Blackvue DR500GW –HD
Motor vehicle accidents are becoming more and more common in today’s busy society.
Often it’s not easy to lay blame on one particular party, and insurance companies will settle “knock for knock”, meaning both parties are deemed equally liable and as such, both parties premiums will be affected, even if it seems obvious to you, who was actually to blame.
Without credible witness accounts, there is little that can be done to combat this, that was, until the recent development of small, high quality video recording devices that can be fitted into your vehicle.
The Blackvue range of cameras, made by Pittasoft is exactly this. Small, discreet, easy to use and most of all, high quality. It’s like having your own witness, recording every event, there to protect you in the event of an accident. Pittasoft, a South Korean company have been manufacturing similar devices since 2010 and are one of the leaders in the field.
In the past, I have owned numerous Blackvue models. Each new model has brought further development and features, along with increased image quality and user friendliness. My current Blackvue is the DR400G-HD2, which I bought to replace the DR400-HD.
The latest model, the Blackvue DR500GW-HD takes this development even further, with the addition of Wifi built into the camera. Used in conjunction with the new Blackvue app, available on the Apple and Android operating systems, you now have even more protection and usability.
The DR500GW-HD continues in the same vain as the last generation of cameras, its cylindrical body is sleek and purposeful. Its uncluttered body and clean lines make it almost attractive to look at.
The new model is significantly larger than its predecessors. I presume this is down to the inclusion of the Wi-Fi, but could also be an aid to increase cooling, which was an issue in some previous models. Whilst bigger, it’s still not unwieldy and can still be comfortably concealed behind a rear view mirror.
The body both gains and loses some features. There is a new security light on the front under the lens (which can be turned off), a neat light sensitive on/off button for audio recording and a Wi-Fi button to active the devices party piece. The device still uses micro SD cards, and the slot is now hidden behind a hinged door with a cut out for both the Wi-Fi button and the power in socket. A new inclusion is a reset button that can be found behind this door also. Missing, is the AV-out socket, something that I know many people used, to connect an external monitor. The removal of this was expected, as video can now be live streamed over Wi-Fi and also pre recorded footage can be viewed within the app.
Another change is the angle of view of the lens. This has been increased to provide a much wider view. The view is now 156˚ (diagonal), 123˚ (horizontal), 99˚ (vertical) as opposed to the 120˚ (diagonal), 98˚(horizontal), 55˚(vertical) of the DR400G-HD2.
Whilst I can see why this was done, to give an ever bigger coverage of recording view, I do feel that on occasion it might actually be a hindrance. I’ve noticed on my video recordings, that vehicles that are just a few feet in front, look much further away in the footage, and in some cases the number plates are just too far away to be read. In the back of my mind, I do also worry, that the perspective distortion may have an effect on any insurance claim you may make, as the footage could perhaps be misinterpreted by someone who doesn’t realise the nature of wide angle filming. This is probably extremely unlikely, and in conjunction with the other features of the Blackvue, any discrepancies should be easily solved.
As you would expect, the DR500GW-HD also includes GPS, which records your position and speed. It also contains accelerometers which track your motion and records g forces in three axis. This feature also enables the camera to record in three different modes. Normal, event and parking.
Normal, as you may guess, is just normal recording as you are driving around, these clips will be overwritten as the memory fills up.
Event is activated when the accelerometers detect a set amount of g force in any of the 3 axis (which are user programmable for different vehicles/terrains). Once event mode is activated, the camera will automatically mark and store a section of video, starting 5 seconds before and 55 after the “event”. This piece of video will then not be overwritten by the camera.
Park mode is enabled automatically when then camera detects no motion after 10 minutes. In parking mode, the g force sensors are set to be more sensitive, so they will create an “event” clip with much less force required. This is perfect for car parks where light shunts or people touching your car are your biggest concerns. Parking mode only records the “event” clips and constantly overwrites the non even parking mode clips, saving memory.
Setting up the DR500GW is very simple. First, insert the supplied Micro SD card into the camera and connect the power. After a minute or so, the camera will have copied the relevant data to the card and will be ready to go. The camera speaks to you, to let you know what’s going on. “Blackvue for your safe driving, starting normal recording” means the camera is ready to go and is recording.
Attaching the camera to the windscreen is also very simple. The supplied mount comes with a piece of sticky double sided tape, simply remove the backing and place where required. A word of warning, it is very sticky! Once it touches the glass, it can’t be removed without wrecking the tape. Thankfully Pittasoft include a spare piece!
On previous models, aligning the camera when attached to the windscreen was a bit hit and miss. You lined up the mount as best you could, inserted the camera and guessed at the correct angle. You recorded some footage, took the camera to your PC, removed the card, downloaded the footage, reviewed it, memorised the position and repeated.
Now, all you need to do is connect the camera’s Wi-Fi to your smart phone and enable the live view feed. You can then accurately position the camera within seconds.
Usage and Image quality
As mentioned, the camera is incredibly easy to set up. Once it’s set up, you shouldn’t need to change anything, just turn on your car and go.
Sometimes the camera does take upto 30 seconds to activate, so bear this in mind before setting off. I always wait for the voice command before manoeuvring away. If you have the front security light enabled, it’s easy to see the unit is active, alternatively you can see the rear LED status lights to confirm the unit is on and recording.
When it comes to reviewing footage, either on a PC or Smartphone, it’s clear and good quality. The camera seems to handle exposure very well. Previous models have sometimes struggled in high contrast scenes, and often wildly adjusted the exposure to try and compensate. The DR500GW controls these scenes well, although does still put precedence over the highlights rather than shadows, meaning the sky is often well exposed and the ground underexposed.
To combat this, I find making sure that the majority of the frame is the ground, with only the top third being sky. This seems to keep the camera’s exposure metering system happy and gives a good overall exposure.
When faced with direct sunlight, the camera copes well with little lens flare and does a good job at controlling the exposure.
Night time scenes are also very well handled, with very little image noise and good exposure. I do find, as I expected that the camera struggles with intense lights like headlights in a night time scene.
This is mostly apparent when pulling up behind a car with your headlights on, the rear of the car in front is often over exposed to the point of all detail being lost. This is not the cameras fault as such, just the nature of digital imaging sensors. The rest of the scene however remains in good exposure.
Audio recording is adequate; I found on my copy that the sound sometimes is quite “poppy”. By this I mean there are random pops and crackles. I tried in two vehicles and it was the same in both. It’s not intrusive, but worth noting.
Location of the camera will play a big part in audio quality. I had my unit at the bottom of the windscreen, and anytime the climate control was active, the audio recording was pretty bad due to the wind flow past the microphone. I recommend fitting the camera behind the rear view mirror, not only for audio reasons, but also for visibility and safety reasons. The camera picks up voices well with good clarity, perfectly adequate for the purpose of the camera.
Overall the new Blackvue is a good continuation of the range. It has features that make it a worthwhile upgrade, and retains the fundamental purpose of the camera, without compromising on build quality, price and function.
The only issues that I can perhaps bring up, is the aforementioned wider angle of view, which to be honest is just nit picking and not really an issue in the real world, and also the device does still get very hot, although nowhere near as hot as the original 400HD model and the 300 series before that. Everything else about the camera cannot really be faulted. It looks good, delivers on image quality both during the day and at night and the sound quality is perfectly reasonable.
Another point worth noting is the excellent level of accessories included with Blackvue cameras.
This one, as with all I have owned come with everything you need to use the device straight away.
You get the camera itself, the mount with pre applied tape, a spare piece of tape, small wire clips to route the cable neatly, a very long power cable, and unusually for most manufacturers, you also get a 16GB micro SD card, and a micro SD to USB adapter. Even my DSLR’s that cost 3 times the amount don’t come with any form of memory storage.
It’s good to see a company not cutting costs by omitting these essential items, like so many do.
I’m very glad to have my vehicle protected with Blackvue. I feel safer in the knowledge that any accidents I may be involved in will be recorded with all the data needed to prove fault and make insurance claims much easier.
Another bonus is several insurance companies now also offer discounts when you have a Blackvue installed. My insurer offers a 15% reduction in premium, which actually almost paid for my DR400G straight away!
The DR400G is now a permanent fixture in my vehicle, as will the excellent new DR500GW.