Frugal Dash Cam Part II: Review of the AFIO A119 dash-cam

So I’ve been owing this update for awhile, if your are just tuning in last fall I made an article on dash cams and outlined why you should have one. I then went on the journey of trying to get a reliable dash cam for a decent price. I ended up buying the AFIO A119 dash cam. Below are the specifications (as written on Amazon):

Specifications

* Automatically start recording when engine starts
* 160° Viewing Angle
* Video Recording: 1440p at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps
* Photo Resolution: 4M pixels, JPG
* Novatek 96660 Chipset, OV4689 4M HDR sensor, 6G lens, with better night vision
* 2″ LCD screen
* MicroSD slot supports card up to 64GB (10 hours); MicroSD card NOT included
* Loop / Cycled recording: when the memory card is full, old files are automatically deleted
* Stamping: date and time
* Support sound recording and mute

Now that I’ve been using for about 7 months I can make some general comments on it:

Reliability: In a dash cam this is the most important metric.  If you’re using a dash cam to back you up in a dispute reliability is grand emperor of the universe.  You can’t risk having a dash cam work when it wants to, it has to work 100 percent of the time.  Imagine getting into a fender bender, and your objective witness was taking a snooze on you, while your air bags were exploding.  I’ve been auditing video randomly to make sure that it’s working.  For some back ground, my old dash cam, would randomly stop recording. I only noticed this when I made a “quick motion” video of a road trip (i.e, take 8 hours of driving footage and speed it up so the final video is only 5-10 minutes).  There were gaps between each video segment, leaving me vulnerable in these gaps.  After some Googling and troubleshooting I concluded the unit was bad.  It then started randomly shutting off too, and would make a bunch of sounds.  I cover this in my previous article.

Video Quality It’s not bad. It didn’t blow me away, but it’s workable. It does the wide angle lens thing, which is neat, captures more things that are happening in front of you.  Not a bad thing for sure.  You can put it in a 60 FPS mode, I haven’t used it yet, I keep my quality set to modest so I can store more on it. It does a max of 2560 x 1440 @ 30 FPS, or 1920 x 1080 60 FPS at the top end, and supports lower resolutions, which I opt for because I prefer more storage.

Form Factor It has a good factor on my windshield. The camera lens is on a pivot, and it holds pretty good.  Just make sure you align it properly if you have recently removed it from the mount. Some footage I audited showed it looking too far up.  Would’ve been great if something was going on in the sky, but not the best when trying to watch what’s going on in the road.  You’ll want to make sure the hood of your car takes up some of the bottom of the view.  I’ve started to make it habit to

A) make sure it dash cam turns on when I start the car (sometimes the USB into the 12 VDC adaptor gets loose on my car), and

B) I look at the video preview on the screen and make sure I see enough hood in the display.

Antiquated Serial Port This dash cam uses USB-Mini. I was baffled that it does.  My DSLR does as well, but it has the excuse of being made circa 2007.  This actually created tons of issues on my last trip.  I didn’t realize the USB cable that ships with it is just a power cable, what does that mean? Plug it into your computer to pull footage and the computer doesn’t read it, because the cable is only capable of transmitting power.  I tried a bunch of things, I put the dash cam memory card in my phone and mounted it as storage, but the phone wouldn’t use it unless I formatted it, that’s no good.  So I ended up going out and buying a memory card adapter, which came with a new 8 GB memory. I took the micro SD card and put it in the SD card adapter then it was able to fit into my computer card reader.  If I didn’t want to retrieve the data it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I’m not sure why a 2016 device uses obsolete standards.

Price So evidence of me buying this on Amazon disappeared, so I don’t know exactly how much I paid for it.  But I’m going to say around $120 . I bought a memory card for around $20 too, so it’s about $140. I’ll admit that it’s on the high end, but I do a lot of driving and $140 is nothing when thousands of dollars are on the line anytime I get in the car.

Has it saved me yet? Not yet.  But I did catch a 15 hour non-stop road trip on it, by using lowest settings.  So I’ve been basically just using it for video making.  But it does feel better having a careful sentinel on my windshield.

I did recently catch a driver doing something stupid; driving through a red while I was on the protected turn. You can see in the footage, nothing bad happened, but it doesn’t take much for something bad to happen. Note the footage in the video, I cropped out the bottom data bar on the bottom, so it doesn’t reflect quality 100 percent.

In conclusion, it’s not a bad unit. Does the job, and so far has done it reliably. For proper preparation, you should always carry a first aid kit, a bag with some essential tools, jumper cables, etc and I think every driver should have a dash cam. If any of my eight readers has had a positive experience with a dash cam, drop me a comment. I’m always glad to hear from my eight readers.

Until next time, stay safe.

Credits

Photo via Visualhunt

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