This review has been sitting a long long time in the drafts section since I got "busy with other things" (lame excuse for being lazy). Let me try to get this out before the technology itself becomes extinct. But before we get into the actual review, lets get some basics right.
What is a DashCam/Car Camera/Vehicle Video Black-box?
DashCam is an emerging technology specifically developed to record and store the events while driving. A Dash Cam is designed to sit inside your car and automatically start recording the view through the windscreen once you start the car and stop recording after a predetermined time once you stop the car/engine. The main intention behind having a Dash Cam is recording any traffic incidents and using it as a video evidence, but its use is practically unlimited. Storage of the video is usually done to an internal non-volatile memory like SD cards.
Even though these cameras are usually mounted to windscreens to capture driver's view of the road, nothing prevents you from using it for other views. At some point of time, I was running four video black boxes in my car for evaluation purposes. There are Black-boxes which can record from multiple sources/views as well.
Now that some basics has been laid, lets go through some desirable car camera features next.
Typical Car Camera Features:
- Automatic Start/Stop: Start recording when key is inserted, Stop recording after a certain duration once vehicle is OFF.
- Loop Recording: 1-X minute segments. Once the storage media is full, the oldest segment is deleted.
- Seamless Video: Good dashcams exhibit no loss of video between video segments but in cheaper dash cams, a few seconds of video is lost between the segments.
- G-Sensor: Some times called a Gravity sensor or just a shock sensor. It is used to detect and trigger recording or marking events like accidents. Good G-Sensors can detect various levels of acceleration and deceleration, Jerks or violent swerves and trigger accordingly. Good cameras even offer video lock on G-Sensor trigger for later review. In Indian road scenarios an adjustable G-Sensor Sensitivity is highly desired to cater for our moon-surface road conditions!.
- Motion Detection: Useful when the car is parked. Records videos whenever motion is detected in the vicinity of the car. This often requires Non-Switched Power to be supplied to the camera but even some works on backup battery for a finite amount of time. Good Dashcam models will employ power management to ensure that the vehicle battery is not drained beyond accepatabvle levels during long storage periods.
- Battery backup: Its highly desirable to have a camera with some sort of power backup. It could be an internal battery or a SuperCap providing a few tens of seconds of storage for gracious File-Write of the last video segment and then shut-down.
- GPS: Supports Accurate Position and Speed log, provides accurate clock timing and GPS Route storage for later review.
- WDR: Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) is an attribute of an imaging system that records greater scene details from shadows to highlights than normal systems without WDR. This is all the more important in DashCams since they are naturally subjected to a myriad of lighting conditions.
Apart from the above desirable features, there are a few basic things to lookout while selecting a Dash Camera.
- Image Sensors & Native Resolution: I'd suggest 720p minimum. Ensure that the sensors have 720p or better as their native resolution. Low quality DashCams tend to quote upscaled and interpolated resolutions - be ultra careful there. There are a variety of sensors as well: CCD/CMOS/ExMOR...Each has its own merits and demerits. More on this later...
- View Angle: Its desired to have a very wide angle lens, but the wider you go, the larger the fish-eye lens effect.
- Encoding: H.264 MPEG-4/AVC Recording is highly desired. Cheaper dash cams tend to use MJPEG which tends to produce very blocky videos.
- Night Vision IR LEDs - Useless under most conditions. The power from the LEDs are simply not enough for any sensible night illumination.
- Memory Card - Most good cams support SDHC cards which are getting cheaper by the day. Look for feature that can format the card inside the camera which is quite helpful and desired.
- Viewfinder: It is desirable to have an optical or LCD view finder for the camera. Helps while setting up and later for quick review during playback.
- Size/Weight Considerations - Smaller the size, the higher the covertness (if desired). Also lighter cameras tend to handle vibrations a lot better than heavier cameras.
- Thermal Considerations: Indian weather conditions are not very forgiving. Select cameras which offers the widest operational and storage temperature range.
'Nuff with the boring theory - Let's see some wares!
Livue LB100 HD Vehicle Drive Recorder
What came in the box! - Package Contents
- Instruction Manual - It's in Korean and some parts in Korean-English!
- Ball-Type Windscreen Mount
- Livue LB100 Camera
- Micro SD Card and SD Card Adapter
- 12V Power Lead - 4m long and plugs into the cigarette lighter socket
* 6. Permanent Wiring Lead
* 7. Composite Video Out Cable
* 8. Windscreen Mount with GPS
Different Mounts (GPS mount is optional)