Best Digital Calipers | Digital Caliper Guide

Having been a cnc machinist for over 30 years I can confidently say that Mitutoyo Digital Calipers are what you need to buy if quality tools are what you want. 

Every machinist I have ever worked with has owned a set, every machine shop I have worked at have invested in Mitutoyo measuring equipment.

Accuracy, reliability and durability are how Mitutoyo are thought of, truly the best digital calipers you can buy

A digital electronic caliper to rule them all!

Just click the link below and buy a set, you will have no regrets.

Sale
Mitutoyo 500-196-30 Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS) Absolute...*
  • Measures 0 to 6" (0 to 150mm) in 0.0005" (0.01mm) increments for precision use
  • Digital readout LCD shows inch or metric units for versatility when measuring
  • Advanced onsite sensor (AOS) electromagnetic inductive sensor for resistance to dirt, oil, and water
  • Measures inside, outside, depth, and step values for versatility. With thumb roller. Except 500-500-10, 500-501-10,500-502-10
  • Includes protective case and SR44 silver oxide battery

But if you really want some other options feel free to continue reading this review.

The digital caliper pros far outweigh any cons, and are the most popular type of precision measuring tool you can buy. They are used in a multitude of different trades but are most prevalent with machinists. They are also more versatile and less costly than a micrometer.

If you own and operate a cnc machine/router you will need a set of good quality calipers.

Of all the types of caliper tools available, such as Vernier, digital and dial, the digital caliper tool is the most convenient and easiest to read.

This article will provide you the information to choose (and use) the digital calipers you need.

Preview
Mitutoyo 500-196-30 Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS) Absolute...*
Mitutoyo 500-197-30CAL Absolute Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS)...*
Digital Caliper, Adoric 0-6" Calipers Measuring Tool -...*
iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6" Display...*
Mitutoyo 505-742J Dial Caliper, 0.1" per Rev, 0-6" Range,...*
Description
Mitutoyo 500-196-30 Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS) Absolute...*
Mitutoyo 500-197-30CAL Absolute Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS)...*
Digital Caliper, Adoric 0-6" Calipers Measuring Tool -...*
iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6" Display...*
Mitutoyo 505-742J Dial Caliper, 0.1" per Rev, 0-6" Range,...*
Measuring Range
0"-6"
0"-8"
0"-6"
0"-6"
0"-6"
Units of Measurment
Metric and Imperial
Metric and Imperial
Metric and Imperial
Metric and Imperial
Imperial
Recommended?
Definitely
Definitely
No
Budget Buy
Yes
Preview
Mitutoyo 500-196-30 Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS) Absolute...*
Description
Mitutoyo 500-196-30 Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS) Absolute...*
Measuring Range
0"-6"
Units of Measurment
Metric and Imperial
Recommended?
Definitely
Preview
Mitutoyo 500-197-30CAL Absolute Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS)...*
Description
Mitutoyo 500-197-30CAL Absolute Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS)...*
Measuring Range
0"-8"
Units of Measurment
Metric and Imperial
Recommended?
Definitely
Preview
Digital Caliper, Adoric 0-6" Calipers Measuring Tool -...*
Description
Digital Caliper, Adoric 0-6" Calipers Measuring Tool -...*
Measuring Range
0"-6"
Units of Measurment
Metric and Imperial
Recommended?
No
Preview
iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6" Display...*
Description
iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6" Display...*
Measuring Range
0"-6"
Units of Measurment
Metric and Imperial
Recommended?
Budget Buy
Preview
Mitutoyo 505-742J Dial Caliper, 0.1" per Rev, 0-6" Range,...*
Description
Mitutoyo 505-742J Dial Caliper, 0.1" per Rev, 0-6" Range,...*
Measuring Range
0"-6"
Units of Measurment
Imperial
Recommended?
Yes

The best Digital calipers Overall

Mitutoyo are considered the industry standard when it comes to measuring equipment. All other brands get compared to them. This set being the most popular 6″ digital caliper available to date.

Mitutoyo 6″ Calipers

Mitutoyo's best digital caliper

My experiences with owning several of them are very positive, they do what they are designed to do and will last a long time if you look after them. They are definitely tools that are sold through quality.

They are made from quality materials, there are no cost cutting with the design and they feel smooth and precise with all the features you need.

Pros

  • As Accurate as you can expect a set of calipers to be.
  • Made with high quality materials that produce a solid, tight feel when using.
  • Industry standard, Used by professionals
  • Battery will last approx 1 year of regular use
  • Reliable consistent readout 
  • The quality ensures they will last for many years
  • Complete with a protective case

Cons

  • Higher cost for initial purchase, but will likely be more cost effective over time due to its longer lasting build quality.
Sale
Mitutoyo 500-196-30 Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS) Absolute...*
  • Measures 0 to 6" (0 to 150mm) in 0.0005" (0.01mm) increments for precision use
  • Digital readout LCD shows inch or metric units for versatility when measuring
  • Advanced onsite sensor (AOS) electromagnetic inductive sensor for resistance to dirt, oil, and water
  • Measures inside, outside, depth, and step values for versatility. With thumb roller. Except 500-500-10, 500-501-10,500-502-10
  • Includes protective case and SR44 silver oxide battery

The Best 8” Large Range Digital caliper

Even though I have just reviewed the 6” Mitutoyo calipers I thought it would be useful to review this Mitutoyo 8 inch digital caliper. There are several sizes of Mitutoyo calipers available including a 12 inch , 18 inch and a small 4” set.

Mitutoyo 8″ Calipers

All the opinions I gave about the 6 inch digital calipers apply to these as well. 

The main issue here is that bigger is sometimes not better. If you need the extra measuring distance this instrument provides then you should get them. 

But don’t buy a bigger set just because you can, the extra size of the calipers can work against you in smaller spaces.

If you extend a 12” set of calipers out, the depth blade at the rear will make the overall length of them to over 24” long.

If your machine is close to a wall or in an enclosure, this Mitutoyo 8 inch set might not let you measure your part while it is still in the machine.

Choose the size of your tools wisely…

Pros

  • This digital caliper accuracy is as high as can be.
  • Made with high quality materials that produce a solid, tight feel when using.
  • Industry standard tool, Used by professionals
  • Battery will last approx 1 year of regular use
  • Reliable consistent readout 
  • The quality ensures they will last for many years
  • Complete with a protective case

Cons

  • Higher cost for initial purchase, but will likely be more cost efficient over time due to its longer lasting build quality.
  • Make sure these are not too big for the space around your machine.
Sale
Mitutoyo 500-197-30CAL Absolute Advanced Onsite Sensor (AOS)...*
  • Calibrated caliper with a measurement range of 0 to 8" (0 to 200mm), resolution of 0.0005" (0.01mm), and an accuracy of + or - 0.001", for measuring inner/outer diameters, depth, and step of items in harsh workshop conditions
  • LCD screen displays in inches and metric units
  • Thumb roller and Absolute electrostatic capacitance type linear encoder for accurate measurements and a 0.75", round, depth bar
  • Functions include absolute measurement, incremental measurement, scale contamination alert, and low-voltage alert
  • Includes a Mitutoyo Certificate of Calibration that the tool has been calibrated, and meets the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) 17025 International Standard for testing and calibration laboratories

The best budget digital caliper

adoric calipers

Adoric 0″-6″ Calipers

At the other end of the spectrum is this set from Adoric, they give you a choice of a plastic and a stainless steel steel body. The plastic set is optimistically described for household or diy use but I doubt they will be good for anything. 

They might get bent in shipping.

The other choice of stainless steel would be the preferred option if you want a budget set for general ‘household’ use. 

The accuracy is listed as +/- .05mm which is +/- .002” which isn’t great to be honest, but for what these cost it isn’t too surprising.

My biggest concern with any of the budget priced calipers would be the reliability of the digital readout and the linear encoder.

Given the amount these types of calipers sell for, I doubt the quality of the electronics or parts can be relied on to last. 

Luck may play a part in getting a reliable set.

Pros

  • Extremely well priced tool, can almost be used as disposable.
  • Made with stainless steel.
  • Good for general d.i.y etc.

Cons

  • Not well made enough for consistent accurate readings.
  • Questionable reliability with the readout.
  • Possible to order the plastic set by mistake.
  • Unlikely to last for too long before you upgrade to the set you should have bought.
  • No protective case supplied
Sale
Digital Caliper, Adoric 0-6" Calipers Measuring Tool -...*
  • Precise measurement: Measurement range: 0 - 6''/ 0 - 150mm; Resolution: 0.01”/ 0.1mm; Accuracy: ±0.2mm/0.01”. Perfect and accurate caliper measuring tool for household/DIY measurement. Please choose stainless steel digital caliper for more accurate measuring
  • 4 measuring modes: This digital caliper can be used to Measure inside and outside diameter, depth and step with two sets of jaws and a probe. Powered by battery, comes with a pre-installed battery and a spare battery
  • Inch/mm conversion: One button quick switch between two units: inch and millimeter, definitely save your time. Made of rugged plastic carbon fiber composites, durable and portable
  • Zero setting function: The smart design allows you to set zero with an easy touch of a button and start a new measurement at any point of the scale, ideal for differential measuring
  • Large LCD screen & auto off: The large and easy-to-read LCD display helps you get precise results quickly and easily, auto shutdown for saving battery after 5 minutes if without operation

The Best calipers for dIY

igaging calipers

IGaging IP54 0-6″ Calipers

If cost is an issue and you are determined to save a few bucks these Igaging calipers are definitely worth considering.

These are at the higher quality end of the chinese built digital calipers and have plenty of positive reviews.

The manufacturer, Igaging, claims they have an accuracy of +/- .001” and a readout resolution of .0005” which is comparable to the high end calipers. 

There are a lot of different options and sizes available from this company and they claim an IP code of 54. 

An IP54 rating means it is slightly dust proof and can resist a ‘splash’ of water.

Many reviews comment on this set being a rugged digital caliper, plus they do come with a protective plastic case.

I would be tempted to buy this set for general use and abuse but I have an old set of Mitutoyo 6” calipers that I use at home. 

They are definitely an option to consider if you are budget conscious although I am reluctant to recommend them without actually owning and using a set for a reasonable amount of time.

These could be ideal for woodworking as this is a less harsh environment than in a machine shop.

Pros

  • Competitively priced.
  • Made with stainless steel.
  • Perfect for general d.i.y, for mechanics etc
  • Supplied with a protective case.

Cons

  • Questionable reliability with the readout.
  • A few minor build quality issues reported in reviews
iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6" Display...*
  • Easy read SUPER LARGE display (2-3/8"x7/8")
  • IP54 - Splash water, oil and dust resistant
  • Hardened stainless steel body
  • Precision lapping finish
  • Range: 0-6" Accuracy: 0.001" Repeatability: 0.0005" Resolution: 0.0005"/0.01mm/1/128"

dial caliper or vernier Caliper?

mitutoyo dial calipers

Mitutoyo 6″ Dial Calipers

These Mitutoyo dial calipers are probably as good quality as you can expect to buy, If you prefer dial calipers instead of Vernier calipers, these are the set I recommend.

There are still some people who like to use good old fashioned dial calipers, so I included a set in this review to give my experiences using them. 

Reliability will never be an issue with dial calipers if you buy from a high end manufacturer, they will last a long time provided they receive proper care. 

They work using a rack and pinion to drive the pointer on the readout face giving an accuracy of around +/- .0005. This is the same as digital calipers.

This type of caliper relies heavily on the quality and fit of the rack and pinion mechanism, any slop here will result in a noticeable decrease in accuracy and repeatability.

This is why I would only recommend you buy dial calipers from a reputable company.

I do own a budget set that will occasionally jump teeth when some debris gets on the rack. This emphasizes the biggest problem with dial calipers and that is the exposed rack.

Making sure the gear teeth are clean is important, as well as checking that the dial reads zero with them closed before every use. 

Pros

  • If you object to using batteries, these are ideal.
  • Made with stainless steel.
  • A good quality set will be as accurate as digital calipers
  • Supplied with a protective case.
  • No battery needed

Cons

  • Only reads in one unit of measurement
  • Not as versatile as digital calipers
  • Need to keep the rack and pinion free of debris
  • Lacking features due to its analog design
Sale
Mitutoyo 505-742J Dial Caliper, 0.1" per Rev, 0-6" Range,...*
  • New designed dial movement for ultra smooth sliding and high shock protection
  • Improved finish on sliding surfaces for longevity.
  • Lock screw for dial bezel and for holding the sliding jaw position
  • New face for improved readability.
  • Can measure OD, ID, depth and steps.

How to use digital calipers

Digital calipers are quite simple to use but require a certain amount of skill and practice to use properly.

The first procedure is to make sure the caliper blade faces are clean and free of debris.

It is common practice to wipe the jaws clean with your fingers and check that the readout is zero with the them closed.

To use them to achieve the most accurate measurement, you need to make sure they are parallel and perpendicular to the faces being measured.

You need to check if this is true when looking from above and to the side.

The following diagrams explain the basics of using digital calipers.

demonstrating the correct way to use digital calipers
demonstrating the wrong way to use digital calipers
demonstrating the wrong way to use digital calipers
using digital calipers to measure the inside of a pipe

Measuring a Depth

Typically the hardest measurement to achieve accurately is using the depth blade on the rear of the calipers.

Holding them perpendicular to the measured face can be quite tricky and multiple measurements may be needed to get a consistent reading. 

using digital calipers to measure a depth

It is not uncommon for two different machinists to get quite different measurements of the same depth.

What are Digital Calipers used for?

Measuring two external or internal faces and depths from one parallel face to another, also internal and external diameters. 

To put it more simply, they can be used to measure almost everything you need, and do it quite accurately.

Sure there are other measuring instruments that will do specific jobs more accurately and consistently but digital calipers can be considered a ‘jack of all trades’ when it comes to measuring.

Are they ideal for the hobby machinist?

This question is a no brainer. They are an essential addition to your tools and for anyone with any type of cnc machine. If you don’t already have a set you need to buy some now!

They are more versatile for a hobby machinist than using micrometers.

How long will a digital set last? 

If you don’t abuse them, a good quality set of calipers will last many years. I own a set of Mitutoyo calipers that I have had and used consistently for 15 years. 

They are getting worn out at the tips now and in need of replacing but they still work just fine.

Budget vs Quality

The one measuring tool any machinist should not cheap out on….

Digital calipers are tools you will rely on and use the most, you want them to be as accurate and consistent for as long as possible.

Mitutoyo calipers
Mitutoyo digital Calipers

That does not mean you should not buy a budget set, they have many uses and having a set you are not worried about abusing or lending to someone can be useful.

Even though they have the same features they will not be able to compete with the durability and accuracy of a quality set of digital calipers.

Digital Caliper Components

The anatomy of digital calipers

Are They necessary if I only use a cnc wood router?

Yes, you will still need a set. Even if you are only milling 3D reliefs and decorative projects you will still need them for measuring tooling, fixturing etc. 

How to Maintain and store them

Keep them clean – occasionally wipe them with a clean dry rag. 

Don’t drop them, if you do, check the tips of the jaws with a loupe (eye glass). If they get damaged, use a flat stone to carefully smooth away any dings or burrs.

If your they aren’t coolant proof, don’t worry if they get splashed. All that happens is the readout goes doolally.

Wipe them dry and leave for a while and when all the moisture is gone they will work just fine. 

If they are supplied with a storage case, use it. It can protect them from accidental damage.

Are they Delicate?

If they fall off the bench into a bucket of oil, they’re screwed. 

If you throw them against a wall in a temper ‘cos you’ve just scrapped a job, they’re also screwed.

Solar Powered?

Don’t be tempted, they can keep switching off if you are trying to measure in a low lit area, which is extremely annoying.

The battery in a regular set will last a long time.

What is a typical Tolerance?

A typical set of digital calipers will measure in increments of .0005” or .01mm on its readout. This is as high a tolerance as you can expect to get when measuring with calipers due to their design. Getting a repeat measurement with a smaller tolerance would be very unlikely.

Do You Need Really need a set?

Digital Calipers use a linear encoder to give the measurement on a digital display. Being digital enables manufacturers to add other useful functions. Primarily these are the ability to switch the readout between different measuring units and an incremental function.

If you are considering purchasing a set and would like my recommendation, the Mitutoyo 6″ calipers are in my opinion perfect for any machinist, not just a hobbyist.

Which Have the best Ratings?

In my opinion it is the Mitutoyo 6” calipers. They are the ultimate all round purchase and are the tools that all others are compared to. 

All you need to decide is which size range would be ideal for your needs.

Being a machinist by trade, I could not possibly recommend any of the lower priced calipers and have a clear conscience. I will only recommend tools I actually use.

If you needed a set for general use, buying budget along with a good quality set would certainly be an excellent combination.  

I know the difference a quality set of calipers makes to your work and even though the cost of a Mitutoyo is higher, it is certainly justified. This is definitely a ‘get what you pay for’ situation.

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