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Down Imaging or Side Imaging?

I'm considering replacing my 5-6 year old Humminbird 788C with a newer fancier version...simply out of fondness of new toys. That, and I'm starting to see a few glitches in the unit, such as random shutdowns. My boat is a 20' flat bottom skiff and all of my fishing (out of this boat) is inshore/flats. Technology has moved so quickly on chartplotters/sonar units that for half of what I paid back then, I can get something that is significantly more robust and feature packed. I know that I don't need side or down imaging for what I do, but since all the decent units have this, I just have to ask if one is found to be more useful than the other for the type of fishing I do. Down imaging appears to be the standard, and those with both down and side appear to be the upgrade.

Heck, even when I fish offshore with my buddy, the down imaging feature of his unit is usually more of a cool novelty to stare at once in a while, and it's rarely used for actually locating structure.

Replies

  • mburke001 aka TripleBmburke001 aka TripleB Posts: 1,536 Captain
    I'm not an expert but check out the Lowrance 7TI not expensive supposedly does most of the same as the HDS unit.
  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,648 Captain
    I'm running a Humminbird 998 with down imaging and side imaging on my Grady right now. I agree that down imaging is just a gimmick. Even with CHIRP units, which give you an image that looks like a black and white photograph, you're loosing a lot of information without color. Side imaging is useful, but works best in a depth range between 10 and 50 ft. Good side imaging really needs calm water or everything gets blurred out as the boat rolls in the waves.

    You really won't use either down or side imaging very much with a shallow water skiff. Side imaging is useful if you run out looking for sheepshead rocks, however. The most important fish finder feature for inshore fishing is the ability to display satellite images such as the Navionics Platinum card. This lets you see bars and shallow areas that are not seen on regular charts. For this you need a fast processor. Some of the low end Lowrance units that will let you use Navionics Plantinum have a very slow screen refresh function. This makes it hard to navigate with the satellite data when you're running fast.

    I like Humminbird fishfinders except for their connectors. Those thin gold pins wear out from pounding and you start to loose contact. This is what generally causes the random shutdowns and restarts. They are poorly designed since they don't have ring screws to hold them in place. You don't get good connectors unless you go up to the Onix series machines.

    I just replaced a Humminbird unit on my Carolina Skiff with a Raymarine a78. I got it specifically so that I could use the Navionics Platinum chip when fishing inshore. The screen refresh rate is fine and the screen is bright enough to see easily without a shade. I hate the operating system, which is sort of like an iPhone, but the unit does what I need it to do.
  • GatorprofGatorprof Posts: 24 Greenhorn
    Doc: Thanks for this info. Two questions for inshore and near shore use -

    1. Do you feel that the Navionics Platinum is better than a Garmin G2 Vision?
    2. What do you mean when you say that the Raymarine operating system is sort of like an iPhone?

    Thanks.
  • StandOutI2StandOutI2 Posts: 544 Officer
    Be careful with the navionics platinum depending on which unit you decide to go with. I'm running the HDS series and was going to buy the platinum chip for the satellite imagery, and then I saw how terrible the quality is for the satellite imagery. It's definitely not worth the $200. Especially considering how limited they are as to how much area they cover. The standard maps that the HDS comes with are just as good as my dads Elite 5 with the navionics chip in it. Just my 2 cents. As far as bottom reading goes, if it can read bottom at 35mph and tell me I'm 1' or deeper, that's about all I use it for.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]:fishing
  • majorgatormajorgator Posts: 372 Deckhand
    Thanks for all the responses. My current Humminbird unit is capable of accepting the Navionics chips, but I never invested in it. Actually, I'm OK with the generic maps that were included, and then I supplement with the Navionics map on my iPhone. Believe it or not, I've gotten pretty good at using the Humminbird software to manually input data and coordinates. When I have free time (boy that's been a while), I can sit down with the combination of Navionics and Google Earth and develop some pretty good chart data.

    As is said of the usefulness of the side and down imaging, that's about what I expected to hear. And I agree with the lousy connections of the Humminbird.
  • VertigoVertigo Yankeetown, FLPosts: 617 Officer
    I concur with the majority opinion here. For inshore fishing on my boat I have a 2 year old Humminbird with both down imaging and side imaging and I haven't even bothered to install the transducer (although it would be nice to have water temp). The GPS/Chartplotter is useful, especially when visibility is low or when running at night. Most of my fishing is in 2 to 4 feet of water and down/side imaging are useless there.
  • StandOutI2StandOutI2 Posts: 544 Officer
    Vertigo wrote: »
    I concur with the majority opinion here. For inshore fishing on my boat I have a 2 year old Humminbird with both down imaging and side imaging and I haven't even bothered to install the transducer (although it would be nice to have water temp). The GPS/Chartplotter is useful, especially when visibility is low or when running at night. Most of my fishing is in 2 to 4 feet of water and down/side imaging are useless there.

    Agree with the water temp thing. Sponson boats suck lol.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]:fishing
  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,648 Captain
    1. Do you feel that the Navionics Platinum is better than a Garmin G2 Vision?

    I haven't seen a unit running the G2 vision card. But it is my understanding that they both use the same public satellite images available through Google Earth. Any difference is likely attributable to the screen resolution and general screen quality of the head unit.
    2. What do you mean when you say that the Raymarine operating system is sort of like an iPhone?

    The a78 uses the Lighthouse II operating system, which is the same one used by the high end Raymarine multifunction displays. To me, it is overkill for a fishfinder/charting unit on a small boat. The a78 come with "apps" (function icons) that are spread out over 3 screens that you need to swipe with your finger to view. Each page has task bar sort of thing that gets you into a menu system that is context specific for each page. I found that trying to customize the screens and importing waypoints and routes was completely non-intuitive. The manual is available on line and is included on the unit as a .PDF file. It is over 300 pages long, since it includes instructions for every function available for their MFDs (radar, complex sailing navigation, radio, engine monitors, etc).

    There are some bugs. For instance, I was not able to reduce the displayed apps to just the 3 that I use (full screen 2D fish finder, full screen chart navigation, and split screen with both). Deleting apps that display pairs of functions (say radar and 2D fish finder) also removes the apps with each individual function. So I lose the fish finder app when I delete the radar plus fish finder app. They will likely fix the with an update but it is a PITA right now. I also haven't figured out how to display the water temperature on the screens with the data that I normally use. It says that you can do this, but I just haven't been able to set it up right yet.

    The screen is beautiful and easy to view in bright sunlight. The Navionics Platinum satellite view shows all of the bars and shallow spots in the Little Homosassa and the outer part of Sam's Bayou very well. The image seems to have been taken during a winter low tide. You can shrink or expand the image with your fingers like with an iPhone. You can also stream the screen to an iPhone or iPad with WIFI and record your whole trip if that sort of thing turns you on.
  • GatorprofGatorprof Posts: 24 Greenhorn
    Thanks Doc. There doesn't seem to be one electronics brand that has got it all. My Garmin will have to do for a while.
  • kingkong954kingkong954 Posts: 664 Officer
    To offer a slightly contrarian opinion, I found that the downscan imaging of the Lowrances in the 800khz range gives me the ability to detect how healthy the grass is under the boat in shallow (2-10') ranges better than the 83/200 options with 'color'.

    In Cedar Key particularly, where I cant see bottom at just about any depth, it can tell me when I am over the right kind of grass vs. other macro algae.

    I also like to use it when I am directly over structure to really appreciate what it looks like. I can see the holes in concrete culverts and clearly make out what is below... IF I get directly over head.

    Combining by way of a split screen also helps me ensure I am directly over the structure (i.e., I may see it on the 83/200, but not on the 800 -- that tells me I am near, but not directly over).

    That said, my Lowrance has a horrible processor unit and is very slow in refreshing the screen for waypoints on the nav side. It gets worse as the day goes on (I assume temperature related) or as I am further from shore.
  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,648 Captain
    The important thing is to get to know your own unit. Thalassia (the right kind of grass) gives a very distinctive signal because the blades are covered with calcium depositing epiphytes that reflects a stronger sonar signal than other marine plants. I shows up as orange flames with green or blue edges on my 2D Humminbird. All other aquatic plants show up as a light blue or green fuzz on my machine. I've seen the flame like pattern on Garmins, Lowrances, and my Raymarine, but it's hard to distinguish grass from irregular rocky bottom.

    I'll have to try the down imaging on my skiff's Raymarine. It's a CHIRP unit, so while fish show up very well, the bottom type discrimination really sucks in 2D color mode. The down imagine is very pretty on the Raymarine, but I haven't used it much because of my experience with the Humminbird. Now you're motivated me to try it over different types of inshore bottom.
  • ghostrider8ghostrider8 Posts: 154 Deckhand
    I have the Simrad NSS Evo 2 with both side and down scan and really like it so far. I also have the Navionics Platinum Plus chip but my best purchase to date was the Florida Marine Tracks chip. Navionics doesn't compare to the clarity of the satellite overlay of the FMT chip.
  • Jim311Jim311 Posts: 4,961 Captain
    As long as I can tell rock from sand, mud, or grass bottom I'm happy. I so rarely fish in water deeper than 6 feet that it just isn't worth it to me. I use it to find deep holes that I mark to fish for trout in the winter, and sometimes when I do fish the nearshore reefs for cobia or tarpon or gags, but I can easily find the right structure with just about any finder because of the large relief that shows up. I'll benefit from the upgraded technology as it trickles down but I won't go out of my way to get it. I use the GPS functionality of my plotter much more than the bottom finding abilities. With that said, the ability to see the satellite views would be excellent for fishing unknown areas. But I've found they aren't entirely reliable, you still need to use your eyes and "local knowledge" to navigate. What I do like about aerial views is the ability to find new quality fishing spots, or at least find locations that look promising. I would love that technology on my fishfinder but it's too expensive for me to worry much about buying for that feature alone.
  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Homosassa, FLPosts: 2,648 Captain
    That FMT chip looks really cool. They seem to use proprietary satellite images.

    Unfortunately, they only work with Lowrance or Simrad machines.
  • kingkong954kingkong954 Posts: 664 Officer
    That FMT chip looks really cool. They seem to use proprietary satellite images.

    Unfortunately, they only work with Lowrance or Simrad machines.

    Agreed -- love the detail.

    They say they are trying to get it to work with Raymarine, and that Garmin doesn't allow anyone else's maps on their machines.
  • Luv2YakLuv2Yak Posts: 944 Officer
    Geez...how successful would some recreational anglers be if they didn't spend $$ on and use "techno-gadgets"?

    I've yet to land a fish that had with it an angler, artificial lure or watercraft "detector".

    "Techno-gadgets" that help enhance safety, mark "hotspots" and reduce watercraft damage are one thing: using sophisticated electronics to "find fish" is bologna.

    Overall, I'm unimpressed with recreational anglers who use "techno-gadgets" vs. Mother Nature.
  • ghostrider8ghostrider8 Posts: 154 Deckhand
    Luv2Yak wrote: »
    Geez...how successful would some recreational anglers be if they didn't spend $$ on and use "techno-gadgets"?

    I've yet to land a fish that had with it an angler, artificial lure or watercraft "detector".

    "Techno-gadgets" that help enhance safety, mark "hotspots" and reduce watercraft damage are one thing: using sophisticated electronics to "find fish" is bologna.

    Overall, I'm unimpressed with recreational anglers who use "techno-gadgets" vs. Mother Nature.

    Personally I don't use mine to find fish other than finding fishy looking areas via the satellite imagery it provides. The side and down scan is fun to play with but I really never use it. Lose a lower unit though and you'll appreciate having a good gps with a clear satellite imagery that shows bars etc. Almosr all of the new units come automatically with the other features.
  • tagtag Posts: 8,898 Admiral
    Luv2Yak wrote: »
    Geez...how successful would some recreational anglers be if they didn't spend $$ on and use "techno-gadgets"?

    I've yet to land a fish that had with it an angler, artificial lure or watercraft "detector".

    "Techno-gadgets" that help enhance safety, mark "hotspots" and reduce watercraft damage are one thing: using sophisticated electronics to "find fish" is bologna.

    Overall, I'm unimpressed with recreational anglers who use "techno-gadgets" vs. Mother Nature.

    Oh, so you fish by jumping in and catching fish with your hand. You da man!!!
  • StandOutI2StandOutI2 Posts: 544 Officer
    Luv2Yak wrote: »
    Geez...how successful would some recreational anglers be if they didn't spend $$ on and use "techno-gadgets"?

    I've yet to land a fish that had with it an angler, artificial lure or watercraft "detector".

    "Techno-gadgets" that help enhance safety, mark "hotspots" and reduce watercraft damage are one thing: using sophisticated electronics to "find fish" is bologna.

    Overall, I'm unimpressed with recreational anglers who use "techno-gadgets" vs. Mother Nature.

    Here we go. :Popcorn:Popcorn
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]:fishing
  • Biggary16Biggary16 Posts: 469 Deckhand
    I was on a boat Sunday that had the hummingbird 1199 HD. That was an awesome unit. The satellite imagery you could use real time and run while viewing it. The side imaging was cool when you spotted a rock or structure you could mark a way point on the rock on the screen and go right to it. It's a high end unit and big bucks but if the smaller hummingbird units were like that that would be cool.
  • StandOutI2StandOutI2 Posts: 544 Officer
    I just looked at that FMT chip, wow! I will be buying one very soon.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]:fishing
  • majorgatormajorgator Posts: 372 Deckhand
    Just wanted to hop back on here and say that I went with the Humminbird Helix 5 GPS/Sonar with down imaging. I could have paid a little less and gotten one without side imaging, but on boring fishing days its nice to have a few toys.

    Just a few comments as to why I chose this unit:
    1. Humminbird has demonstrated good customer service. They used to sell VHF radios, and they replaced one for me that was out of warranty because the control board went bad. I've heard other good things about their customer service.
    2. I've had several Humminbird fishfinder type units, and they've always been good.
    3. The Helix 5 gets pretty decent reviews overall on various websites.
    4. The platform is simple and I'm accustomed to it.
    5. BIG FACTOR - The Helix series changes to a gimbal mount. On my flats boat, everything takes a beating and the traditional Humminbird mount allowed too much vibration and shaking. Hopefully the gimbal mount will take care of most of that.

    Generally speaking, my needs aren't that extreme. I looked at some of the other manufacturers and felt good about them too. At the $300 to $350 price point, there's not much variation between brands. I was plan on going out yesterday, but plans changed. As soon as I get a chance to use it, I'll report back.:wink
  • GianTinaGianTina Posts: 2 Greenhorn
    If you are not sure of side imaging vs down imaging, you should read this guide before choosing a fish finder: http://fishfinderselect.com/down-imaging-vs-side-imaging-sonar/
  • ANUMBER1ANUMBER1 Posts: 11,429 AG
    Luv2Yak wrote: »
    Geez...how successful would some recreational anglers be if they didn't spend $$ on and use "techno-gadgets"?

    I've yet to land a fish that had with it an angler, artificial lure or watercraft "detector".

    "Techno-gadgets" that help enhance safety, mark "hotspots" and reduce watercraft damage are one thing: using sophisticated electronics to "find fish" is bologna.

    Overall, I'm unimpressed with recreational anglers who use "techno-gadgets" vs. Mother Nature.
    I usually just jump in naked out of my birch bark geenoe and wiggle my worm to catch fish.

    tiny fish though.
    I am glad to only be a bird hunter with bird dogs...being a shooter or dog handler or whatever other niche exists to separate appears to generate far too much about which to worry.
  • majorgatormajorgator Posts: 372 Deckhand
    GianTina wrote: »
    If you are not sure of side imaging vs down imaging, you should read this guide before choosing a fish finder: http://fishfinderselect.com/down-imaging-vs-side-imaging-sonar/
    Don't need the advertising on here.
    Besides, you can get more information (and more useful information) from product descriptions on Amazon than what the article you linked to contains.
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