The first thing that caught my eye with the RAC 05 was the built in screen. Oh, that and the fact that it comes bundled with our very own CamerAlert speed camera database. At this point you might be wondering how I can review an item when I have a vested interest in it. But please rest assured that this review WILL be unbiased - partly because the speed camera integration is only a small part of the product but mainly because, well, that's just what we do.
The RAC 05 comes bundled with the following:
RAC 05 unit
10ft micro USB lead
In-car power adaptor
CD with PC software
8GB Micro SD card (newer packs have a 4GB card)
FIRST IMPRESSIONS & SET UP
The unit itself feels quite sturdy, it's all plastic but it doesn't feel cheap. The buttons also feel like they'll last a long time too and are clearly labeled (although the menu button could do with being marked as 'back' too).
The suction mount is very secure and hasn't fallen off, even a very strong pull didn't dislodge it. You attach the RAC 05 by sliding the device's grooves onto the mount and pushing it to the left. The power lead, which of very easy to route and hide because of its length, fits into the top of the unit.
This is where I have my first issues. Ideally I would mount a dashcam behind the rearview mirror but because of the screen and buttons this isn't really an option. The next best place is the bottom right of the windscreen where I'd normally put a SatNav - this allows it to be wired in and isn't in the way, although you do lose a bit of the footage due to the door pillar. It also means the 'event' button is in easy reach if you wanted to manually use it. I've also had it a bit lower down behind the rearview mirror but, for me, it limits my visibility too much - although the view from the camera is better.
The power lead is inserted at the top and in my Focus the power lead is pressed up against the window and my worry is that the pressure will damage the socket in the long run. A 90 degree micro-USB adaptor might be a worthwhile investment in this regard. Also, because the power lead is right up to the window you need to plug it in before it's attached to the mount. Now, because of the position of the device you need to have the device close to the door pillar before pushing it away onto the mount. This actually really annoyed me to begin with but, to be fair, over time it's no longer an issue. You do need to bear this in mind when you first install it though and make sure you leave enough space to the right of the mount for adding and removing!
The RAC 05 is pretty easy to set up and use for the basics, but it can be quite fiddly to get it set up to your own preferences. The buttons lack some helpful text for 'Back' and I frequently find myself pressing the wrong button in the settings menus. It's not always clear that there are extra settings available on screen for example in the video resolution settings there's nothing to signify there's a 2nd row of options (which could actually fit on the first row anyway!).
That being said, the device does give you a good range of resolutions to choose from: 2560x1080 30P (21:9), 2304x1296 30P (16:9), 1920x1080 45P (16:9), 1920x1080 30P (16:9), 1280x720 60p (16:9) and 1280x720 30p (16:9). The 2560x1080 is referred to as 'Super HD', although in the computing world, particularly with regards to monitors, is simply known as 'panoramic'. You can also adjust the video quality with 3 options: Fine (SF), Normal (F) and Economy (N). One assumes that the icons with SF, F and N weren't updated when they decides to rename Super Fine, Fine and Normal so when you look at the icon on the main display to see what quality setting you are using and you see an 'F' it means 'Normal' and not 'Fine'. The RAC 05 also includes a HDR (high dynamic range) mode which you can turn on and off at the touch of a button. This works quite well in low light conditions but you won't see any benefit of it in daylight.
The RAC 05 sports a very wide-angle view - 150° to be precise. There are no issues with focus at the extremeties and it's good tohave such a wide field of view on the footage. However, when reviewing the footage you have to remember this as it does mean that vehicles look much further away than they actually were - so if someone pulls in front of you very early on a motorway then it won't seem as dangerous when you watch it happen. This is a common 'problem' with dashcams though and not something limited to the RAC 05. I will, however, recommend using the 'Super HD' (2560x1080) resolution for the video as the wider image does a lot to reduce the amoutn of 'curve' from the wide angle lens.
A feature I like is the branding with the driver name, date and time so if you have multiple dashcams in your household it's easy to see at a glance whose footage you're viewing. You can only store one driver name though so if you want to change drivers you have to go through and change it each time - this can be a bit fiddly with just 'up' and 'down' to work through the keyboard. Strangely, all branding is removed from the screennwhen you have HDR turned on even though it's still on the final footage.
One thing I've noticed on a few occasions is that red LED lights tend to flash on the video footage - so newer traffic lights and newer cars become a little bit hypnotic to watch. Video quality is good, even in low light although the built in screen tends to make the footage look darker than it actually is.
The dash cam comes bundled with an 8GB Micro SD card which will only fit on around 60-80 minutes of 1080 (HD) footage. This can be extended slightly by using the (still adequate) 720 resolution and, of course, the Super HD will mean less footage can be saved. As with most dash cams, the RAC 05 uses a 'loop recording' method whereby once the card is full it will overwrite the older footage. So if you want to review your footage at a later date then I would recommend a much larger Micro SD card. Pressing the 'key' button will create an 'event' - a 30 second file that is stored separately and will not be overwritten. This file is made up of the 10 seconds prior to pressing the button and then the following 20 seconds - it will also be activated if the RAC 05 detects a sudden impact (such as in the event of a crash). Personally I would like to save a longer period of time for events - a minute or more before the event. If I see some dangerous driving or a crash then I would only have 10 seconds in which to hit the event button in order to ensure that footage was not overwritten - there's no way to mark any 'normal' footage to stop it being overwritten.
As mentioned earlier, I ended up putting the dashcam on the bottom right of my windscreen and so there is the possibility that you'll be distracted by the video... However, there is a useful option to turn off the display on the device after a few minutes. It also turns the screen back on when there is a speed camera alert.
Two final things worth mentioning on the general ease of use of the RAC 05 are the mute button and the record button. You can easily mute the audio recording with the touch of a button without having to delve into the settings - handy for when you don't want to record the audio from your mobile phone's handsfreeâ€¦ Pressing the 'OK' button will start or stop the recording - although it would be easier if this was labelled as such.
EXTRA FEATURES & SETTINGS
Let's face it, a dashcam is a dashcam is a dashcam. They're all pretty much the same in essence and, as is also the case with a sat nav, it's the extra bells and whistles that help a specific device to stand out. The RAC 05 has a good range of extras, some working better than others, which I'll cover briefly now.
One criticism I have is how some of these options are shown in the menu as acronyms and, as you don't get a physical instruction book, you need to hunt out the website and download the manual to see what they all mean. However, I'm a man and don't read instructions so I struggled with these for a while until I buckled - but I sometimes think that if a product requires you to refer to the manual then the UI (user interface) and/or UX (user experience) shows room for improvement.
I like the idea behind the Parking Monitor but this kind of feature is flawed, and not just on the RAC 05. The idea is you leave the camera in the car and if it detects movement it starts recording - so if someone hits the car it records the 20 or so seconds that follow. However, it will only record in front of your car, so if the impact is caused anywhere else around the vehicle then it won't be recorded. On the RAC 05 the parking monitor only works when it is running on battery - and the internal battery isn't that great if I'm honest, providing around 5-10 minutes of recording at the very most. The other downside of this mode is that when you remove the camera and put it in your jacket pocket you quickly fill up the memory card and find you can't record any more footage... It also beeps a lot to tell you it's dark! I quickly turned off the parking monitor option after spending 15 minutes deleting footage of the inside of my jacket pocket to free up space on the memory card.
Being able to use the RAC 05 as a still camera is a good idea and means you can take photos of your vehicle etc in the event of an accident - admittedly most people would have a smartphone, but it's still a useful feature and nice addition.
The various warning features are, in my opinion, slightly annoying and not that useful in real life. Let me explain: all the warnings whether it's for speed cameras, lane diversion, low light or the others give an audible 'bong' - it's not a very loud bong and it's the same regardless of the warning. Aside from the speed cameras, which I'll cover later, you just get some red text flashing up briefly to say 'low light warning' etc and, without any sort of highlight, it is hard to actually see what you've been warned about if you were lucky enough to hear the bong. If you display is turned off then you just get the 'bong' - the screen doesn't switch back on. This can then result in what I have dubbed 'phantom bongs' - you're warned about something but no idea what so you turn the screen on and there's nothing being displayed. A useful update would be to have spoken alerts such as 'low light' or 'lane diversion'.
The LDWS (the handy acronym for lane diversion warning system) is great in theory but so far I've been unable to get it to work. You need to set up the RAC 05 to set a line for the horizon and a line for the front of your car (i.e. you set tell the device where the road itself is most likely to be). It's a good idea for a safety feature but it could be better executed; one downside being that it doesn't work when you have HDR activated.
As I've already mentioned, the RAC 05 (and other RAC Dashcams) use our CamerAlert Speed Camera Database and offer free updates to their users. Updates are published fortnightly and are available from them directly via http://proofcam.com/product-resources/ - simply copy the file to your SD card, reboot, confirm that you want to 'Update Edog' and then you're done. Again, not the most user-friendly terminology but that's how you update the speed cameras.
The RAC 05 makes use of directional speed camera alerts, so you are only warned of cameras that affect your direction of travel. When going through average speed camera zones you are shown your average speed on the screen too. All alerts show two blocks of information - the left shows the camera type and distance to it and the right shows the speed limit and your current speed. As for the audible warnings, the RAC provides a simple 'bing-bong' and no form of spoken alerts. Although, because the screen will switch back on with speed camera warnings, it's easy enough to see the details of the upcoming camera - another benefit of having the device in a place where you can see it. All alerts, regardless of speed, are given around 450m in advance - at up to 40mph this is fine but is very short notice for 70mph cameras on the motorway.
Software is available for both Windows (7,8,10; 32/64 bit) and Mac OSX (10.8.5 Mountain Lion and higher) and can be downloaded from http://proofcam.com/product-resources/. I've had a lot of trouble with the Windows version of the software with it regularly freezing when playing videos back. This isn't ideal when you want to see your location on the map etc. The Mac version is slightly better. Both work in a similar way - you select a folder of footage (as opposed to a single file) and the software loads the whole lot in one go - so if you have a lot of footage in the folder then it has a lot to load. The reason it does this is that the map shows all the locations of where you have driven and you can then click on a location for it to show that footage. This is useful if you recall the location of a particular event and means you don't have to work through a lot of footage to find it. Your processor will take a rather large hit though! ProofCam are, however, currently working on new versions of the software for both Windows (64-bit only) and Mac.
All in all the RAC 05 is a good device with some useful features. I would hope that some of the issues mentioned could be corrected in a future firmware release, the desktop software could definitely be improved though! Video quality is good across a range of lighting and weather conditions as well as in the different resolutions. The RAC 05 is small enough to slip into your pocket if you don't want to leave it in the car and should be easy enough to use for most people.
I wonder why they don't make it with the power connection that connects when you slide it on, rather than having the pain a separate cable to connect/disconnect. Only needs two slide connectors on the mount. That is as well as the ubiquitous Mini/Micro USB skt.
Posted by MaFt on Thu Mar 10, 2016 2:35 pm
New software is, by all accounts, in the works - 64-bit only though.
Posted by Bratters on Fri Mar 11, 2016 9:16 am
Sureley having the video visible while driving is illegal. I used to drive lorries with reversing cameras and they would only work when reversing for this reason.
Posted by NatashaProofCam on Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:20 pm
Thank you for the impartial review MaFt. A very interesting read.
I'm looking at all of your points now and the additional comments (thank you).
We've not sold the RAC 05 with a 4GB card to my knowledge.
May I also ask what computer you used to test the dash cam viewer?
Posted by fthompson on Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:20 pm
I bought the new RAC 03 rear view mirror the in power socket being on the top when the power lead is inserted it sticks up fairly high and fouls the head lining,ok fo me. But when my wife adjusts the mirror to suit her position. It very difficult to get the mirror right due to the power plug. So I invested in right angled connector 90 deg. This has solved the problem this adapter from eBay 0.99p for two post free. Well worth the weeks wait I. The post
Posted by taits on Fri Mar 11, 2016 12:35 pm
Bundled with it seems two different capaciteis depending on when the product was made, either a 8gb or a 4gb card...
Not bad for short trips.
No mention of sd card capacity cam will actually accept however.
Posted by gazza70 on Mon Mar 14, 2016 10:01 am
I was looking at buying this because of all the inbuilt features it has, but after reading the review I'm not so sure and will do some more looking around at the competition.
One of the things that is holding me back about buying one if these is that proofcam would drop PGPSW camera database sometime in the future, I bought an inforad detector a few years ago and they used PGPSW database for along time however that was until they decided to drop it and do there own database which is a waste of time,
Posted by MaFt on Wed Mar 16, 2016 1:54 pm
We've not sold the RAC 05 with a 4GB card to my knowledge.
May I also ask what computer you used to test the dash cam viewer?
I'm sure I read in one of the manuals that newer devices may come with a smaller card... I can't find it now though :/
As for the computer, it's a 9yr old, intel dual-core, 4gb ram (3.2gb useable) running 32-bit Windows 8.1.
The Mac version of the software was better but still quite a system drain!
Posted by MichaelEvans on Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:21 am
I've had a RoadHawk RH2 since 2011. It cost me £300 then. One of the mistakes I've made in life. In the following years I've bought 3 dirt cheap £30-ish ones. The Roadhawk video quality is barely, if at all, better than any of the cheap ones. I've tried them side by side and there's nothing in it. None of them can resolve a moving car number plate [stationary, car immediately in front only - then it's gone]. As far as I'm concerned any camera that cannot read a number plate is effectively useless so it's a waste of money paying more than around £30 for the cheapest one. Unless you really want GPS which will be of limited use in a crash situation.
A couple of years ago I had need to submit a recording to the police regarding a dangerous driver. I was running both the Roadhawk and a cheap one at the same time. It was night time. Neither resolved the number plate but I was able to get it myself when I caught up with the car. Comparing the 2 recordings, I eventually submitted that from the cheap camera as being the better.
I've read countless reviews where they praise the video quality, HD resolution etc. yet when it comes to the test footage there are still no visible plates.
This review makes no mention of plate resolution so it's down to watching the recordings. No visible number plates. Any chance of seeing one as a car passes is eliminated by the positioning of the camera with the corner of the windscreen/pillar getting in the way. There are very few occasions in the video to attempt to read a plate. The best was when the car pulled out in front and the Citroen on the other side slowed. But that plate wasn't legible, even with the video played full screen. Cars further away - not a chance. The video quality is arguably no better than my £30 cameras and definitely not £120s better.
Until I see hard evidence of a visible number plate I shall be sticking to my waste of money Roadhawk and the cheap ones.
Posted by MichaelEvans on Mon Mar 21, 2016 12:06 pm
MichaelEvans! Did you check frame by frame to see the plates were readable? I use a little Mobius camera as a Dashcam and can read plates when I freeze the footage and check.
Of course I checked frame by frame. Anything passing to the side or further away than immediately in front is just a blur.
Posted by AliOnHols on Mon Mar 21, 2016 9:04 pm
I think MaFt has previously posted a link to a YouTube video showing one of the initial test runs. From memory, the video shows excellent focus including legible regyplates.
I'm on my mobile at the moment so not able to research abs post the relevant link, but I'm sure somebody, more ably connected, could oblige.
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