so I had been kicking around the idea of getting a dash cam for quite a while now, but I had not been able to make up my mind about which one to get. on one end, there are so many inexpensive, cheap knock offs from china and on the other end, the really good quality cameras are way too expensive. I was thinking that a $75-100 camera would be a good target to shoot for, but I couldn't seem to find any that weren't from china and that had decent reviews. well, one day, my wife and I were watching a car show on a cable channel and they reviewed and recommended the Genius DVR-FHD590. so, I put it on my chistmas list and my wife got it for me
its about $100 on amazon:
and i also got a class 10, 32gb memory card for $12.
here is the manufacturers website:
so, here is the box that it comes in:
here is everything that it comes with:
a long, 12-volt power cord.
suction cup mount.
sun visor mount.
DVD with full manual and editing software.
quick start guide.
for installation, I knew that I wanted to route the power cord out of the way. since the 12-volt power cord that comes with the camera is very long, I decided that I would route it in the head liner, down the pillar, and tap it into the fuse box. so, I got a fuse tap, some fuses, and a 12-volt power adapter. (if you ever decide to use a fuse tap, be sure to get the small sized (ATM) tap.)
I played around with the position of camera before deciding on this location. the mount fully hides behind the rearview mirror and only the camera hangs down from behind the mirror.
view from out side of the truck.
so, onto the removal of the trim pieces.
for the pillar trim piece, remove the 2 plastic tabs that cover the screw holes and remove the screws. you can easily pry the tabs off with your fingers.
pull the top of the trim piece away from the pillar.
you can then pull the whole piece up and out of the dash area. there are no clips that hold this piece in. its just the 2 screws. this reveals the airbag and wire harness.
next, remove the door sill trim, the dead pedal, and the kick panel. the door sill trim has 8 tabs and the piece can be pried up (you have to pull very hard). the dead pedal has 2 clips and you pry it straight off. this will reveal a black, plastic screw holding the kick panel. remove the screw and pull the kick panel towards the rear of the truck. there are 2 clips holding the kick panel.
pull off the door in front of the fuse panel. there are 2 clips holding it and it pries off easily.
from here, I used a volt meter to find a switched, 12 volt fuse slot. I tested the 4 empty slots, but none of them had power with the vehicle on or off. this really seems odd to me that those 4 slots are not hooked up. but whatever... I can tap into an existing slot
the factory fuses are made to only fit in the factory fuse slot. the factory fuse would not fit into the fuse tap slot because of an extra piece of plastic on the fuse. so, you will need to get an extra ATM sized fuse when using a fuse tap. the fuse tap is rated at 10 amps, so I decided to replace the 7.5 amp fuse. the camera draws 1 amp, so I used the 2 amp fuse from the assorted fuse pack. the lower slot on the fuse tap is for the original fuse and the upper slot is for the new power. don't get those mixed up I used the volt meter to test before plugging it all back in.
wired up the fuse tap to the 12-volt power adapter. also added a larger eye to the ground wire.
plugged the fuse tap into the fuse slot.
I used a screw holding the lower dash trim as a ground. I tested the ground with the volt meter first.
the next step was to route the supplied usb power cable through the dash and up the pillar. a wire coat hanger works wonders for doing this.
the wire comes out right above the dead pedal. I taped the usb power cable to the coat hanger and pulled it back up through the dash to the pillar.
I pulled up a length of the usb power cable and plugged it into the camera. i planned to route it up along the rear view mirror wire harness so i also pulled that trim piece off. pull from the bottom and slide it down from the head liner.
the power wire doesn't quite tuck into the bottom of that trim piece, but it does hold it up and out of the way.
i then tucked the wire into the head liner. the liner is loose enough to just push the wire behind it. however, when you get near the sun visor, the head liner is attached very tight. trying to pry it to make room for the wire would tear the liner. so, if you remove the sun visor, the liner loosens up just enough to push the wire behind it. once you get the wire around the end of the liner, it is then easy to follow it down the existing wire harness.
plugged the 12-volt power cable into the adapter.
now with the usb power wire routed from the fuse box to the camera, it is necessary wrap up all the excess wire.
i realize that this is a big mess of bundled wires and that i could have cut away all the excess length of wire and spliced it together in a shorter length, but this maintains the condition of the original 12-volt power cord and makes it easy to remove. also, with everything tucked up behind the kick panel, no one will ever see it.
i then did a quick test to verify that the camera worked properly and put everything back together. here is how the camera looks from out side the truck in its final position. i am happy with how it turned out. i thought that the mount would be too large and the camera would hang down too far, but its not too bad.
here is a quick video of the camera starting up in the truck. it takes a few seconds to boot up and start recording. once the red light comes on, the recording has started:
final view from inside the truck
what is pretty cool about the mount is that it has a quick release so you can remove the camera when you need to transfer the videos to your computer. i suppose that you could just pull out the memory card, but they are so small and fragile, that it is better not to mess with it.
the camera uses a standard camera mount screw so you could easily make a mount of your own. there are screw holes on both the top and bottom of the camera.
the camera did not come with a usb cable for the computer, but i had so many of them laying around that it was not a big deal. when you plug the camera into your usb slot on your computer, the camera automatically turns on and launches an explorer window to where the video files on the memory card are kept.
the video files are saved in a .mov format and they are in full HD with a resolution of 1920x1080. the raw .mov files will play with QuickTime, but they will not play properly with Windows Media Player. with the media player, there is no sound. also, these files will not work with Windows Live Movie Maker. Fortunately, the camera does come with a fully licensed piece of editing software. (it is not a trial version and you will never have to pay for it). This software also comes with a viewer so you don't need to install QuickTime.
however, the editing software is a trimmed down version of a larger software package called ArcSoft Showbiz. the full piece of software is $70 and can be purchased here:
this trimmed down version is very minimalistic. you can stitch together video clips, make transitions, add text and audio, and publish the final video into a multitude of formats and settings. i found that i wanted to be able to cut out parts of video, better order text and transitions, and add additional effects. However, for it being free and mainly used for preparing dash cam videos, it is certainly sufficient.
it is also very easy to use. it is literally drag and drop:
i drove around the neighborhood to create some videos. i was able to stitch together 2 videos and add some text and transitions within a few minutes.
the software also has a timeline view in which you can modify the length of transitions, text, and audio. this is were i wanted better control. i wanted a blank screen with the text before the video actually started. i bet that is available in the full version.
when you are ready to publish your video, there are tons of settings to play with. i spent about 2 hours trying out all the formats and settings. i wanted to get a small enough size for uploading and download, yet still have a decent quality.
the original 2 .mov videos were a total of 357mb (324mb and 33mb). in their original format, the videos look very clear. i was able to publish a video in different formats and with outstanding quality, but the size was way too large for the internets (most were over 400mb and one was 1.8gb!). i was able to compromise on the quality and size and i made one that was about 212mb.
here is that five and a half minute video. yes, i was a dick to that guy in the blue car. he was driving the wrong way down a one way street. we have had so many problems with people driving the wrong way... i don't get it.... there are 4 "one way only" signs at the end of the street. you can see one of them in this video.
for the camera to achieve the wide view, there is a slight fish bowl effect, but its not too bad. also, i have better centered the camera since watching the videos.
here is a short night time video.
the camera has a built-in LED for "night time driving." however, you have to manually turn on the LED. also, the LED is really fricken bright and it really doesn't do anything to enhance the night time video quality. i do have to mention, however, that i live in an older developed area (1800's) that has poor night lighting. there are so many unlit, wooded areas and there are only a few roads that do have street lights. and if there are street lights, they are very dim. when i lived in Los Angeles and in Denver, i remember those cities being very well lit at light. my wife and i commented about how dark it was when we moved to MA. i bet the night time quality of this camera would be much better in a larger, more developed city
so far, i am very happy with this camera. even with its minor downsides, i would still recommend it. MA has many aggressive drivers and i bet that i will catch someone cutting me off or cutting someone else off.
in the future, i may create a less obtrusive mount that attaches directly to the rear view mirror and i also may purchase the full version of that editing software.