Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dash Cams to the Rescue: HP Car Camcorder f200 review

An increasing number of motorists in the UK are installing in-car dashboard cameras or dash cams, as they are more popularly known. The mini video cams are fixed discretely on the windscreen of your vehicle. The main reason is the rise of the so-called "crash-for-cash" scams.

There are gangs who stage fake accidents in order to make fraudulent insurance claims. Their modus-operandi is to slam on their brakes suddenly and causing the vehicle behind to crash into them. The Insurance Fraud Bureau estimates that the annual cost of these fraud cases amount to around £392 million (1). This highlights the importance of this issue and it is no wonder that many van owners and operators have also started to install dash cams in their fleet of vehicles. In the event of an accident, the accurate recordings of the events can prove useful in legal proceedings and insurance claims.

Another possible benefit of installing these cams is that the drivers would probably drive more responsibly as they are aware that the cams are running and recording their entire journey as well. Thus, they can encourage safer driving.

On the other hand, you may want to just record the beautiful landscape on a trip. I wish I had one during our amazing driving trip to the Scottish highlands and the Isle of Skye last Easter.

There are a range of dash cams out there with prices ranging from around £10 to over £100. Their quality and features vary widely as well. Anyway, I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to review the HP Car Camcorder f200. The camera is quite small and discreetly fits behind the mirror. However, the power cord dangling down was quite annoying and I may have to run it along the top of the windscreen.

The camera supports micro SDHC cards up to 32GB. However, the spare card I had at home was only 8GBs. It has a 2.4" LCD Color TFT screen at the back which helps to position the camera and is surprisingly clear. I plugged the power cord in and started playing around with the menu which was quite easy to navigate.

First of all I changed the dates and time and then formatted the memory card. I then realised that it had started recording. The camera allows for total hands free operation as you can set the camera to start recording as soon as it detects motion. It can also be set to start recording automatically when it detects a collision or sudden braking situation. You can select the sensitivity but I think that it defeats the whole purpose as you would want to see the events leading up to an accident as well - before the collision actually happens. Fortunately, I did not get the chance to test the automatic collision recording feature and I hope it remains that way.

I recorded a recent trip to my son's school. The camera has a wide angle fixed focus lens F2.4 and records in full HD (1920 x 1080) including voice recording. It also has a built in 3-Axis gyro force sensor which keeps the images steady even on bumpy Coventry side roads.

On playing back the video on our TV, we found that the quality of the video was really good. I could easily read the car number plates and the distant landmarks we passed on the road were really clear. Check out the short video which I uploaded on YouTube.

I definitely recommend this camera. Prices of the cam varies widely depending on the online retailer, from £85.50 to £114.54.

This review was sponsored by Tesco Compare van insurance

Related Link: Insurance Fraud Bureau

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