While dash cams are clearly designed to increase security and provide the user with some reassurance in case something happens on the road, some consumers don’t like the idea of having an expensive bit of kit always on show in their windscreen. RAC & ProofCam think they have the answer with their new RAC 03 dash cam – a camera that mounts directly to (and in effect replaces) your rear view mirror.
First impressions are great – the RAC 03 certainly looks impressive if a little large. In terms of size, it’s pretty similar to the panoramic mirror add ons you can purchase from car accessory stores. Presumably, there’s not a great deal they can do about the size as the camera lens of course has to poke out the side of your existing mirror and can’t just sit on top. Aside from the sheer size of the product though, it feels like a good quality, well screwed together item, justifying its £159.99 RRP in terms of outright build quality. It certainly doesn’t feel cheap like some rivals do.
The mirror part of the camera features a built in screen, which looks incredibly cool and is sure to please any gadget fan. There are also four physical buttons located in the centre of the bottom bezel for navigating the menus. On the top edge of the device you can find a power button (not usually needed as the device will power automatically with ignition), the all important micro SD card slot, a micro USB port and an HD out port. The back of the unit features the camera lens and the rubber straps that are used to attach the device to your rear view mirror. Cleverly, the camera lens also has a small amount of adjustment in it to allow you to compensate for the positioning of your rear view mirror. Fitting the device to your rear view mirror is nice and easy, with the large rubber straps holding the camera very securely.
The RAC 03 comes complete with pretty much all of the features you would expect from a high end dash cam. Naturally, videos are all recorded in full HD 1080p by default, with other options available. Interestingly, the camera does actually record to a slightly higher “super HD” resolution of 1296p or 2304 x 1296, though personally it’s probably worth leaving it at 1080p to fit more footage on the card, as 1080p is generally considered perfectly good anyway. RAC and ProofCam are also keen to point out that this camera features built in GPS too – apparently a world first for a dash cam that fits onto the rear view mirror. As well as the obvious uses of monitoring your speed and map position, RAC and ProofCam have also seen fit to include lifetime safety camera alerts which is a nice touch and not something all manufacturers seem to include. There’s also a clever forward collision warning system and a lane departure warning system, though I found these a little irritating in real world use and not all that necessary really. It’s nice to have the option though.
Image quality is very good as you would expect from a high end dash cam at this price point. The sensor appears to let plenty of light in and there is also the option to turn on HDR mode on which can show a lot more detail in certain lighting situations. The feature works in exactly the same way as the equivalent feature on most modern smartphones. The only criticism I would make in terms of image quality, and this doesn’t really have to do with the camera, is that I found it was prone to showing a lot of image shake and vibration. This is clearly more due to the way the camera mounts to the mirror, and is quite a large item. This style of mount doesn’t appear to be quite as forgiving when it comes to the UK’s pothole ridden as say a traditional windscreen suction mount, but it’s also probably partly my fault for testing it in a 12 year old Japanese roadster with lowered suspension! Take a look at our sample footage below and see what you think. The other thing to consider is that if you have an auto dimming rear view mirror in your car, this feature probably won’t work with this camera installed as the new mirror will likely block the sensor.
For those of you wondering, the mirror’s built in screen is pleasantly crisp and bright, and of course turns itself off after a few seconds to enable you to make full use of the mirror while driving. The screen does also make an appearance every time it detects that you’re approaching a speed camera too, and will display a visual warning along with an audible “bing”.
The supplied software on ProofCam’s website is fairly basic (perhaps a little dated even) but then sometimes less is more and to be honest the software works very well. As you can see in the screenshot below, all the basic information is covered, along with a MPH/KMH speedo and a Google maps read out for the location of the footage. All in all it does the job perfectly well for reviewing footage, taking screen shots and so on.
Proofcam are quite generous in terms of the in-the-box accessories, certainly compared to some dash cam manufacturers anyway, and thoughtfully include an 8GB micro SD card in the package. While 8gb isn’t a great deal these days (the device supports up to 64gb), it’s enough to get you started and the dash cam will loop and erase old footage anyway unless it is protected. The usual 12v power lead is also included along with a micro USB cable for connecting it to a computer, and two spare “rubber bands” for the mirror mounting in case the originals break – thoughtful.
The RAC 03 dash cam is a great looking bit of kit, comes with lots of nice features and is capable of capturing some fantastic footage. Whether or not you should buy one probably depends on a few factors and I’d encourage you to try one in your car first (retailer permitting). The reason for this is simply that the device is very large so you definitely need to make sure you’re comfortable with it in your windscreen before committing. There’s also the point I made earlier about auto dimming rear view mirrors that’s worth taking into consideration, though this will be the same for any dash cam of this type that covers the mirror. The trade off with this type of camera is the size, and if you’re comfortable with the sheer size of it (and I suspect it will suit larger cars just fine) then for the £159.99 RRP you’re getting a really capable bit of kit. So can we recommend this dash cam? Absolutely, but just make sure you’re comfortable with it and it suits your car first.
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