What is the field of view (or angle of view) of a reversing camera, and why is it important?

The field of view is what can be seen behind the car, SUV, truck or campervan by the camera lens.  Of course, some of this area can be seen by using the rear view mirror and side mirrors.  But what can’t be seen in mirrors is the vehicle’s blind zone, or blind spot, and you should aim to cover most of this with a backup camera.

Single backup or reversing cameras should be installed as close to the center line of the rear of your vehicle as is possible – it can be positioned as high as the roof or as low as the license plate. What matters is that the lens can cover equally to the left and right of center.

Larger vehicles might use 2 rear view cameras – one near each edge thus covering the back of the vehicle.

If a camera has an angle of view of 90 degrees, it means that the driver has a view angle of 45 degrees on either side of the camera which is on the vehicle’s center line.  Therefore, having a larger field, or angle of view, means there is a larger area visible behind the vehicle.  However, anything too large can give a distorted, or ‘fish eye’ view.  More about that later.

We recommend an angle of at least 120 degrees and a maximum of 165 degrees.

Car rear fields of view explained

Angle of View behind vehicle

How does this work? What determines the angle of view?

The width of the view angle of a backup camera is determined by the lens and the sensor.  A camera lens that offers a wide angle of view requires a sensor large enough to ensure the picture is of HD clarity.  If the sensor is ¼ inch across, then it generally supports an angle up to 90 degrees.   If the sensor is 1/3 inch across, then it should support a wider angle of 120 degrees and above.

Angles of View

The smallest view angle on backup cameras is usually 90 degrees.  This is still a narrow angle of view, covering only 45 degrees on either side of the center of the back of the vehicle.  Although it will cover some of the blind zone and adjacent area, such as other vehicles and pedestrians in parking lots, drivers will be forced to check both monitor and mirrors to ensure they see anyone or anything approaching their blind spots. Indeed, most safety articles I have read state that drivers should check all mirrors before reversing.

That given, 90 degree view angle lens are normally reserved for 2 backup camera kits that combine to show the rear area behind large vehicles such as trucks, campers etc. Therefore, as the purpose of a backup camera is to show what’s behind and within the vehicle’s blind zone, unless you have a really small car, it is recommended that you buy a reverse camera with a wider angle of view.

A camera with a 120 degree angle of view should be a good choice as it will cover the vehicle’s blind zones and still provide a clear picture.  Having a coverage of 60 degrees on either side of the vehicle’s center line means not only the blind spots are covered, but anyone approaching them will also be seen in advance.

A number of systems offer 115, 130, and 160 degree angles of view. The largest angle of view is 210 degrees.  Having over 100 degrees on either side may sound great.  However, humans process 180 degrees naturally and so 210 degrees is difficult for us to see clearly.  The monitor screen will not be able to show the 180 degrees that are useful to the human driver clearly, instead distorting the whole image, giving it a ‘fish eye’ view.  Whilst the image will be visible, its clarity will be diminished.  Distances and closing rates will be difficult to judge and it is believed that this wide an angle may actually cause accidents.

To conclude:

Before buying an aftermarket backup camera, you will need to check its field or angle of view.  The smallest angle of view that is recommended is 120 degrees, but if your budget and monitor allows, the best backup cameras for most vehicles have a view angle of around 160 degrees.  This should allow a wide field of view whilst still giving a clear picture.  Of course, all reverse cameras should be used together with rear view and side mirrors, where possible.  When used together, this should ensure you can backup safely.

NB: This post has been updated to reflect the latest technology in 2019.  Use the links below to see our reviews of the top cameras on the market.