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Pick of the Camera Reviews

(Click the pictures for reviews & links) 

ACTION CAMS

Yi 2 - Best Budget 4K 

Gitup Git2 (My Pick)

Xiaomi Yi

Dazzne P2

SJCAM M10+
 
DASH-CAMS (CAR DVRs)
 
A119
Yi Ultra 2.7K
   
    MINI CAMERAS
Mobius (also works as a Dashcam)
Polaroid Cube+
    HELMET CAMERA
Sena Prism Tube

My favourite USB battery power Pack

This is the excellent USB power pack I use when I travel.

2 x 2.1amp outputs. 8400mAh capacity.

Two digit Led display shows battery level

 

What SD CARD should I buy?

If you want an SD Card for your camera - these are the ones I use and recommend. 

I'd strongly recommend not to buy any SD cards off ebay - I've heard about too many issues with counterfeit cards - often sold on by unwitting resellers. My inbox regularly gets messages from people who bought a £150 camera then cheaped out and bought a £3 memory card on ebay - Then when it doesn't worth they blame the camera! It doesn't make any sense. Good memory is cheaper than it's ever been - see the links above.

A lot of HD cameras will not work properly with cards larger than 32GB (cards over 32GB are usually SDXC rather than the SDHC standard used by 32GB cards. SDXC cards use the ex-FAT system rather than FAT32 - in short they are a different standard). - so don't just buy the biggest card you can afford - read the specs in the manual to see what it accepts.

UK & US LINKS & PRICES BELOW

RECOMMENDED CARDS (for action cams - see dashcams below)

CLASS 10 UHS-1 CARDS (For HD Cameras)

 

U3 CARD (For 4K cameras)

 

 

SPECIAL DASHCAM CARDS

The SD card in a dashcam is re-written over, more frequently than in other types of cameras. Some manufacturers void their guarantee if an SD card was used in a dashcam. So, no surprise, there are special High Endurance SD cards made just for dashcams...here's some.

 

VERY IMPORTANT. These links take you to the product, however Amazon have three different ways of selling. There's Amazon Direct - This means that you are only dealing with Amazon themselves, then there's other sellers that use Amazon's facilities - these show as Fulfilled By Amazon and finally there's Market Place sellers that advertise on Amazon, but operate independently.  I strongly recommend that you only use the first...the Amazon Direct - Sold By Amazon option. Even if it appears that you are paying a couple of £/$ more it is more than likely you are comparing the price of a real item against the price of a fake.

To give you an idea of the extent of the fake goods problem. In a 2016 survey by Apple - 90% of the 'Apple' chargers sold through Amazon - using the other the two methods..which includes the "Fulfilled by Amazon" option -  were found to be counterfeit....90%! 

            

 
« A few short videos about things | Main | Two new videos, A Crystal Watch and an OBD-II Display »
Sunday
Nov132011

A 'black box' for your car.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who are looking for a 'fit and forget' car camera. One that will continuously and unobtrusively record every journey - with no need for any manual intervention. A camera that you would only touch if you got into an accident and you needed to pull the evidence off it. The automotive equivalent of a aircraft black box recorder. 

Well, if you can find a way to hide this camera away in your car then this might be the one for you. The video explains pretty much everything (hopefully) that you will need to know.

Even the Muppets that I picked up a couple of years ago get let out of their display cases to help me explain something. 

If you are thinking of taking the camera apart - I've put a picture below that shows what it looks like without the Suction cup mount and what happens if you try and unscrew and remove the protruding bracket (it contains the wiring to the GPS aerial socket - so you would need to disconnect/snip these wires to be able to remove this section - not beyond the realms of possibility, but also not something that I want to do).

I have also put a couple of untouched 1080p sample clips in a dropbox folder - a 2 min 130MB clip, and a shorter 30 second 30MB clip. Right click and save either of these if you want to test them. 

130MB

30MB

UPDATE - People email me regularly to tell me that this camera is no longer available from Chinavasion. 

A quick search shows that it is still available on ebay though.. 

 

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Reader Comments (240)

@mike great idea about puting velco on window mount,I find it works great thanks for the info.
thanks.
cheers

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLOCHINVAR

I've now had my camera for two weeks, running from the supplied 12V adaptor. So far I'm still very impressed with this camera.

On the first day I had an issue with a corrupt MOV file at the end of a short journey. I assume header information needs to be written to the file upon completion and either due to insufficient battery charge, or a slow microSD card, this was not written correctly on shutdown. I swapped my old 8GB microSD to a 16GB SanDisk Class 4 card as I wanted to use a bigger card anyway, and since then I have only had two additional problems, only one of which is of any real concern.

The vehicle has been driven approximately 4 hours per day over the weekends, and made several other >40 minute trips during the week with only the following issues...

On one occasion the camera froze and did not shut down automatically when the power was removed. On a positive note, this does show there is sufficient battery capacity to keep the camera going for long enough to write unwritten data.

On another occasion, one file was about 30 seconds short (I use a 5 minute recording time), however the camera did start a new file, and no recording was lost between files. Other people have reported issues with short recordings between larger files. I suspect the microSD interface is the cause of this - possibly garbage collection or other internal processes slowing down the microSD card.

I am still waiting on an adaptor in order to switch to USB power, which should arrive this week or next.

I've uploaded a 5 minute video (minus sound) showing how the camera performs in wet conditions ranging from light rain to relatively heavy rain. It does appear to be more difficult to read plates of vehicles in the neighbouring lanes during heavy rain. In fine conditions the plates can be clearly read in most frames. Note this video has been remuxed to an MP4 container which is easier to work with, and I have removed the sound. The video has not been re-encoded and is as produced by the camera.

http://www.filejungle.com/f/rxXJrS/FILE0039_track1.mp4

Sorry for using a file host, but I needed somewhere with FTP access, and my VPS doesn't have sufficient space for hosting large downloads.

I have been unable to extract any data from the MOV file itself, however the log does not appear to contain sufficient information, so I suspect some of this information is recorded in the h.264 stream. Any experts on MPEG video here? I doubt the data is 100% identical to that produced by other cameras, but the video encoder chip is common, and GPS data could potentially be converted to a different format which may open up the possibility of using software other than HDPlayer to view recordings alongside maps.

Overall, I'm giving the camera 8/10 for now.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSir Humphrey Appleby

Thanks for the update... I'd provide one for my wife's unit, but I'm a bit short on time. In the interim, I've ordered this:

http://www.aliexpress.com/product-fm/511185394-Car-DVR-Camera-with-GPS-Logger-Ambarella-Chip-Full-HD-1920-1080P-30FPS-H-264-4-wholesalers.html?biz_type=sitePromo_wto_buyer360_clc&url_type=wto_clc_pic&productId=511185394&crm_mtn_tracelog_task_id=6704287&crm_mtn_tracelog_log_id=1151422448

Looks very promising. Same seller who sold me the V1000GS - and sent me a sample video. The price is only US$135 w/free shipping. The speed/time/date stamp on the sample video is much more readable, and the HDPlayer software looks much more polished. I'll provide details on both the new camera and the status of my flaky V1000GS as time permits.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commentererkme73

So I have been researching these cameras, and while this model does look promising, the multiple failure reports are a little concerning. I have been looking at other solutions, and this one looks REALLY nice, around $200 USD:
http://www.blackvue.com.sg/new-full-hd.html

and ITRONICS released a HD version of their iPass series as well, the ITB-100HD. A little bit more pricey, and not sure if it offers anything more/better than the BlackVue model.

Has anyone tried one of these?

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterel dude

@el dude. I think the failure rates and problems experienced by people are going to be similar irrespective of the model of camera used. Many issues seem to be microSD related, and given the lack of any independently validated testing, that doesn't particularly surprise me.

The BlackVue doesn't have USB, nor does the iPass either from what I can see in the photos. For me, ease of getting video off the unit is very important. I can live without HDMI, or any form of AV input/output, so long as I can get the video off the camera and on to a PC quickly and easily. The microSD format is not the easiest to work with, the small cards are difficult to get in and out if you don't have finger nails, and if dropped, are easily lost inside the car... a USB cable can be installed permanently for the V1000GS (also providing power), so in theory I should never have to touch the camera.

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSir Humphrey Appleby

If anyone is interested in a 1080P night driving example, I've uploaded one...

http://www.filejungle.com/f/PXD2SK/FILE0075.MOV

This one is straight from the camera, with full audio, and a MOV container. There is a lot of detail missing in the video, and it appears there was some condensation on the windscreen which wasn't apparent on the night. That has probably contributed to the overall low quality of the video. The bitrate does not seem to increase to compensate.

Night video quality is a little disappointing, but as I do very little night driving except in winter, it's not a deal breaker.

Some interesting details about the video/audio encoder etc.

Video:
Avg Bitrate : 8.12 Mbps
Image Size : 1920x1080
File Type : MOV
MIME Type : video/quicktime
Major Brand : Apple QuickTime (.MOV/QT)
Compressor Name : Ambarella AVC encoder
Bit Depth : 24
Video Frame Rate : 29.97
Matrix Structure : 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1

Audio:
Compressor Name : Ambarella AVC encoder
Audio Format : mp4a
Audio Channels : 2
Audio Bits Per Sample : 16
Audio Sample Rate : 48000

(Partial output of exiftool.exe)

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSir Humphrey Appleby

Oops, that video had some talking in which I don't want on the Internet... didn't notice it when I watched it quickly the first time. If anyone would like a video example for night driving, let me know and I will put up an edited version :)

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSir Humphrey Appleby

Guys, I was one of the first people to buy the V1000GS after techmoan released the review. This was the initial buying period before chinavasion took the product down (and before they offered it again for a week or so, and before they took it down altogether!).

I have the exact same issues as erkme73 and others with the unit freezing/locking up for no particular reason. I tried an expensive branded class 10 card from a friend but it made no difference. I've pretty much given up with it now and haven't used it since before Christmas. I've been in contact with chinavasion about the issues and they've said to send it back (at my expense of course, and I reckon insured delivery will be around £15) and they will take a look at it. I couldn't get a straight answer out of them regarding a full refund, they preferred to talk about credits against other purchases from them, which I didn't like the sound of.

Like others, I would be very happy with the device if the recording issues could be resolved. I just want to be able to power it and forget about it, not to have to keep looking at the LEDs every few minutes to make sure it's still working okay.

I notice Alan (3 Jan post) and erkme (22 Jan) have both linked to another DVR device that you are/were considering. Did either of you go through with the purchase? Any reports on the reliability etc? The spec list for it looks identical (other than the GPS) to the V1000GS being discussed here, except for a different case and the addition of an LCD screen on the back.

El dude (23 Jan) have you tried out the blackvue HD you mention?

I think that both these units are going to be out of techmoan's price range as he likes to keep stuff under a ton so it's unlikely we'll get a review of either of these from him, but I'm very interested to know how they perform.

Someone mentioned in the comments of one of his vids that there's a new HD808 1080p on the way. The original one was very good and if it had had a lossless cycled recording function and the ability to record and be powered by a car charger at the same time I'd probably have bought one. Fingers crossed that the new one offers both of those functions.

Look forward to your comments chaps.

Rgds.

January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRIK

@ RIK

I ended up not buying anything yet. Still doing research and thinking what the best option is. I would pay $ 200 for a reliable camera.

I also wrote some questions but I never got an answer. Do you know what other uses do you get from having a GPS in the camera (other than speed and position)?

Thanks!

January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan

@Rik

Gps map data is handy if other drivers use your car ! esp teenagers !

January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike

I think the problems mentioned are due to the voltage spikes and swings coming from the vehicle. This will happen regardless of power input ("12V" or USB). The cam reportedly worked ok when plugged into the USB port of the computer and that's a regulated 5VDC source. A power conditioner should resolve the problem.

I'm buying the V1000GS and the following regulator to verify the workaround...
http://www.ebay.com/itm/DC-DC-Converter-Regulator-Step-up-Step-down-2-1-/370538642812?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5645d2fd7c

I'll report back with my findings once they arrive. Wish me luck.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMottikhan

Received the BlackVue HD system, it is an amazing unit, high quality, and really does the job. I still don't see the point of needing a USB port on these units, since I would never remove a working system from the car. The microSD card is very accessible, software is 'portable' and located on the SD card itself, so as long as you have access to a Windows based system, you can access the video/metadata, and configure the system. You can access the .mov files directly without any software as well.

Thinking about getting the Power add-on, which allows me use its parking motion detection feature while the car is turned off (it also monitors the battery, etc.).

Would definitely recommend this camera if you want something that just works.

BTW, the camera seems to be Linux based, and must have a tiny battery since it starts the shutdown sequence after power has been cut.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterel dude

@el dude,i'm very interested in your choice of camera and was thinking along the same path myself.Can I ask you the model you chose and the supplier you bought it from please.
Please keep in touch and let us know how you get on after using it .
Thanks.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLOCHINVAR

I went with the BlackVue DR400G-HD. This is where I purchased it from. He offers them cheaper using regular mail, but tracking won't be as good, so I opted for EMS.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterel dude

@el dude

This camera looks good and if it is reliable as you say this might be the way to go. Does he camera have the option of displaying the date and driving speed in the footage? I live in the U.S. and I've done research but I cannot find anything for this price/value here. I cannot believe we have to order things from Singapore!

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan

By default it shows the timestamp and speed in the footage, but this is something that can be turned off. As for reliability, I haven't had any problems yet, but I have only been running it for a week or so.

One other cool feature is that they released an Android app which lets you view the footage on the SD card, while also configure some aspects of the camera. I haven't tried it yet, but it's supposed to be similar to the PC version of the software that comes with the camera.

Having to order from Asia was disappointing (I am in the US as well), but I bet the price would be a lot higher if you did find them locally somewhere.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterel dude

@ el dude

Thanks for your answer. Since you are in the US... was customs an issue at all? Or was it a door to door? Also in an earlier post you mention a Power add-on (which allows you to use its parking motion detection feature while the car is turned off). I've been to thir website and I haven't been able to find that. Where did you see this? One time I had a hit & run while my car was parked and this feature alone would have saved me. I'm really interested in this.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan

The module is called 'Power Magic'. There are 2 versions, the regular one, and the new 'Pro' version (which adds a physical switch allowing you to turn off the DVR when on battery, and also adds a LED I believe). I was thinking about the Pro version, but I'm not sure if it is worth the premium.

No problems with Customs. I ordered on a Monday, received the product next Monday. The product was delivered by USPS, required a signature.

February 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterel dude

@el dude,thanks for that information
cheers.

February 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLOCHINVAR

@ el dude, I have a few questions about DR400G-HD:
1. Do you experience any delay in the GPS video stamp? what are the length segment ? (1min, 15 min and etc)
2. Any gap (lost seconds) between video segments?
3. Dose this camera offer any file protection?
4. Will this camera automatically record after the vehicle start, and will save the file and shutdown automatically
when the vehicle turned off?

Thanks!

@ erkme73
Any luck with the new DVR cam that you got? dose look interesting...

Car DVR Camera with GPS Logger + Ambarella Chip + Full HD 1920*1080P 30FPS + H.264 + 4 IR Lights + Wide Angle 120 Degrees !
Thanks!

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayax

1) You can pick when it rotates files (as low as 1 minute), I set it for 3 minutes.
2) From what I can tell, there is no lost data. Once you start playback, it automatically switches to the next file, and I never noticed any frame drops.
3) You can configure the camera's shock sensors (3 axis) to trigger when the defined limits have been exceeded. When this happens, it marks the file as 'protected', and will not be overwritten. You have to manually delete the file in order to get rid of it.
4) Camera starts automatically, bootup takes about 15 seconds or so. Once you turn the car off, it takes a few seconds to do a clean shutdown (must have a tiny battery inside). With the additional power supply, you can also configure it to record motion while the car is turned off. This power supply can also monitor the status of your car battery, so it shouldn't drain (didn't buy this part yet).

I'm still pretty happy with it, I just need to make it less sensitive to the shocks, as potholes are triggering the system now, which means I have to take the card out and manually remove these files.

There is no OSX app for it yet, but all settings are stored in a simple .ini file on that card, so it would be fairly easy for someone to come up with an OSX version of the player software. While there is an Installer executable on the card for the player software, you don't even have to install it, just run the player executable from the SD card, making this a very portable (albeit Windows only) solution.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterel dude

Techmoan .. thank you for an outstanding series of reviews and critiques. I have been shopping for an in-car DVR for quite a while, and your v1000GS/ DOD GS 600 put me over the edge; I am going to buy that one.

It has everything I wanted except a full size SD card. (I wanted to use the Eye-Fi SD card to wirelessly upload video files to Dropbox -- or my lawyer's website, ha!)

The v1000GS/ DOD GS 600 uses a micro SD and Eye-Fi does not (yet) offer a wireless micro SD card. Nevertheless, this little DVR seems to have just about everything else I need. Well done & thank you again for this outstanding review -- and all your outstanding reviews.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd-in-NY

@ el dude
Thanks for the quick reply!

I have more question if you don't mind.
1. Can you choose to NOT activate the shock sensors/file protection option? (I will like to film 4x4 trips)
2. Can you manually save files (Flag it) so the system will not override them? (like if witness something worth saving on RV long trips)
3. Do you have any idea how many hours can I record in 1280 x720 (30psf) on a 16GB card?
*I can't find any info on this settings, all the info that I can find is on the Full HD 1920 x 1080...
4. Can you manually mute the cam, or have to do it from the cam settings?

And most important!
If you plug the cam to a TV, can you have access to the cam setting, or you HAVE TO DO IT through supplied software in Windows? (I wish not to use the supplied software at all if I can, as I am a Linux user)

THANKS!

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayax

Kayax,

Yes, the new camera is definitely a big step up from the V1000GS - in that there is NO perceivable gap between video recordings, and the fact that it has a very readable postage stamp-sized screen on it. The video quality is on par with the V1000GS.

Here are some observations:

1) The GPS antenna is internal - this means locking on to signal takes noticeably longer than with the V1000GS.
2) There is no option to change the speed from KPH to MPH - obviously this only affects us metric rebels here in the states.
3) All connections are from the top of the device making a permanent installation a little tidier.
4) An HDMI cable comes with it, and the HDMI port is on the side of the device.
5) There are IR lights on it with a software switch for "on", "off", "auto" and "reduce reflection". I've found the nighttime recording quality more than acceptable with just headlights, so I haven't played with these settings - leaving the LEDs off.
6) There is a traditional 3.5mm 4-contact A/V plug for the audio and video connection. I use this to pipe the content directly to my double-din stereo display.
7) When the 3.5mm jack is plugged in, it overrides the internal LCD and it will not come on.
8) There is no perceivable lag between the shock sensors and what is displayed on the 'player' when watching on a PC (unlike the V1000GS).
9) The speed update rate is about 1 Hz, and lags by about 2 seconds from actual.
10) There is no LED or other mechanism to indicate whether there is GPS lock or that it's actually recording. The red power light does blink, but I'm not sure if that indicates charging or recording (haven't played with it enough). However, assuming the internal screen is on, there is an icon indicating recording, and GPS signal status (orange for no lock, green for lock). But, if the screen is off (i.e. you have the AV cable plugged in) and you're not watching the video feed on a monitor, you will not know.
11) The mount is identical to the V1000GS. There are some clearance issues since the cables come in from the top - though nothing irritating, as it's only noticeable during installation.
12) Size wise it's just slightly larger than the V1000GS. Unless you put them side-by-side, you wouldn't know. The bezel around the lens does look dated - like a polaroid from 1980. Then gain, it's not something anyone will see once it's installed.

Given that I've only had it for about 5 days, I do not want to sound the 'all clear' on the freezup or reliability issues we've seen with the V1000GS. I've got a class 4 32GB Sandisk mSD card in it now, and it hasn't missed a beat.

For US$130 (w/free shipping), I think this is, by-far, the best bang for the buck out there. In fact, I was ready to plop down the money to buy four more - for all my vehicles and family - but the KPH/MPH thing is a deal breaker for me. I talked to the supplier (same guy at the link in the previous posts) - and he said that would likely get upgraded with the next firmware release.

I'll hold off until then. Hopefully by the time it comes, the USD hasn't tanked to the point where the price is 10x higher.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentererkme73

@ erkme73
Thanks for the info!
Can you please upload a short video footage from that camera on to YouTube?
I wonder how good it is...

Thanks!

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayax

Argh, I wish I had seen the updated thread before buying my v1000gs!

I am also having the lockup issues on a regular basis. Honestly, it's going to cause a crash because I'm looking at the camera from time to time to make sure it's not locked up, instead of the road. It's really not fit for purpose.

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

@ el dude
What brand memory card are you using with the DR400G-HD?
Any issues with that memory card?

All the sellers on E-bay (like "cool-guys") selling this cam with 16 or 32 GB Samsung Class 6.
BlackVue website recommending the Sandisk brand...

Thanks.

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayax

Mine shipped with a 16GB Samsung, and is working just fine. Samsung makes great stuff, and is used everywhere, so I wouldn't worry about the quality too much.

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterel dude

I changed intervals to 10min and lockups reduced significantly. My Sd card is samsung

February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJan

@ el dude
Thanks for the quick reply!

I have more question if you don't mind. (need to know before I order it)

1. Can you choose to NOT activate the shock sensors/file protection option? (I will like to film 4x4 trips)
2. Can you manually save files (Flag it) so the system will not override them? (like if witness something worth saving on a normal drive)
3. Do you have any idea how many hours can I record in 1280 x720 (30psf) on a 16GB card?
*I can't find any info on this settings, all the info that I can find is on the Full HD 1920 x 1080...
4. Can you manually mute the cam, or have to do it from the cam settings?

And most important!
If you plug the cam to a TV, can you have access to the cam setting, or you HAVE TO DO IT through supplied software in Windows? (I wish not to use the supplied software at all if I can, as I am a Linux user)

THANKS!

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayax

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