Race car dashcams - waterproof, etc.

Dodge62

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Hi folks - I have some fairly specific requirements and would like some recommendations. Please bear with me while I set the scene ...

I help run a club for Caterham racers. A Caterham is a small British sportscar, based on the 1957 Lotus 7. Website Caterham Graduates Racing Club

We have a requirement for all drivers to carry cameras, so the Clerk of the Course and our own driving standards group can review on-track incidents. We have far too many situations where the cameras (typically GoPro's or copies) have failed to record, due to user error, batteries running out, memory cards getting full, etc. This leads to fines for the driver involved which are - to say the least - unpopular.

So for 2021 we are mandating that drivers must carry a camera which is hard-wired to power, and starts automatically either with the ignition or when the car reaches a certain speed (eg. 20mph). We're looking for cameras that we can recommend to our drivers (currently 90 of them, though a significant proportion already have cameras that fit the requirements - typically expensive VBox datalogging/video systems)

The cars are open-top, and it's Britain, so the cameras must be waterproof. That requirement rules out the majority of dashcams, of course.

We've looked at, and liked, Innovv cameras. But their 2-camera systems suffer from a serious problem - they rely on a switched and unswitched power supply, and when the switched (ignition) supply is turned off, they use the unswitched power supply to run the camera while they save the footage. But that doesn't work in a race car which has a master 'kill' switch that turns off all power. Using the kill switch loses the last segment of video. Many people don't even have a separate ignition switch, and even if they do, in an incident the track-side marshals would turn off the master switch and the incident footage could be lost. It's not allowed to bypass the kill switch for any purpose, so we can't run a separate feed to the camera.

The Innovv C5 single camera system uses a video format that survives power loss, and that is our current recommendation. However, Innovv tell me that the C5 doesn't sell particularly well (the dual systems are much more popular) and may not be available for too long.

So ... my requirements are:
  1. Waterproof. Definitely the camera(s), and preferably the recording unit, if separate (if the recording unit is separate, it could go inside the car boot/trunk, which is *mostly* water tight).
  2. Automatic start/stop with ignition or at a certain speed
  3. Hard wired power, and no loss of footage on complete power loss
  4. A dual camera system would be preferable
  5. Ability to mount the camera(s) on the roll cage, which uses 32mm tubing. Compatibility with GoPro mounts or tripod threads would be fine.
  6. 1080p resolution with 30fps for the front camera at least
  7. Reasonable cost. Under £200 ukp (about $230 USD pre-tax) would be best. Up to £300 for a real quality system.
  8. UK supplier available. Shipping from China might be acceptable, but we'd need some guarantee that the cameras are going to arrive well before the start of the race season in April.
  9. Easily removable memory card, and video files that can be viewed without specialist software (for review by the Clerk/Driving Standards).
So given all that, does anyone have any suggestions? Many thanks.
 

Nigel

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Viofo MT1

It is a dual motorcycle camera, so waterproof, including the recorder.

Although it has 3 wires, you can connect battery and ignition wires together, and it will save the current clip on power loss, it has super capacitors to provide that power.

1080 30fps resolution on both cameras and decent quality.

No image stabilisation, so the cameras need mounting direct to the frame or roll bar, otherwise there will be loads of vibration in the image, probably still a bit on your cars.

The mounts can be used with GoPro mounts, although they are not an exact fit, and it is better to mount as directly as possible to something very solid to avoid vibration.



https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/B087PZ4F1M

 
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Dodge62

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Thanks - that looks pretty good, and great image quality. The "metal mount" would probably work on the roll cage with a couple of jubilee clips.

I see the FOV is stated at 170 degrees, do you know if that's changeable? While 170 degrees is probably ideal for driving standards purposes, it's a little wide for "action footage" as it makes all the other cars look a long way away and makes the footage less exciting (IMO).
 

Nigel

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I see the FOV is stated at 170 degrees, do you know if that's changeable? While 170 degrees is probably ideal for driving standards purposes, it's a little wide for "action footage" as it makes all the other cars look a long way away and makes the footage less exciting (IMO).
No, it is not adjustable, and the lens can't be changed. Due to being waterproof, I believe it is irreversibly sealed.

Don't take FOV numbers too seriously, they are never very accurate.

It is a bit wider than a normal car dashcam, but I think narrower than a GoPro. I would have thought it good for your cars if you are actually racing, not sure about time trials. You should get something very similar to my first video on the linked thread, bearing in mind that I was not racing so not very close, I had it mounted on my bonnet. Could get similar sound too, that was an MG with a Rover K-Series engine, not sure if you still use those or is it all Ford now?

You can always zoom in a bit on playback for more "excitement", although with only 1080 resolution that is a bit limited.
 

kamkar

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The waterproof camera housing are probably tailored to that lens used, so while you most often can replace lenses then in this case the physical dimensions will have to be the same for the unit still to be waterproof.
You are right a wide angle lens make things appear further away then they are, but a lens with a less wide field of view often go pretty narrow FOV.
Most of us that also have a "zoom" camera on the windscreen use a 8 mm lens, which are a much narrower FOV in comparison, but the feel of distance are natural.
But when turning you have the looking thru straw feeling as things rush by "sideways" as you no longer have the wide field of view.

 
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Nigel

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The "metal mount" would probably work on the roll cage with a couple of jubilee clips.
You can make up a good mount fairly easily since the bit that goes around the lens barrel is removable, it fits in a decent groove and can be slid off by unscrewing the front of the lens barrel. I guess a small jubilee clip could replace it.

Edit: Unless the lens design has changed since mine was made!
 
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Dodge62

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No, it is not adjustable, and the lens can't be changed. Due to being waterproof, I believe it is irreversibly sealed.
Not a big issue really. Most people seem happy with their GoPro footage, I just personally prefer a narrower FOV. But wide is best for the primary purpose anyway as it shows more of what's going on to the sides. Interesting the Motorsport UK rules say the FOV should be 100 degrees. Not "at least 100 degrees" but 100 degrees. So I guess pretty much every camera used on every race car is illegal according to the regs!
 

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Few dashcams truly reach or exceed 135 degrees FOV diagonally. The best way to get a 'feel' for this is to look at images from a cam you know and compare them with ones from the cam you're considering.

Your waterproof requirement is going to limit you to motorcycle cams or action cams which have been designed to function as dashcams do. Not a lot to choose from in this range that do well in all regards.

One possible alternative is the old Mobius if the waterproof housings are still available. A very rugged and reliable cam, just not good at low-light recording.

Phil
 

Nigel

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Interesting the Motorsport UK rules say the FOV should be 100 degrees.
The MT1 will be close to 100 degrees horizontal field of view, the 170 will be the lens field of view, which has to be at least enough for the diagonal on the sensor and is quite likely enough for a 4:3 sensor diagonal like on a GoPro, although this one is 16:9. Unless the regulations say how to measure FOV then there is no need to worry!
 
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Dodge62

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One possible alternative is the old Mobius if the waterproof housings are still available. A very rugged and reliable cam, just not good at low-light recording.
The usual problem with waterproof housings is that they don't allow for wired power feeds. Low light isn't too much of an issue - we don't race in the dark (though just occasionally it can be heading for twilight if we've had too many delays).
 

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Indeed action cameras suck, at least on the battery front, it is also why i am asking for new cameras that use a standard 18650 battery you can replace, this way you can get 4000 / 4500 MAH which should last a couple of hours at least.
The 1000 - 1500 MAH batteries are a joke, even if i rarely run one flat the way i use my action cameras, but it would be nice to be able to go on a weekend hike with 1 battery in the case and one spare.
And in that case you might also carry a flashlight or a camp / tent light that also use 18650 batteries, so with several of them in stuff or spare, you can even put your camera up to do a cool sky lapse all night, and not having to worry.
 
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Dodge62

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Turns out the UK importer for Viofo is the same as for Innovv - and I've been talking to them for a while.

I've ordered an MT1 for testing. If it works well we'll recommend it to all our drivers. Thanks for all the help, especially @Nigel
 

Nigel

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Turns out the UK importer for Viofo is the same as for Innovv - and I've been talking to them for a while.

I've ordered an MT1 for testing. If it works well we'll recommend it to all our drivers. Thanks for all the help, especially @Nigel
Any problems, ask here, and post some video for us...

Only thing I found not completely obvious was that you do need to connect the ACC wire to power in addition to the BATT wire, otherwise it doesn't wake up and appears dead.

And I suggest you mount the recorder with the memory card slot facing at least slightly downwards, otherwise you may get a puddle of water sitting on the cover and I think it is inevitable that it will seep inside eventually. The IP rating is not for permanent submersion.

It will work with a power supply down to about 9 volts, doesn't seem very fussy, I have run mine off a USB powerbank with a cheap USB to 12 volt adaptor.


Bit disappointing that there weren't any other recommendations, but waterproof rules out nearly all cameras. There are a few other motorcycle cameras about if you need an alternative.
 

SawMaster

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Bit disappointing that there weren't any other recommendations, but waterproof rules out nearly all cameras. There are a few other motorcycle cameras about if you need an alternative.

It's a somewhat unusual situation, and cam manufacturers aren't prone to trying to market a low-volume product when equal effort can produce one which has far greater sales potential. Pure racing cams like the Waylens etal would likely be the kind of companies more prone to do something along these lines as theirs is already a specialized market niche.

My dream is seeing "semi-custom" cams made something along the lines of the "Build-a-Bear" where you have some 'base units' to choose from, then could select cam modules, cables, mounts, and parts to best suit your particular need. There could even be a "custom shop" that makes special mounts for specific installs where standard type mounts might not be the best plan. Given the ease of 3-D printing nowadays that last part wouldn't be too hard to do on this scale.

We cam always dream, for it's dreams that bring us the new and better things in life :cool:

Phil
 
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Dodge62

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Only thing I found not completely obvious was that you do need to connect the ACC wire to power in addition to the BATT wire, otherwise it doesn't wake up and appears dead.
That makes sense - the ACC wire is connected to a switched feed to turn the camera on with the ignition, but the BATT wire is unswitched and is there in case you want to manually start the camera when the ignition is off. I think it might have a "record when anything moves past the camera" which you might want to turn on when parked for security reasons, I guess.
 

SawMaster

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"Motion detect" is generally underdeveloped or unreliable in dashcams, so I wouldn't rely on it without some testing. It may or may not suit your purposes but it's worth trying just to know ;) Trying things out with all the cam's settings is worthwhile as sometimes noticeable improvements can be found for certain conditions. Viofo's default settings are usually spot-on but it's still good to know as much as possible about your equipment :cool:

Phil
 
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Dodge62

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"Motion detect" is generally underdeveloped or unreliable in dashcams, so I wouldn't rely on it without some testing.
Yeah, I have no use for that feature at all. Just mentioned it as it seemed like a good reason to have separate switched and unswitched power supplies. But thanks for the comments.
 

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Yeah, I have no use for that feature at all. Just mentioned it as it seemed like a good reason to have separate switched and unswitched power supplies. But thanks for the comments.
There is no parking mode on the MT1, so it is not obvious what the function of the ACC wire is.

I think it is used because the power supply on some motorbikes is not very reliable and suffers from voltage drops etc. The ACC wire gives an easy way to be sure the engine is on or off, and not just temporally at low voltage while the engine is started, or because the head lights were turned on and the horn used with not enough engine rpm.
 
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