mark my cp when I caught fish so I could view the sonar info at that location.

I really liked the features of the Lowrance but I couldn't keep it on the boat it always being repaired. They sent me two brand new ones and both failed (display and firmware issues).

jmorgan40 posted 02-20-2008 07:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for jmorgan40  Send Email to jmorgan40     
My Lowrance records but I have only used the feature once. Next time I am out I wil give it a try again and see how the file is saved. I'll let you know. I am not sure if Minitauk's new lowrance unit an recod or not. He will be out on his boat Friday for sure.
jimh posted 02-24-2008 10:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I spoke with a factory representative of Raymarine at a recent boat show about the ability to capture screen images. He explained that most Raymarine SONAR units can make a screen shot capture of single images. Unlike the Lowrance feature the Raymarine does not record continuous displays, nor does it appear to offer any post-recording adjustment of the image.

To record the file you remove the Compact Flash (CF) memory card which has the digital cartography, and replace it with a read-writable CF card. The screen shots are stored on the card, and the files can be transferred to your computer using either a CF card reader accessory or even by putting the card in a digital camera and using its connecting cable.

The beauty of the Raymarine system is the generic nature of the files. They are just HTML and BMP files, so they can be useful with many operating systems. No special binary executable file has to be run to access the files; a simple web browser will suffice.

This excerpt from the Raymarine A65 (combination GPS, chartplotter, and SONAR) user manual explains the process of saving screen images to a memory card:


Save Image to User Card...

Use this selection [to] save current data to the CF card for future reference. You are then prompted to press a SAVE soft key to confirm. This selection is also available by pressing and holding the DATA key. When you make this selection, the following is saved onto the card:

• bitmap screen shot of your A65 display

• text file listing the essential data at the time of the screen dump, such as lat & long, speed, etc.

• screen shot and essential data saved in an HTML file

When the HTML file is viewed in a web browser on your personal computer, clicking on the screen image links you to Google™ Local. This provides you with an overhead perspective of the area in the image viewed as a map, satellite photo or a hybrid of the two.


Cf. Page 40,

jimh posted 02-24-2008 10:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The Raymarine meta-data file is a very nice addition to their recording package. As I noted above, the Lowrance recording seems to also have this data, but the only way I found to access it was by letting the cursor hover over a certain point in the recording; this causes an information box to pop up which shows the time, data, latitude, and longitude of the data.

I found this Raymarine web page showing a screen shot sample:§ion=2&page=811#cbm4205

I do not think these are the actual image files, as those images are in JPEG format. The instruction manual shows that files are recorded in BMP format. The display is a 640x480 raster, so I suspect the BMP image files would also be 640x480 pixels.

Does anyone have a Raymarine image HTML file they'd like to share? I would be interested to see one. Or perhaps a pointer to one available on the web somewhere.

ASIDE: Since I don't own a PC, the universal nature of the Raymarine screen capture file format is more attractive to me than the Lowrance technique which requires also having Microsoft Windows operating environment to access the recorded data.

jimh posted 02-27-2008 12:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Here is a sample of a screen capture from a Raymarine SONAR. This is an 800 x 600 pixel image, so it probably comes from one of their larger units: bassbait2.bmp

It gives a beautiful record of the SONAR display--just what I was looking for.

(Thanks for Raymarine for sending me this sample.)

jimh posted 02-27-2008 01:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As mentioned by Chuck earlier, many of the Humminbird SONAR units have the ability to capture their screen display and save it to a memory card. This excerpt is from the Humminbird 957c manual:

To make a screen snapshot (Screen Snapshot must be enabled):

1. Make sure you have installed an optional-purchase MMC/SD card into your card slot.

2. From any view you want to capture, press the MARK key. When you start a screen capture, you will see a message that a waypoint has ]been created at the point where your cursor is on the screen, and the screen will freeze while the snapshot is being saved to the MMC/SD card. A status dialog box will appear that shows the progress of the save as a percentage, and that displays the numbered file name assigned to the .BMP file that is being created.

NOTE: You may view data files associated with each screen snapshot by removing the MMC/SD card from your unit and installing it in your optional purchase MMC/SD card reader connected to a PC. Use Windows Explorer to see the contents of your MMC/SD card; you will notice that a .DAT (may show up as .TXT) file is created for every .BMP screen capture; this data file includes the thumbnail view, and is required in order to be able to view the screen snapshot from your unit, so don’t delete these files.

Again, a nice feature is that the files can be transferred to a computer and viewed under any operating system.

jimh posted 02-27-2008 01:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
This image from the Humminbird website probably was derived from a .BMP screenshot file: Technologies/Sonar_Technology/dualBeamPlus1.jpg

jimh posted 03-03-2008 09:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I was sitting around the house on Saturday with an unexpected free afternoon (after a class I was planning to attend was cancelled), when I got this strange urge to visit Bass Pro Shops. It was good Karma, it turned out, because there was a special event underway that day, a spring fisherman's weekend special. My good fortune was not to get a deal on bags of scented gummy worms, but instead to run into a factory representative from HUMMINBIRD who was very knowledgeable and had some of their new SONAR and GPS combination instruments there to demonstrate.

The HUMMINBIRD is looking like a pack leader these days to me as it has several very nice features:

--screen capture
--non-PC specific software or file format
--strong price point

I was looking at the HUMMINBIRD 917C combo unit. It is a 7-inch wide screen color display with 480 X 800 pixels mated to a WAAS GPS receiver with Navionics cartography, and a 500-W RMS sounder with 83-kHz and 20-kHz dual beam transduscer. The going price for this is $999.

Against an established unit like the Raymarine A65 it compares favorable in terms of display size, GPS capability, and SONAR capability. The A65 is $1,700, quite a price premium.

jimh posted 03-04-2008 09:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Also re the Humminbird SONAR units:

Many models of the Humminbird SONAR units also have a recording feature. Like the Lowrance units, the recording can also be adjusted post-recording to change certain parameters in the signal processing to enhance the display. It is not clear, however, if these recordings can be transferred from the unit itself and moved to a computer for later viewing. The recordings are stored on a multi-media display memory chip.

rgecy posted 03-28-2008 03:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for rgecy  Send Email to rgecy     
The Humminbird Units are quickly gaining ground on the competition. They are offering advanced recording features and options Side Imaging Sonar that almost paints a picture perfect image of the bottom.

Here is a link to some images of the software I have created for viewing the Humminbird Sonar files on your PC. It is incredible what these units allow you to see uner the water.

If you haven't looked at Side Imaging yet, you will be amazed at what you can see!


Liteamorn posted 03-28-2008 03:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for Liteamorn  Send Email to Liteamorn     
My Garmin 545s is a CANet-compatable device and can send or receive sonar information from another CANet-compatable Garmin unit. The CANet connection provides full sonar readings. You can view and control the same information on other compatable Garmin GPS units as you would on your sounder. - from my Garmin GPSMAP 500 series Owners Manual
jimh posted 03-28-2008 04:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Post a file of a recording made from your Garmin.
Liteamorn posted 03-29-2008 08:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for Liteamorn  Send Email to Liteamorn     
This thread piqued my interest due to the fact that the Garmin has a slot for a Secure Digital memory card. I got a little side tracked with the manual and posted my previous thread. The unit does not record sonar images, but it can send them to other units (with added components).
jimh posted 03-29-2008 08:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In regard to the ability of certain Garmin units to exchange information among themselves, including display of SONAR echograms, I don't have a great interest in that functionality for a very simple reason: I don't yet have even one large color display on my small boat, let alone two or more of them. I guess at some point if I invest $6,000 in multi-function color displays, then I will be more concerned about the ability of one unit to transmit its display to a second unit. I know some rabid fishermen might have two displays on their boat, even when they are just a few feet apart.

What interests me more is the ability to capture a sequence of echograms as a file, to transport that file out of the vessel's electronic device, and to load the file into another computer's file system. Then I would like to be able to open the file and view it in the same manner I did on the vessel's electronic chart display.

So far we've had mentions of the following brand having the ability to export their echograms as stored files:


Do readers know of any other brands which can do this? And if so, please show us a sample of an exported echogram from your SONAR.

jimh posted 03-29-2008 10:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
With regard to SONAR unit recording capabilities, the Lowrance units offer an amazing amount of data in their recordings. A Lowrance GPS and SONAR unit was used to make recordings whose data was exported to a text file (using a Lowrance software utility). The text files were then processed and turned into 3D models of the seabed. A very interesting paper describes the process:

I found this capability quite astounding. I had no idea that the Lowrance units provided this type of data recording.

bluewaterpirate posted 03-29-2008 01:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
Jim ......

Using Garmin Map Source I can display the same type of data.

I have two standalone Garmin GPS/Combos that are not connected to any transducer. I use a Furuno 620 Fishfinder to display my water column information. I do have my Furuno 620 connected via NMEA 0183 to both my Garmin 2206 and 545.

The sonar data (temp/depth) shown below is processed by my Garmins and displayed by those displays. The sonar information is saved by the Garmins as part of the track history functionality for further viewing if so desired. I have been keeping this historical track history data of all my offshore fishing trips for the last five years. I use this data to break down each trip and to plan futrue trips. All this data is downloadable and can be displayed in Map Source. This functionality has been around for at least five years that I know of.

Here are some pictures. 38710900/file.jpg 38710904/file.jpg 38710901/file.jpg

I could using my Garmins display any of the other marine electronics vendors fishfinder information via NMEA 0183 connectivity.


jimh posted 03-29-2008 10:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Tom--Thanks for a look at those data files. It looks like they just record the depth every two minutes. That is interesting data, too, but here we are talking about recording the screen display--the rasterized image of the SONAR echogram. Can a Garmin sounder record echograms?
bluewaterpirate posted 03-29-2008 10:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     

The data interval is selectable using the track history feature. You can change the interval of recording using time or distance via track history. I continuously video record my Furuno 620 display once I start fishing.

jimh posted 03-29-2008 10:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
"I continuously video record my Furuno 620 display once I start fishing."

Tom--do you mean you get an NTSC composite video output from the sounder and feed it into a video tape recorder?

bluewaterpirate posted 03-31-2008 11:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for bluewaterpirate  Send Email to bluewaterpirate     
No, I just use one of the two Panasonic video recorders have mounted on my Ventura.

Post New Topic  Post Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | RETURN to ContinuousWave Top Page

Powered by: Ultimate Bulletin Board, Freeware Version 2000
Purchase our Licensed Version- which adds many more features!
© Infopop Corporation (formerly Madrona Park, Inc.), 1998 - 2000.