Apeman C550 Dash Camera ReviewGadgets & Gizmos
Apeman C550 Dual Dash Camera
The Apeman C550 Dual Dash Camera boasts a range of features from 1080P recording at 30 frames per second to auto-locking videos with G-force sensing. It is true that technology has come a long way, but can a dash camera that retails for $70 really live up to expectations?
A couple of months ago, I had a little fender bender with someone that changed lanes right into me. The damage was light, but them claiming that I was the one that changed lanes and hit them was enough to infuriate me.
I didn’t have a dash camera and still didn’t think about it until Apeman contacted me about reviewing the upgraded Apeman C550 Dual Dash Camera. The timing was funny, considering my fiasco, so I jumped at the chance.
As always, our reviews are unpaid and brutal. Apeman understood that before they sent the C550 to me, which took some courage.
Unboxing the Apeman C550
The first thing I noticed when the package arrived was that it was much smaller than I expected. The pictures on Amazon made the dash cam look like it was about 4×6 inches, but the box it was in when it was delivered wasn’t even that big.
With most things in electronics, smaller is better. For something that is going to be sitting on your dash or mounted to your front windshield, smaller is definitely better!
What is in the box?
- Main Body With Camera
- Small 2nd Camera for Rear Mounting
- Power Cable
- Extra USB Power Cable
- Mounting Hardware
I wasn’t sure how they were going to handle the rear-facing camera, and pretty much expected the 2nd camera to be mounted on the back of the main body of the unit. It would be rear facing but wouldn’t get much of a view out of the back window.
To my very pleasant surprise, the 2nd camera is on the end of a very long cable instead. It is also very small. In fact, it is so small, and the cable is so long, that it could be used for concealed recording just about anywhere without being noticed.
The Apeman C550 is not limited to a 12V power supply, as it uses a USB charger. It comes with a car adapter, but you could use any USB cell phone charger to power it and mount it anywhere.
That’s obviously not what the product is meant to be used for, but it was impressive nonetheless.
At this point, considering how the Apeman C550 was packaged and the initial impression of the components, I am starting to have significant expectations of how well it will perform.
Given the reasonable price point, I had been holding some doubts until the package arrived. As it is, the first impression matches what you would expect from something closer to the $200 range.
The manual is a little bit thin on details but, fortunately, this is one of those “it just works” devices. In 3 days of testing, we didn’t run into any issues to make us reference a manual.
Quite frankly, the mounting is the only complaint I have with the Apeman C550. It’s not bad, it’s just that it could be better.
Apeman put effort into helping you mount it, and it even comes with extra 3M adhesive pads, but it’s still not a smooth process.
The only option is to use adhesive pads to mount the dashcam to your windshield. Personally, I would love a good suction cup option to be included.
There is a ton of cable for the waterproof rear camera, which is great, but the only option for mounting it is with a 3M adhesive pad and (optionally) screws to mount it to the rear of the roof or inside the back window.
A lot of people, like me, are not going to want to put screw holes in their car and may have interior angles that don’t work for that. I did, and I was only able to mount the camera sideways, on the column by the rear windows. It worked, but this could be an issue for some people.
Again, a good suction cup option would be great.
The 2 cables that you will need to run, power and the cable for the rear camera, are plenty long.
However, there is no additional adhesive or any suggested way to keep them in place. For instance, if you are running the power cable up the post in front of the passenger door, in front of the sun visor, and down to the camera, you are not going to want the cable to be dangling or moving out of place.
Likewise, however you run the cable for the rear camera, you will need some way of holding it in place. Even if you ran it along the floorboard, you would still need some method of keeping it from becoming loose or flopping around.
Favorite Mounting Position
I played with several different mounting positions, and firmly believe that center-window and just behind the rear-view mirror is the best as far as camera coverage and maintaining the driver’s full vision. It also works as the cleanest option for running the cables.
As I mentioned above, the Apeman C550 is one of those products that just works. Put in your micro-SD card, plug it in, and it starts recording. You don’t actually have to do anything.
You can do some things with the on-camera controls, like mute the microphone or take a picture, but you don’t have to do anything for it to work just right out of the box.
Video quality is surprisingly good. There is no jitter, stutter, or motion blur in the video. There is also no distortion of the image, and it looks very accurate compared to what you see out of the window.
Like any good dash cam, the Apeman C550 automatically loops video recordings. So, as your SD card gets full, older videos are deleted and over-written.
The video is high resolution and certain scenes were surprising in their quality. Others were more dull than expected but perfectly fine for a dash camera.
Video Sample 1
When analyzing why there could be such a difference in quality in the same video, I noticed that the video of inside the vehicle, while I was setting it up and taking it down, was the best. It recorded skin tones and captured colors really well. But the video that was taken during the test drive seemed to lack something.
I decided to test the Apeman C550 again. It had been cloudy the first time, but this time it was even more so and had just stopped raining. Again, the video quality inside the vehicle was noticeably better than outside.
Because it was so cloudy, I do not think that the camera was being blinded. Rather, I suspect that the color range is too narrow. Or, perhaps, the color palette is limited.
Whatever the reason, it is still better than I would expect for the price.
Image quality was more than clear enough to hold up in court, which is why I want a dash camera anyway.
Video Sample 2
- G-Sensor – When the camera detects a high G-force event, like hard braking or impact, the recording will be write-protected. These videos can only be deleted manually, so there is no accidental loss of video of important events.
- Parking Monitor – The camera remains powered off until vibration is detected, then it will power on and begin recording.
- Motion Detection – The dash cam will remain in standby mode, powered on. It will begin recording when motion is detected in front of the car.
- Built-in Display – There is an onboard display that is a great help with camera alignment.
I contacted Apeman about my thoughts on the mounting and the video quality results. About an hour later, I received the following responses.
The intent for C550 is a hidden camera on the car, it can’t be seen as obviously hanging from the window, so we ditched the idea of a suction cup because it will take up too much space. For customers who’d prefer the suction cup design, we usually recommend our Apeman C570 Dash Cam.
– Apeman Support
So, you can erase that negative. It was not an oversight, and they have a model specifically set up for mounting with a suction cup. They also mentioned the following YouTube video that shows how to run the wires easily.
Do note that this video shows a previous model of the C550. The packaging and main camera housing is noticeably different and upgraded, but the how-to is exactly what you will be doing.
Regarding Video Quality
It’s also possible that the picture quality of a moving cam might not be as good as that of a still one. Because the still picture gets uniform exposure, that usually leads to better color and a clearer image. In fact that’s a common case for most dash cams…
– Apeman Support
The effect I saw would match that explanation fairly well. If you refer to my video tests above, moving through traffic, it does look very much like what I am used to seeing on the news.
All things considered, the Apeman C550 Dual Dash Camera is excellent value for the money. Given Apeman’s response and the attention to detail that I saw with the actual dash cam, I would recommend the Apeman C550 Dual Dash Camera.
It consistently made a good impression, from unpacking to day 3 of testing, and ease of use couldn’t be better. Personally, I wish I had it a few months earlier.