Backup Camera Buying Guide
- on August 07, 2020
- Categories: Guidance
With a backup camera system in your car, you'll gain a well-lit, wide-angle view of what’s behind you – a view that a rear-view mirror just can't deliver. Whether you're safety-conscious, want to keep an eye on something you're towing, or just have a bad habit of crunching bumpers, installing a rear-view video system in your car, truck, or RV is a no-brainer.
You can count on backup cameras to be tiny and weatherproof across the board, but there are some variables to consider:
Most backup cameras use either CCD or CMOS sensors. The sensors convert light to signal in two different ways: CCD is essentially analog, and CMOS is digital. Generally speaking, a CMOS sensor draws less power and is more sensitive to image noise than a CCD sensor, but a CCD sensor is slightly better adapted to handle fluctuating lighting scenarios than a CMOS sensor. Depending on the types of environments where you typically drive, the difference may be incidental. In the good ol' tradition of iPhone® vs. Android™, the argument as to which sensor is "better" is ever-evolving and has devotees on either side. In most cases, it won't likely be a deciding factor in which camera you choose.
Many backup cameras provide onscreen guidelines to help you when backing out of precarious positions or when squeezing into a tight spot. They help you gauge distance from objects in your path. If you want the flexibility of opting in or out of parking lines, look for "selectable parking lines" as a feature. Some give you the opportunity to remove them during installation, so that you can use the selectable parking lines feature built into certain touchscreen receivers. If you like the idea of parking lines that bend as you turn your steering wheel, predicting your trajectory in reverse, look for "active parking lines" as a feature.
This is just what it sounds like. The view in your monitor is reversed to mimic that of a rear-view mirror. With some cameras, this is a selectable feature, which is handy if you plan to use the camera as a front-view camera.
Generally, backup cameras provide a healthy horizontal viewing angle, with some as expansive as 190-degrees. Naturally, the wider you go, the more you'll see behind you at a glance.
On some cameras, you may see a minimum Lux rating. This tells you the least amount of light required for an acceptable picture. For your reference, a night with a full moon is rated at around 0.1 Lux while a sunny day rates at around 10,000 Lux. Many cameras enhance their low light capability with an additional LED or infrared light that powers on when your vehicle is in reverse.
This is the defining feature for most rear-view cameras. It can be done is several ways, so take at look at the rear of your vehicle before you select a camera. Here are the mounting styles to consider:
License plate mounting
Some cameras fit into a matching license plate frame while others take the more universal approach with a strap mount. This strap-mounted rear-view cam fastens over your license plate using the existing screws.
If you have an inset area on the rear of your car, chances are you can use an angled lip-mount camera which is a little more subtle than the license plate mount.
This style takes the most universal approach, providing an adjustable bracket that lets you mount your camera wherever you see fit.
Some brands offer brackets that replace or fit into factory parts for a near-perfect match to your vehicle. Be sure to enter your vehicle information to see if there's an option for your vehicle.
Life in reverse
Like an air bag to a seat belt, a rear-view camera system isn't a replacement for your vehicle's mirrors, it's a complement — a powerful tool for driving safely and parallel parking like a pro. And even if you consider yourself a pro, everybody has their bad days, and a rear-view system cuts down on the risk of a fender-bender (or worse).