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Dashcams… and the $80 Mobius

The Mobius and size comparison with the GoPro Hero3
The Mobius and size comparison with the GoPro Hero 3 (the Hero 3+ is 15% smaller than this Hero 3)

The proliferation of small sports cameras, ‘dash’ cams and security cameras has meant that Youtube abounds with footage of incidents, near misses, ‘oh %$#@’ moments, and just generally people and drivers doing stupid things.

Camera technology has improved markedly in the past couple of years, with prices coming down, quality and resolution improving and the merging of use with model aircraft video, security cameras, in car ‘dash, or accident cameras’, and sports recording.

A dash camera is mounted in your car and automatically records (in a loop) the last few minutes of the traffic around you. It is great for providing video and audio evidence, number plates and possible witnesses in the event of an accident or incident…. whilst you can concentrate on driving.

Mobius, mounted in my CommodoreI have had a number of cameras of various types (including small sports cameras such as the GoPro and Contour) and have had dash cams for a fair while… going though various cheap standard definition models, keycams and pencams from 720p to 1080p.  A few months back I purchased a ‘Mobius’ which is a surprisingly cheap and versatile action camera, which is probably the first cheap camera to rival the much more expensive big name action camera models.  My main intent was to use it as a dash cam, as fitted my requirements and had a number of great reviews at the time.

Suffice to say, the Mobius has been a great purchase, with at least a couple of incidents recorded in car being ‘useful to police and my insurance’ company, with the quality being pretty impressive for the NZ$80 I spent including shipping from Hong Kong. I know people who are quite happy using these for background shots in wedding videography, motorsport and model flying, and for the price I haven’t seen a better dash cam.

Overcast in the morning. No image enhancement at all. No problem to get number plates right in front of you with these conditions. (Click for full resolution)

For use as a dash cam, there that other cameras that have features that Mobius doesn’t include:

  • Others have inbuilt GPS and/or accelerometers that are logged. I’m not quite ready to have all my location and driving information logged to an SD card that sits openly on my dashboard for anyone to take away and review.  If someone bought one out with encrypted storage, I might consider it.  For the same reason, although Mobius will reportedly take 64GB SD cards, I go smaller so only the last half hour or so of my trip stays on the card (at full definition, it is about half a GB for a 5 minute recorded block)
  • Many have small cameras for view setup and/or changing of settings.  Mobius doesn’t, but once set in place, that is fine for me.  You can plug in a standard definition monitor to line up the view if you like and settings can be changed with a laptop, text file, or even connected Android device.
  • Dash cams usually come with a suction mount, and this by default comes with nothing.  You can however buy many standard tripod suction mounts, and I simply bolted to the arm of my rear vision mirror with a piece of old CCTV camera mount which is solid, and won’t fall off .. whereas a suction mount will eventually (yes, Garmin)
  • There are smaller, and more hidden dash cam models (although Mobius is still pretty small) for use in places where others ‘may object to you recording them on the road’, or maybe you just want your luxury car’s dash to be nice and minimal. It is common in eastern block countries now to have hidden cameras, or ‘dual’ setups for added protection.  See the resources below for a link that shows how to relocate the camera’s imager for a more hidden setup.
  • Some cameras have ‘motion detection’ record, which is useful if you are using for security purposes and are wanting to save storage space. I tried for quite a while to play with this on a previous dash cam model, and was eventually told that I could use ‘loop’ recording or motion recording… not both.  I don’t need it.

There are a many Mobius reviews around so there is no point repeating what others have done, but from my perspective I have a few simple notes of my own, and below are some resource links as I find them. I also haven’t provided any links to my video footage as there is plenty to be found, but have put up some actual frame captures from inside my car.

Some final Mobius notes:

  • A very small, lightweight camera for multiple purposes, that if you lose it or it breaks, you won’t be as disappointed as if the same happened to your GoPro Hero+.
  • The imaging from the recent GoPro models is better, but you won’t care for the price.  I’m still impressed with performance, even in low light.
  • More accessories are coming out for it every day, but it has standard tripod mount clipped to it so you can even use anything from GoPro (with tripod adapter) or the standard camera or CCTV world if you wish.  A Mobius mounted on a full sized SLR tripod does look quite humourous though.
  • My GoPro is definitely more robust in harsh conditions and for sports cam use.  I don’t have a waterproof mount for the Mobius (but there are a couple around to buy).
  • The Mobius has a huge following and community of support, with various software for configuration and viewing being released for free/open source.
  • The GoPro and others have full HD line out for recording, HD monitor review, or full HD live transmission for TV etc.  You can only get standard definition out of the Mobius, which is fine for view setup (or the model flying hobbyists, who can use it to transmit live view to a heads up display)
Drop down for a list of Mobius links and resources
Recording at night with some excellent passing on a yellow line. In the country, with one overhead streetlight, lots of headlight and other light point sources causing issues. Wet conditions, but not currently raining. (Click for full resolution)
Minor colour enhancement of shot to improve contract etc, and you can easily make out number plates at this distance, even though it is early morning, damp and very overcast. (Click for full resolution)
Getting harder to recognise plates properly at this distance, but still possible. (Click for full resolution). Yes… I could probably clean my windscreen, or mount the camera closer to the glass!


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