What Is A Backup Camera?
When people talk about a backup camera, they are talking about a very particular kind of digital video camera designed specifically to fix to the rear of your vehicle such as a car, truck or RV and assist the driver when trying to backup the vehicle allowing them to see a common blind spots such as directly behind the vehicle.
There are many different ways people refer to backup cameras and it depends a lot on where you are from. In the US, people will most refer to them as backup cameras due to their local language. In UK and English speaking Europe, you are more likely to hear people refer to them as “reversing cameras” as they would refer to the action of driving a car in reverse gear as reversing.
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No matter how you refer to the device or what country you drive your vehicles in, they are all designed with the same purpose in mind, to reduce accidents that occur when backing up your vehicle.
When you are backing up your vehicle, it can become a dangerous weapon if the greatest of care is not taken. It is very easy, particularly in larger vehicles to miss the split second it takes a person/animal to run behind your vehicle and tragedy strikes. In an effort to eliminate these kinds of accidents, backup cameras are becoming an ever more popular optional extra to have installed on your brand new vehicle, again, be it car, truck, RV, van or even bus.
The essential facts to know about Backup Cameras
What was once only an expensive optional extra on luxury branded cars is slowly trickling down to become available in more affordable cars. If you are picking up a brand new car in the near future, this is a choice you will need to make and now statistically, more people are saying yes with over half of all new cars shipped in the US having an integrated backup cam. This of course can only be a good thing, helping to make the US a safer place for both pedestrians and drivers alike.
Whilst helpful in an averaged sized family saloon, the effect is multiplied several times over the larger the vehicle gets. When you look at some of the larger vehicles available on the market to normal drivers such as large SUVs, Recreational Vehicles (RVs) and even minivans, it’s clear to see (no pun intended) how much a reverse camera can help. It would be impossible to have a clear view what’s directly behind an RV or minivan due to the height or lack of a rear windows. In situations like this, Backup cameras offer the only solution to see what’s directly behind you.
Backup Cameras Save Lives
If you think about all the worst case scenarios that could happen, often beyond your control that could be marginalised by the installation of a backup camera, it’s clear to see why the installation of an aftermarket backup camera is such a common action these days. You hear about stories all the time where a normal, fully capable adult accidentally backs up into a hydrant, their garden fence or over a family pet or worse. It’s doubtful if a backup camera would stop every instance of this kind of accident but it seems that it would help in at least some of these circumstances.
A childrens safety action group called Kids and Cars estimate that as many 50 children in the US are injured in what they call “backovers” each and every week in the US and on average, 2 of those incidents result in fatality. A terrifying statistic for any parent to read.
The above video shows 62 children managing to hide behind an SUV, showing the blind spot for the driver can be as long as 20 ft behind the car, a powerful video as it’s clear to see if the driver had a backup cam, even an aftermarket one, he would be able to see each of these innocent children.
Factory fitted OEM backup cameras are gaining popularity
As we noted earlier, backup cameras are becoming more and more common on brand new vehicles and it’s clear why looking at the above statistics. However not everyone can go out and pick up a brand new car to give them additional safety when driving their car normally. For those of us, who can’t go and buy a new or used car to make such a change, there are options available.
There is a bewildering array of aftermarket backup cameras that are made to fit absolutely any need that you could possibly have. They range in price and features as you could imagine and no matter what your vehicle or budget, there will be a solution that will allow you to have peace of mind.
Wired Backup Camera or Wireless Backup Camera?
The first decision you will be required to make is how comfortable are you with car electronics and would you be capable of routing cables about your car. At first thought, this could be daunting but there are a great many online guides and tutorial videos for most makes and models of cars to guide you through the process. There is however far too many models of cars for us to cover here at Best Car Camera .com. If you feel comfortable either in your current knowledge or that you could follow these kinds of guides and have the appropriate tools, you have the best option available to you, the Wired Backup Camera. If you are less confident or just want an easier time, you can opt for a wireless option.
Advantages of a Wired Backup Camera
Wired backup cameras are generally the best option for the electrically minded amongst you. They are normally cheaper than a similarly specced wireless model and they also offer the clearest pictures and best quality video available. It’s an unfortunate fact that most wireless cameras suffer some form of interference. This is because the operate on the 2.4Ghz frequency, a frequency used by many other consumer electronics. These electronics include:
- AM/FM Radio
- Satellite Radio
- Wi-Fi Routers
- Mobile Phones
Advantages of a Wireless Backup Camera
The main advantage of a wireless backup camera is the ease of installation. With a wireless system, there is normally no need to run a cable from the camera to the monitor. The transmission of data from the camera to the screen is handled via wireless dongles. You do however need to wire the camera and monitor up to a power source. The monitor is normally wired up to the 12v cigarette lighter whereas the camera most often draws power from the reverse light cable, a cable that only receives power when the vehicle is placed in reverse gear. There are of course other options, if you want to always have the camera and monitor active.
Features Of Backup Cameras
Once you have decided how you would like the system to communicate, we’ll talk firstly about the features available on cameras.
Backup Camera Clarity
When looking at the clarity of the footage a camera can produce, most people will talk about “resolution”. The resolution in, it’s most basic form, is the number of pixels, measured in horizontal and then vertical, the camera can capture at one time. To put this in perspective, you are likely to have heard the phrase “Full HD 1080p”. This refers to a resolution of 1920 x 1080 or a picture that is 1920 pixels across and 1080 pixels high.
Unfortunately backup cameras have not quite reach the stage of Full HD cameras being a common thing but then again, there is no real requirement for that. When you are in reverse, you don’t need to read the slogan on the t-shirt your child is wearing, you simply need to know they are there and to stop the car.
You still need some clarity however to make out smaller obstacles so the higher the better on this figure but it also needs to match the screen it’s displayed on. There is no point in having a super clear camera if you are displaying the output on a monitor that’s got a low resolution.
Backup Camera Viewing Angle
Another key features to look at when selecting your car backup camera is the camera’s viewing angle. This refers to how much the camera can see in it’s peripheral vision. The minimum figure you should be looking for here is 90 degrees, which should be the absolute bare minimum. Most of the backup camera reviews on this site are greater than that. A “good” camera should have a viewing angle of 120 – 130 degrees. This allows you to see a good range to both sides of the camera. The best viewing angle that’s practical is around 170 degrees. Please see the diagram below to visualize these figures.
Backup Camera Night Vision
Unfortunately, when we drive, it’s not always in perfect lighting conditions. There is always cause to drive at night and driving, involves backing up. It can be difficult to see when reversing at night and a camera without night vision isn’t going to help this. There are however a lot of Backup Cameras available on the market that integrate infra red tubes, that help you see up to 50ft behind the car in the reversing monitor, depending on the quality (something that we rate when we review a backup camera). A good night time video quality score is a good sign when looking at our reviews.
There are many other features you can get on cameras that don’t warrant a full section. Some cameras have a “reverse image” mode that flip what you see on the monitor to help the image sync with your mirror and your mind deal with what it sees. There are also other cameras that automatically switch the monitor on, (or even make it pop up) when reverse gear is selected, this is mostly achieved by wiring the camera to the reverse light power cable.
What Camera Form Factors are available
Broadly speaking, the cameras come in 4 main form factors:
- Factory-Style Camera – The Factory style formula is designed to mimic the look and finish of a camera that would be installed as an optional extra on the car and in some cases, are the actual camera if that’s what you opt to buy. The style of these cameras will vary with the style that was opted for by the original manufacturer.
- Surface-mount Camera – The surface mount style of camera come with a brace or brackets that the camera is mounted to and allowed to spin into position. The camera is then mounted to the vehicle, normally above the number plate between the numberplate lights.
- Flush-Mount Camera – Whilst quite rare, the flush mount style camera is designed to be nearly invisible. They are designed to have a custom hole drilled in the car, just enough to let the lens poke through.
- License Plate Mount Camera – There are 2 subtypes of the license plate mount camera, one has a wide mount that stick out each side of the camera, designed to go along the top of the license plate. The other is a full bracket, designed to sit behind the license plate and have the camera stick over the top.
Features of a Backup Camera Monitor
For the monitor, there is not nearly so many features and options. The first option you must decide on is the mounting style of the monitor. They are available in 4 main styles:
- Suction Mount – The suction mount for a backup camera monitor is designed to stick to the screen of the vehicle and have a stalk that attaches the camera to it. This gives you the option to remove when not in use and relocate with ease.
- Adhesive Mount – This is similar to the suction mount but is not so easy to relocate. It also gives you the option of mounting the camera stalk on the main dashboard of the car rather than the windscreen. You can often “un-clip” the monitor from the stalk and store when not in use.
- Screw Mount – This is similar to the adhesive mount but is more permanent as it requires drilling holes in your dashboard. This makes the mount far more secure and again, you can unclip the monitor when not in use. Often, people will opt to order some strong double sided tape and not use the supplied screws to mount this.
- Rear View Mirror Mount – This particular mounting style is becoming more and more popular. It’s a replacement mirror that clips onto your existing mirror and covers it. Normally, a monitor is mounted behind the mirror that is only visible when the vehicle is put in reverse.
The next option you need to take into consideration is monitor size. This is normally quite a personal decision and specific to your vehicle. If you have a large amount of space to work with on your dashboard and want to have the best view possible, then a 7” monitor or even larger is great. If you have limited space to work with then a smaller, 2.5” screen is better suited for you.
As noted with the camera resolution, this is the amount of detail that can be displayed. Again, this should be similar to the resolution of the camera for best results and the higher the better.
Other Car Camera Options
There are of course other camera types rather than just backup cameras. Please check out our other car camera information and options available on this site. The includes helping you select the “best dash cam” to keep you secure when driving forward and car black box all in one systems.
Best Backup Camera Reviews – Check them out!
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