The invention of reverse cameras is one of the most important automotive innovations in recent years. Also known as backup cameras, it is one accessory we feel at the start you’d be like, “do I really need it?”. Then, once you start to use it, this just becomes part of everyday driving (mainly in backing up, obviously). And when you jump back in a car without one, you will miss it!
However, reverse cameras do not just guide you when you park your car. They also add another layer of safety and convenience to your driving experience – whether you own a sedan, a mid-size vehicle (i.e. 4WD, SUV), a van, a truck, or if you are towing a caravan or trailer.
And with the technology on reverse cameras rolling out quickly in the last few years, choosing which is best for your vehicle can be a tough task, more so now than before. We, at Vhedia, will try today to help you navigate through all the information on the reverse camera. And in the end, we hope you get to decide what is the best product for your vehicle.
What is the best reverse camera for me?
There is no direct way to answer this. It all depends on your (backup camera) needs and your vehicle.
Let me explain.
The reverse camera functions within an entire rear-view system – meaning it is not just the camera that you install, but also the wiring and the monitor to output your feed. In this system, you have three components:
1. The Camera: The part that captures the images from the back of your vehicle. Most reverse cameras are installed on the area around the license plate or on the rear bumper area.
2. The Monitor: The part that displays the images from the camera. This can be mounted on your dash as an external monitor, attached to your rear-view mirror, or integrated into your head unit display. Reverse cameras connected to a phone app, meanwhile, show the feed on your mobile phone.
3. The Wiring or Transmitter: The part that connects the camera to your monitor, and your rearview system to the power source (usually using the car’s power or reverse lights power). There are Wireless systems that do not need cables so they can be installed faster.
Aftermarket vs OEM screen and cameras
Newer cars already have an OEM screen as part of the entertainment system of the vehicle. And most likely, a reverse camera comes installed with this. If there is none (or if you’re not satisfied with the OEM reverse camera included), then you just need to purchase an aftermarket reverse camera and a wiring kit that is compatible with the OEM screen.
These are different for each model and year of the car so if this is something you are after please get in touch with us and we should be able to help you out.
Older cars, base models of newer cars, or lower-priced vehicles may need to install a new head unit to accommodate a new touchscreen monitor and a reverse camera. You can also run an external monitor on your rearview mirror or on your dashboard.
An aftermarket Vhedia head unit is the best option, though. You do the same work of setting up the connections and power source but without the need to purchase another monitor to complete the system. And installing head units with our plug-and-play cables makes it a job that anyone can do. We offer quality head units for almost all popular car brands in Australia.
Wireless vs Wired Reverse Cameras
Aside from considering what type of screen and camera you’ll use, the connection to be utilised needs to be well-thought-out.
Wired reverse cameras are more “traditional”, in that you connect the backup camera to your screen via cables and cords running down and around your car, much like other car accessories. Mounted screens, head units and rear-view mirror cameras are common wired reverse camera display systems.
One of the main advantages of this system is the stability of the connection. However, they do take longer to install as you need to run wires down your door trim or under the car from the camera to the head unit or monitor.
You can often see wireless reverse cameras on bigger vehicles like trucks and trailers. Can you imagine doing the wiring plan for these vehicles? How about installing the system itself? In these situations, you can really appreciate Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology!
Still, quality wireless units will set you back more. Meanwhile, lower-priced units may encounter issues with signal range and video quality. You may also experience bad quality connections and choppy feeds that will drop in and out from time to time for the latter. At Vhedia, we do sell some higher-end (yet still affordable) wireless units, so you do not get these issues.
Explaining AHD, CCD, and CMOS Reverse Cameras
AHD or Analog High Definition technology on cameras and monitors has become the new norm in rear-view systems, as it has been on other camera systems such as CCTVs and dash cameras. From the traditional CVBS or Composite Video Baseband Signal videos (more commonly known as SD or standard definition), AHD camera systems offer better resolution, improved low-light, and multi-light visibility, and improved colour noise on its image outputs.
AHD reverse camera systems utilise image sensors to produce these images. These sensors can be CCD or CMOS. And they convert light into electronic signals in differing ways to turn them into the video feed you see.
The older CCD (or Charged Coupling Device) reverse camera turns analog light into digital pixels using its built-in processing chip. It is more sensitive to light, and thus can produce less grainy (less image noise) and better-quality images. However, they are known to be more expensive due to the special manufacturing process they go through to be produced.
CMOS (or Complementary Meta Oxide Semiconductor) image sensors on reverse cameras, on the other hand, use entirely digital technology to transform light into pixels. They consume less power than their CCD counterpart and are easier to produce. Thus, CMOS backup cameras are cheaper and more accessible. However, these sensors require more light to produce high-quality images and video feed, making it less reliable in dark areas or during night time.
CCD reverse cameras still are the choice for most drivers due to the quality of the images they produce. However, the gap between the two has become closer in recent years. And with more people opting for the more budget-friendly alternatives, we expect a continuous surge in CMOS backup cameras in the future.
Night view on Reverse cameras
It is not just in the daytime that you need backup cameras. You might actually need it more at night or when you’re in a low-light area (e.g. indoor parking, tunnel). During these situations, images from older reverse cameras may look hazy or of bad quality.
Newer and more advanced cameras employ additional LED or infrared lights to capture better images for you. These lights illuminate the entire field of view where you’re backing up, thus giving you a clearer picture of the area. For units that do not have LEDs, no need to worry, they come equipped with infrared vision technology for night view purposes.
Both of these options work well, but if you need a clear long-range vision for night backing like on trucks and buses, we suggest a LED unit.
Onscreen Parking Guide Lines
Most reverse cameras today come with parking guidelines that appear on your screen. These lines guide you on the distance of your vehicle vis-à-vis another vehicle, your trailer, another obstacle. These are up to you if you turn them on or off but they do give you a relation for how far something is away from your car.
Caravan, Trucks, Vans, Reverse Cameras? Can I run two, three, five cameras?
One of the most challenging vehicles to manoeuvre is a caravan. Imagine, it’s already a task to keep a steady forward drive and to turn the vehicle. What more, backing it up and being able to see behind you when you are driving.
That is why caravan reverse cameras are a welcome development to owners who have struggled with their vehicles for quite some time.
Backup cameras for caravans, trailers, Vans are mostly the same for other vehicles. However, if you are to buy a reverse camera system yourself, consider the following:
- Durability – Must be made of strong, weather-resistant material considering the brutal Australian weather.
- Easy to Set up – You’re looking for convenience and ease of use here.
- Image Quality – What good is a camera made for safety when the images produced are blurred or unclear.
- Price – Budget is always a consideration. However, also look at the overall quality. If you need to replace your unit as the quality is bad then you’re better off buying one that will give you what you need from the start/
- Number of Cameras – You may need to install a camera on your caravan and on your car as well to ensure better visibility and thus a safer drive. Good to know that there are systems in the market that come with two or more cameras. Of course, they are more expensive and need more effort to install.
Also, you most likely already have enough going on top of your dashboard. If you want to install more, you really want to consider putting your feed output on the rearview mirror or on the head unit.
How to install a reverse camera?
The difficulty in installing a reverse camera depends on if it is wired or wireless. Wireless is much quicker as there is no need to run wires. Still, the steps are mostly similar:
- Make sure the vehicle is turned off and the battery is disconnected.
- Locate where you would install the camera. Mark where the wires would go through. You may need to remove the license plate, interior panel, and other car parts that may obstruct or may be damaged.
- Drill a hole on the mark you made. This should be large enough to fit the wiring and the rubber grommet that will protect the wires. Or, you may also find a hole that may already be there that you can use. For example the wires from the reverse lights or other cables.
- Place the rubber grommet in the hole, then insert the wires.
- Find the two (2) reverse light wires (you may consult your car’s manual for this).
- Strip a part of each wire and split the copper wire using a thin tool (e.g. Flathead screwdriver). You can use piggyback connections to make this easier.
- Attach your camera’s wire onto the exposed reverse light wire. Cover with electrical tape to protect the connection or heat shrink or a pre-made connector. Make sure you fuse together the positive wires (red wires) and the negative wires (black wires).
- Run the wiring along the car flooring or through the headliner towards the monitor. You may need to remove or detach trim pieces, carpeting, or door rubber. Ideally, the wires should run discreetly along the vehicle. Avoid exposing them as they may wear easier over time or be damaged unnecessarily.
- Mount the camera monitor on your dash or rear-view mirror. Or connect the wires into the back of your head unit.
- Your main power source here would either be the fuse box (found below the steering wheel), the head unit, or above the mirror. Run the wiring appropriately towards your chosen power source.
- If you choose the fuse box, you may need a fuse tap (found in most hardware store) to connect your monitor power cable.
- Or, if you plan to connect to the head unit or the wiring above the mirror, you may use a multimeter to look for the positive and negative wires before splicing the wires together.
- Connect the monitor to the wiring from the camera and to the chosen power source.
- The ideal area to mount the backup camera is at the middle of the trunk area, right above the license plate.
- Once you securely installed the camera, reattach the license plates, trim panels, and everything else you removed.
- Reconnect the batteries, and start the car.
- Turn on the camera and monitor. Put the car in reverse. See if the system works. Readjust the camera angle accordingly. If it doesn’t work, revisit the connections and repeat the previous steps.
- Test it out on the road to see the difference.
How much does it cost to install a reverse camera?
With the prevalence of cheaper imports and the speed of technology development, the price of reverse cameras has gone down significantly in the past years. Depending on if it is a car or truck camera the prices will range from $25 to $300. Anything below $25 should be avoided as it will have low-quality components. If you are going to spend the time installing it might as well install a good one.
In addition, labour cost to install one can range from 100 to 150 dollars, depending on the size of the vehicle and the potential complexity of the task.
However, if you follow our step-by-step guide above, you can do the installation yourself and save a huge chunk of change in return. It can be tricky, especially the electrical part, but this is a DIY project that will be all worth it for you and your vehicle.
Our Final Word
When a rear-view mirror isn’t just cutting it, especially for bigger vehicles and newbie drivers, the reverse camera came to the rescue. It provided a better driver’s backup view and saved everyone from the inconvenience of bumps, repairs, delays, parking our vehicles, and making it easier to hitch up to your caravan or trailer.
We can say with confidence that it is a worthwhile investment that will not just save you dollars on repairs, but also ensure the safety of you and your passengers.
Just make sure you purchase a quality unit from a trusted seller, and you’ll be just fine!