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Aftermarket backup cameras - which is the best?

Updated on March 5, 2014
Rear view mirror backup camera
Rear view mirror backup camera | Source

Do I really need a backup camera?

A recent Consumer Reports investigation demonstrated exactly why cars need a backup camera installed more today than they ever have. Modern designs of cars have given them a nice sleek appearance, but this has come at the cost of safety. Recent designs have made cars more dangerous to drive than any other cars in history. The styling trends have made it increasingly difficult for drivers to see what is around their cars, both in driveways and parking lots. This is due to the wide rear pillars and smaller back windows which made the cars look better from the outside.

Several types of automobiles were tested by Consumer Reports for rear visibility. The test consisted of a single orange cone about 40" in height. They walked away from the rear of each car until the driver could see the top of the cone. The distance between the car and cone was labeled the 'blind zone'.

Here are the results:

Hyundai Sonata Sedan has a blind zone of 21 feet.

Toyota Sienna minivan has a blind zone of 22 feet.

Dodge Durango SUV has a blind zone of 37 feet.

Land Rover LR4 has a blind zone of 38 feet.

Ford Fusion has a blind zone of 40 feet.

Chevy Avalanche pickup truck has a blind zone of 50 feet!!!! This means that the driver cannot see a 40" child or object behind the car within this distance.

The numbers that come from this investigation are frightening and are reason enough to install a backup camera in your car.


What makes a good backup camera?

Due to their ever increasing popularity and falling prices, in recent years there have been a plethora of backup cameras enter the market. However, this also means that there have been many lower quality cameras introduced.

Here are the primary elements you'll want to review when deciding which backup camera is right for you.

  1. Picture Quality - not every system sold today comes with a monitor since many newer cars have built-in displays which can be accessed by backup cameras. To get the best picture out of the ones that do come equipped with a monitor, you'll want a camera that comes with a CCD sensor which is the same sensor used in today's digital cameras. Lower quality backup cameras come equipped with a CMOS sensor which is built into a low quality chip and are less expensive to produce. As compared to the CCD sensor, CMOS sensors perform poorly, especially in low light situations.
  2. Camera Lens - The camera lens, which impacts the overall viewing angle, is another very important aspect of the backup camera. This is usually noted in "mm" (millimeters) on the product. The larger the size (mm), the further the distance the camera can focus. The smaller the size (mm), the wider the angle of the shot. The most common sizes are 1.7mm, 2.8mm, 3.6mm, 6mm, 9.9mm, 20mm, 35mm. It's important to note that both the lens and image sensor impact the viewing angle. For example, a 2.8mm lens paired with a 1/4" image sensor would result in a narrow shot as compared to a 1.7mm lens with a 1/4" image sensor. It's not uncommon for backup cameras to use a fish eye lens to attain a wider shot, but this degrades the overall quality. The more high-end cameras use patented technology to minimize their distortion.
  3. Audio - A small percentage of products on the market offer audio capabilities, but those that do tend to be for larger vehicles such as RVs. Audio is most certainly a benefit, especially when someone is assisting in backing the vehicle as you can hear their instructions through a speaker in the display.

In dash backup camera display
In dash backup camera display | Source

Wired or Wireless?

Whether to go with a wired or wireless system is the most common question asked with regards to aftermarket backup cameras. Your choice of going with a wired or wireless camera really depends on what quality you desire, your budget, and your application.

Wireless

Wireless technology for cameras has come a long way in the past few years, but the sub $100 systems still have issues with reception due to competing with WIFI signals, Bluetooth devices, satellite radios and CB radios, which all cause interference. This not only means that they'll impact the quality of your picture, but they may prevent you from getting a picture at all in some high population areas such as neighborhoods and cities. As well, there are more parts to a wireless system with the inclusion of the transmitter, which can malfunction and can be expensive to replace.

With that said, there are also some very good wireless systems on the market that use patented technology that locks in the signal between the transmitter and receiver. For the end user, this means no interference but also translates to a much more expensive system.

The biggest benefit of a wireless system is the simplicity of the installation since there is no need to run a cable from the rear of the vehicle to the display which resides near the dashboard. As well, the antenna is typically built into the camera which makes the installation even easier.


Wired

On average, wired systems provide a much higher quality picture than their wireless counterparts and are very reliable. However, the installation of these units is complicated by the fact that you have to run a wire from the rear of the vehicle to the front, typically through the firewall to where the display is mounted in or around the dashboard.


What about for my RV?

For car and truck owners, the installation of a wired system should only take 1-2 hours, depending on the skill of the installer, or $100-$200 to have it professionally installed. However, RV owners have a much greater task due to the distance that separates the front and back of the vehicle. This distance not only makes the installation of a wired system more difficult but it also degrades the signal of a wireless system.

Very few wireless systems on the market will provide you with enough strength of signal to traverse that distance and maintain a quality image, but there is one that stands out among the competition: The Voyager WVOS511 Digital Wireless Observation System. The Voyager WVOS511 features WiSight Technology which eliminates interference by digitally locking to the monitors receiver and ignoring outside signals. The range of this unit will cover 90ft which is well beyond the length of any RV!

Backup Camera Installation

Backup Camera Installation

The installation of an aftermarket backup camera system is really very easy. It requires just a few basic tools and a little bit of know-how, plus a couple of hours for a novice. Have a look at this video which demonstrates the installation of a very common type of camera.

Typical wireless backup camera system
Typical wireless backup camera system | Source

Which do you prefer.... Wired or Wireless?

See results

Backup Camera Manufacturers

There are many manufacturers of backup camera systems these days, but only a few stand out.

Rear View Safety


Located in Brooklyn, NY, Rear View Safety entered the market making high quality systems an affordable commodity. They started by pricing their systems well under their competition which forced the entire industry to lower their prices. RVS has become known as a premiere producer of the backup systems and makes some of the highest quality systems available.


Jensen RV (Voyager)


As a spinoff of the Jensen radio company, Jensen RV began making backup cameras in the last few years and make the very highest quality systems available. Each product is expertly designed from scratch and validated through extensive testing. Their line of Voyager systems offer more durability and highest performance of any other product.


Peak Automotive

Old World Industries, located in Northbrook, Illinois, is an independent, family owned business. For 40+ years, Peak has been a leader in the development of automotive products. Peak focuses on lower end backup camera systems in the $90 - $150 range and uses standard technology with easy to use devices.


Pyle Audio

Located in Brooklyn, NY, Pyle Audio is a leading manufacturer of high quality sub woofers. Their reputation stems from the ever popular "Plye Driver" which became a household name in the late 20th century. Pyle recently began making backup camera systems and use standard technology and focus on ease of use.

Backup Camera Reviews

With as many backup camera systems as there are on the market, it is becoming increasingly difficult to choose to the best one for your application and budget that will perform to your expectations. For a full review of the available systems, visit Backup Camera Reviews.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Adam 

      2 years ago

      I actually ordered a system from http://www.rearviewsafety.com/ . I see you mentioned them. So far it's holding up well in my 2004 jeep liberty.

    • profile image

      Cal 

      3 years ago

      What about "ESky" are they a good brand?

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