Testing CarCam

By Benros Emata, Published May 07, 2013, 12:00am EDT

Dash cams are getting a lot of attention for the amazing video they inadvertently capture, like a crashing 747 in Afghanistan, a meteor explosion, Russian crazy fights and accidents, etc.

Moreover, in many countries, dash cams have become extremely popular ways to document what really happened in an accident as well as safety threats the driver faces.

We wanted to better understand the performance of a dash / driver cams, so we bought the highest selling dash cam, the 'CarCam' on Amazon and put it to the test. Here's a preview of it:

The two best things about this camera, the CarCam, is the super low cost (~$50) and its day time image quality (solid HD). However, its night time performance is terrible, it has problems with certain SD cards, and it is physical fairly big, taking up a significant portion of one's windshield. If you want something but prefer to spend minimally, you might be ok with this.

[Update: compare to more advanced drivercam we tested after.]

Physical Overview

This 4 minute video explains the key features of the unit, how to set it up and issues encountered with mounting it on one's vehicle:

Device Configuration

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There's no remote access or configuration so everything needs to be done by hitting buttons on the unit and toggling through commands on the mini LCD screen. This video overviews it:

Parking Garage - Day Video Sample

Daytime video quality is solid and if a person is in front of your car, you will get passport photo quality even though the FoV is very wide. However, when it comes to cars, unless you crash into the rear of a car, you will not make out details like license plates. That noted, it is probably not necessary to do that anyway. Here's what it looks like: 

Parking Garage - Night Video Sample

Even in a parking garage with artificial lights one after the other, the image is very dark, making it look like the dead of night in a rural area. You can hardly make out any details, even when a person is just a few feet in front of the car.

Highway - Day Video Sample

Like the parking garage, the video quality is good during the day on the highway. Because cars have greater separation here, the level of detail drops but it is more than sufficient to capture general activity: 

Highway - Night Video Sample

Even worse than the parking garage, image quality on the highway is extremely poor: 

Next and More

Our next driver cam test is going to be the Blackvue DR500GW-HD, which has Cadillac features - WiFi, GPS, G-Sensor, claimed strong low light performance, etc. It's 6x the price (~$300) and we will need to see how well it actually works. Report on this is scheduled for June.

Dash Cam Site: For those who want to check out various dash cam models, we recommend going to DashCamTalk and their forum. While we could not find any information on who runs it, the posts are very technical and provide both recommendations and criticisms.

On to our review of the CarCam.

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