Mini 0801 Dashcam

Dashcams have become very popular in recent times. They were largely responsible for all the good footage of the recent Russian meteorite. The main reason for using one is capture video evidence in the event of an accident or crash.

Having built our own Raspberry Pi dashcam, we realised we need something with a better form factor and lower profile installation.

Mini 0801 Dashcam
The camera comes in two parts. The main body slides on to the base, which is stuck to the windscreen or some other part of your car. We bought ours from Amazon.

If you buy the GPS version, then the GPS module is inside the base. The GPS provides the ability to have your speed printed onto the captured video but it can only be displayed in kph and not mph. This device uses an Ambarella A2S60 processor.

Mini 0801 dashcam front
The main housing rotates on a ratchet, so you can adjust how far the camera points up or down. There is no side to side movement though.

We are not going to go into the features and settings in a huge amount of detail because this video provides an excellent overview of this dashcam:

Samsung 32GB class 6 micro-SD card
We went for a big 32GB micro-SD card and bought ours from Amazon. The manual says the camera needs a class 4 card and might not work with class 10 cards, so we went for class 6 to be safe. It seems to work well.

Installation

The mounting base with the GPS receiver built into it has another micro-USB power socket but we wanted to mount this base flush to the mirror housing in our car. Fortunately, either of the power ports can be used to power both the camera and the GPS.

90 degree USB lead
We then found that the supplied power lead USB plug would foul the windscreen, when we positioned the camera where we wanted it. This then meant we couldn't rotate it to get the desired view. To overcome this limitation we bought another USB lead with a 90° power plug. I bought one from Amazon.

Using this lead means the camera can now be used with any standard in-car USB power supply or charger plugged into a cigarette socket. This is the easiest way to connect the camera to power that is switched via the ignition switch. We managed to find a way to run the power cable in behind the roof lining all the way around to the passenger door and then behind the rubber door seal, through into the glove box. The cable is completely hidden from view, except where it leaves the camera.

PSU
To avoid having any trailing wires and using up the car cigarette socket on the dash, we have wired a dedicated USB dc-dc power unit into the switched ignition line and this sits out of sight, within the glovebox.

We don't recommend buying things like this from eBay but, these have proved to be very good quality and we use them with Raspberry Pi computers and other devices. Don't attempt this unless you are comfortable connecting into the car wiring. You can do a lot of damage.

Drivers view
This is the view from the drivers seat. I can see a small part of the screen, which switches off after a configurable delay. I can also see the flashing blue light, which lets me know the device is recording. This is not distracting as it is quite dim. I can also see and reach the 3 main control buttons if need be.

Passengers view
This is the view from the passenger seat. You can't really see it at all.

View from below
This is the view from below, which better shows the installation.

View from outside
This camera is quite hard to spot from outside the vehicle. It doesn't stick out from the rear-view mirror so the silhouette is the same from in front or from behind the car.

Settings

Settings are accessed by a long press of Menu button whilst in non-recording mode. The manual and the actual settings displayed are slightly different but we have used the following settings:

  • Loop setting = 5 minutes.
  • Video resolution = Full HD
  • Photo size = 4MB
  • Sharpness = standard
  • Contrast = standard
  • Flicker = 50Hz
  • Power off screen = 1 min
  • Video record mode = video + audio
  • G-sensor = 2G
  • Beep sound = Low
  • USB mode = Mass storage
  • Choose card = Outer

Our camera was running firmware version = 20130922.

In Use

The camera automatically starts up with the display on and starts recording video. The dual-colour indicator light provide information on the camera state. The red light indicates charging. The steady blue light indicates the camera is in stand-by and the blue light flashes when recording. Then the battery is both charging and recording, it appears to flash purple (red + blue) and red.

Still Photos

In the settings it is possible to select the resolution of captured still images. These are taken by a long press of the 'up' button. This feature would be useful if involved in an accident, to capture images of damage and other things outside of the car.

Reset

We have not had to do it yet but, a long press of power button will reset the device.

Summary

To test how subtle the installation is, I didn't tell my wife the camera is installed. From the passenger seat it is not visible and hidden behind the mirror and housing. She still hasn't noticed that it is in the car.

The manual is OK but it has some poor English descriptions and some features described are not present in the settings. Some also have different options and values.

It would be nice if you could turn all the sounds off but, there is no option to do this.

So far, the device has performed really well. It has been 'fit and forget', which was what we were aiming for in this car. It doesn't run hot and just works in the background until needed.

Having a camera in your car capturing everything you do, certainly makes you think more about your own driving style. One other useful feature that we hadn't considered before is that the camera provides a record of the cars you have parked between in a car park. Thankfully, this hasn't been required yet.

Updates

I don't generally get bothered by poor driving around around me. I've captured many people running red lights, driving whilst on phones, doing makeup in the rear-view mirror and many other stupid things. Very rarely, I'm motivated enough to give them a mention here:

8th Jan 2014

Captured some stunningly bad driving today as a white van approached a junction onto the road I was on and failed to both look and stop, before pulling out in front of me. The footage wasn't quite good enough to capture the license plate (from almost side on) but, I captured the driver and company details on the side of the van very clearly. Stopped with only a few inches to spare.

14th May 2014

Over the last few months, I noticed the camera would stop recording occasionally. When I looked at the screen it had a 'card IO error' message on it. I tried formatting the micro-SD card and this fixed it temporarily. This month though, it would not start recording at all. It looks like the micro-SD card has failed. I've swapped it over for another one and all seems to be working well again. The Samsung 32GB micro-SD card is going back to the supplier for a refund.

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