This question might possibly be more interesting for those who are just diving into the world of navigation. However, as things stand, this article could also be helpful to anyone passionate about the sea. To begin with, there is a real debate going on between these two schools, yet it’s tough to say which nautical chart format is better than the other, as the choice depends most of the time on user habits or personal preference.
Aim solving this question might be a lost battle as it might not apply equally to everyone. However, here we want to give you a quick overview of the key characteristics that define each type of chart and an additional expert opinion on the topic by Leon Schulz, Yachtmaster Ocean Instructor, and long-time TIMEZERO user.
Let’s begin with the Raster Charts
Raster Charts are an exact reproduction of the traditional nautical paper charts, as they are digital scans of printed lithographic charts. What is the great thing about Raster Charts? Users that have always used nautical paper charts are more than happy and reassured to find the same information on the screen.
On the other hand, Vector Charts are a rendering of a lithographic chart in a point-by-point format. “Vector” is a synonym for line, and vector charts are composed of mathematically defined geometric shapes: lines, objects, and fills. Think of connecting the dots; that is the same principle. These dots are stored in a database and drawn on the computer or plotter screen by the software. Therefore, the display of a Vector Chart doesn’t look much like a nautical paper chart.
What is the great thing about Vector Charts? You have more displaying options, and they require less space on your hard disk.
This comparison graph, created by our expert Leon Schulz could give you a better view of the pros and minuses of each type of chart. Also, it might allow you to see which one might be more suitable for you, or as Leon does, combine both type of charts and get the benefits each has to offer.
|Easy to update due to smaller file size||When a layer is off, you might miss important information|
|Modern and clean presentation||Font size is always the same, might be problematic for small screens|
|Possible to switch on and off various layers to get only relevant information||Can easily loose overview of scale, since all zoom levels look alike|
|Continuous step-less zooming||Land information is often scarce|
|Can switch on alarm functions (e.g., an alarm when a route leads over shallow parts)||From certain zoom levels some information such as text disappears|
|What it’s shown in certain zoom level depends on the provider and screen size|
|If you need information about a buoy or lighthouse, you need to click and scroll down on a specific window|
|Looks like paper chart, which is familiar||Zooming in steps: one chart is enlarged until suddenly it jumps into the next scale|
|Font size gets bigger when zooming||Specific information cannot be switch on and off|
|More information about the shore: churches, beaches, streets, etc.||A computer cannot interpret the picture, therefore no alarm functions available|
|Easier to judge distance by eye, since scale is clearly defined|
|Thanks to manual production, smart choice, and placement of information|
|Information about buoys and lighthouses placed directly next to the object|
Moreover, see this short video to get our expert’s opinion on the topic.
Also, keep in mind that in general, Raster Charts are made by national hydrographic services and Vector Charts by private companies. Neither type of format exists for all the world regions, so the accuracy and richness of data will depend on your area.
And lastly, in the TIMEZERO team, we understand that accurate charts mean safety at sea. For this reason, all our charts are updated at least once a year. Check in this link all the charts available.