Dial vs Digital Calipers – Which Is Better?

Somebody is going to get mad about this one. I just know it.

I have had many discussions with coworkers over the advantages and disadvantages of dial vs digital calipers.

What I have learned is that most people have a preference and that there isn’t anything that will change it. I am going to try and put aside any preference I have as I outline the differences between these two types of calipers.

Keep reading to find out more about the differences between digital and dial calipers. When you’re done, maybe you’ll have your own preference. But please, keep a more open mind than my coworkers.

What is a dial caliper?

A dial caliper is a mechanical inspection tool for measuring sizes accurately. Most models are capable of taking internal, external, step and depth measurements to an accuracy of +/- .001” or +/- .02mm.

The most common variety measures from 0-6” but they come in many different measuring ranges including 0-4”, 0-8”, 0-12” and 0-24”.

They can take quick measurements and are a very versatile inspection tool. For many machinists, a set of calipers will be the most frequently used measurement device.

The biggest differentiator for a dial caliper is the rack and pinion system which drives the indicator needle seen on the dial face.

Advantages

  • No batteries required
  • Tried and true design

Disadvantages

  • Can’t switch between inches and mm

What is a digital caliper?

mitutoyo digital caliper display in inches
Mitutoyo Digital Caliper

Digital calipers are the same sort of inspection tool as a dial caliper. They have similar accuracies and are available in comparable measuring ranges.

The main difference is that digital calipers require batteries which power their LCD display. The difference in displays between a dial and digital caliper can be thought of as the same as the difference between a standard analog clock and a digital version.

Advantages

  • Instant measurements
  • Can measure inches and mm

Disadvantages

  • Dead batteries
  • Electronics susceptible to damage

Are dial calipers more accurate than digital?

This can be a tricky question to answer because there are so many different models and manufacturers of both dial and digital calipers out there. In saying that, the short answer is no.

When comparing dial and digital calipers from the same manufacturer there is generally no difference in the accuracy of the tool.

Are digital calipers easier to use than dial calipers?

igaging ip54 digital caliper display mm
Digital Caliper Display - Notice the Button to Switch Between Units

Yes, digital calipers are easier to use than dial calipers. This is because the LCD display gives readings that can be instantly interpreted. Dial calipers require reading both the dial face as well as the scale to determine your measurement value.

Another added benefit of digital calipers that makes them easier to use is that most models are capable of switching between inches and mm at the push of a button. This saves the user from needing to convert measurements to another form of units.

This is an excellent feature for many users because it removes a step from the process which cuts down on the time needed to take a measurement. Removing the conversion step also eliminates the possibility that an error is made in the conversion calculation.

How to adjust or zero a dial caliper

parts of a caliper

To adjust a dial caliper, move the caliper until the jaws are closed.

Once in the zero position, check reading on the indicator needle. If it lines up on zero, then no adjustment is needed. You can proceed to verifying the tools repeatability as noted below.

If it does not line up on zero, loosen the bezel lock screw and turn the dial face until it lines up on zero. Once aligned, tighten the lock screw.

Now open and close the jaws to verify that the caliper repeatedly returns a zero reading.

Once this is verified, if available use a set of known reference standards such as a gauge block set to verify different readings across the calipers measuring range. For a 0-6” caliper, 0”, 2”, 4” and 6” would be a good start.

After the tool has been verified as accurate across its measuring range, you can proceed to take your part measurements.

How to adjust or zero a digital caliper

parts of adoric digital caliper

To adjust a digital caliper, move the caliper until the jaws are closed.

Once in the zero position, check reading on the digital display. If the display reads zero, then no adjustment is needed. You can proceed to verifying the tools repeatability as noted below.

If it does not read zero, press the zero button, sometimes identified as the origin button on some calipers.

Now open and close the jaws to verify that the caliper repeatedly returns a zero reading on its display.

Once this is verified, if available use a set of known reference standards such as a gauge block set to verify different readings across the calipers measuring range. For a 0-6” caliper, 0”, 2”, 4” and 6” would be a good start.

Once the tool has been verified as accurate, you can proceed to take your part measurements.

Things to consider when purchasing dial or digital calipers

Accuracy

Dial and digital calipers have comparable accuracies. There is some variation between makes and models of calipers, but most are accurate to +/- .001” or +/- .02mm. If you need something more accurate then you will likely need to look into purchasing a quality micrometer or micrometer set.

Most micrometers are accurate to +/- .0001” which makes them ten times more accurate than a typical caliper. The downfall is that they are more specialized and therefore are only capable of taking a single type of measurement (inside, outside, etc.) and have a smaller measuring range which is why a micrometer set is often needed to cover the measuring range of a single caliper.

Please note that cheap digital calipers often have reduced accuracy when compared to the usual gauge manufacturers such as Starrett and Mitutoyo. At the very least keep in mind the accuracy you need when purchasing because some of the budget priced tools are only half as accurate.

Measuring units

anytime tools 5 inch dial caliper with inch and metric reading dial
An Example of a Dual Unit Dial Caliper - Notice How It Has Two Indicator Needles

There are exceptions but most dial calipers are capable of measuring in a single set of units, either imperial (inches) or metric units (millimeters).

Some dial calipers are available that take measurements in both types of units, but they are clunky and often can not be calibrated so that both units are accurate. Stick with a single unit version.

Digital calipers are capable of taking measurements in both inches and millimeters while switching between the two at the push of a button. This is one of their primary advantages.

Many models are also able to take fractional measurements which can come in handy for some applications.

Measuring range

The measuring range of digital and dial calipers is similar. The most common version for both is a 6” caliper. Additionally, they can be found in ranges from 0-3” all the way up to 0-24” and beyond. Most will not find a need for measuring over 24”.

One point to keep in mind is that the cost goes up and the ease of use goes down as the caliper gets longer. For this reason, it is recommended to have multiple sets of calipers if you need to measure large sizes.

Imagine trying to measure a two-inch hole with a 0-24” caliper. It is going to be awkward and can easily lead to erroneous measurements. If you are in need of a set capable of measuring larger than six inches, then think about purchasing a quality 0-6” caliper as well as a 0-12” or 0-24” set.

The six-inch set will get the majority of the work and be easy to use and the larger set can be pulled out for use when the time is right.

Batteries

button cell battery for micrometer
Digital Caliper Battery Example

Dial calipers do not require batteries. This means they will always be ready to use, no matter how long they sit in your toolbox between uses.

Digital calipers on the other hand do require batteries and unfortunately not the types most people keep on hand.

Digital calipers typically use a LR44, SR44 or CR2032 battery. They are available at most department stores as well as online.

Modern digital calipers, especially the high-quality ones from Starrett and Mitutoyo, have extremely long battery life. Many people have reported going years between battery changes with a Mitutoyo digital caliper.

For peace of mind think about keeping an extra battery or two around in your toolbox or junk drawer if you decide to go with a digital caliper. This way it will always be ready to use when you need it.

Cases

VINCA digital caliper in case unwrapped
Digital Caliper with Case

Both dial and digital calipers are precision measuring instruments. You will find that most are built well and have no problem handling everyday use.

Unfortunately, the precision nature of these tools means that they are susceptible to damage from contamination such as coolant, oil, or metal chips as well as damage from physical shock.

A caliper that has been bumped off a workbench or dropped on accident can easily damage the jaws of the caliper or affect the internal workings resulting in invalid readings.

Calibration

gauge block set
Gauge Block Set

Calipers should be calibrated periodically at an interval of your choosing. In a machine shop atmosphere, this will be determined by the company. Normal calibration intervals will range from 3 months to 1 year and everything in between. Some shops will even base the calibration frequency on tool use as opposed to length of time.

For home use, I recommend verifying them before each measurement.

With critical measurements, at home or in the shop, this verification becomes even more important. You don’t want to find out that your engine was bored oversize because you neglected to check your caliper before using it right?

Verify your tools and if possible check them against a known calibrated standard such as a set of gauge blocks.

For more info on caliper calibration, please see our post on the Complete Guide to Caliper Calibration.

Calibration certificates

Some of the caliper manufacturers and resellers offer a calibration certificate with their tool. My recommendation would be to skip this unnecessary add-on.

At a minimum you should be verifying your tool when you receive it. Ideally, you would calibrate the tool yourself with a set of calibrated gage blocks.

A calibration certificate will only serve as proof that the caliper was accurate at the time of calibration. Since many tools get ordered online or through a catalog, the tool will get be in a shipping company’s hand between the time of calibration and when you receive it. They aren’t always known for being gentle.

A calibration certificate doesn’t provide much peace of mind when buying a new tool. It should be accurate anyways, that is what you bought it for after all. It would be better to take the added expense of calibration and apply it towards a set of gauge blocks or other reference standard.

Depth base attachments

caliper depth base attachment
A Caliper Depth Base Attachment

Depth measurements with a caliper can be quite tricky. The size and shape of the tool means it is top heavy and as a result it can be easy to get incorrect readings when taking depth measurements.

A depth caliper base attachment can help alleviate some of this by providing a wider, more stable base to take your measurements from. Adding one will make it easier to get consistent, accurate readings.

The base provides stability that is more in line with that of a depth micrometer, thought the tool will still be less accurate than a quality depth mic.

Related articles

Best Dial Calipers for Any Budget – Buyer’s Guide

It used to be that there were a limited number of options when it came to dial calipers.

Well known manufacturers such as Mitutoyo, Starrett and Fowler were the only choices available. Boy, have times changed.

Now the same tried and true tool makers are still there but they are competing from a long list of knock offs and up and coming manufacturers. 

Find out how the old compares to the new in our guide to the best dial calipers available found below.

Name

Awards

Where to Buy

Starrett 3202-6 0-6" Dial Caliper

Best Overall Dial Caliper,
Best Dial Caliper for Reloading & Best Dial Caliper for Machinists

Anytime Tools 0-6" Dial Caliper

Best Budget Dial Caliper &

Best Starter Dial Caliper 

Starrett 3202-12 0-12" Dial Caliper

Best Large Range Dial Caliper

Fowler 52-008-712-0 0-12" Dial Caliper

Best Budget Large Range Dial Caliper

Starrett 3202-6 0-6" Dial Caliper

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Pros

Exceptional accuracy
Built to last

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Cons

None

The Starrett name is synonymous with precision measuring instruments. Known for making quality micrometers and calipers as well as many other tools for well over a century. They are a premier machine tool manufacturer.

Their calipers are top shelf across the board. They have long been exceptionally accurate and well made.

Many of the features of Starrett’s caliper seem like simple things to get right. What makes this set of calipers better than all the others is the way that they are able to get all those little things right all at once and on a consistent basis.

As anyone who has used a set of calipers can attest to, the feel of a good set of calipers is where the tool shines. Starrett has been able to put it all together through the years and make calipers that provide top notch accuracy while maintaining an amazing level of smoothness in the mechanical workings.

Depth measurements are one area in which dial calipers from many manufacturers struggle. This is not the case with Starrett. Depth measurements from these calipers are every bit as accurate as any inside or outside measurement.

The accuracy is easier to attain with a tool as good as this one from Starrett. The thumb roller is smooth and with a little practice allows the user to gain a high level of precision in their measurements.

The easy-to-read dial face helps as well. The bright white face makes it easier to read your measurement even in lower light situations such as in your garage or leaning in to take readings in a dimly lit machine.

Overall, there are only positives for Starrett’s dial calipers. They just feel right and on top of it all are built to last. This truly is an heirloom quality tool.

Anytime Tools 0-6" Dial Caliper

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Pros

Price point
Customer service

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Cons

Not "shock proof"

Anytime Tools has quietly worked their way up to be one of the higher quality inspection tool makers. They have found a way to balance making a consistently good measurement device while still keeping the overall cost down. This is not an easy feat.

Easily the best budget friendly caliper. They have been able to create a tool that mirrors the same characteristics of calipers that cost almost twice as much.

As the best dial caliper under $50, it is amazing that they are still able to come packed with extras that other brands like to skip in an effort to keep the cost down. This caliper from Anytime Tools comes with a nice padded case that helps to keep the precision tool safe from accidental damage.

The dial face on this tool is one of the nicest. The lines are sharp and contrast nicely with the white background which makes reading the caliper easier.

The most important aspect is that they have been able to maintain the same accuracy of tools that cost almost twice as much. Nothing matters more than accuracy when it comes to inspection and measuring tools.

Starrett 3202-12 0-12" Dial Caliper

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Pros

The usual Starrett quality
Accuracy

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Cons

Hard to take smaller measurements
Cost

One thing you should know about any precision measuring tool such as a dial caliper is that as the measuring range goes up, the price can climb steeply.

You might think that the cost of a 0-12” caliper would be twice as much as a 0-6” set. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and that 0-12” set can be 5-10x more expensive. This is especially true with sets from the most well-known manufacturers.

Luckily, Starrett makes a great 0-12” caliper that doesn’t completely break the bank. It has all the same great features of their 6-inch caliper but in a larger package. Another instance of a truly remarkable measuring tool. If you need a large caliper and trusted accuracy, then look no further.

One thing to keep in mind with larger calipers is that they will likely see much less use than a 0-6” set. Whenever possible you will want to use a smaller set of calipers for your measurements because they are so much easier to maneuver. It can be quite difficult to measure a small hole with a set of 12″ calipers.

Because they will be used less often, for some this may mean that they can sacrifice a little in accuracy and go with a cheaper set of 0-12” calipers. 

The Starrett 3202-12 is accurate to +/- 0.001″ which means it is an extremely capable measuring tool.

Just like any other measurement, you should pay attention to the tolerances you need before making any purchases.

Fowler 52-008-712-0 0-12" Dial Caliper

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Pros

Cost

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Cons

Reduced accuracy

There is only so much that can be said about any dial caliper. They are all constructed roughly the same. 

The biggest difference between any make or model dial caliper is the accuracy.

Most will want a caliper that is capable of taking measurements to +/- 0.001″ but if you know you can get away with a little less then there are some cheaper options available such as the 52-008-712-0 from Fowler.

Fowler has made/imported measuring tools for decades and done it well. Lately, they have skewed towards the lower end of the pricing range. Often they are not as cheap as the Chinese made tools and aren’t as accurate as the American, Japanese or European made tools.

Where they have really been successful is in making some of the tools that are more complex at a lower price point than most of their competition. Depth micrometers and dial calipers are two of the tools they have done well.

This dial caliper makes a great budget friendly choice for anyone who can sacrifice a little accuracy. Most will find this isn’t an issue because as parts get larger, they do tend to have looser tolerances. Pay attention though because this isn’t always the case.

 

Things to consider when purchasing a set of dial calipers

Measuring range

Dial calipers come in a large variety of sizes. The most common size has a measuring range of 0-6”. Less common ranges of 0-4” and 0-8” are also available. 

Larger sized calipers such as 0-12” and 0-24” are available as well but they are most often used in conjunction with a 0-6” set of calipers. This is because taking smaller measurements with a large set of calipers can be extremely awkward. In most instances, the larger sets get pulled out when other measuring tools just won’t do.

Sets of calipers with measuring ranges above 24” are available but are much less common than sizes under 24”.

Accuracy

A good set of 0-6″ dial calipers is accurate to +/- .001”. Any 6 inch calipers which are less accurate should be ignored.

As the measuring range of the caliper gets larger, the accuracy of the caliper will often be reduced. Pay attention to the specs because it isn’t uncommon for a 24″ set of calipers to only be accurate to +/- 0.002″.

If you are in need of accuracy that is greater than this, you will need to find a nice set of micrometers for your application.

Micrometers are commonly available with an accuracy of +/- .0001”. Some cheaper sets of micrometers will not quite meet this accuracy, but you can rest assured that a set from the most well-known manufacturers such as Starrett and Mitutoyo will more than meet this standard.

Dial calipers sacrifice some accuracy to gain versatility in measurement.

Dial vs digital calipers

mitutoyo digital caliper measuring 1 inch block
Our pick for best digital calipers - Mitutoyo 500-196-30 0-6" Digital Caliper

Both dial and digital calipers have their advantages. For dial calipers, their lack of batteries mean they are always ready to take a measurement.

Digital calipers have the benefit of taking instant measurements as well as switching between units at the press of a button.

There is no difference between the accuracy of digital and dial calipers and they are both available with similar measuring ranges. Ultimately, the choice between which is better comes down to a matter of preference.

For a more complete guide to the differences between dial and digital calipers see our guide on the topic.

Micrometers vs calipers

starrett 0-1" micrometer
Starrett 0-1" Micrometer

The differences between micrometers and calipers lie in their accuracy and versatility. Micrometers are more accurate but with a much smaller measuring range.

Micrometers are generally ten times more accurate than calipers and have a measuring range that is 1/6 of the range of a typical caliper.

For a complete rundown of the differences, see our full guide to the differences between micrometers and calipers.

New vs used dial calipers

Don’t be afraid to look for a good set of used calipers. Brands such as Starrett, Mitutoyo, Brown and Sharpe, and Fowler have made quality calipers for years.

This is especially true if you know where the tool is coming from. Often retiring machinists are more than willing to part with their tools if they know someone is entering the trade with a passion for it.

If you don’t know the history of the tools, make sure to check the accuracy before buying. Not everyone treats their tools as gentle as they should. If you have access, check any potential purchase against a known standard such as a calibrated set of gauge blocks.

One item to look for when purchasing used tools is a case. If someone has kept the case and/or original box for a number of years, then it is likely that they have treated it carefully and it is every bit as good as new.

What can a dial caliper be used to measure?

starrett 3202-6 6 inch dial caliper measuring a part

Dial calipers can be used for a large variety of measurements. Most models will take inside, outside, step and depth measurements.

The inside, outside and step measurements are fairly standard and will be consistent among many manufacturers, but the depth measurement is what sets many quality calipers apart from the pack.

Note: Some calipers with larger measuring ranges such as 0-24” will come without the ability to take depth measurements. This is true as well for outside measurements. Some calipers will come with the ability to only take outside measurements thought this is usually only for calipers with measuring ranges over 12”.

How to reset or zero a set of dial calipers

To adjust a dial caliper, move the caliper until the jaws are closed.

Once in the zero position, check your reading on the indicator needle. If it lines up on zero, then no adjustment is needed. You can proceed to verifying the tools repeatability as noted below.

If it does not line up on zero, loosen the bezel lock screw and turn the dial face until it lines up on zero. Once aligned, tighten the lock screw.

Now open and close the jaws to verify that the caliper repeatedly returns a zero reading.

Once this is verified, if available use a set of known reference standards such as a gauge block set to verify different readings across the calipers measuring range. For a 0-6” caliper, 0”, 2”, 4” and 6” would be a good start.

After the tool has been verified as accurate across its measuring range, you can proceed to take your part measurements.

How to calibrate dial calipers

gauge block set
Gauge block set

Calipers should be calibrated periodically at an interval of your choosing. In a machine shop atmosphere, this will be determined by the company. Normal calibration intervals will range from 3 months to 1 year and everything in between. Some shops will even base the calibration frequency on tool use as opposed to length of time.

For home use, I recommend verifying them before each measurement.

With critical measurements, at home or in the shop, this verification becomes even more important. You don’t want to find out that your engine was bored oversize because you neglected to check your caliper before using it right?

Verify your tools and if possible, check them against a known calibrated standard such as a set of gauge blocks.

For more info on caliper calibration, please see our post on the Complete Guide to Caliper Calibration.

Calibration certificates

Please don’t pay more for anyone to provide a calibration certificate with your caliper. It just isn’t necessary.

Any extra money that would be spent on calibration costs would be much better spent on a set of gauge blocks so you can calibrate the tool yourself. Buying your own set of gauge blocks allows you to check the caliper regularly.

This can be especially important because it allows you to verify the accuracy of your measuring device, or measuring devices if you have more, right before taking a critical measurement so you know the readings are accurate.

Skip the calibration certs, if you think you might need it, get a set of gauge blocks and calibrate the tool yourself instead.

Maintenance and care tips

Lubricating your dial calipers

starrett tool and instrument oil bottle with cap
Starrett Tool and Instrument Oil

Most dial calipers will be made of stainless steel and therefore be resistant to rust. Not all types of stainless steel are created equal. Because of this it can be a good idea to have a light oil coating on some of the surface of the tool such as the beam.

Starrett makes a tool and instrument oil that works very well for lubricating all types of precision tools such as dial calipers.

Storage

It may be an old wives tale but many stand by not storing their calipers and micrometers with the measuring faces closed. Some say the surfaces in contact will corrode quicker. Others say it stresses the frame.

It is simple enough to back the tool off a little when you put it away and that is why we recommend doing it. If you plan to store the tool for extended periods of time, think about storing them with one of those little desiccant bags to absorb any rogue moisture.

Handle with care

Dial calipers are precision measuring tools, treat them like they are. They should be handled carefully and protected from shock damage as well as elements such as moisture and dirt.

Putting them away when not in use will go a long way towards keeping them out of harm’s way.

Cases

Dial calipers are precision measuring tools so the best thing you can do with them is protect them from damage as much as possible. Cases provide some damage from shocks and contaminants such as dirt, water, oil and/or coolant.

When not in use, the best place for quality measuring tools such as these is in a toolbox and the next best thing is in a decent case. Stash the case in your toolbox and you can double up the protection.

Depth base attachments

caliper depth base attachment
Caliper with depth base attachment

Calipers are notoriously difficult to use to take depth measurements. The nature of the tool makes it top heavy and therefore easy to get an incorrect reading when taking those depth measurements.

A depth base attachment makes the tool more stable and much more capable of taking accurate and repeatable measurements when it comes to things such as hole depths.

Dial caliper diagram and part names

parts of a caliper

Jaws

They are the primary measuring faces. They come into contact with your part. Make sure they are sitting square on your surface. You don’t want to twist the caliper at an angle because you won’t get an accurate reading.

Scale

The scale is used in conjunction with the dial indicator face to get your measurement reading. The scale reads in increments of .100” while the dial face reads in increments of .001”. They get added together to determine your measurement size.

Dial indicator face

Where you will look for the most important part of your measurements. The dial face reads in increments of .001”. The reading on the dial face gets added to the reading on the scale to get your measurement.

Beam

The beam is the surface along which the body of the caliper moves.

Depth rod

Not present on all calipers, though most have them especially at smaller sizes. The depth rod is the part of the caliper that extends out the end of the tool to take depth measurements.

Lock screw

Not present on all calipers, the lock screw allows the caliper to be locked in place to take readings that may be in hard-to-reach positions that may not allow the caliper to be read while measuring the part.

Related articles

Best Digital Calipers – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews [2022]

A good set of digital calipers is an invaluable tool for any machinist or hobbyist. Calipers are versatile and capable of taking a wide variety of measurements. They do this all while maintaining a high level of accuracy.

However, the problem is that picking the right set of calipers is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best digital calipers depend on the needs of the user and what their application is.

Because they can be so versatile and accurate, it means they often see a high level of use no matter who is using them.

A good set of calipers makes a big difference in the quality of your work so read on to find out which ones can measure up.

Name

Awards

IP Rating

Where to Buy

Mitutoyo 500-196-30 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Overall Digital Caliper, Most Accurate, Easiest to Use

None

VINCA DCLA-0605 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Budget Digital Caliper

None

Starrett 798A-6 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Rugged Caliper

IP67

iGaging IP54 0-6" Digital Caliper

Best Budget Rugged Caliper

IP54

Mitutoyo 500-754-20 0-12" Digital Caliper

Best Large Range Digital Caliper

IP67

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Pros

Accuracy
Dependability
Battery life

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Cons

Cost

Accuracy: +/- 0.001”/.0254 mm

Measuring units: Inches, mm

Warranty length: One year

Battery used: 1 SR44 (included)

Amazing accuracy, excellent battery life and protection from dirt, water and oil. Mitutoyo makes a digital caliper that is everything you would want in a precision measuring tool.

These calipers from Mitutoyo are a reliable and consistently accurate measuring instrument. Perfect for reloading, engine work or every day use in a machine shop. 

Basically, Mitutoyo has set the standard for what a digital caliper should be and maintained that standard for a long time. In fact, if you can find a used set do be afraid to pick them up. 

These calipers are heirloom quality.

That isn’t something you would normally say about something electronic, but these digital calipers from Mitutoyo break the mold and are built to last.

Everything about these calipers is well-made.

  • Quality stainless steel frame
  • Solid plastic body
  • Buttons that just feel nice and are easy to use
  • Large, easy to read LCD display
  • Better battery life than any other caliper I have seen (Mitutoyo claims 3.5 years – it might be longer)

Combine these things with the dependable accuracy and you got a tool that is truly best in class.

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Pros

Price
Customer service

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Cons

No IP rating

Accuracy: +/- 0.001”/.0254 mm

Measuring units: Inches, mm, fractions

Warranty length: One year

Battery used: LR44 (included)

If you’re just getting into machining and you’re a bit nervous about dropping a lot of money on a high-end caliper like the one above, then this budget-friendly VINCA just might be the tool for you.

First and foremost, it’s a very accurate caliper for the price, with an accuracy of +/- 0.001″/.0254 mm. These are measuring devices after all. They need to be accurate.

While it is made of stainless steel, you’ll also be happy that this caliper comes with a heavy-duty case to keep it protected at all times when it’s not in use.

The LCD display face is fairly large, however you should note that the way the values are displayed is a little awkward, especially when measuring in inches. It appears VINCA did this to allow fractional measurements.

This isn’t something that is a deal breaker but worth noting because some of the numbers you will be reading are only half the size of the screen.

Battery life is good on these VINCA calipers. Take note that they automatically turn on when the caliper moves which can cause them to drain the battery faster even when not in use. Using the lock to gently keep them in place will go a long way towards extending your battery life and keeping them ready to use when you need them.

An excellent bonus feature of this caliper is the RS232 port which allows you to plug the caliper right into your computer. This is something that is rarely seen with budget priced calipers.

Digitally transferring readings can be super helpful, because it’s so easy to fat-finger a measurement if when entering them manually. 

Overall, these VINCA digital calipers are a great value for the price. They aren’t quite on the same level as some of the higher end measuring tools but they make an excellent starter set that doesn’t break the bank.

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Pros

Protection from the elements
Accuracy

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Cons

Expensive

Accuracy: +/- 0.001”/.0254 mm

Measuring units: Inches, mm

Warranty length: One year

Battery used: CR 2032 3V (included)

It’s tough to do a review about calipers and not include anything made by Starrett. Starrett is an industry leader, and for decades has carried a solid reputation for making incredible products.

This heavy-duty digital caliper from them has an accuracy of 0.001″, or 0.254 mm and a resolution 0.0005″ or 0.010 mm. Exactly the type of precision you would expect in a quality measuring tool.

When it comes to build quality, the stainless steel bar of this caliper is designed to last just like many other Starrett tools and the case it comes with only helps to extend the life of your caliper by keeping it safe when you’re not using it.

This display is easy to read and quite large. The buttons work as designed and overall the 798A-6 functions exactly as intended and just feels very well built.

However, the real reason you’ll want to buy this caliper is because of how rugged this thing is.

The 798A-6 is rated IP67. IP stands for ingress protection. This is a measure of the amount of resistance a device has to dirt, water, and other contaminants. For a full breakdown of IP ratings, see our rundown in the Things to Consider section.

Just know that most digital calipers, especially lower priced models, often offer no IP rating at all. The better models that do offer some form of IP rating are usually rated IP54. The IP67 rating of this Starrett is a significant jump up in protection.

One thing to keep in mind is that the IP rating doesn’t protect against damage from drops or other physical damage. You’re going to still need to treat it carefully. But let’s face it, we aren’t always working in the most pristine environments.

While the added protection that the Starrett caliper offers is welcome, it does come at a cost. Mechanics and machinists have known for a long time the value of a tool that can withstand a little abuse. Whether that is necessary for you situation is something you will need to decide.

I can’t say that I know of anyone who has regretted spending the extra to step up and get a tool from Starrett.

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Pros

Large display
IP54 rated

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Cons

No auto power off feature

Accuracy: +/- .001”/0.02mm

Measuring units: Inches, mm, fractions

Warranty length: Two years

Battery used: CR 2032 3V (included with spare)

While they are a budget tool manufacturer, iGaging has been around awhile and made quite a name for themselves providing decent tools for a much lower price.

Made of stainless steel, this iGaging caliper has an accuracy of +/- .001” or .02mm, and a resolution of .0005” or .01mm which is directly in line with the capabilities of higher priced tools. Fractional measurements are taken in increments of 1/128″

We tested the accuracy and it performed wonderfully reading spot on in all inside, outside and depth measurements taken across the measuring range. It even comes with a calibration certificate. Most budget priced tools skip this.

This is a solid set of calipers, especially for the price. The LCD display is large and skips the weirdness that other calipers such as the VINCA DCLA-0605 has because of the fractional units. 

igaging ip54 digital caliper display fractions

But the real standout feature of this caliper is just how tough it is given its price. The iGaging caliper has an IP54 rating, which, as we mentioned earlier, is the average rating for calipers with an IP score.

However, given the price point, this is a very uncommon feature for calipers in this price range. Most will have no IP rating at all.

Being a budget caliper, but still offering protection from dust, oil, water, and other contaminants is what sets this caliper apart from others in its class.

Another nice thing about this caliper is the 2-year warranty. You’ll notice that a lot of the calipers on this list are given a 1-year warranty which is still higher than the average warranty. 2 years provides quite a bit of assurance that the caliper will function for a good long time.

igaging ip54 digital caliper in box with battery

One small drawback of this caliper is that the on/off power function is manual. What this means is that you need to remember to hit the power  button every time you are done using it or else you’ll drain the battery. Many digital calipers will feature an auto off feature to extend the battery life.

Overall, the IP rating this tool has offsets any issues with battery life. iGaging has done a great job of making a budget priced tool that stacks up well in most areas against some of the most well known measuring tool manufacturers.

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Pros

Large measuring range
IP67 rated

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Cons

Very expensive

Accuracy: +/- .0015”/0.0385mm.

Measuring units: Inches, mm

Warranty length: One year

Battery used: 1 SR44 (included)

We’ve included another Mitutoyo caliper on this list because this caliper is a bit different than the other one. For one, it’s got a much larger measuring range, going from 0-12″.

While measuring above 6″ is less likely, especially for beginners, this caliper gives you the option for larger measurements when needed.

Keep in mind that you wouldn’t want this as a replacement for a 6″ caliper, instead larger calipers such as a 12 or 24″ model will get used in addition to a 6″ caliper.

There are situations where you might need to measure something larger and the 6″ caliper just won’t do. But anytime you are measuring a smaller size, a large format caliper such as this will be difficult and awkward to use. Not to mention it won’t fit into tight spaces well.

You should also take not that the accuracy is slightly reduced because it needs to maintain that accuracy over a larger measuring range. This caliper has an accuracy of +/- .0015″/0.0385mm which is pretty good. 

You will find that some of the budget tool makers will spec their 12″ digital calipers with an accuracy of +/- .001″, which on paper looks like they are better than this Mitutoyo. In reality, they are often far worse than that. This is especially true if you move up to a 24″ caliper.

The Mitutoyo 500-754-20 comes with a whopping IP67 rating, meaning it’s super water and dust resistant. Having that level of protection on a tool that costs this much is important because you wouldn’t a splash of coolant or oil to destroy your prized measuring tool.

While it’s an expensive tool, if you have bigger projects that you plan on working with, then it’s well worth the money. And, as we touched on earlier, Mitutoyo is a premium brand in the industry, so if you do pull the trigger and decide to buy this caliper you won’t be disappointed in the quality of the product.

If you must go the budget route with a large range digital caliper, then be extremely aware of the accuracy you need and what the tool can actually provide. They might not line up.

I know everyone doesn’t have unlimited budgets so if you need to keep costs down, think about looking for a used Mitutoyo or Starrett digital caliper (good luck) or maybe going with a good quality dial caliper instead. Remember, that your large calipers are going to see much less use than a standard 6″ version.

All in all there are a lot of choices available nowadays when it comes to digital calipers and they are not created equal. 

Mitutoyo and Starrett lead the pack but they do come at a cost. 

Tools that have IP protection will help them last but may not always be a necessity for each user.

For smaller 6″ calipers, you can get a serviceable option that will often get the job done at a fraction of the cost. 

When it comes to larger calipers, don’t believe the claimed accuracy on those budget tools. 

Things to consider when purchasing a digital caliper

Accuracy vs resolution

Accuracy is the single most important feature of your digital caliper. 

They are measuring tools and they need to measure correctly.

The accuracy is the ability of the caliper to give the true value of a given measurement. The accuracy of the best calipers is usually +/- .001.

Cheaper alternatives will have an accuracy between +/- .002″ to +/- .010″. For some this may be fine, but it will depend on what level of accuracy you need for your project.

I also recommend that you do not blindly trust the claimed accuracies touted by the budget manufacturers. If Starrett or Mitutoyo specify an accuracy level, you can trust it but this is not the case 

Keep in mind the type of tolerances you will be working with to help you decide how accurate your caliper needs to be.

Measuring range

iGaging 0-24" Digital Caliper

The measuring range of the caliper is one of the most important aspects it has. You need to make sure that it will cover all the measurements you will want to take. 0-6″, 0-8″, 0-12″ and 0-24″ are some of the typical measuring ranges. 

0-6″ is the most common size of caliper. Measuring sizes over 6″ is less frequent. 

A 0-6″ caliper maintains a nice balance of measuring range and ease of measurement. As the measuring range of a caliper gets larger, it becomes more difficult to use. Using a 0-24″ caliper to measure a 1″ hole diameter would be quite difficult. 

Even if you require the ability to measure larger sizes, you will want a 0-6″ caliper for many measurements because of its ease of use.

Display size

mitutoyo digital caliper zeroed
Look For A Large Display

The display on your caliper plays an important role in how easy it is to use. Being able to quickly read your measurements will save you time in the long run. 

Let’s be real, some of us don’t have the best eyes. Larger displays make getting your reading simpler. This is one area that digital calipers have a nice advantage over dial calipers. The dial and indicator needle can be hard for some to read on your average dial caliper.

The best displays have large uniform digits as shown on the Mitutoyo caliper above.

Measuring units

Most digital displays are capable of showing measurements in inches as well as millimeters. Some calipers will also read measurements in fractional units. 

Fractional units are generally not the best way to take measurements because the displays don’t round and instead will display a measurement of something similar to 53/128″. That isn’t a very helpful way to display the data. If the display rounds to something useful such as 1/16 or 1/32 it would be more useful but most don’t.

Battery life

mitutoyo digital caliper sr44 battery
Typical digital caliper battery

Battery life should be a prime consideration when examining the quality of a digital caliper. An auto on and auto shut off feature can greatly extend the longevity of a calipers battery life. 

The best digital calipers will have battery life that is measured in months or years. Most of the budget options available have much shorter battery lives. If you go the budget route with your caliper, make sure to keep some extra batteries on hand and maybe think about taking the battery out when the tool is not in use.

The biggest benefit of good battery life is that it will be ready to use when you need it.

Dial vs digital calipers

dial caliper reading 0.661
Dial caliper face

Dial calipers make a good option for a measuring device as well. The main benefit they possess is that they don’t require batteries so they are always ready to use. 

Dial calipers can’t switch measuring units at the press of a button though. There are some dial calipers that measure in mm as well as inches at the same time but they haven’t been proven to be particularly reliable.

For a more comprehensive look at the two caliper types, be sure to check out our  guide to the differences between dial and digital calipers.

IP ratings

Ingress protection rating or IP rating for short is the amount of resistance a device has to things such as dirt and water. 

Many digital calipers have no protection rating at all.

For the ones that do, IP54 is the most common rating. This equates to limited protection from dust and protection from splashing water which will be more than most users require.

The less frequent IP67 rating is excellent and means they are almost impervious to everyday dirt and water.

Keep in mind though that IP ratings don’t protect the tool from physical damage such as being dropped.

The chart below outlines how protected a tool is. The first digit in any IP rating is for the solids protection and the second digit covers the protection from liquids.

ingress protection (IP) ratings solids description
ingress protection (IP) ratings liquid protection

Materials

Adoric digital caliper display
Carbon fiber digital caliper from Adoric

For most applications you will want to get a caliper made of stainless steel. Other materials available include carbon fiber composites and plastic. 

While tools made of carbon fiber and plastic are generally not as nice in quality as those made of stainless steel, they do have some benefits. Carbon fiber and plastic calipers are less likely to scratch or damage softer materials such as wood or plastic. 

Stainless steel calipers tend to have sharp jaws that can scratch some materials but if you are careful in their use, there shouldn’t be any issues. Carbon fiber composites and plastic also have the benefit of being non-magnetic.

Calibration certificates

Some calipers are sold with a calibration certificate for a decent upcharge. Skip it. The tool should be accurate when purchased, regardless of whether it comes with a certificate or not.

The best practice is to verify the accuracy of the caliper when you receive it. Check the tool against a known standard such as a set of gauge blocks. At a bare minimum, verify the zero position before using your gauge.

Cases

VINCA digital caliper in case unwrapped
A Case Provides Much Needed Protection

A case is an important accessory for a digital caliper. These are precision measuring instruments after all and all too often they get knocked off a workbench or dropped by a careless coworker. 

Keeping them in a case will add a layer of protection to help keep them safe. Cases come standard with calipers from the the best toolmakers such as Starrett, Mitutoyo, Fowler and Brown and Sharpe. 

They do not come standard for cheaper tools so keep that in mind when looking at those budget friendly options.

Data transfer

An RS232 port can be a handy addition to your caliper, but is certainly not a necessity. A RS232 port allows the transfer of data/measurements from your caliper to your computer.

For most users this is an unneeded feature, but for some applications it can be handy to record the data directly to your computer.

VINCA DCLA-0605 Digital Caliper Review

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Pros

Great price
Has features not normally seen in its price range
Excellent customer service

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Cons

Unusual display

Features

The VINCA DCLA-0605 0-6” digital caliper is nice little measuring tool. It is made of stainless steel and is capable of taking measurements in inches, metric and fractional units with an accuracy of +/- .001”.

The VINCA like many other calipers is able to take external, internal, step and depth measurements.

We tested those capabilities by measuring various size gauge blocks over the total measuring range of the tool and found them to be accurate to the manufacturers specs in all instances.

VINCA digital caliper display mm
Metric measurements
VINCA digital caliper display fractions
Fractional measurements

The DCLA-0605 comes with a large, easy to read display. One thing that does take some getting used to is that the first two digits are larger on the display. 

This allows the fractional units to be displayed. An odd choice when most will use the caliper in either inches or millimeters, but definitely not a deal breaker.

VINCA digital caliper display mm
Battery compartment shown

The VINCA caliper comes with an LR44 button cell battery installed along with  two spares. While the battery life isn’t as good as something like a Mitutoyo, it isn’t awful either. The caliper has an auto shut off feature for the display when not in use which helps it from draining all the juice.

The screen also flashes when the battery is low to let you know it’s time to swap batteries. Some digital calipers have been known to behave strangely when their batteries are low so this is a welcome feature.

VINCA digital caliper in case unwrapped
Nice protective case

The DCLA-0605 comes with a protective case which is a nice bonus that some cheaper digital calipers don’t have. 

VINCA digital caliper data port
The RS232 data transfer port - DO NOT plug a USB cable in

Another feature not commonly seen on lower priced digital calipers is an RS232 port.

This will allow you to hook your caliper up to a computer to record measurements. It is worth noting that you should NEVER try to use a USB cable to hook the caliper up to a computer as this can cause the battery to explode. There are warnings all over the case and on the backside of the caliper to remind you.

Make sure to use the manufacturers recommended cable to connect your tool.

VINCA digital caliper rust on bar
Some rust on the frame

This VINCA caliper comes with a 1 year warranty and it is worth noting that by all accounts the company’s customer service is excellent. Considering my caliper arrived with some rust on the backside slot where the depth rod sits, that is probably a good thing. 

I am not planning on testing it for a budget level caliper, but they are noted as being quick to respond and offer solutions to any issues that are encountered. Maybe if there had been issues with the accuracy as a result.

VINCA digital caliper measuring 4 inch block
Accurate measurements across the board

The overall build quality of the tool is good. It isn’t the smoothest sliding caliper I have used but it does slide freely and it doesn’t catch or hang up at all. 

The fine adjustment wheel works well too and helps make those critical measurements as accurate as possible.

Verdict

VINCA digital caliper packaging
The packaging looks cool

The VINCA DCLA-0605 digital caliper is an excellent budget tool. It has accuracy on par with other calipers in its price range.

The addition of a nice protective case, a couple extra batteries and an RS232 port make it a great choice especially for those looking to record their measurements directly to their computer.

The 1 year warranty and noted excellent customer service make this VINCA caliper a great budget friendly digital caliper.

Neiko 01407A 0-6″ Digital Caliper Review

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Pros

Great value for price
Measures in inches, millimeters and fractions

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Cons

None

Full review

The Neiko 0-6” digital caliper is made of stainless steel. It features a metric measuring range of 0-150mm. It is capable of measuring in inches, millimeters and fractions. Although most people won’t use the fractional mode, it is nice to have the option. 

Neiko digital caliper display mm
Metric measurements
Neiko digital caliper display fractions
Fractional measurements

The Neiko caliper is capable of taking outside, inside, step and depth measurements. The manufacturer claims that the caliper has an accuracy of .001” or .02 mm. 

I tested that claim by measuring various gauge blocks sizes over the entire measuring range of the calipers and found them to be well within the claimed accuracy. Quite a feat for a budget friendly tool.

The most important quality of any set of digital calipers is good accuracy and these Neikos got it.

Neiko digital caliper display inches
Three small digits when measuring in inches, Two when measuring in mms

The display on the 01407A reads out to .0005” or .01 mm when in metric mode. The fraction mode has a resolution of 1/128 of an inch.

Unfortunately the caliper is incapable of rounding to a different fraction such as 1/32. 1/128th of an inch isn’t exactly the most practical units to use. The display does display reduce the fractions down so you will see 1/2″ instead of 64/128″ which is nice.

The display is large which makes it easy to read, but I am not a fan of the format. It is obvious that it is made like that to read the fractional measurements, but having 2 or 3 of the digits smaller is just weird. It’s not a deal breaker but it does take a little getting used to.

Neiko digital caliper battery closeup
Open battery compartment

The digital caliper comes with an extra LR44 button cell battery which is handy because many report issues with dead batteries on arrival. I ran into the same issue and quickly swapped in the fresh battery.

Luckily the battery is easily changed with no tools required. The battery cover simply slides off with a swipe of your thumb. 

Additionally the caliper is often reported to turn itself on frequently which causes the battery to die quickly. The caliper can be locked in place to keep it from turning itself on but it still might not be a bad idea to try and keep an extra battery on hand.

The caliper also comes with a sturdy plastic case to protect it. 

Neiko digital caliper in case unwrapped
The case is solid with nice padding and room to store an extra battery

One of the harder qualities to convey is the overall build. Some might call it the “feel” of the tool. This is where the Neiko 01407A excels. 

They feel like a much higher priced tool. The jaws slide smoothly along the frame. This is one area that many budget level calipers struggle with. Often they can get the accuracy but the tools just feels like junk when using it. Not the case here. 

The only other build quality item I would note is the fine adjustment roller wheel. While other cheap calipers either tack on a bad one or skip it entirely, Neiko has added one that is comparable to much higher priced calipers. 

When you combine the smoothness and the excellent fine adjustment, it is much easier to get the accuracy you want because over time you will be able to feel your measurements. This is not something that would be possible without this kind of build quality.

Verdict

The Neiko 01407A digital caliper is not the best caliper that money can buy, but it just might be the best value.

The display is a little quirky but it is definitely something that you can get used to. 

In the end, the overall accuracy and the build quality at a bargain price are what make the Neiko 01407A digital caliper one of the best around. 

Adoric 0-6″ Digital Caliper Review

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Pros

Cheap
Not magnetic

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Cons

No fractional mode
You get what you pay for in accuracy

Features

These digital calipers from Adoric feature your typical caliper measuring range of 0-6” or 0-150mm.

They have a claimed accuracy of +/- .010” or +/- 0.2mm. I tested this claim by measuring various gauge block sizes over their measuring range. I repeated this for inside, outside and depth measurements. In all measurements, the tool met its claimed accuracy.

Adoric digitial caliper measuring block
Testing the accuracy of the caliper

Still, their accuracy isn’t great when compared to many other calipers but at the same time their cost reflects it. When you are buying a set of calipers in the neighborhood of ten bucks you can’t expect a lot.

For instance the packaging:

Adoric digital caliper in packaging
Action figure packaging
Adoric digital caliper back of packaging 2
Highly branded packaging

It screams kids toy more than it does precision measuring tool.

In fact, the packaging is so generic that the only mention of Adoric on it is on a sticker slapped on the backside. I’m pretty sure this means there are carbon copies of this same caliper being put out by other companies.

Carbon fiber copies might be more appropriate because that is what these calipers from Adoric are made of. They definitely don’t feel as rugged as metal calipers, but they don’t feel flimsy either.

The carbon fiber construction does have some benefits. Firstly, they are non magnetic  which means measuring magnetic materials will be much simpler than with standard stainless steel calipers. It also means that these calipers are less likely to scrape or scratch your workpiece during measurement. 

The nicest benefit of being made from carbon fiber is that they are extremely lightweight. I really thought these were going to be a cheapo tool, but the caliper has enough weight to make it feel strong while still being light enough to make it very easy to use one-handed and maneuver for all kinds of measurements. 

Adoric digital caliper display
The display when measuring inches

Similar to most calipers, these Adoric digital calipers are capable of taking inside, outside, step and depth measurements.

These measurements can be taken in inch or metric readings. Unfortunately there is no fractional mode which in my opinion would be a nice addition considering their accuracy. A fractional mode that read to 1/64″ or 1/32″ would probably have worked well more many people.

Units are easily switched with the inch/mm button on the face of the caliper. A simple selection of buttons surround the easy to read display. Besides the inch/mm units button there is also an off/on and zero button.

Adoric digital caliper battery
Open battery compartment and extra battery

Battery life is decent thanks to the tool’s ability to turn off automatically. When not in use, the caliper turns itself off after about 4.5 minutes.

The caliper also turns on automatically when it senses movement. So why even have an On/Off button? Use it or not, it’s there.

The Adoric caliper comes with an LR44 button cell battery already installed and a spare in the package.

One last note about the battery is that it is easily changed, possibly too easily. Many people have noted the battery cover accidentally coming off during use. I had not issues with the set I ordered for this review.

There is no ability to lock the caliper during measurement as seen on many other calipers. Additionally there is no protective case provided which is unfortunate but at this price point you can’t expect many extras.

Verdict

Adoric digital caliper full
Limited accuracy but otherwise surprisingly good especially for the price

A nice alternative to your standard tape measure for shorter measurements. These calipers are a great tool for homeowners to take precise measurements.

Their accuracy is lacking but for many applications such as working with crafts or 3d printing, they will be sufficient. The most important thing will to know what type of tolerances you need to hold. Higher quality calipers will be usually be accurate to +/- 0.001″.

If you require more accuracy, but are on a tight budget check out the Neiko 01407A 0-6″ digital calipers. They make a decent alternative.

All-in-all for the price, these Adoric digital calipers are great to throw in a junk drawer or garage toolbox to keep handy for a quick and easy measurement.

Mitutoyo 500-196-30 0-6″ Digital Caliper Review

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Pros

Excellent accuracy
Resistant to dirt, oil and water

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Cons

Quality comes at a price
Doesn’t measure in fractions

Features

Mitutoyo’s 500-196-30 0-6” digital caliper is a true quality measuring tool. Made in Japan, they have a measuring range of 0-6” or 0-150mm. These calipers are made of stainless steel and have a resolution of .0005” or .01mm. 

mitutoyo digital caliper packaging
The calipers arrive in some snazzy orange packaging

They are advertised as having an accuracy of +/- .001” or .025mm. In my experience they are closer to +/- .0005”. This is a nice contrast to some of the cheaper alternatives that claim a better accuracy than they actually possess. 

mitutoyo digital caliper measuring 1 inch block
Measuring a 1 inch gauge block
mitutoyo digital caliper measuring 4 inch block
Measuring a 4 inch gauge block

If you do require calibration documentation, you will most likely be performing the operation in house or through your normal calibration vendor. Long story short, if your using them for personal use then skip the extra cost and just check your zero when you go to use them.

They already come with an inspection certificate from Mitutoyo anyways.

Note: These calipers can be purchased with a calibration certificate if desired. Most people will get no added benefit from the extra calibration. 

mitutoyo digital caliper inspection certificate
Inspection certificate from Mitutoyo

If you do require calibration documentation, you will most likely be performing the operation in house or through your normal calibration vendor. Long story short, if your using them for personal use then skip the extra cost and just check your zero when you go to use them.

They already come with an inspection certificate from Mitutoyo anyways.

mitutoyo digital caliper depth rod
Closeup of the depth rod for taking depth measurements

This 0-6” caliper is capable of taking inside, outside, step and depth measurements like many others. It has a large easy to read display. Buttons for on/off, zero/abs, in/mm and origin are present on the face. Units can be switched from inch to metric in an instant. 

mitutoyo digital caliper display in inches
Measuring in inches
mitutoyo digital caliper display in mm
Metric measurements

Unfortunately there is no option for fractional units but most will find their application doesn’t require them. The zero position can be changed making comparison measurements easier. 

mitutoyo digital caliper with battery installed
The battery compartment with SR44 battery installed

Battery life is very good with this model. Mitutoyo claims a 3.5 year battery life with normal use. That sounds too good to be true. In reality the battery lasts a very long time.

The calipers come with a battery and if needed the battery is easily changed with no tools required. The battery cover simply slides off.

One thing of note is that these calipers don’t turn off automatically like other models so make sure to hit the off button when you’re finished. A final note related to the battery is that these calipers feature a low battery indicator to let you know when it is time for a change. 

Unlike many other digital calipers, these ones are resistant to dirt, oil and water. Mitutoyo claims they are coolant proof. I wouldn’t recommend submerging them in anything but a light splash shouldn’t hurt anything. They come with a nice plastic case which protects them while not in use.

mitutoyo digital caliper in case
The caliper comes with a sturdy well fitting case

Verdict

I can’t say enough good about them. The Mitutoyo 0-6” digital caliper is a step above most of their competitors. 

Amazing accuracy, excellent battery life and resistance to contamination that might affect your measuring tool makes for a reliable, dependable measuring tool. They are perfect for reloading, engine work or every day use in a machine shop and will easily stand up to all of your measurement needs.

Frequently asked questions

Where are Mitutoyo tools made?

Mitutoyo are manufactured in Japan and rival the quality of many American made tools.

How long is the Mitutoyo warranty?

mitutoyo digital caliper warranty
Warranty documentation from Miitutoyo

The warranty on these calipers is one year. If you register your tool with Mitutoyo you can extend this to a total of three years. Definitely something worth doing.

What type of battery does the Mitutoyo caliper use?

mitutoyo digital caliper sr44 battery
The included battery from Mitutoyo

The Mitutoyo 500-196-30 digital caliper and many others by Mitutoyo use an SR44 battery. A 357 battery is the equivalent by various other manufacturers and can be used also.

How to reset the Mitutoyo digital caliper

If your caliper is ever flashing or needs to be reset because of something such as a dead battery, follow these simple steps.

First close the jaws so they are in the zero position. Now hold the origin button. This will reset the display. Verify your instrument is working by checking against a known standard such as a gage block.

How to calibrate Mitutoyo calipers

To learn how to calibrate your Mitutoyo caliper, follow the calibration instructions in our Beginner’s Guide to Calipers.

What does the error code on my Mitutoyo caliper mean?

Check out this thread for a great rundown of all the error codes you might run into using Mitutoyo digital calipers. I have never used a set that has thrown a code other than one for the battery but just in case.

Related articles

Micrometers vs Calipers [Similarities, Differences & Everything Else]

micrometers vs calipers

Micrometers and calipers are both precision measuring tools.

The difference between these tools lies in their accuracy and the types of measurements they can take.

Check out the table below for the main differences between the two tools and then keep on reading to gain a better understanding of what those differences mean when it comes time to use them.

Micrometers

Calipers

Accuracy

0.0001"

0.001"

Measuring Range

1" increments

0-6"

Types of Measurements

Outside Measurements

Inside, Outside & Depth Measurements

Micrometer and caliper comparisons

Accuracy

Micrometers are more accurate. 

A typical micrometer is accurate to 0.0001″ and a caliper is only accurate to 0.001″.

This makes a micrometer 10x more accurate than a caliper.

Just keep in mind that you can buy cheap versions of both tools that have worse accuracy. Also, if you were to buy a larger versions of these tools they will often have lower accuracy. 

A 17-18″ micrometer might only be accurate to +/- 0.0002″ and a 0-24″ caliper may only be accurate to +/- 0.002″.

To sum it up, realize that there is some variation in accuracy but in general you will find that micrometers are 10x more accurate than calipers.

Measuring range

starrett micrometer set in case with reference standards
0-6" Micrometer set

Micrometers come with 1″ measuring ranges. 0-1″, 1-2″, 2-3″ and so on. 

The most common measuring calipers measure over a 0-6″ range. Larger varieties can be also be found with 0-12″ and 0-24″ measuring ranges. There are some different ranges available such as 0-4″ and 0-8″ also but they are much less common.

This difference in measuring ranges means that you would need a set of micrometers to measure over the same measuring range a single caliper is capable of. 

Calipers have larger measuring ranges but they are less accurate.

Types of measurements they are capable of

Caliper measuring internal hole
caliper depth base attachment
Depth measuring rod extended from caliper - depth base attachment shown

Most calipers will measure inside, outside and depth measurements. 

digital caliper measuring coin
Standard outside diameter being measure with digital caliper

Micrometers are capable of only performing one type of measurement. 

The most common type of micrometer is an outside micrometer, usually referred to as simply micrometers or sometimes mics.

anytime tools 1-2" micrometer
0-1" outside micrometer

Inside micrometers and depth micrometers are also available to take internal and depth  measurements.

Calipers are capable of taking a much larger variety of measurements.

Depth micrometer with multiple rods for different size measurements
mitutoyo inside micrometer set
Inside micrometer with multiple attachements for different size measurements

Ease of use

To maintain the added accuracy that a micrometer has requires taking more care when using them. 

Something as small as the amount of force you use to close the micrometer can change your measurement. Many micrometers will have a ratchet or friction stops that help alleviate this problem. 

When you are working down to a tenth (machinist lingo for 0.0001″), even temperature comes into play. Metals expand and contract with changes in temperature. To protect against this, most micrometers have plastic pieces that can be used to help insulate your from the tool.

outside micrometer
0-1" outside micrometer with piece of black plastic for thermal insulation

A good micrometer stand can help keep you accurate as well.

The same factors affect the accuracy of a caliper but the effects aren’t as noticeable because they aren’t as accurate.

Speed

Calipers are quicker to use than micrometers. The jaws can open and close in a split second.

Micrometers need to spin the thimble around 40 times to cover an inch of travel. 

Cost comparison

A micrometer and a set of calipers have similar price points. Take for example a 0-1″ micrometer from Mitutoyo and a 0-6″ set of calipers from Mitutoyo.

The difference would be that to cover the same measuring range of a set of calipers, you would need a 0-6″ set of micrometers. A good set of micrometers is going to cost quite a bit more than your typical 0-6″ caliper.

More info about micrometers and calipers

Parts of a micrometer

parts of a micrometer

The part being measured will be placed between the anvil and spindle of the micrometer. The spindle is adjusted in and out by turning the thimble clockwise or counterclockwise. 

Depending on the micrometer being used, the lock nut, lock ring or lock lever can be used to hold the micrometer at a specific size. Some tools will not have any locking feature. 

Measurements are read using the scales on the sleeve and thimble. 

The frame of the micrometer can vary across brands and types of micrometers. Some are made specifically to have smaller frames for different measuring applications. 

Many micrometers also have a ratchet stop or friction stop that limits the amount of force applied to the thimble. This allows more consistent measurements.

Parts of a caliper

The jaws for external measurements are used to measure features such as length, width and thickness.

The jaws for internal measurement are used for measuring features such as hole sizes and slot or groove widths.

The rod for depth measurements is used for measuring depths of holes, counterbores and step heights. 

The scale and dial indicator face are used together to obtain measurement readings.

The slide of the caliper which consists of the moveable jaws along with the dial indicator face are slid along the beam.

The lock screw can be used to hold the caliper at a specific size for repetitive measurements.

Digital vs analog micrometers

Digital micrometers are great for the speed at which measurements can be read. Their display means very little training for the operator. 

Another benefit of a digital micrometer is how quickly measurement values can be converted between inch and metric readings. A simple button press can save time and do the conversion for you. 

starrett 0-1" micrometer
Starrett analog micrometer
mitutoyo digital micrometer
Mitutoyo digital micrometer

The downfall is that they tend to be quite a bit more expensive than a standard analog micrometer and they are more susceptible to contaminants such as water and coolant. Some models are offered with resistance or protection from different contaminants. 

In recent years, prices have dropped for digital micrometers making them more affordable. 

Analog micrometers tend to be a very dependable tool and many have been in use for generations. This also means that there are many used options on the market for analog micrometers. 

If cost is your primary concern, I recommend going with an analog micrometer. If ease of use and operation is important then go with a digital micrometer.

Digital vs dial vs vernier calipers

mitutoyo 6 inch vernier caliper
Mitutoyo vernier caliper

Vernier calipers are the most resilient type of calipers. They will be the least affected by things such as dirt and water or coolant. Unfortunately they are the most difficult to take measurements with. Learning to read the scales takes some practice. 

Dial calipers are a good middle ground with measurements that are relatively easy to take with the dial indicator face. They are reasonably resistant to contamination though they should still be handled with care. 

anytime tools dial caliper dial face
Dial caliper

Digital calipers are by far the easiest to use. The LCD display takes any guesswork out of reading your measurement. They are also the most susceptible to damage from things such as dirt and coolant. 

Unless they are being used in the harshest environment, I recommend getting digital calipers. Digital calipers can be purchased with ingress protection if needed.

Summary

While they are both precision measuring tools, there are some key differences between micrometers and calipers. 

Micrometers are more specialized and have a smaller measuring range. As a result they are generally more accurate and often capable of measurements to .0001″. 

Calipers are more versatile. They have a much larger measuring range. To achieve this they sacrifice accuracy and most often take measurements to an accuracy of .001″. 

As you can see they both have their strengths and weaknesses but in the end they are two of the most important precision measuring tools you can have in your toolbox.

Starrett 3202-6 6 Inch Dial Caliper Review

Starrett has been making precision measuring tools such as micrometers and calipers for over a century. Sure, they know their stuff but how do they stack up against some of the up and coming manufacturers as well as options from tried and true tool manufacturers such as Mitutoyo and Brown and Sharpe?

Keep reading to find out.

Overview

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Pros

Extremely accurate
Built to last

This Starrett dial caliper, made out of hardened stainless steel, is perfect for metalworking, woodworking, automotive, and machining applications. The caliper’s sturdy but sleek design – including a satin finished bar – means it will look as good as it works, even after it spends all day banging around in your toolbox or garage.

Like all Starrett products, this dial caliper is designed and built for precision and accuracy. This particular model features a 0 – 6 inch measuring range, 0.001 inch graduation, and one revolution around the dial face is equal to 0.100”.

This caliper is ideal for measuring exact outside dimensions, inside dimensions, and depth.

The dial’s bright white background and black graduations mean it is easy to read, even in bad lighting. The bar itself also comes equipped with black graduations, measuring in both inches and millimeters. The adjustable dial bezel further adds to your ability to take precise measurements.

This Starrett caliper is one of the most versatile tools of its kind on the market. It comes equipped with a thumb-operated fine adjustment roll, and razor-thin contacts.

The jaw has lock screws so you will never have to worry about it moving if you’re measuring at an angle and need to pull the tool out of a tight spot to take your reading. Speaking of readings, the caliper’s spring-loaded double pinion is designed to prevent any backlash for an even higher degree of accuracy.

Though this caliper is extremely sturdy on its own – as mentioned above it is made of hardened stainless steel (never rusts!) – it is nonetheless a tool designed for precision, which means it needs to be treated carefully whenever possible. That is why this caliper comes with a plastic, easy to carry, pin hinge case to store your set when not in use.

In addition to protecting the caliper, the case also makes it harder to misplace or lose this smaller tool when it’s not in use.

Also, with this Starrett dial caliper, you can say goodbye to project delays caused by the fact that your tools won’t turn on. That’s because this caliper uses a dial reader rather than a digital one, so it is always ready to use from the moment you pull it out of its case.

You will not have to buy batteries when the caliper is delivered to you, and you will never have to worry about the instrument dying in the middle of an important job.

You can also rest assured that the dial will reset back to zero after every single use, whereas cheaper digital models can miscalibrate over time and after repeated use.

The accuracy, measuring capability, and quality of parts make this dial caliper a must-have. Starrett might be a name brand, highly trusted industry leader in precision measuring instruments, but this tool really is for everyone – whether you’re an expert, novice, or somewhere in between.

The cost is more than reasonable, and if you’re working with wood, machines, or metal, you can’t afford to buy a cheaper product that will give you inaccurate measurements.

Things to consider when purchasing a dial caliper

Measuring range

A 24" caliper - notice how it is missing a rod for depth measurements

The most common size of calipers is 0-6”. This set from Starrett is exactly that. Larger calipers are available. For larger sizes, they most often come in 0-12” and 0-24” versions. Different measuring range sizes are available, but these are the most common.

Larger sets of calipers can be more difficult to use when trying to measure small sizes. Because of this, most users will have a 0-6” set of calipers in addition to a larger set if they have the need for a larger measuring range.

The 0-6” set usually gets the most use and the larger set gets pulled out only when the smaller caliper won’t do.

Accuracy

Dial calipers almost all give readings at a resolution of .001”. However, they are not all accurate to .001”. Some will give a reading to .001” but only be accurate to .002”. This is more common in larger caliper sets as well as cheaper dial calipers.

When looking for a set of dial calipers, make sure to get a set that has a resolution of .001” and an accuracy of +/- .001”.

For accuracy greater than .001”, you will need to look into a quality micrometer. Micrometers are capable of taking measurements to an accuracy of .0001” or better. That is 10x more accurate than a dial caliper. To learn about the differences between these two types of measuring tools, see our guide to micrometers vs calipers.

What kind of measurements can a dial caliper take

caliper depth base attachment
A depth measuring rod extending out the end of a caliper

Dial calipers are versatile tools. They are capable of taking inside, outside, depth and step measurements. Not all will, but most do.

When looking at smaller 0-6” dial calipers, make sure it is capable of taking a depth measurement. Again, most will but some of the budget brands do not include the depth rod to keep costs down.

Additionally, if you are looking at a larger set of calipers then pay attention to both the depth measurement rod as well as whether or not the caliper has jaws for measuring internal dimensions. Some calipers are only capable of taking outside measurements.

This is likely all they will be needed for when dealing with larger sizes, but just be aware of what you are getting. Calipers that only take outside measurements and nothing else are most commonly seen in calipers that measure 24” or larger.

Dial vs digital calipers

mitutoyo digital caliper
Our best overall digital caliper, the Mitutoyo 500-196-30 6" Digital Caliper

Digital calipers can make a great alternative to dial calipers. Both types come with their benefits and drawbacks.

Digital calipers are easier to take measurements, and most will have the ability to instantly switch between units at the press of a button.

Dial calipers don’t require batteries and will always be ready to go even if you haven’t used them in a year.

For more info regarding the differences between these two types of calipers, see our guide to dial vs digital calipers.

Handling

Be gentle with your tool.

Dial calipers are precision measuring devices. They should be treated like it. While some may label themselves as “Shock Proof”, none really are.

Trust me, you don’t want to drop any caliper off your workbench onto a concrete floor. Handling your tool with care and storing it away, preferably in a case inside a toolbox when not in use, is the best practice.

Treat it right and your dial caliper will likely last a lifetime.

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Anytime Tools Dial Caliper Review

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Pros

Price point
Customer service
No batteries required

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Cons

Not "shock proof"

Features

The Anytime Tools dial caliper is built to last, thanks mainly to its surprisingly solid construction. The hardened stainless-steel frame means it is rust-resistant, which is nice when the shop or garage it gets used in doesn’t always stay the cleanest.  A sturdy build is great, but there are many other reasons why this precision measuring tool is a great buy.

This dial caliper from Anytime Tools has precision and accuracy in line with what you would expect to get from tools at a much higher price point. It is capable of taking internal, external, depth and step measurements with an accuracy of .001”. This means it competes directly with tools from companies like Starrett, Fowler and Mitutoyo.

If you need something more accurate, then look for a quality micrometer to get your measurement accuracy down to .0001” or better.

As a bonus to the sturdy build noted above, the tool is noted as being “Shock Proof”. While it might be a little more rugged than many other dial calipers, I wouldn’t recommend a drop test or something similar. It is a precision measuring instrument after all. Treat it like it is.

Luckily, the tool comes with a decent case to protect it when not in use. Again, this is a standard feature found on more expensive calipers, but one that is not always seen with tools in the same price range as this caliper from Anytime Tools.

anytime tools dial caliper dial face

While the dial face is only protected by plastic, this is normal in most dial calipers nowadays. The Anytime Tools dial caliper has a nice, easy to read dial face as well as graduated scale on the body of the caliper.

Being easy to ready means the caliper is simple to use and the fact that it doesn’t require batteries like digital calipers do allows it to always be ready to use. No more problems dealing with dead batteries. This is great when the tool only gets sporadic or occasional use.

Nothing is more frustrating than needing to take a critical measurement and finding out that your batteries are dead. At best it means a trip to the store for a random battery size. At worst it means waiting a couple days for fresh batteries to arrive.

Please note that there are multiple versions of this dial caliper available and this review is based on the single scale 6” version. Many manufacturers make calipers in a wide variety of sizes. While they are all solid choices, there are some model specific notes below.

Dual unit scale version

The dual scale version of the 6” dial caliper takes measurements in both inches and millimeters. A black scale is used for the imperial units and red is used for the metric ones.

Generally, if you need to take measurements in both units then I would recommend a good digital caliper but if you are determined to stick with an analog caliper for any reason, then they make a good choice.

0-12" Dial caliper

6” dial calipers are a pretty standard fare. Many manufacturers have been able make a solid tool. As the caliper gets larger, it gets much harder to have a device capable of taking accurate measurements.

The 12” version of Anytime Tools caliper maintains the .001”/.02mm accuracy across the whole measuring range while maintaining the budget friendly price point similar to the 6” version.

This 12″ dial caliper also gives measurements in both inches and millimeters.

Verdict

The Anytime Tools dial caliper is a solid measuring device. It is reasonably priced and has features and accuracy that are comparable to tools that cost twice as much. 

The dual unit version is a welcome convenience for those who will be working both inches and mm and the 12″ version does a great job of including premium features while maintaining the budget friendly price just like the 6″ caliper. 

In short, all three versions are solid choices for a quality dial caliper.

Things to consider when purchasing a caliper

Digital vs dial vs vernier calipers

mitutoyo 6 inch vernier caliper
Vernier caliper
mitutoyo digital caliper display
Digital caliper

Quality measuring calipers are available in both analog and digital versions. There was a time where the digital versions were much more expensive than their dial and vernier counterparts. In recent years though, things have changed. The price difference has switched somewhat. Budget friendly digital calipers can be found for less than a budget analog caliper.

Whether you go digital or analog is really just a matter of preference. Some like having a tool that is always ready to use without the need for special batteries. Others like the simplicity of reading a digital display which saves them from having to use a scale and/or dial reading to calculate the measurement. Neither is difficult to use. Go with whatever you are comfortable using.

Measuring range

Calipers come in a wide range of sizes. The standard size is a 0-6” caliper but they can frequently be found in 0-4”, 0-8”, 0-12” and 0-24” varieties. One thing to think about is that as the tool gets larger, they can be more difficult to take measurements with. A 24” caliper can be unwieldy to use when trying to take a one-inch measurement.

If you think you will need a caliper with a larger measuring range such as a 12” or 24” version, then it is best to go with a 0-6” caliper and also a separate larger caliper. This will allow you to easily measure smaller sizes. For most users, measurements under six inches will make up the majority of their work. The larger calipers can then be used for the less frequent, larger measurements.

Accuracy

The accuracy of most calipers is fairly comparable. Unless you purchase an absolute bargain basement unit (something all plastic or similar), the accuracy of your caliper will be .001” or .02mm. If you need something more accurate then you will need to look for a micrometer instead.

gauge block set
Gage block set

I do recommend verifying the accuracy of your caliper by checking the calibration. Using a good set of gage blocks to check the calibration/accuracy is the best way to go.

If you don’t have access to a set of gage blocks then any known reference standard (known ball bearing, gauge pin, plug gage, etc.) can provide some confidence that the tool is accurate. Ideally, you will want to verify the tools accuracy across the whole measuring range. It is not uncommon for a tool to get damaged and give a correct reading for a 1” measurement while being multiple thousandths off at another interval such as 4.5”.

Used vs new

If they are treated well, a used caliper will be as good and accurate as a brand-new tool. In fact, many tools made 50 years or more ago are still in use and working well. The only caveat would be that you will want to verify the accuracy of a used tool before purchasing it.

Many times, a person in the machine shop industry will be getting ready to retire and will look to sell their prized tools. Knowing the history of a tool, and more importantly, knowing it was cared for can provide some certainty that you will be getting a quality tool.

Calibration certificates

Do not, I repeat do not bother spending the extra money to get a calibration certificate with your caliper. They should be accurate regardless. Furthermore, the calibration cert only guarantees the tool was accurate at the time of calibration.

box damaged in shipping
Please handle with care

Have you seen how delivery drivers handle your boxes? Anything can happen in between the time of calibration and when the tool reaches you. Shipping companies don’t exactly have a reputation for being careful with packages during shipment.

Check it when you receive it and skip the added expense of calibration certificates.

Contamination protection

Standard dial calipers are pretty resilient to most normal forms of contamination that they will see such as oil and coolant. I still highly recommend keeping them as clean as possible. Keeping them in a case and even in a locked toolbox is always a good idea. Also be more wary of contaminants such as metal chips, dirt and debris. They are more likely to cause issues with your tool. A stray metal chip can cause your caliper to skip a tooth on the gear. This will lead to false measurements.

Data transfer

vinca data transfer cable in case
Data transfer cable

Data transfer is a nice feature but most often only something that a business will use. With that being said, you won’t find any data transfer capabilities on a set of analog calipers such as the Anytime Tools dial calipers. If data transfer is something that you require then find yourself a good digital caliper. However, keep in mind that sometimes the cable to make the data transfer costs more than the caliper itself.

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