What are Backup and Dash Cameras?
Rearview cameras and dashcams are now common in-use kit for many drivers. We look at the best aftermarket cameras around.
A backup camera system is designed to help the driver reverse the vehicle and so it shows a live video screen image of what is behind. Many systems also include a recording system with the rear view camera which can be used later as evidence in insurance claims should any incident occur.
Within a few years all new vehicles will be fitted with both front and rear facing video cameras as standard. In the USA, all new cars now have reverse cameras fitted. But, for those not buying new cars, aftermarket vehicle cameras are proving popular and you can choose from a wide (and sometimes confusing) range of these kits online.
A front view or dash camera is there to record whatever happens in front of a vehicle as it is driven, in case the recorded footage can be of use when screened later.
Dual backup and dash cameras are becoming more popular, and in fact, dashcam systems that use replacement mirror monitors usually also supply a rear camera as standard.
Which aftermarket backup, dashboard or dual camera system is best for you? We aim to make this selection as easy as possible and have reviewed all of the wired and wireless cameras we recommend.
Navigate to the relevant sections to help you decide which vehicle camera to buy.
Aftermarket Backup Cameras
These are video cameras that show a live image of the scene behind a vehicle on a monitor either by cable or via a wireless transmitter. Some systems also offer a recorder to supply footage in the event of an incident or accident.
The main reasons for installing a backup camera are safety and avoiding inconvenient or expensive damage to the vehicle. If you are not fully aware of what’s behind you, reversing can be dangerous. Relying on rear view and side mirrors still leaves a blind spot below the rear window level. In a truck, or closed van, the problem is greater.
In the USA alone, roughly 200 people of all ages, but mostly children, are killed each year, and another 14,000 are injured in back over accidents. Over 60% of backing up incidents involved a larger size vehicle such as a truck, van or SUV which are harder to see out of when reversing. Causing damage to a vehicle when backing up by hitting an unseen post, low fence or other discarded object is not uncommon.
Backup cameras can prevent minor bumps and major accidents and for those reasons are becoming a very popular aftermarket vehicle add on. The best systems offer a great rear view and sufficient guide lines for safe reversing of your vehicle, be it car, SUV, RV or truck.
Here’s what your camera system must include:
- A sturdy build with a firm mount for both camera and monitor.
- Either a charger to provide power to the monitor from the cigarette lighter or a hard wire connection – usually to connect in the vehicle fuse box.
- A clear image on the monitor screen.
- Grid lines on the monitor image to aid parking.
- Good vision both day and night from a wide-angle lens – at least 140 degrees.
- Waterproof/dustproofing to IP67 for the camera.
- Sufficient cabling for power and video connection in hardwire installations -measure your likely requirements including hiding the wiring.
- A reliable support service.
- Instructions referring to installation and use of the camera.
The best buy systems available right now
Dashcams continually record a live view from the front windscreen and store the footage in a SD Micro card when the vehicle is being driven.
There seem to be two main reasons why most drivers install a front camera in their vehicles.
One is to have a hard record which will help with insurance claims. Some insurers allow discounts for vehicles with dashcams and it will certainly help to retain your no claims bonus. In the case of an accident the video recording can be used as evidence in your favour.
The second reason is to post on YouTube or sell for digital publication. This is becoming very popular, showing lucky escapes and examples of poor or even dangerous driving as well as extraordinary events picked up by the dash camera. In fact there are online magazines that ask for dashcam submissions for future showing on their websites or blogs.
Reviewing video footage of a journey can improve driving skills – sports people, dancers and many professional entertainers watch recordings of their performance to find ways of refining what they do – so why not drivers?
The basic d kits are not expensive – a higher price is usually due to better quality equipment or extra facilities such as GPS, sound recording, parking watch, Wifi, hardwiring or the dual recording of a reverse camera.
But if you consider the cost of insurance premiums and the value of your vehicle – not to mention the safety of you and other road users – then even the most upmarket dashcam price can be justified. But you might decide that all you require is a recording for your protection.
What Must Your Dashcam include?
- A good enough image day and night that will be acceptable on a small TV sized screen. We suggest a resolution of at least 1080p and HD if possible. Most front video cameras are at least this level nowadays. A dash or reversing camera offering Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) or High Dynamic Range (HDR) should give much better video footage and images than those with DWDR or no enhancement at all.
- G-sensor lock or emergency locking (EMS) to safeguard footage just prior to and at the moment of an impact in an accident,
- A minimum in-use capacity of 16GB high quality micro SD card (say level 10 card),
- Time and date within the recording or stamped when reviewed,
- Reliable support service,
- Instruction booklet to tell you which buttons do what.
- These are the basic essential features your kit must have. Beyond that are many extra facilities that are convenient that can be included in the dash camera system – but usually they increase the price of the unit.
Extras that are readily available:
- Being able to employ a larger capacity micro card especially for recording on long journeys and a bigger storage will mean your card should have a longer life.
- Recording when the vehicle is parked can be handy especially if you park in the street or carpark frequently – this facility requires hardwiring your system.
- If your car does not have GPS already, then the addition of this feature could be a good idea.
- In-vehicle sound recording could be useful especially following an incident when questions and comments might be relevant to an insurance/evidence statement.
- WiFi facility does mean that you can find and download video footage without removing the camera from its mount, as will specific software supplied for the same purpose.
- FCWS (front collision warning system) and LDWS (lane departure warning system) might be useful. This facility needs hardwiring usually.
- If you do decide to hardwire your camera you might find that your seller offers a kit for this at an extra charge.
Which dashcam is best for me?
All the dashboard cameras we recommend have a G Sensor and a full operating guide.
Dual Camera Systems
A number of suppliers are now offering front and rear-facing video recording systems.
The dual dash and backup camera kits we recommend all include a proven waterproof rear facing camera with parking guide lines and full clear vision to the rear of the vehicle both day and night.
We have not included systems where the rear facing cameras are within the car just for recording and are not intended as a reversing aid.
All the dashcams we recommend are at least HD 1080P, so recording quality is high in all light conditions.
All these kits are hardwired but usually there is only the one wire to be fed from the back of the vehicle to monitor. These monitors are an integral part of a replacement rear view mirror which houses the dashcam.
Wide Dynamic Range and High Dynamic Range explained
Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) in a video camera both automatically balance different levels of light in a scene to produce a clearer image. This is achieved by combining different exposures from the range of light available. In dash or backup cameras the main effects are to produce very clear images so that license plate numbers are read easily and other smaller details are obvious; and to reduce glare from the sun, headlamps or security lighting.
It is important to note that WDR and HDR are not the same as DWDR which is a digital version and not so effective. So a dash or reversing camera offering WDR or HDR should give much better video footage and images than those with DWDR or no enhancement at all.
Which Dual Camera System is right for me?
If you are looking for the complete package of high quality recorder for both dashcam and backup camera, then click below for our current choices.