Only a few years ago, buying a backup camera for your car meant a time intensive installation that requires many components. Moderately priced cameras weren’t very good and high-quality systems were hard to find and out of many buyers' price range. Things have changed and today it’s easier than ever to add a backup camera to your car, truck, van, or even mobile home. There are systems available today to add a single camera or more comprehensive camera systems for larger vehicles. Many of which are DIY friendly and a perfect Saturday project.
Before you decide to invest in a backup camera for your car, truck, or recreational vehicle, you should consider some of the factors that set some units apart from others. Almost any system out there will give you an image, but buying the right backup camera system for your needs will save you lots of hassle. Below, we will discuss some of the things you should consider before purchasing a backup camera.
Wired or Wireless?
Wireless connections have come a long way and work much better today than they did only a few years ago. There are still some issues. One is the likelihood of lag. A few milliseconds doesn’t seem like much until it’s the difference between stopping short and hitting the kid who just ran behind your truck. A hard-wire system is more reliable and usually provides a faster, cleaner image.
The obvious downside of a hard-wired system is the wiring. It can get very complex, often requires removing a significant amount of interior trim, and is difficult to undue once done. Wireless systems are easier to move from one vehicle to another, where a hard wired system is easier to simply replace when you buy a new vehicle.
Lots of companies make a big deal about video resolution, and for good reason. The sharper the image, the more easily you can identify the obstacle quickly and still have time to react. Nothing is worse than trying to figure out what's behind you as you hit it. With that said, small screens typically don’t benefit from big resolution increases as much as larger screens. On a small screen, the pixel count is such that even a standard 480TVL image is going to be legible, if not a little grainy. It’s wonderful to have 1080P resolution. But many smaller monitors won’t give you enough difference to justify the increase in cost.
Rear view cameras are particularly handy when it’s dark because you can see objects that otherwise you wouldn’t. Many of the inexpensive cameras out there advertise “night vision”, but without some type of illumination, they are going to give you a dark, difficult to understand image. For optimal night performance, choose cameras that feature multiple IR LED diodes. Trailers and motorhomes can increase the effectiveness of a rear view camera at night by adding brighter reverse lights.
An IP-rating refers to the level of moisture and dust resistance the equipment is capable of maintaining. The highest rating, IP-69, is considered water and dust proof. These are sealed systems that typically are filled with waterproof glue to prevent moisture from getting inside. Lower IP-ratings indicate a degree of resistance. Devices with low IP-ratings are more likely to fail if you drive in snow, rain, dust, and salty environments.
Many cameras are intended to be mounted on the license plate. This is a great solution for probably 80% of vehicles. For the rest, you’ll need to identify a different location or mounting style. For example, trucks and trailers with an offset license plate won’t be able to use a license plate mount, but a hitch mount or surface mount camera may be more appropriate. Location also matters for modified vehicles. If your car or truck has an altered suspension, you might need to rethink where the camera is going to mount before picking a device.
Viewing angles are typically between 110 and 170 degrees for backup cameras. A narrower angle of the image provides a better image, but you may not be able to see objects off to the sides, possibly leading to an accident. Wider viewing angles show you more of the road, but can contribute to a fish-eye effect in which objects look bent and stretched. This can make it more difficult to quickly identify when you are too close to an object.
Do It Yourself, or Pay for Installation
This is a big one that many people consider when choosing a backup camera system. Even the most simple wired systems still require a certain degree of competency and a good-quality wiring diagram is very helpful. Wireless systems are much easier to install and set up, and usually don’t require professional help. Multi-camera systems are much more of a challenge to install and have work correctly. There are several variables that can affect the success of installation, and it might be worth the time, hassle, and money to have the system installed. You should consider the cost of installation: a wireless installation will cost around $50, while a four-camera system with recording capabilities that’s hard-wired may cost more than $650 to have professionally installed.