A theodolite is a precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. Theodolites are used mainly for surveying applications. A modern theodolite consists of a movable telescope mounted within two perpendicular axes the horizontal or turn on axis, and the vertical axis. When the telescope is pointed at a target object, the angle of each of these axes can be measured with great precision, typically to seconds of arc.
Theodolites may be either transit or non-transit. Transit theodolites (or just "transits") are those in which the telescope can be inverted in the vertical plane, whereas the rotation in the same plane is restricted to a semi-circle for non-transit theodolites. Some types of transit theodolites do not allow the measurement of vertical angles.
The builder's level is sometimes mistaken for a transit theodolite, but it measures neither horizontal nor vertical angles. It uses a spirit level to set a telescope level to define a line of sight along a horizontal plane.
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