Name: Proofcam RAC 03
Type: Rearview Mirror Video Dashcam
Specs: Click here for full specs
British company Proofcam manufactures a wide range of dashcams, including several models for vehicle breakdown service, the RAC. Here we look at the flagship model in the RAC range, the RAC 03. Unlike most dashcams which attach to the windscreen, this one fits over the top of your existing rearview mirror and features a front facing camera.
Dash for dashcams
Dashcam sales are accelerating fast. A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a guy from Halfords at the retailer’s Spring/Summer launch who told me they had seen an 800 per cent increase in sales over the last 12 months. That’s quite incredible.
A large reason for their growing popularity it seems is protection. Drivers, especially older drivers, are becoming more aware of insurance scams through articles in papers and online.
These include ‘flash for cash’ scams where a driver will flash you to let you turn in front of him or her, only to then plough into the side of you and claim the insurance, insisting they never flashed to let you go in the first place!
Saga magazine which is aimed at the elderly recently wrote about the phenomenon here and it’s clear that older drivers are rushing to protect themselves with these latest, affordable gadgets which will film video footage every time you get in the car.
Some dashcams boast two cameras – one front facing and one rear facing to film out the back of the window – but the RAC 03 has just one for filming out of the front of the car.
Another reason why people invest in dashcams, it seems, is that several insurance companies will offer you money off your car insurance if you have one installed because any footage you do shoot could be used as evidence against another insurance company. All too often insurance companies end up sharing the liability in cases between two drivers simply because there is no evidence one way or another.
Setting up the dashcam
Whereas the vast majority of the dashcams attach to the windscreen, which obviously makes them a potential target for thieves, the beauty of this Proofcam model is that it is designed to fit over the top of your existing rearview mirror.
It’s a very long flat design which makes it suitable for most designs but it may not fit all cars so it’s worth checking before you buy. It fitted over the rear view mirror on my Mercedes C200 OK using the expandable elastic clips supplied, but did require a bit of repositioning in order to make sure that the front facing camera wasn’t obscured by the existing rear view mirror.
Another problem I faced was that there wasn’t enough room at the top of the dashcam to plug in the power lead that runs from the device into the cigarette lighter. This meant that I needed to use a different shaped lead which is available from Proofcam as an an optional extra.
Although it’s possible to run the lead from the device directly into the cigarette lighter on the dashboard a far neater and more discreet solution is to tuck the lead into the roof of the car and run it around the side of the vehicle. Alternatively Proofcam has a deal with a professional installer who will do it for you, albeit for an additional charge.
Supplied with the dashcam is an 8GB MicroSD card which slots into the top of the device (like most Micro SD cards this is rather fiddly to put in). Alternatively you can insert up to a 64GB Micro SD card which can obviously hold more video footage.
The dashcam stores video footage on a loop in 1, 3 or 5 minute loops (you can choose which one you want) wiping off the old footage as the card becomes full.
Various video resolutions can be set ranging from 1280 x 720 pixels to 2560 x 1080 pixels. Video images can be displayed on the built in 4.3 inch TFT LCD display or on your computer (PC/Mac) using the Dashcam viewer software (available to download from here).
Recording the road
The dashcam is designed in a way that it automatically switches on as soon as it detects a signal from the car’s electrical system via the cigarette lighter. An image is displayed on the mirrored screen for a brief period before this switches off so that you can see the road behind you using the dashcam as a rearview mirror. This takes a little bit of getting used to as it’s quite a bit darker than a standard rearview mirror.
A solid red light shows that the dashcam is charging while a flashing blue light indicates that footage is being recorded onto the MicroSD card. Unfortunately the display isn’t touch screen, but there are four buttons underneath the display where you can access menus for switching the microphone on/off, adjusting video resolution etc (obviously you can’t do any of this while driving).
Another thing to note is that the dashcam doesn’t hold its charge for very long so if you disconnect it from the cigarette lighter in order to charge another device such as a mobile phone or tablet it will stop recording after a few minutes.
Thanks to built in GPS, the dashcam is able to monitor your vehicle’s speed and you can set a speed limit manually between 20mph and 70mph so that if the set speed is exceeded a warning will sound. Also on board is a speed camera warning service which Proofcam claims will alert you to the presence of several different kinds of speed camera including Static, SPECS (average speed cameras) and Redlight cameras. It also contains a database of mobile camera locations thanks to the users of PocketGPSWorld.com.
For those who are worried about their car being bashed in a car park there’s also a Parking Monitor function. Using this mode it’s possible to record collisions even when the vehicle is switched off and parked. In this mode, the file is also automatically kept safe so it can’t be recorded over. However, it’s not possible to capture the footage immediately before the collision. Nor will it capture footage if the car is hit from behind as the camera provided is front facing only.
Other features include Forward Collision and Lane Diversion Warning Systems (FCWS and LDWS) which sound an alarm in advance of either a possible forward collision or a diversion from one lane to the next. However, we didn’t test out either of those features for this evaluation.
Playing back videos and photos
Like most dashcams at present, footage is stored on a MicroSD card rather than being transmitted wirelessly via your smartphone. As a result playback isn’t the most straightforward of processes.
One way of viewing what’s been shot is to take the MicroSD card out of the device and put it in a Micro SD to SD card adaptor in your computer. Alternatively you can connect the dashcam to your computer (Mac or PC) via the USB lead or watch the footage via the device itself (though of course you will need to connect it to your computer if you want to send it via email to an insurance company.)
It’s also possible to hook up the dashcam to your TV set via a Micro HDMI cable (not supplied) if you want to recreate your own version of TV shows like Police Interceptors where they use real dashcam footage!
Using the Dashcam viewer software (which you can download from Proofcam’s website here: http://proofcam.com/product-resources/), it’s also possible to analyse the footage you have shot. However, Mac users may have to change their security settings in order to open the software as it comes from a developer which is unknown to Apple!
Importing the footage into the Dashcam Viewer software not only allows you to see it within the window but also to add overlays which may be useful either to yourself or an insurance company. This includes precise GPS data, a speedometer and even more data (G-Forces, Altitude etc) which would probably only be useful to a Formula 1 team!
Although setting up the Proofcam RAC 03 dashcam was a little tricky, largely because of having to attach it over the existing rearview mirror, once it was set up performance was very good.
Video resolution in 1920 x 1080 mode was crystal clear when played through the computer (I will upload some YouTube footage in the next few days). The only slight problem we experienced is that the dashcam didn’t always recognise the speed cameras near where I lived in North London.
While sometimes it would warn me when were approaching a speed camera with a warning sound as well as flashing up the speed limit on the screen, on a few occasions it seemed to miss the cameras completely.
Also it would be useful to have a wireless feature that enables you to transfer five minutes of video footage into the cloud in order to save having to mess around with cables or with MicroSD cards!
There’s no doubt that dashcams are becoming increasingly popular, especially among older people who are worried about ‘flash for cash’ scams or just wanting to save a few pounds on their car insurance. For those who want the added security of not having a conventional looking camera attached to their windscreen, the Proofcam RAC 03 is a great stealth device, doubling up as a large rear view mirror. If you get the cabling professionally installed too – something we would definitely recommend – then you wouldn’t even be able to tell there was a dashcam installed in the car at all. Video quality is very good and there are plenty of useful features to suit different types of drivers, including those who want to capture footage if a car in front reverses into them in a car park as well as those who are worried about an accident on the open road.