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Aim – Study of AutoLevel.

Equipments required – Automatic level


The automatic level has a compensator mechanism that uses a combination of fixed prisms or
mirrors and a moving prism suspended on a pendulum to give a horizontal reference. When
correctly set up the compensator will ensure that the ray of light through the centre of the
reticule is exactly horizontal.

Design of the compensator mechanism varies with each manufacturer, so the diagram above
is intended to show the principle of the method, not a specific instrument.

Not shown in the diagram is a damping mechanism to stop the pendulum from continuing to
swing when the instrument moves. The quality of the damping mechanism is very important;
too little damping will give an unsteady image which may blur in windy conditions, but too
much damping may lead to errors if the pendulum does not respond to slight movements of
the instrument.

The reticule is a glass plate with fine cross hairs engraved to provide the height reference.
The eye piece should be adjusted to bring the reticule into sharp focus. The internal focussing
lens is then controlled by the focussing screw on the side of the instrument to bring the staff
image in to focus on the reticule.
Typical parts of an automatic level

The instrument is secured to the

tripod head using the tripod screw.

Right side of Level

The levelling head has three parts:

A top plate or tribrach which carries a

spirit level and the instrument

Three levelling, or foot, screws

A foot plate or trivet that attaches to

the tripod head

Also labeled in this picture:

The horizontal circle, which allows the instrument to be used to measure horizontal
angles to an accuracy of 1° (Not found on all instruments)

The object focusing screw, which is used to bring the staff or other image in to focus.

Top of Level

This picture shows the instrument


Spherical level is a bubble spirit level

attached to the tribrach and
referenced to the axis of the
telescope. In use the bubble must be
within the circle for the instrument to
give a horizontal sight line

The eye piece is adjustable and should be set for each observer to bring the cross hairs
in to sharp focus.

The instrument can be rotated by hand, using the 'gun sight' on top of the telescope to
find the staff.

Tangent screws (one on each side) allow fine adjustment when aligning the telescope on
the staff, or setting out a horizontal angle using the horizontal circle.

The Telescope is focussed using the object focus screw on the right side of the
Left side of level

The only new component in this view

is the mirror over the spherical level.
This mirror allows the observer to
see the bubble and confirm that the
instrument is correctly levelled
before taking a reading. Not all
instruments will have a mirror.

Linear bubble level

Not all instruments have exactly the

same features. This automatic level
has a linear bubble level. It only has
one tangent screw and the horizontal
circle is replaced by marks at 90°
intervals to allow setting out of right

Eye piece focusing of the cross hairs and an object focus screw are usually provided on
all instruments.

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