The Pittasoft Blackvue DR400G-HD car camera has finally arrived and it promises a stylish and compact design enabling you to record 1080p video while parked and on the go. Will Pittasoft deliver on it’s vision of “cutting-edge products” with this video recorder?
News: New DR400G-II Released!
My video review below covers almost everything you need to know about the camera. It’s 25 minutes long and will show you all the important details about the camera. I did leave out some extra material to keep it shorter so check out the “Table of Contents” in the written review below.
Date: Feb 22, 2015
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Authorized North American Dealer – Contact Alex from BlackBoxMyCar.com
From the United States? Grab the camera from amazon!
It’s the cheapest US based seller and they do all the warranty service themselves. If you are looking to buy elsewhere check out these other sources.
Pittasoft is a South Korean company that first got started with IP cameras but eventually released it’s first video recorder the DR300 back in June of 2010. They have since released the DR300G & DR350 in December 2010 and now their first high definition HD dashcam with the release of the DR400G-HD in September 2011. This dashcam can be found anywhere from $220 to $350USD depending on where you buy it. This is one of the pricier cameras on the market and the quality should reflect this premium.
The DR400G-HD follows similarly in design from Pittasoft previous dash cameras. It’s cylindrical shaped body rotates in a compact adhesive backed mount enabling you to position it behind your rear view mirror with ease. The camera comes well documented and fully equipped with everything you need.
The camera is shipped in a grey cardboard box wrapped in an elegant black sleeve. One side notes the features, serial number (apparently needed for warranty), as well as the capacity of the memory card included. Opening the box you see the camera and memory card both well packaged and fitting snugly inside their holders. The card case contained a 16GB Samsung class 6 card (32GB size is available) and a microSD adapter (You may get a Sandisk-brand card depending on where you buy it). Below you find your accessories and instruction manuals.
The accessory bundle came in two packages. One contained the car power adapter, it’s 4 meters long (12 feet) which is more than suitable for routing your cables around the perimeter of your car. Some of the cheaper Chinese recorders only have a 2 meter cable which is sufficient if you find a dangling cable acceptable. In the other package you find two video out cables with different connectors, an extra double sided tape for your mount, four cable holders to keep your installation tidy.
The Blackvue DR400G camera itself is very simple and has three inputs on one side enabling video out through a composite cable, a 12/24V DC power input and a card slot for your MicroSD card. The main section contains two LEDs reporting the status of the GPS and recording state, a speaker, microphone and finally the lens. The other side has the only button enabling parking mode (a memory saving feature for recording while parked) surrounded by a translucent LED with several selectable colors.
These details were taken from the Pittasoft product brochure.
|Camera||2 Megapixel CMOS sensor.|
|Angle of View||120˚ (diagonal), 98˚(horizontal), 55˚(vertical)|
|Resolution||Full HD (1920×1080) @30fps or 15FPS|
|Compression||Video : H.264, Audio : AAC LC|
|3 Axis G-Sensors, GPS, Microphone, Speaker||Yes|
|Memory||Micro SD card (up to 32GB)|
|Battery||Internal Battery 130mA|
|Temperature||-20°C ~ 70°C (-4°F to 158°F)|
|Input Voltage||12V ~ 24V DC|
|Power Consumption||Max 3W|
|Video Out||Composite (NTSC/PAL)|
|Color, Size, Weight||Dark Silver, 102.8×32.0 (DxΦmm), 86g|
Everything video related will be examined in the video section but I wanted to first point out a couple details.
- The video codec used is H.264. You get 4 hours and 40 minutes at full 1080p 30FPS quality with a 16GB card, more than enough as the camera overwrites the oldest files.
- The internal battery is 130mA (quite small) and is only used to shut down the camera and safely save all video to the memory card. You are not able to run the camera off this battery, you need an external power source.
- The operating temperature states it can run between -20°C ~ 70°C but in the manual it notes that quality may decline outside 0°C-50°C (32°F to 122°F), more on this in the overheating section.
For this review I was using a 2010 Toyota Rav4. It’s quiet and smooth so the audio and video may be different depending on the make of your own vehicle.
I established quickly that I wanted to look at two main factors as this is a premium camera:
- Simple to use. Once my ass is in the seat I want to be driving, if I have to remember to turn it on each time I drive I’m going to stop using it (well that’s me at least). The setup and any maintenance should be easy as well, if I have to decipher hieroglyphics to do set things up properly you can bet that most people won’t take the time to adjust things correctly.
- Sharing great quality video. Many of us are actively sharing their day to day experiences. Taking those moments you would only talk about and having video for it is for me quite exciting, now I can rant, rage, laugh at be astonished at my own experiences as well as others, like this explosion at a Russian factory or this cruise through a Japanese City. It should also be functional, capturing license plates and/or detailed video in different weather conditions so that it can be used for evidence.
It’s not just the video but how well it fits in with your day Let’s get on to the results!
First Time Camera Setup
When you first get your camera it’s a very good idea to setup the camera properly. For the DR400G I had to install English firmware (camera’s operating system) and change the internal settings. The major reason was that the camera was purchased from Pittasoft in Korea – the camera would speak Korean, and the timezone was defaulted to the middle of nowhere. These do not affect the video recording in any way but may affect the overall ease in operating the camera and possibly compromise it’s use as an evidence recorder. I found the setup a simple process (although I’m pretty geeky) and really only had to tinker with it once more to get things right.
ATTN: Firmware version 1.039e has a timestamp error (as of April 4/17) refrain from installing this update.V1.040E has fixed this issue, please see below
As mentioned above I had to install the firmware which was pretty simple, if you are able to download software from the internet and install it on your comp9tuer you can upgrade your firmware. For anyone purchasing this camera I would upgrade the firmware before turning it on for the first time as they make improvements to the functionality of the dash camera.
If you would like to see instructions for upgrading your firmware on the PC, Android platform or if your camera is in Korea see below:
Firmware Upgrade Instructions – First Time (PC)
- Do not power on the camera with the sd card installed as this will install whatever firmware is preloaded
- Download the latest firmware from Pittasoft’s website by clicking on the most recent “F/W” post for the DR400G
- Insert your microSD using the included adapters into your USB slot.
- Open the .exe file you just downloaded
- The program will guide you through a step by step process to upgrade your MicroSD card.
- When it’s done safely remove your MicroSD card and insert your camera while it is OFF
- Turn on the camera, making sure that the power supply is reliable and kept on.
- You will hear “Upgrade the Blackvue – Please do not turn off the power” then “Restarting the Blackvue”
- Finally it will announce “Starting Normal Recording” at this point it’s fully upgraded and you can either continue recording or you can shut down the device.
Firmware Upgrade Instructions (Android)
If you have an android phone with a microSD slot you can download the program from Google Play and use it to upgrade your firmware. It’s best to be on a wireless network as it’s a 40+ megabyte update.
- Take the microSD card out from the unpowered camera and place it into your phone
- Launch the Blackvue software and press the “Blackvue SD Manager” button
- Press the “Install F/W” button
- Make sure the model name is “400” and the Language Name is “English”
- Press the “OK” button at the bottom to upgrade to the latest firmware
- Follow steps 6-9 in the pc instructions above
Changing the Language from Korean to English
If you launched the camera with Korean firmware you will have to go through a longer process to get it changed to English. I’m using the information posted by RFD member named boygirlca but rewritten as English was not their first language. We will be downgrade to an older English firmware then upgrading to latest one.
- Uninstall any blackvue software on your computer (if installed)
- Insert your microSD using the included adapters into your USB slot.
- Go to your windows explorer and format the card (right click card –> format –> quick format using file system “Fat32” and Allocation unit “32 kilobytes”
- Download firmware v1.037E (English)
- Open the .exe file you just downloaded
- The program will guide you through a step by step process to install the firmware on your MicroSD card.
- Next follow “Firmware Upgrade Instructions – First Time (PC)” above to update to the latest version (If you so choose, 1.037E will work although it might not work as well).
*V1039.E Firmware Fixed with V1040.E (April 18, 2011)
The problems with the time being off has been fixed. You can download the latest version here.
The Camera settings are robust, well organized and simple to understand. The manual also provides a comprehensive overview of the settings should you need a detailed reference. You will have to change the settings on either your computer or on your android phone as there are no inputs on the camera itself. While this may be an inconvenience once you have things setup you shouldn’t have to be touching the settings again.
For the PC the software is already installed on the SD Card you can choose to run it from the card directly or you can install it on your computer if you wish to use it to view files you may have moved to your hard drive.
The first screen covers your major settings and allows you change almost all the video recording settings but the GPS depending on your needs. The DR400G does not allow you to mute the mic temporarily and thus if you are concerned about recording sensitive information your only option is to completely turn off the camera. The second deals with G-sensor thresholds which determine if the camera should lock a file after a large enough shock. I’ll cover this later under “recording events”. Finally the last screen are your visual and audio reports. You can change the LED colour depending on your preferences (I have mine turned off, I really don’t see why they put this feature in) and the audio reports from your speaker.
The Android program was equally as useful however it didn’t have the video organizing abilities of the PC program. You will have to find your file in a scrolling list. Otherwise it enables you to change all the settings as you would on the computer. It’s designed to give you an ability to view files on the road so you don’t have to dig out your computer and for that they did a great job. There’s also an option to directly upload it to youtube so if you have breaking news you can get it on right away. I did not test out this feature.
I setup my camera to be discreet you can have yours to be loud and tacky (no offense). The camera allows you to personalize your camera to your own personal preferences so it’s a win for everyone. I had little trouble understanding how everything works and the manual explains everything in further detail should you need further explanation.
You can also see my video if you want to see how to setup everything on both your Android or PC device as you would do it at home. DR400G-HD Review @ 16:40
Note* Make sure you change your time zone! This is important advice if you want evidence used in court as an incorrect time/date stamp may not be admitted in evidence. This of course depends on your location as local laws vary but it’s so simple to get things right, why not do it?
Installation was incredibly easy, for me my goal was to get it behind the rear view mirror, align the lens to the vehicle’s center while keeping it level. Honestly, the hardest part was removing the protecting covering for the tape. I used the post holding up the mirror, which for many cars is right down the middle and leveled the camera using the sun shielding dots. Press down and I was done! Easy.
Pittasoft also released a useful graphical guide:
I routed the wires around the sides of my vehicle tucking it behind the different liners as best I could until finally running in under the space above the accelerator pedal and into the power socket. If it was a permanent installation I would have either tapped into the fuse box or spliced into the vehicles existing wiring. This frees up your car socket for more useful things as well as keeps the wiring tidy. All this is beyond the scope of this review but I will do a guide on the different installation methods when I get around to it.
I found some tips from other users for the installation:
- Make sure your wipers reachyour camera lens otherwise water will severely distort your image
- Use a product like Aquapel or Rain-X so your windshields beads up water instead of streaking it all over your front windshield.
To hide the camera you can push a button and detach it from the mount however I needed to remove everything for this review including the tape adhered mount. I found it was a bit of a challenge and finally after using a twisting motion it came off. I think the tape could have been reused but it was probably weakened which may cause your camera to fall off in the future. It does comes with an extra mounting pad but if you frequently remove the mount you may want to consider a suction mount camera or buy more tape. 3M VHB (very high bond) seems to be a popular choice (they use it on the ITB-100HD another HD dash cam). I haven’t tested this out and it’s a very strong bond so some caution is advised. I would love to know if there are other good systems out there.
Day to Day – Easy to Use?
You jump in and start up your car, while you are applying your lipstick you soon hear a voice, “Starting Normal Recording” and you drive off knowing that the camera is correctly positioned and recording.
Everything has been thoughtfully designed to allow for lazy people like me to record their drive without changing their behaviour. If you want a camera that gets out of your way this may be a good buy. Lets run through what I think makes this camera great:
Mount: The mount is how the camera is held onto the windshield. It’s small so it can go discreetly behind your windshield, keeping your interior clean so you won’t have anything obstructing your view. It holds fast to the glass and won’t fall randomly, while gripping onto the camera body securely, allowing you to rotate the the lens in position but ensuring it stays where it’s set. If your vehicle isn’t the space shuttle you can be sure that everything will remain in place. When you need to remove the camera, you pull out the power, push a button and then pulling it all out. To replace all I had to do was reverse the procedure and rotate the body using the “blackvue text” to line up the lens correctly (pointed down slightly from the horizon so the sun wouldn’t wash out the image).
I’m also planning on going for a track day when I have the time for now check out this awesome video of the DR400G attached to a helicopter!
Recording: The camera turns on immediately after it starts receives power, recording as soon as all system are activated. It turns off when the power is off. There is no switch you accidentally forget to press. The camera reports its status audibly which I think is a great feature as you would otherwise have to stretch your neck under your mirror to check if everything was functioning. What more is there to say, it just works.
SD Card: They do recommend that you format the card every week to keep it fresh, forgetting it won’t destroy your card but you might start getting gaps between your recordings. It’s a bit of a pain but for any camera that keeps overwriting the card this outcome is inevitable. You don’t have to format it every week, especially if you don’t drive that often but doing it on a monthly basis isn’t a bad idea in addition to checking if your videos are working correctly.
Video Playback: Pittasoft created their own PC and android player which lets you easily examine your recorded videos. On the PC it organizes your files in a very visual and easy to understand format by color coding segments related to the time the camera was in use by the date, hour, minute and seconds. It also translates that jumbo of GPS coordinates into your location on Google Map as well as on a graphical overlay of your entire route in a program you can access called “MyWay Viewer”. On the Android program it’s a bit more difficult if you are looking for a specific file as it’s a giant list but everything is listed by date. However once found everything played smoothly, the Google map on the top right was missing, hopefully they will be able to improve on that.
Comparison Video (Korean)
I’m going to start off with a Korean video. I’ve gone through some great footage from some of my cheaper cameras but I don’t have anything comparable to the DR400G-HD. I thought I’d link to a comparison between the FineVU CR300-HD, ITB-100HD and the DR400G-HD (All top end Korean dash cams). It’s in Korean (and includes a horse and some serious over acting) but the content is fantastic, they do a great side by side comparison of all three cameras simultaneously running, stopping to examine the differences in quality. The video takes some time to load so I would let it buffer for a couple minutes to avoid frustration. I’ve included some notes below if you wish to jump to the good stuff.
2:15 – 2:40 Specifications – All in Korean, it’s probably better to find the specifications on eBay if you are interested.
3:20 Highway drive – they stop to do a freeze frame comparison of the license plates at 3:30
4:20 & 4:55 – Two videos showing the exit from a tunnel and how quickly the exposure changes
5:15 – Parking lot video, plate comparison at 5:55
6:40 – Night on city roads, they compare license plates at 7:10
7:40 – They do a live comparison of plates at night, instead of freeze framing the plates they follow the car
8:20 – Sound quality of each camera
From my own observations the camera has been superb both during the day and at night. I was able to capture video under both sunlight and rain, morning and at dusk. I can confidently say that short of improving the lens ($$$) that the quality is exceptional. You lose some clarity towards the edges of the video but everything else is sharp and clear. Under challenging lighting conditi0ns such as having light shining into the lens itself, it correctly sets the exposure so that you can see the cars and not have everything completely dark.
At night there isn’t the severe noise you can see with other cheaper cameras and the license plates are visible although not as good as in the daylight. This mainly has to do with the relatively low megapixel count of the camera. At 2 megapixels it seems a bit anemic, but…I think this is great! Increasing the megapixel count on the same sized sensor increases the noise. You won’t notice this during the day when there is a lot of light but at night everything becomes much grainier. You can see my video review where I did a side by side comparison or even better the Korean video at around 7:30. You are able to see the more expensive 5-megapixel CR300-HD having terrible noise at night.
I also took some video at 720p quality as some people may want to record for a longer period of time. The quality of the images loses some visual acuity especially at night but if you need the extra 50% video space and don’t want to shell out for a 32GB card this may be an option.
The sound quality isn’t going to win any Oscars but it is quite functional. It was able to pick up my voice even under highway conditions with the wind howling outside even though it begins to be rather muffled. I was driving in a fairly quiet vehicle (RAV4) so your mileage may vary depending on the soundproofing qualities. On the road driving in the city it was crystal clear. If privacy is something you are concerned with you can disable the microphone. Unfortunately this is a permanent setting as compared to other cameras there is no option to mute the microphone temporarily.
Recording While Parked
The DR400G has a memory saving feature that allows you to record while parked. It records continuously and only writes to the memory card when the motion sensing software and/or the G-Sensors reach a certain threshold of movement/shock. This means that while it’s constantly capturing video it will save to your memory card only if something is moving or jostles your vehicle. I found the default motion sensor setting was a bit too sensitive and put it up about 2-3 bars so it wouldn’t record at the slightest rustle. I left the G-sensor settings high as I want it to be recording if something even grazes my vehicle.
If you live in an area where the parking is tight and are worried about having your vehicle damaged this will be a great tool to improve the chances of finding out who’s response if they do a hit and run. There was a good example from the Singapore Blackvue distributor, a truck backed into a parked car and later ran off. He was able to capture this information and pressed charges.
The camera needs to be hooked up to a power source (car battery) at all times. If your car isn’t running it will drain your battery. Skipping the math, a very conservative estimate for an average battery at 4W max drain it’ll take 16 hours to drain 10% of your battery. Some users have reported 48 hours worth of recording time, if it’s in the winter I would definitely err on the side of caution and run it as little as possible.
There is a device that Pittasoft sells called the Power Magic Pro which protects your battery from being drained when your ignition is off by setting a timer or a voltage threshold that when reached turns off the camera. I’ll be reviewing this in a future article as well as DIY options as it can be a bit pricy ~$50 USD.
As the DR400G is quite a popular item people have taken steps to modify their cameras to prevent theft by helping it to blend in with the car. It ranges from installing hockey tape to plastidipping which is a spray on rubber coating. I’ve gotten permission from Rengoku from Redflagdeals.com to post what he did with his own camera. Check out the photos!
He says that the coating has held up well and really only collects dust faster. If you do decide to darken your device keep in mind that it will collect more heat and there have been instances (see below) where heat has caused the camera to malfunction. You can consider applying tape to the front half of your camera only.
Another user decided to cut open his device and mount a heatsink, now this will definitely void your warranty but it may allow you to increase the reliability of your device. I’m trying to contact him/her to see what effect it’s had.
Update August 20th
There have been failures due to overheating, currently the return rate for the cameras is 10%. The problems seem to stem from running the camera in parking mode under the hot sun with no form of cooling. Myself and a friend have been using it every single day with my friend driving 100+ KM per day for real estate with no major problems.
Reports from Russian indicate it’s good in cold weather although it may take some time for it to warm up. In Singapore however users have noted that the camera image turned fuzzy red when parking mode was engaged in hot conditions. After it cooled down everything returned to normal. I guess as a word of caution like any other electronic device you have to keep it reasonable cool especially something as advanced as the blackvue which runs fairly warm due to the complicated circuitry and the higher processing power needed. I’ve had several other devices including a Kodak Playsport, iPhone as well as a Samsung Galaxy shut down video recording when exposed to sunlight, so this is not an isolated incident.
If you are planning on using your camera in the hot sun I would probably use a solar reflector to bounce some of the heat away and keep the windows rolled down a bit otherwise your recordings may become garbled. I will keep this section updated whenever I find out new information.
Conclusion & Final Thoughts
I think the Blackvue DR400G-HD fulfills it’s role of being a simple but yet functional camera. I aimed in my review to cover all the different features and really incorporate it into my lifestyle and I can confidently say if you don’t need added complications and want to be protected wherever you go the Blackvue DR400G-HD is a great option. There are some issues that I will be keeping an eye on but from my positive experiences as well as those in the larger community of users that it shouldn’t be a problem. The only major factor will be the cost as I will examine below. For now I shall award this a tentative 9.5/10 as once i put other cameras through their paces the scoring system may change. Overall very pleased with my purchase, you will be too.
Purchasing the DR400G-HD & Warranty
There is a new DR400G-II that’s been released which addresses many of the overheating issues that have affected users. I would recommend you purchase the latest version, only eBay sellers have them. Check it out the link below:
eBay – Blackvue DR400G-HD Season II
If you want the old version (I would get it mainly because of the support you get at a local level) check out the retailers below:
Pittasoft’s stance is that you must purchase your camera from an authorized dealer in order to claim the warranty. This can be done either through their local distributor or online from their ebay store. You get a one year warranty that covers anything short of user caused damage. If you are using it for commerical purposes it’s half a year only. Some unauthorized dealers may take responsibility for warranty themselves, make sure they will still be around in a year!
Canada: There are two authorized companies that are now selling the Blackvue units:
They are both able to handle any warranty issues and shipping it back to Korea is no longer a concern.
United States: If you live in the United States Amazon is directly shipping these cameras for $260. The company behind it, HDVideoDepot resides in California. I’ve spoken to their manager and they say they will handle all warranty returns themselves which means you won’t need to ship back to Korea yourself for service.
Other Local Distributors: Prices will vary but this is your best option as you won’t have to ship the camera back to Korea for repairs. You can get a list of distributors from Pittasoft’s Website. They currently have distributors in Australia ($400 AUS), India, Japan (21,504円), Russia (12990RUB), Singapore, Taiwan($9900TWD), and the United Kingdom (£260).
eBay: Unfortunately for everyone else you will have to go through eBay. Pittasoft has an official distributor who sells it for $349 shipped with a full warranty. You will have to ship it back at your own expense and cover the return costs if you have any repairs (ouch)
One option is going through the grey market dealers, you won’t get an official warranty but rather one through the seller. I would then combine it with the warranty SquareTrade provides ~$35 and covers you for three years including wear and tear, you will also deal with a US based company saving you time and money (Only available Canada & the United States). Grey market dealers are the non-authorized dealers such as this one.