Hey all. I've had my dash camera installed about three weeks now, and I figured with the increasing popularity of dash cameras I would post a review to maybe help someone make a decision on whether they want one or not, or which one to get. Obviously, I am not able to review experiences with anything but the model I have so far, so if anybody would like to chime in with their tips and experiences, please feel free to do so. (Looking at you, @Old Bones
So, here goes. The dash camera setup I currently have in my 8th generation Impala is a BlackVue DR470-2CH. It is hooked up to a PowerMagic Pro battery rundown protection system, as well as an external GPS.
First of all, why a dash camera? While I hope nobody ever needs to use their dash camera footage for its intended purpose, I think every car should have a dash camera in today's world for multiple reasons. Insurance and fraud prevention are the biggest. Dash camera footage can quickly put an end to a he-said-she-said type of incident. It can also help your case should some less-than-honorable person back into you to make it look like you rear-ended them, or if a person runs him or herself into your car to commit insurance fraud, as is becoming more and more common. Additionally, with parking mode it makes it easier to find the culprit in a hit-and-run type of situation if your vehicle is unattended. Attached GPS and speed logging can provide useful information in dealing with such scenarios, as well as potentially avoid a he-said-she-said type of speeding ticket. People are also generally less road rage-y if they know they're being recorded. And hey, if you catch something cool on your daily drive, it's a bonus!
So, why did I choose the BlackVue? When I was researching which dash camera to buy, I made a list of requirements. They are as follows:
1. Small, unobtrusive form factor
2. Impact sensing parking mode with pre-buffered recording
3. Simple to install and use
4. Reliable and from a reputable manufacturer
5. Decent picture quality
6. Relatively affordable
BlackVue is a Korean brand, and is one of the better dash camera manufacturers in my opinion. The DR470 is a mid-range dash camera, with 1080p full-HD front and 720p HD rear feeds.
Unforunately, since it is a mid-range model, the camera does not have the Sony EXMOR image sensor present in more premium models. This means nighttime video quality is reduced, but in my opinion not so far that it is unusable.
1. Form factor
The DR470, like most BlackVues has a very small, unobtrusive form factor. The front camera is 115.9 mm by 34 mm (approx. 4.5 inches by 1.3 inches) and the rear camera is 67.4 mm by 25 mm (approx. 2.6 inches by 1 inch). These dimensions are not including the mounting bracket.
It blends in well, and is not easily noticeable from the outside. The rear camera, probably due to my tinted windows, isn't noticeable until I'm about two feet away, and I know *exactly* where to look. The front camera is hidden nicely behind (or in front of, technically) the rear view mirror. The rear camera, which I was afraid was going to be a little obnoxious, was much less obtrusive than I expected. All the cables hide away nicely in the headliner and A-pillar, so aside from the cables coming out of the cameras and GPS, there's nothing dangling around inside my cabin.
2. Parking mode
I am sick and tired of getting my car bumped by others while it was parked, and finding new dings and dents. Thus, parking mode was a must for me.
The DR470 has an excellent prebuffered parking mode. When the camera senses you haven't moved in approximately 5 minutes, it automatically engages parking mode. Parking mode recording can be triggered by one of two events, either motion was detected or an impact was detected by the inbuilt G-sensor. Speaking of the G-sensor, it is worth noting that it is actually a 3-way G-sensor, with forwards / backwards, sideways and vertical sensors.
The motion sensor works *too* well. With the sensitivity set to 1 out of 100 it was still much too sensitive, being triggered by leaves moving in the wind or even rain. While the motion sensor may be very helpful for people who park at home or in a garage, for people like me who live in apartments it's much too sensitive and will eat up a good chunk of your storage. The impact sensor is excellent, and like I mentioned triggers the recording when the G-sensor detects movement outside the set tolerance sensitivities. When you get in your car the next time, the little automated voice will let you know an impact was detected in parking mode, which I felt was extremely helpful.
When something triggers the parking mode recording, the 5 seconds prior to the trigger and the 1 minute (adjustable to 2 or 3 minutes) after will be recorded to the memory card.
3. Simplicity of installation and use
Aside from the lock button to release the camera itself from the mounting bracket, the BlackVue has *no* buttons on the body itself. This is where I knock two points off the system; one for not having a "record now" button that records and marks an event for easier retrieval, and one for not locking events and preventing them from being overwritten. Basically, if you capture something important, you only have a set amount of time to retrieve the footage before it is overwritten. I haven't had an issue yet, since I only drive about 10 or 15 miles a day. The 16GB card, for example, has managed to keep over 2 days worth of footage for me.
Everything is done through the BlackVue viewer, which is a program you download on your computer to configure your camera and view footage. There are a plethora of configuration options, from voice prompts to speed warnings, from configuring G-sensor sensitivity to whether you want the security LED to be on or not. This, however, means that you have to remove the micro SD card and bring it to your computer to do anything, which is a little annoying when figuring out which configuration works best for you. As a result, I keep two cards in my car. A 16GB one for backup, and a 128GB card as my main one. If I need to retrieve footage or change settings, I simply swap the cards out so I never have any down time.
A note about SD cards, due to the high stress nature of dash cameras (high temperatures during summer, and basically non-stop writing) some SD cards will not work well with dash cameras. So it is best to do some research before you buy a card to use.
Installation, however, was simple. Stick cameras on, run power cable, run rear camera cable, connect cables and boom. Done. This is, of course, assuming you're not hardwiring your camera to your car and you're using a cigarette lighter. This method, however, does not enable parking mode. Parking mode requires an external power source such as a battery pack, or power supply from your battery. The PowerMagic Pro system basically supplies power to your camera until either it hits a preset time limit, or your battery voltage drops below a certain point. I currently have my camera to record without a time limit, but to shut off when the battery hits 12V. So far I've left it for entire weekends without it shutting down, and I've not (knock on wood) required a jump in the morning.
The PowerMagic Pro requires three connects: an ACC fuse, an always-on fuse, and a ground. Fortunately, for our 8th Gen Impalas, it can all be connected via the in-cabin fuse box. Every fuse there is always hot, except the RAP fuse which is ACC. A good ground point is easily accessible once you pop the side cover off the dash, where the circular hole for the door's air vent is. Find an unobtrusive spot to hide all the cables, and voila. Parking mode enabled.
The camera does get pretty dang hot while it's recording, and especially so if it's been sitting in the summer sun. On 90+ degree days I've been worried for it, but it hasn't shown any signs of being bothered by the heat at all. There have been instances where touching the camera with bare hands is uncomfortable due to the heat, but it was happily recording away and didn't seem to worry at all.
According to the manual the operating temperature is -4F to 140F, and the storage temperature is -4F to 158F. I read somewhere that even at 160F the camera was working without a hitch. I can only assume there's some leeway involved in those temperatures in the manual. However, should it get too hot, do not fret! BlackVue has built in a temperature sensor that shuts off the camera when unsafe temperatures are reached.
I should also mention that the backup power supply in this unit is a super capacitor, and not a battery which doesn't play well in high temperatures. You can cut power to the camera by whichever means you choose and it will shut down safely by itself.
5. Good picture quality
As mentioned, the front camera records at 1080p full-HD, while the rear camera records at an averagely adequate 720p HD. There are models that have 4k front and rears, but expect to pay a premium for those.
For both front and rear there are three image settings (Normal / High / Highest) and two FPS settings (15 / 30 FPS). Front and rear cameras are individually configurable, which I like. Both cameras are CMOS, just without Sony's excellent EXMOR. Parking mode recording is at a reduced FPS, but I haven't had any complaints so far.
Nighttime recording is where it gets a little disappointing. Front is actually quite acceptable, if you have bright headlights and are in a relatively well-lit area. The rear leaves something to be desired, although it probably isn't helped by my tinted windows.
Overall, for the price, and especially if you do most of your driving in the day, the image quality is much more than adequate.
I do, however, strongly wish that there was a polarizing filter on the lenses, as that would greatly improve quality by cutting out glare and reflections of your interior on the windshield.
Here is one of the best advantages of this camera system. It is a two-channel, full-HD / HD system with motion detection and impact detection parking mode, and when I bought it, it cost me $159.99. The battery rundown protection cost me $30, and the external GPS cost me $20. It should be mentioned that while the external GPS is nice to have, it is by no means at all necessary. All it does is log your location, route, and speed.
Dash cameras start around $50, and quickly go up into $500 or $600 and more. I believe the DR470 provides and excellent value from a reputable manufacturer.
I am very, very happy with this camera.
Sure, it's not perfect. I wish it locked event recordings, preventing them from being overwritten. I wish the nighttime image quality was better. I wish I didn't have to take the microSD card out every time I wanted to change a setting.
Yet, when you consider the price point, and tack on it being an unobtrusive, stealthy, high quality, two-channel unit with full-HD front and HD rear with an excellent pre-buffered parking mode system, it becomes really hard to beat. Not to mention the ease of mind having a dash camera provides.
It has simply excellent value from one of the better-known, more reputable dash camera manufacturers.
Well, that's it! I hope you might find this helpful, and I will be happy to answer any questions at all
Note: I will take pictures and upload sample videos within the next few days, I don't have any right now and I'm feeling a little lazy after that massive word salad I just regurgitated all over my screen. :P
Meanwhile, here's a picture off the internet on what the unit looks like.