Categories: Boating

New 3-D Fishfinders: How Well Do They Work?

3-D fishfinders fishfinders were first introduced years ago, but they didn’t last long on the market. That’s because for the most part, they stunk. 3-D back then was on par with 3-D movies: they didn’t look very real, and while there may have been a bit of a novelty factor, they didn’t add much to the old-fashioned 2-D views we were used to looking at. In fact, it was a lot easier to find fish on a good 2-D view than it was in what passed for 3-D.

All of that changed this year, with Navico’s introduction of a new 3-D system. Remember, Navico owns both Simrad and Lowrance. So most of us will see this system in the form of the Lowrance StructureScan 3D. And it’s just as advanced over old 3-D fishfinders as modern 3-D movies are over those old movies from the 80’s. Take a look at this screen shot:

3-D in a fishfinder? It’s a whole new ballgame.

For the first time ever, IMHO, this system actually provides valuable, usable 3-D images of what lies beneath your boat. The reason is far more powerful computing power, combined with far more data – instead of taking the pings from an old-tech down-looker, StructureScan 3D utilizes the far more detailed returns of a transducer that’s looking down and, at the same time, out to both sides of the boat.

Net result? The fishfinder “sees” enough to paint a very real picture in 3-D. The down-side? Even with the heavy-hitting computing power of today’s fishfinders, the unit does have a tough time keeping up with the massive data stream, and the display can get a bit herky-jerky at times. It’s not a huge deal, just a minor annoyance, and by the time you’re using one of these units this should be less of an issue, anyway. I first played with a prototype this winter and the problem caused the display to freeze for maybe one second out of 10. Lowrance techs told me at the time that they were still working on software improvements. When I next used StructureScan 3-D about a month later, I’d say they had reduced the screen freezes to one in 20. And, of course, software improvements are more or less continuous in this day and age.

The most shocking feature StructureScan 3-D gives you is the ability to place your finger on the screen, and pan/tilt the view. If the unit detects a pinnacle or feature on the bottom, like in the screen shot here, you can spin the view and look at it from 360 degrees. Even better, any fish around it will be painted a different color. One of the weaknesses of the original side-looking StructureScan was that while seeing structure was easy, seeing fish was not. They were often specks on the screen which were hard to differentiate from clutter, and of course, we didn’t get our familiar arches that down-lookers provide. With 3D, however, reds and blues clearly define the finned critters.

So, is it worth the $1,000 price of admission? ($1,000 if you already have a compatible Lowrance MFD; if not, you’ll have to start from scratch and the system will cost significantly more). I say heck yes. This is an all new age of 3-D, and it’s light-years ahead of anything we’ve seen in the past. Visit Lowrance to get more info.

Lenny Rudow:
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