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The laser kit shown here gives most users everything they need to do virtually any level installation or build job.
Click image to enlarge

Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser

Why mortal lasers are turning “GreenBrite®” with envy

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 8-1-2011

Remember when rotary lasers were good for working in small, not-so-brightly lit rooms where you could find the red line? Well the folks at Johnson Level and Tool have a brighter idea - literally. And, it’s green to boot. The new Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser is 400% easier to see which helps it reach out to considerably more distant surfaces than you may be accustomed to. But that is just the beginning of the capabilities of this new laser system.

The Basics

The Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser has been designed to be a mid-priced tool that fits the needs of a wide range of users from Gung-Ho DIY’ers to contracting and building professionals. In addition to the hyper-visible green beam this unit features an electronic dual (X&Y axis) slope capability, electronic self-leveling horizontally and vertically, dot and two adjustable line length beam modes, dual rotational speeds - 200 and 500 RPM, as well as visual and audible alarms that indicate the unit is beyond it auto-leveling range. You do have to actually turn it on but it will turn itself off.

this kit comes with rechargeable batteries (and charger) installed but you also get a battery holder (left) for when you forget to charge the rechargeable pack. The laser itself and its sensitive leveling mechanism are contained within the unit. Note the X & Y markings (right) on the top of the unit, around the dot emitter at the center. These markings let you orient the unit to make using the slope feature precise.
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All these features are packed into an 8.62” x 6.29” x 7.95” package that weighs just 4.4 lbs. To keep you working throughout the day the estimated life of the installed NiMH battery pack is 24 hours when fully charged. If the job runs longer than that you can get another 40 hours from four fresh alkaline batteries loaded into the included holder.

The kit shown in this review (#40-6544) includes the laser level unit itself, the factory installed NiMH rechargeable battery pack with its 115V charger, an Alkaline battery compartment (batteries not included) that replaces the rechargeable pack if you forgot to charge it…, a remote control with 9V battery, a ceiling mount, green tinted glasses, a magnetic target, a fitted hardshell case and instruction manual.

The GreenBrite® Laser has a wavelength of 532nm +10nm (Green), carries an IIIa classification with a max output of <5mW. That level of power and the super accurate electronic leveling system helps maintain the +1/8"/100-ft accuracy that is hard to beat in any price range. The expected range is obviously dependent on the light conditions in which is used but expect up to a 400-ft-diameter indoors and up to a whopping 1200-ft diameter outdoors when used with the accessory detector that has to be purchased separately. Making the detector an accessory is a good idea since the largest segment of users work almost exclusively indoors. This way you pay for the detector only if you actually need it. The remote control (which is included) has a range of up to 200-ft which should more than cover most job sites!

Self Leveling

The Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser features automatic electronic leveling. If you place the unit on a surface that is +/- 5-degrees or less from level your job is done. If the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser is on a surface that exceeds those limits it beeps and blinks at you as a sign it needs a bit of help. The Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser does all this self-leveling when casting a horizontal line with the unit in the upright position or lying on its back to shoot a vertical line. Just in case the instruction manual walks you through the fine-tuning procedure.

The control panel on the unit (left) is simple and graphically identified. All of the important functions are on the included remote control (right) to give you more freedom while preventing running back and forth to the unit to change features.
Click images to enlarge

Throughout the evaluation finding a surface that was within that +/- 5-degree range was way easier than I had anticipated. The gist of all this is there is less for you to do to ready the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser for use on the job site.

Logical Controls

Johnson Level and Tool has a penchant for creating easy-to-use control panels on their lasers and the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser is no different. Even when the unit is loaded with the array of features found on the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser, the dust proof pressure-bubble buttons with their graphical markings make getting this unit to do what you want simple. The included remote control has a very similar looking keypad that extends all necessary controls to wherever you are within a 200-foot circle of the laser unit. The Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser has a button that tells it to listen to the remote or disregard it entirely.

More than Spins

Of course the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser rotates to produce an easy-to-see green line around the room. It spins at 200 or 500 RPM, whichever suits the situation best. You can also tell the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser to “scan” in arcs of 60-degrees, 30-degrees and 0-degrees. Once in the scan mode you “walk” the scan line anywhere in the 360-degree circle that you need at the control panel or from the remote control. This can be very useful when you need to be particularly accurate in one area at a time.

The included mount (left) gives you lots of options for positioning the laser unit. You can even secure the unit to the mount on its side to cast a vertical line with all the same accuracy.
Click images to enlarge

To help locate the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser precisely within a space there is a constant dot being emitted through the top whenever the unit is on. While this is great for centering the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser within a space it can be especially helpful when you need to shoot a slope to a given spot when installing things like plumbing runs. Being able to illuminate that run so precisely can save a ton of time by identifying obstructions as well as better routes before anything is installed.

On Purpose Slope

I know that it sounds weird for a laser level to include controls that tell it to not be level. When installing things like plumbing, gutters and other water-carrying pieces a specific angle is crucial and the slope function of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser can make it easy to lay out a very specific angle. The slope angle can be adjusted up to +/- 5-degrees on the X and Y-axis. That means that you can handle more sloped tasks in a workspace from the remote without having to keep running back to the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser itself to make the adjustments.

Hang it High

The Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser comes with what is called a ceiling mount but it is much more than that. It does have a flange that allows hanging the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser on the steel framework of most suspended ceilings but it also has three keyhole screw slots that let you hang the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser on a wall, site-made support or any solid surface capable of handling around 5-lbs of combined mass of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser and its mount.

I use very strong lights (left) for taking photographs for this site. Despite the flood of lumens from these lights along with the equally-strong professional flash the green laser line is clearly visible! (right)
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This mount has a 5/8” by 11 threaded hand screw that fastens the laser unit in either the vertical or the horizontal position. That mount can be adjusted anywhere on a rigid 9” vertical beam that is emblazoned with inch and metric scales. An adjusting screw at the bottom lets you tweak the position of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser when the surface it is hung from is not exactly vertical. Between the multiple hanging options and the scaled beam your options for mounting the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser on virtually any jobsite are plentiful indeed.

Tilt Mode

All of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser accuracy could be compromised if while you are not present someone moves or disturbs the unit. The Tilt Mode is essentially an alarm that lets you know that the unit has been moved by stopping and flashing the beam. Seeing this warning lets you check the alignment with the original reference point (Height of Instrument in the manual) in the room. If the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser has been moved, realign it with your original point of reference and you can return to work without losing any of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser built-in accuracy.

In the Shop

Setting the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser up for use really is a no brainer if you have surfaces that are within the +/- 5-degree range. I found that all of the surfaces in my home and shop that are supposed to be level actually are within that range so I had to slip a shim under one side of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser to get it out of level enough for warning to kick in. I can’t see how it would be hard to find a usably level surface on virtually any job site but if you can’t find one the hanging mount should make it as easy as driving a screw into something solid and letting gravity do its stuff.

Johnson realizes that this tool is an investment and delivers it in a custom padded (left) case that protects it during transport and whenever it is not in use. They go so far as to apply a rubber O-ring seal (right) around the edge to help protect from dust and moisture!
Click images to enlarge

The mount is a huge help for getting the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser positioned exactly as needed. Make a reference mark, measure its height above the floor and then use that to install the mount so that its printed scale is roughly centered on that mark. Then you can tweak the position of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser up or down on that mount so that the laser is positioned perfectly on the reference mark. This capability as well as the multiple mounting options makes using the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser very easy in virtually any situation.

The power and range of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser make it possible to do a wide range of jobs in larger workspaces as well as out of doors. Hanging cabinets is a common task but you can install shelving or racks all around the room and get them all level to each other.

Even with the powerful photographic lights I use in the shop seeing the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser line all around the shop was easy. I could only get the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser a maximum of about 45-feet from an interior surface but at that range the projected line is just as crisp and clean as it is just a few feet from the unit. That tells me that the focusing of the beam is spot on and the brightness of the GreenBrite® Laser is exceptional.

I even took the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser outside one early morning just to see how far it would reach at night. That turned out to be a big mistake. As it began rotating I could see the GreenBrite® line flashing like some sort of star ship beam on my neighbors windows down the block and onto the next street! I shut it off and quickly went back into the shop. I also tried the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser outside on a very bright sunny day and with the bare eye I had some difficulty finding the line at 25 feet. With the included green-tinted glasses it was considerably easier. What you really need if outside work is common is the accessory detector. That tool gives you a huge increase in outdoor distance and ease of “reading” the laser line.

All of the functions are easy to use with a small amount of experience to become familiar with the keypad on the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser itself and the remote control. The self-leveling feature is quick and dependable and that lets you get to work faster without sacrificing the precision this laser brings to the job.

Conclusions

Video Tour

The Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser is a very well made, full-featured rotating laser unit that should be of interest to anyone who does construction, repairs or installations. The kit shown here is very complete and gives the most common users everything needed to get to work immediately with a new level of accuracy that will have positive effects on your work.

The MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) of $1730.00 (7-31-2011) represents a sizeable investment but the design, manufacture and overall durability of the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser should give this tool a virtually unlimited useful life. Also, when this tool gets into wide distribution the market will almost certainly apply some downward pressure on the price and that can only make the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser an even better value.

If you are considering the addition of a quality laser level to enhance your capabilities the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser should be a must-see. Johnson Level & Tool has a reputation for making quality leveling tools and the Johnson Electronic Self-leveling Horizontal & Vertical Rotary GreenBrite® Laser exemplifies that tradition in every way.

Visit the Johnson Level & Tool website – Click Here

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