Raymarine Dragonfly Sonar GPS with Downvision review.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to finally upgrade my Garmin 62 handheld GPS and get something that didn’t require batteries to be replaced and recharged. There has been a lot of hype around the Raymarine Dragonfly with some excellent reviews so I decided to check it out. This unit has a Navionics gold card included which makes the unit a lot more attractive. Only problem with the gold card is you do not get free updates. The community makes would be a massive advantage on the card.
I currently have a Humminbird 778 sounder mounted on my Allycraft Brave 5.25 centre console, so the plan was to mount the Humminbird transducer on the port side and the new shiny Raymarine transducer on the starboard. The transducer itself is quite long with an adjustable kick-up feature as shown in the picture below. The tension on the claw can be increased by tightening the 4mm hex bolt.I placed the new unit in the exact position where the old transducer was previously mounted as I found the signal quality here was of high standard.
The Raymarine Dragonfly comes with a 6m transducer/power cable so anyone that has a long run may require an extension cable for it to fit correctly. My console is more towards the rear but I still only had around 1-2m of spare cable. The kit does not come with a fuse so ensure you have one available when installing. Mounting the head unit was quite simple, with three securing screws for the baseplate, tilt the mount back, tighten the centre bolt then pop in the head unit. The head unit was a little difficult to clip into place which mademe think there was something wrong with the mount. A little coaxing it will clip in correctly. The unit easily pops out by pulling a tab. The transducer/power cable plugs in easily and has the added benefit of being sealed with an o-ring.
The unit accepts microSD cards on the bottom left-hand corner which is covered by a little magnetic hatch. It doesn't appear to have any protection from the elements so I will be interested to see how it goes. It does have a raised ridge around the card slot so the water may stream around it. The card is a little annoying to remove because the area is recessed and the slot is just below the screen. It is a two hand operation and at times I had to use long nose pliers to remove it.
Powering up takes a little while. The unit apparently has a linux operating system so its similar to waiting for your computer to boot up. You are able to adjust the screen brightness, eject the SD card, enable/disable the sonar and take a screen shot by pressing the power button. The unit has a few different controls, a rotary dial, a 4 way joystick and push ok button and the back/view change button.
Navigating the menus is quite easy. The menus were quite self-explanitory with a few different settings for each view. Both Sonar and Downvision had auto settings with the ability to change the contrast, sensitivity and colours to suit your specific needs. I did find thoughout the day that the auto settings were not too bad so you can get around on the first use and get some good readings.
I took the set-up through Moreton Bay to Shallow Tempest for a bit of fishing and testing. The Navionics Gold card maps are pretty accurate so it is a breeze to navigate with the view set to chart. The 5 inch display is ample when working on full screen. The screen is zoomed with ease by using the rotary dial. Changing settings and accessing while on the move is reasonable, rotating the dial to select what you need then pushing the joystick to select ok. The joystick can also be used to navigate the menus so if there is swell and waves around you can easily select the incorrect menu when trying to hit ok.
The different views available are:
Tools and Settings
The chart and Sonar/Downvision is a side-by-side splitscreen and the sonar/downvision is a top/bottom splitscreen. I would have liked to have the Sonar/Downvision side-by-side as the sounding would be higher and easier to interperet. If the depth and range are set correctly the view could be usable but I found it unreadable.I have seen a screen shot of them side by side but I could not find the correct settings to bring up this view.
The above sonar image was taken with the Humminbird sounder running. The vertical noise is noticable but the sreen it still readable.
I found the Raymarine Downvision could run at the same time as the Humminbird sounder due to the different frequencies. The sonar would display ok with both running but there was some vertical noise that would appear on the screen. I was impressed with the downvision display straight off the bat when moving slow, displaying a very nice image straight away on auto settings. The sonar was acceptable but I was a bit disappointed with the detail it showed. I am partial to the Humminbird readings and after using one for quite some time I am quite used to what it looks like and what the readings actually mean. The Dragonfly Sonar did not appear to have detail as the Humminbird on auto settings. In future trips I will be doing a lot more testing over known ground to perfect the picture out of the unit. I did adjust the sensitivity and contrast over wireweed for a while but the Humminbird kept coming out on top. This was a bit disappointing as it is a Chirp sounder so I was expecting nice crisp images.
Screenshot taken at Shallow Tempest. Structure is wireweed with pan sized snapper above.
The Downvision is a standout on this unit. I was able to quickly identify what structure I was crossing and the bait and fish were easy to spot above the structure. Below are some images of wireweed at Shallow Tempest and also wrecks at Curtain Artifial Reef inside Moreton Bay. To get the most detail out of Downvision you may have to do multiple passes over the same piece of structure.
The above image is beleived to the "Melbourne" at Curtain Artificial in Moreton Bay.
Manually adjusting the depth will create black areas as pictured above.
Down vision also has a zoom/range function to focus on the strike zone.
Wireweed at Shallow Tempest.
Some tips for getting the best image out of your downvision are listed below:
- Manually set your depth first to get the screen in the right position. On auto it may jump around which will loose some detail.
- Set the range so the screen only displays the structure you want to identify.
- With the boat in gear, adjust the scroll speed so you will get most of the structure on the screen in the pass. I found it better to be in gear while crossing the structure so the boat is travelling directly towards the structure. With the boat "Course over Ground" pointing directly at the structure the thin flat beam of the Downvision will not get distorted as much. If you are drifting and the boat is at an angle to the direction of travel the structure may appear much larger or smaller than it actually is.
- Try to capture the image in good conditions. Because the beam is flat and thin, much like a sheet, any small movement of the boat will cause massive distortion at ground level, much like shaking your digital camera while taking a shot. In deep water this will become a much more important factor.
- Continue well past the structure to examine where the fish are schooling. Bait and predators are quite easy to identify by the density and intensity of the return. If the image looks like a cloud it is most likely schooling bait, if it is small or large spots you are looking at bigger fish.
Overall I was very impressed with the unit. A 5-inch unit with GPS, Navionics Gold Card, Chirp Sonar/Downvision and water temperature for $850. The chart and Downvision provided outstanding images straight out of the box without me having to touch anything at all. The sonar was a bit disappointing but as with most units it may just require some tinkering and time to understand and interperet what is displayed. I highly recommend purchasing the unit from a reputable Australian dealer. If there are any warranty concerns things can get sorted out very quickly to get you back out on the water sooner. If the unit is purchased overseas you are running the risk of the unit being geofenced and a claim during the warranty period will mean the unit has to be sent back overseas. It will be interesting to see if Raymarine will offer a larger screen in the future. The 5-inch display is ample when using a view in full screen but splitscreen can be a little small.