Vicovation WF-1 review.
With insurance costs rising, and fraudulent claims becoming more and more common, its becoming more important to protect yourself and your car.
In the last few years the UK has seen a vast growth in the dash cam market with more and more companies previously unknown bring products to the market.
One such company is the Taiwanese surveillance company VicoVation. Already having a feature packed product range, their new dash cam the Vico WF-1 adds to this companies growing market share.
The Vico WF-1 is presented as a high end product, with packaging that feels quality and perhaps beyond its price tag of £179.
A bright orange inner box sleeved with a cardboard slip that details many of the camera’s functions and specifications, which I will come to later.
Inside the box, everything is packaged nicely with little wasted space inside the box. Included are the camera itself, a windscreen suction mount, adhesive mount, USB to mini USB data transfer cable and a 4m long cigar lighter power cable. Also in the box is a small warranty card and two glossy full colour manuals, one regarding mounting the camera and one for setting up and using it. The manuals are very well laid out, with clear colour pictures and text making using the camera very easy. There are a few small translation errors, but on the whole the manual is very easy to understand.
My copy did not come with a memory card included, however some retailers do include them in the package. The camera uses Class 10 micro SD cards with a capacity of 8GB up to 32GB.
In order to set up the camera, you need either an iPhone or an Android smart phone. The camera only has one button, which means any settings have to be changed via the Vico Viewer app over a wifi network. Whilst this makes changing settings very easy, it does pose an issue for anyone who does not have a smart phone, rendering the camera very limited in functionality. The app in question is very well laid out, and easy to navigate. Settings are changed quickly and transferred to the camera almost instantly.
One major point of note which differs from other similar wifi enabled cameras, is that when the wifi is active, the camera does not record. To warn you of this, a loud voice message is announced when the wifi connects and also the large LED surrounding the main button flashes. In order to reactivate the recording, you must disconnect the wifi network completely. Once this is done, another voice message alerts you that recording is active, and the LED returns to normal function, either pulsing slowly, or if the new LED silent mode is activated in the settings the the lights stays solid but dims slightly.
As mentioned, the camera comes with two mounting options. A small and compact adhesive mount with an adjustable ball head and a windscreen suction mount with ball head. During my review period I mainly used the suction mount for ease and transferability as I was using several different vehicles. At all times the suction mount stayed on the windscreen and was easy to install and remove. Using this method, the camera does take on a much larger form, as the windscreen mount is pretty large and takes up a lot of real estate on the window. However it is far more adjustable than the adhesive mount and I found I could get the exact position I wanted much easier.
The camera mounts using a peg and clip system, which is extremely secure, if not a bit awkward to remove when attached to the window. Still, there is no chance of the camera falling from the mount with this attachment system.
Once the camera is set up and installed on the windscreen, you need not touch it again, unless of course you want to record an emergency clip or turn on the lane departure warning system by using the single large button on the rear of the device. The camera turns on automatically with the car ignition and starts recording within a few seconds. The camera also turns off once power is removed, however it does continue to record for a few seconds so no hard power downs here.
At its default state, the camera will only alert you to starting and ending recording and also when wifi is connected. You can also set the camera to automatically record an emergency clip when it detects a pre determined amount of G Force. It alerts you by flashing the LED around the button for the remaining duration of the clip. The emergency clips are 60 seconds in length, with 30 seconds before and 30 seconds after the trigger. Emergency clips are stored in a different folder on the card and can’t be overwritten. The camera can only store 15 emergency clips, so if you fail to manually delete some, you may find your clips are not saved. All other footage is constantly overwritten as the card fills up, oldest first.
Lets get to what this camera is all about, and that is image quality. The camera features a 3MP CMOS sensor, coupled to a fast f/2.2 lens. This combination should mean bright and detailed footage in both daylight and when the light fades.
My first few clips with the Vico WF-1 didn’t disappoint. The footage was clear, bright and sharp, even in harsh direct sunlight. Another noticeable, or perhaps I should say unnoticeable feature, was the lack of edge distortion, something which plagues other dash cams and can dramatically reduce the quality of the footage at the edges. The Vico keeps the entire image from edge to edge distortion free and clear. This is in part to the 160 degree angle of view, slightly less than some other devices, but still plenty wide enough for almost all vehicles. Not being so wide means the fisheye effect is much reduced and results in a clearer and more natural image, one that I much prefer over some wider angle viewed cameras.
The camera handled the variety of daytime footage I took extremely well. Harsh direct sunlight, side lighting and extremes of bright and dark are all very well controlled. The camera seems to favour exposing for the ground rather than the sky, which is the correct choice. This may be down to me slightly angling the camera downwards, but even so, the camera always seemed to pick the right area to expose for, even when there was a variety of dynamic range in view. A good example of this was a clip that saw me going down a road with very harsh direct sun, and then under the cover of dense foliage. The scene went from light to dark very rapidly several times, but the camera always kept the exposure just right and adapted very quickly. In the harsh direct sun, despite being a very bright and large part of the scene, the camera still managed to keep the rest of the shot very well exposed, and it didn’t try to compensate for the massive bright area which many other cameras would do, resulting in a massive underexposure.
At night time, the Vico keeps to form with really quite impressive low light performance. Even at its base setting, the Vico out performs most, but they have also included in the latest firmware release a “Night Enhance Mode” with three settings; Low, Standard and High.
On “high” mode, the footage really is quite something. Somehow the camera manages to keep astonishing detail in the shadows with minimal noise, but yet still keeps the highlights in check. As a photographer, low light performance is something that is always desired but comes at a huge cost. We spend thousands of pounds on wide aperture lenses and full frame sensor cameras with incredible high ISO capability in order to obtain clean and sharp low light photos.
The Vico WF-1 gets very close to the quality I would be happy with out of a DSLR with a wide aperture lens. To see such footage from a tiny dash cam is quite something.
I really tested this camera out at night with some pretty harsh lighting, or lack thereof. A country road with minimal street lighting saw the camera reach its limits, but the footage was still perfectly usable and clear enough to see any events happening around it. With the Night Enhance mode in Low, the footage was considerably darker and perhaps pretty useless, as the only areas visible were the narrow beams from my headlights. Most other dash cams are the same, and those aren’t fortunate enough to have an extra 2 settings on hand to brighten things up.
If you drive a lot a night, then this has got to be one of the front runners on your list.
Video footage can be recorded in a number of resolutions, the highest being 1080p at 30FPS. This is the quality I used the most and for me is the most sensible option.
The camera can also do 720p at 30FPS and 720p at 60FPS. The 60FPS option does give somewhat smoother footage, but in reality the 30FPS options are really not bad at all. Besides, if uploading to Youtube, it automatically converts it to 30FPS anyway.
Footage is compressed using the H.264 codec and is recording in MP4 format. Some machines may have issues decoding this using the built in software, but there are plenty of alternatives available.
Recording at 1080p gives around 100 minutes of footage on a 8GB SD card, 220 minutes on a 16GB card and around 450 minutes on a 32GB card.
With this type of device, this is plenty good enough, as old footage is automatically overwritten, and no space is wasted.
720p at 30FPS adds about 80 minutes on a 8GB card, and allows 375 minutes and 775 minutes on 16GB and 32GB cards respectively.
720p at 60FPS gives slightly less at 140 minutes, 300 minutes and 620 minutes.
The latest firmware didn’t just see the introduction the night enhance mode, but also of two other features, namely voice volume adjustment and LED Silent mode.
Voice volume, is pretty self explanatory, you can now mute the camera voice, or adjust its level through several various settings. A nice little addition for those who don’t like something screaming at them first thing in the morning.
The LED silent mode’s title is a little misleading, as it doesn’t actually turn the LED off completely, but as mentioned earlier, dims the light and stops it flashing when the camera is recording.
With additions such as these in firmware releases, its very comforting and exciting to think what else could be done in the future.
So far, the Vico WF-1 has impressed me, but it still has more to give.
Uniquely, this camera features a lane departure warning system, something that is still pretty new technology even in upmarket cars.
Its very simple to set up using the smartphone application. With the camera installed and turned on, navigate to the relevant setting and calibrate the camera by lining up two lines overlaid on the live view footage. One on the horizon and one at the end of the vehicles bonnet. Its that simple!
Now every time you cross over a lane marking, the camera will alert you, either with a tone, or voice, whichever you selected.
This, on paper seems a bit of a gimmick, but it does actually work very well in practice. The camera consistently warned me every time I crossed a lane, albeit purposefully and not because I was falling asleep!
This system can be easily enabled and disabled by pressing and holding the large button on the camera. This is good, as its certainly not something you’d want enabled all the time, especially in the city. This is aimed squarely at long distance highway driving where lane changes are minimal.
Although the device never failed to miss a lane change, it did on occasion flag up false lane changes, mainly when driving over roads that had recently had trenches dug and relaid, or had been marked in some other way. The sensitivity of the system can be altered, so its a case of try each one and see which works best in your region and road type.
Another unique feature of the Vico WF-1 is the ability to set the device to send an email to a pre set email address, every time an emergency clip or g force event is triggered. This is a very clever system, and great for worried parents or company transport bosses. wanted to keep track of the driver’s actions.
It works by using your smartphones hotspot function, and puts the camera as slave to that hospot. Your phone can then send an email message using its data connection to the email address thats been inputted. The instruction manual guides you step by step using pictures on how to correctly set this up, so its very simple to do.
This is another example of Vicovation thinking outside of the box and putting in features that no-one else has thought to do.
This brings me to something that is lacking in the Vico WF-1, and something that perhaps Ive been spoilt with in the past. The WF-1 does not have any form of GPS, and nor can it be enabled through external accessories. For many, this is probably not an issue, and actually now for me after using the product for several weeks also isn’t much of an issue, however it might be something that is worth considering when looking make a purchase. I dont know how much GPS is relied on in terms of accident investigation should the worst happen, but I do find comfort when using GPS enabled devices, that my speed and location can be accurately tracked and thus confirm the details of the actual event. That being said, the police are more than capable of determining speed in the event of a collision and with clear video evidence, any wrong doing or blame should be easily identifiable without GPS data on hand.
As mentioned, the Vico WF-1 relies on a smartphone app to adjust the settings and configure its many options. I have no issue with this, as it makes it very simple and easy to do. Most people have smartphones now, and if they are in the market for a dash camera, its highly unlikely they will find this an obstacle.
The app connected to the phone quickly and without any issues. Once connected, a plethora of options are laid out in sections that are easy to navigate and understand.
Simple sliders and buttons change the settings and these are transferred to the camera almost instantly.
Live view is well executed and has very little lag. This is due to the reduced resolution of 320×240 on the preview.
Also from the app, you can view clips that have already been recorded and also send them directly to youtube. This works very well, and very quickly, however again, in order to speed up data transfer the footage is reduced to 568×320 no matter what resolution it was recorded at. One point to note is on Android, the footage is not reduced, only on iPhone.
Whilst I can see why this was done for iPhone users, it is slightly disappointing that we aren’t given the option to upload at a higher resolution. Footage uploaded to youtube direct is pretty much useless and really doesn’t show off the quality the Vico is capable of. I hope a firmware update in the future will let us decide what resolution we want to upload, rather than force us to use such a low resolution. This is however a minor point, footage can of course be uploaded via a computer in full quality.
In summary, I am very impressed with the Vico WF-1. The footage is amongst the best I have seen in a dash camera, and without question the best at low light with the new Night Enhance mode. As said in the beginning, its seems to be presented as a high end product, and although the price tag seems to indicate otherwise, it actually lives up to this extremely well.
Its packed with features that are not found anywhere else, and its simple operation makes it not only easy to initially set up, but also to live with on a day to day basis. A dash cam should be a fit and forget item, and the Vico certainly fulfils this, only needing attention when you want to change a setting or need to create an manual emergency file. Besides a few small flaws such as the bulky suction mount and limited youtube upload quality, this camera is a major player in the dash cam market and sets the standard in image quality especially in low light situations.