Rear view camera technology is a fantastic safety feature in any car, so much so that by 2018 all new cars must be fitted with these units.
From hooking up your trailer, reversing into a tight parking spot or just making sure your kid is not behind your car when you reverse, these units will make the job so easy.
If you are in the market for a new rear view camera there are some pitfalls that will cause serious buyers remorse so this guide should make your decision much more informed and easier.
The biggest factor in choosing a rear view camera is how much can you see. So your biggest factors are:
Field of View
The field of view of the camera is determined by a number of factors like the image sensor size, type and the lens focal length. Like a normal camera the bigger the sensor the better the quality of the picture, the better it performs in low light and the wider the field of view it can achieve. A 1/4” sensor can only deliver a 60 to 90 deg field of view while a 1/3” should deliver around 120deg.
90deg is the minimum field of view you should accept, but seeing there are so many units that perform better I would not purchase anything less than 120 deg.
1/3” image sensor and a 120 deg field of view should be your baseline.
There are super wide-angle units of 180 and even 210 on the market. Sounds grea,t but these units create a fisheye lens effect and it is virtually impossible to use them to reverse. Imagine reversing by looking through the peephole in your front door, you are guaranteed to have an accident at some point.
Types of Monitors:
Almost all modern-day monitors are LCD (liquid crystal display), you might still see some CRT monitors, but it is old-school technology and would deliver inferior quality video. Off the LCD monitors, TFT-LCD screens are the panicle in quality and should be your first choice.
Screen size is a personal choice, but obviously in this case bigger is better. The most common sizes are 5”,7”,9” and 10” units, there are smaller ones available but why would you bother.
Modern cars have a built in SatNav unit and many of them have an auxiliary input. If your vehicle has one of these you do not have to bother with a monitor and can plug your camera straight into the SatNav (just make sure your camera is compatible).
Types of Rear View Cameras
There are 3 different types of cameras:
Surface mounted cameras
This type can be mounted on any flat surface and are commonly mounted high up. This position gives it a commanding view and excellent depth perception. For larger vehicles this would be the number one choice.
Flush mounted cameras
This type is mounted through a hole in the body of the vehicle. Only the lens and bezel is visible and give a nice clean look. The camera is level with the road so it does not provide the depth as the surface mount unit.
License mounted cameras
This type is mounted on the existing license plate hole, so installation is easy with no modification or new holes that need to be drilled. Depending where your plate is, the position of the camera can be off-center or close to the road.
Rear view camera sensors are either CCD or CMOS. CCD sensors provide a much higher quality video then CMOS and operate in lower light environments. CCD rear view cameras are more expensive than their CMOS counterparts, but this is truly not the factor where you want to skimp on money. A CCD camera is the only unit to buy.
Infrared Night Vision
Many rear view cameras are fitted with infrared night vision. The camera is fitted with infrared LED lights and will give you a picture even in total darkness. Do not expect to see way into the distance, 20-30 feet is normal for infrared and it will be in a monochromatic color. Seeing that there are so many models with this function do not buy a rear view camera with out infrared night vision.
Wired vs Wireless
Wireless rear view cameras suffer from interference and do not deliver the same quality video. This may look like stripes on your screen and can be very annoying. The idea behind the wireless unit is to save on the wiring between the camera and screen but seeing that you still have to wire a power source to both units the pro vs the con lean definitely to the wired unit. If you insist on a wireless system try to keep the distance between the monitor and camera at a minimal.
Mirror Image Capability
For you to see the same image you would expect to see in your rear view mirror the system must be able to “flip” the image. This allows for much easier reversing because your mind expects to see it that way. Some units allow for normal or reversed image, but almost all have the reverse image function. Do not under any circumstance buy a rear view camera without reverse image capability.
Most high-end system has this function. The unit is connected to the reverse lights of the vehicle and automatically switches on when the car is shifted into reverse. It is very inconvenient to have to switch the unit on every time you want to use it and completely defeats the purpose. Make sure your unit has this option.
Some cameras are fitted with a microphone and can be helpful in certain scenarios like backing up a long trailer. If this is a need for you there are plenty of options.
The last two factors I would like to mention have more to do with the installation of your unit but is still something you should keep in mind.
Automotive Power Supply
Most cars work on a 12V system, but some on 24V. Make sure what type of power the unit needs. To ensure longevity a voltage regulator or filter is a must. Cheap units wont have this.
Weather resistant camera and connectors
The camera and wiring will be exposed to the elements. Sun, rain, snow and grime will eat away at your connectors and camera and if they are not rated for outdoor purposes the lifespan is going to be very short. The normal household RCA connector’s just wont cut it, so if your unit is fitted with these a red flags should go up.
Like most things in live you get what you pay for but if you are going to go through the effort of having a rear view camera the $100 you are going to spend on a good unit is a no-brainer.
Have a look at the rear view camera comparison chart to see how cameras compare.