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Dash Cam Dually Review – A black box video recorder for your car

Ever been in a hit and run accident?  Well I have.  I made a left turn and I noticed a white Honda Civic with a giant whale tail spoiler closing in fast from my right.  “That car isn’t gonna stop for the light” I thought to myself.  I slammed on the brakes but it was too late:  I stopped when my front bumper T-boned into the red light running Civic.  I pulled over but the offending vehicle had taken off.  No exchange of insurance information, no license plates!

How things might have been different if I had the Dash Cam Dually.

Dash Cam Dually on the left, next to a typical iPhone for size reference only.

  • 2 Cameras: One (1) front view and one (1) back-view inside the vehicle
  • Speed detection
  • Compass
  • Coordinates (Latitude & Longitude)
  • Integrated Google Map window
  • Dual Camera (1.3 Mega Pixels / 2CH Display)
  • Built-in GPS & G-Sensor
  • Emergency or Continuous Recording
  • SD Memory Card
  • 4.25 L” x 1.0 W” x 4.9 H”

Unboxing time! Box contents include SD card, USB card reader, 12V power cord, instructions and mouting hardware.

As the name implies, the Dash Cam Dually consists of two cameras.  One camera is pointed outside for a view of the road ahead, and the other camera points back into the car.  The interior camera is outfitted with infrared LEDs for low light illumination.

Interior-facing lens with IR LEDs

The included mount slides on and is adjustable in one axis.  You’ll notice the peel-off adhesive back.  If you’re indecisive like me, you’ll want to experiment with placement options first before peeling off that adhesive!

There are two knobs lateral to the camera lens.  One knob controls speaker volume.  The unit gives voice prompts for most actions, and there are 5 volume levels (the lowest is muted.)  The other knob lets you choose whether or not you turn the interior camera or not.

The SD card slot has a cover that cleverly slides over the power plug when opened.  This ensures you don’t remove the SD card when the unit is powered up.

Isobot demonstrates the SD card insertion method

The camera goes high up on your windshield.  Depending on your car, you might have a tough time finding a suitable spot.  In my case, I’ve got all sorts of car gizmos tucked behind the mirror (rain sensors, a Homelink mirror, radar detector).  I used my own suction cup mount with Velcro for my testing purposes.

The big question is:  How does it perform?  I drove around in low light and daylight driving conditions.  You can see the results below.

The Windows interface shows the exterior-facing camera (left) and the interior camera (right).   There are playback controls, audio volume,  a speed readout, and even a G-force graph.  The g-force sensor tags recordings as an incident when the user-defined sensitivity is reached.  These video clips are then write protected so they do not get deleted.  Otherwise, when the SD memory card is full, the oldest files are overwritten.

The camera also includes a GPS receiver.  Pressing the MAP button reveals a Google Maps overlay.  Satellite and Hybrid views are also available.  The map “moves” as video plays back.

You can save screen shots by clicking the camera icon located in the upper right of the Windows interface.  It saves the interior and exterior shot frame grabs at 640 x 480 pixels.  Here are two examples.  You’ll note the time and date stamp atop the screen grabs.  The GPS receiver sets the clock.  Very handy.  Of course, this only works properly if the GPS has a signal and updates the internal clock.

Exterior shot. That's the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Interior shot. That's a foam mat in my back seat. Note the dangling wires on the left for my temporary install!

While it was easy to save still images, there was no practical way to save video clips to your computer and email them say, to your insurance company or law enforcement.  The still images are better than nothing, however.

Edit: I have been informed by reader Adam who notes:

Actually, if you look at the icons in the top right of the window, the middle one is a blue icon with the photo of a disk on it. If you click that, it will give you the option to save either camera view to your computer in a format that you can either email or view most video players, such as Windows Media Player or VLC. You can also upload the video to YouTube.

In all, the Dash Cam Dually works as advertised.  I would have preferred a more stealthful form factor, such as a more squat, box-like shape instead of the vertical “slab” design.  If you use your own window mount, you should be able to move this between vehicles with ease.

 

Product Information

Price:$385
Manufacturer:Dash Cam Dually
Pros:
  • Combines internal and external cameras, GPS and g-shock sensor
  • Automatically records as soon as power is applied
Cons:
  • Can't save video clips by simply removing recorded files directly from SD card in their native format.

{ 19 comments… add one }

  • Claire Strodtbeck January 12, 2010, 9:59 am

    If only I had one of these when I got into an accident in my ’94 Maxima…I could have contested the insurance settlement and proved that I wasn’t at fault. Snap!

  • Mark January 13, 2010, 4:45 pm

    What are the specs on this?

    Rather:
    What is the recording rate? (Hz)
    Encoding method? (MPEG-2? H.264?)
    Likewise for audio- stereo or mono? Bitrate? Etc.
    How long is the pre-buffer?
    Can it use SDHC or is it limited to 2GB SD cards?
    What kind of programmability does it have? (Adjustable resolution? Adjustable shock threshold? Ability to turn of inside IR LEDs? Etcetera)
    Is there (optional) encryption of the files?
    What do the voice prompts work for? (“Recording.” “Please insert SD card.”)
    Is it safe to assume this automatically turns on whenever the car is turned on? How should you wire it? Switched outlet or unswitched?
    Is there a way to upload to YouTube? Rather- can you export the video?
    What about the picture quality? Does the image get washed out when driving into the sun?
    What’s the field of view? Both forward and Back?
    Why does it only output 640×480 images when it’s a 1.3MP imager?
    Is it really 1.3MP for each camera or is it 1.3MP for both cameras (or .65MP per camera)?
    Is there a “panic button” for manual recording?

    Etcetera.

  • Andy Chen January 13, 2010, 5:58 pm

    Let me begin by making the blanket statement that the video quality isn’t HD-quality by far. It reminds me of an average cell phone video.

    What is the recording rate? (Hz)
    No idea. It’s definitely not 30fps. I’d be surprised it it was 15fps.

    Encoding method? (MPEG-2? H.264?)
    Likewise for audio- stereo or mono? Bitrate? Etc.
    Unknown. Like I mentioned in the review, you cannot view the videos unless you use the supplied app. The stored files on the SD car are un-usuable by conventional means (in other words, I have no idea what they are. It’s alphabet soup).

    How long is the pre-buffer?
    I couldn’t test this but I did notice that all the video files are saved in 3 min chunks. When the shock sensor reaches threshold, it ensures the chunk it’s currently on isn’t overwritten.

    Can it use SDHC or is it limited to 2GB SD cards?
    I did not test SDHC cards.

    What kind of programmability does it have? (Adjustable resolution? Adjustable shock threshold? Ability to turn of inside IR LEDs? Etcetera)
    The only adjustments are: Shock threshold (5 levels), speaker level (5 levels), interior cam on/off, and a manual record feature.

    Is there (optional) encryption of the files?
    Well, considering you can’t view the files without the app… Otherwise, there IS a “password setting” feature in the setup page (gear-shaped icon in the upper right).

    What do the voice prompts work for? (“Recording.” “Please insert SD card.”)
    The voice prompts are mostly for audible feedback of hardware switches. If you crank up the volume, it’ll tell you what level you’re at. Same for shock level. When it detects a GPS signal, it’ll say something like “signal detected”. When it reaches the pre-set shock level (when you hit a pothole… or a deer…) it’ll announce that it’s recording, even if you already ARE recording. I took it to mean it’s recording a shock event.

    Is it safe to assume this automatically turns on whenever the car is turned on? How should you wire it? Switched outlet or unswitched?
    This is one of the best parts of this item. If you have it plugged into a switched 12V socket, the device starts recording on startup. It also stops recording about 11 seconds after power is removed (when the car is shut off).

    Is there a way to upload to YouTube? Rather- can you export the video?
    Not that I can tell. Again, you can only play videos back on the app. Major drawback.

    What about the picture quality? Does the image get washed out when driving into the sun?
    I didn’t try that. But I suspect it’ll get washed out a bit.

    What’s the field of view? Both forward and Back?
    I like this bit… it’s VERY wide. Much wider than your average “cell phone” cam. In fact, I found that no matter where I placed the camera, as long as it was close to the center of the windshield, it covered front and rear beautifully.

    Why does it only output 640×480 images when it’s a 1.3MP imager?
    This puzzled me as well. I’m just going with the printed specs (1.3MP) and the screen shot result (640×480). Go figure.

    Is it really 1.3MP for each camera or is it 1.3MP for both cameras (or .65MP per camera)?
    Again, no idea. I’m gonna guess it’s really just 640×480 each. I’m just happy it works.

    Is there a “panic button” for manual recording?
    Yes. The left knob has a manual record function if you just want to normally NOT record, but want to record events as they happen (when you choose to).

  • Mark January 14, 2010, 4:33 pm

    Thanks, Andy.

    I made my own DIY system a couple of years ago that costs more, but seems better suited for my needs. I don’t want to replicate it on a second car, so I’ll keep looking for other turn key solutions. (pardon the pun)

  • Andy Chen January 14, 2010, 4:35 pm

    Believe me, I’m no stranger to making home brew solutions. For my needs, this one comes close. I can live with the limitations, but I just can’t quite stomach the odd physical shape. It just doesn’t fit my car the way I’d like it to.

  • Patrick Ticman January 23, 2010, 3:23 pm

    Andy, I bought the same system but when I inserted the SD card in my computer ( windows vista), I couldnt open the recorded files. I cant seem to find the app to run the recorded videos. The Manual is very confusing and is not written well for beginners. Please advise me on how to get the app so I can see the videos. I will appreciate your reply

  • Andy Chen January 23, 2010, 5:05 pm

    Contact support at http://www.spygadgets.com and see if they can send you the app. They helped me get the app.

  • Patrick Ticman January 23, 2010, 7:34 pm

    Thanks for your response Andy. Doesnt the package suppose to have the app in the SD card already? Did you have a problem with not having the app also?
    Is it a big program? Would you mind emailing it to me to make it faster? I already dropped spygadgets an email too.
    I would appreciate your help.

  • Adam January 28, 2010, 5:07 pm

    Andy –

    Your review mentions that the software had no practical way to save the video clips.

    Actually, if you look at the icons in the top right of the window, the middle one is a blue icon with the photo of a disk on it. If you click that, it will give you the option to save either camera view to your computer in a format that you can either email or view most video players, such as Windows Media Player or VLC. You can also upload the video to YouTube.

    Might want to update your review…the ability to save the videos is a huge benefit.

    Hope this helps.

    Adam

  • Andy Chen January 28, 2010, 7:16 pm

    Adam: Done. Thanks!

  • michael smith February 21, 2010, 2:31 pm

    The video Spy Gadgets have posted on You Tube certainly does not look convincing, the owner call it an educational video, but as he films with one hand – probably to save a cameraman – he install with his other hand. Just the video would give me second thoughts about this outlet.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeb94ZEx2FA

  • Amnesia Wes March 16, 2010, 3:40 pm

    It is illegal to have anything mounted to a windshield in California, (ie. radar detectors, gps, compasses, etc.), so some type of dash mount needs to be made.

  • Mark April 21, 2010, 2:06 am

    Really late follow up here, but there are exceptions to the “nothing mounted on the windshield” law: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d12/vc26708.htm though, strictly speaking, this device doesn’t fall under any of those exceptions unless you’re very liberal in your interpretation of the code.

  • Dean Dimitrov May 24, 2010, 9:31 pm

    Hello, i cant find the software needed to actually view the data.
    Can u tell me it’s name, so i can search it on the net.
    I send an e-mail to the geargadgets.com
    but i doubt they will send me anything so i’m trying everything.

  • Andy Chen May 24, 2010, 11:40 pm

    Dean,
    The app is called Black Box. The icon looks like a bumble bee. You’ll need the matching .dll that goes with it. No, I don’t have it anymore.

  • Edward May 25, 2010, 2:51 am

    Ive been doing some research on these cameras, and I noticed this site as well. 3rdeyecam.com I wonder how the 2 cameras fair against one another.

  • awagele November 22, 2010, 3:24 am

    Here is a blackbox/ dashcam that works great!

    Gives you protection for accidents, hit and run, traffic tickets, etc.

    http://www.gpsskytracker.com

  • Amy Lase February 27, 2011, 6:25 pm

    Kindly let me know the make and model number of the windshield suction cup you used in this review. I plan to buy the camera but I do not want to have it permanently mounted on my windshield. A removable mount is good choice.

  • Andy Chen February 27, 2011, 8:55 pm

    I bought it from Amazon, and it’s not there anymore. But I found the same on here.

    http://www.buyradardetectors.com/products/arkon/bt010.aspx

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