Review: MiniDVR HD Bullet Camera System

My First Impressions on MiniDVR HD

For more than one year, I have been using the MiniDVR 3 recorder with a bullet camera system to capture all of my in-car footages, as you have seen in my video uploads on YouTube. This has served me very well as it has met my needs at that time.

But the more I use it; I wanted more out of it. I wanted HD version to capture better details of what is happening around the area. For the past few months, I have been looking around and also researching for a suitable setup to replace my MiniDVR 3 system but none of them meets my needs (small, compact and easy to mount on windscreen). The only thing that came very closely that has a portable recorder and an HD camera is the Sony HXR-MC1P. But at about £2,500, it did not meet my budget, obviously!

Until I received the email from Dogcamsport, saying they will release the MiniDVR HD. I got excited like a little boy on my birthday. It has a small & compact recorder, just like the MiniDVR 3 recorder. It has a cable to the bullet camera, again just like the MiniDVR 3′s bullet camera. Plus, the bonus thing is that it’s HD! And compared to its predecessor (MiniDVR 3), this has a staggering 200% improvement in video quality. Perfect. That can be easily mounted on the windscreen, tuck away the cable and leave them on. All I have to do is to plug the recorder when I use the car and start the recorder.

Again, perfect. I saved up money. I ordered this. And now I am the proud owner of the MiniDVR HD system. :D

The box is a very nice design, open the flap and the first thing you would see are the recorder and the HD bullet camera. Lift up the internal box and you will get loads of different bits & pieces which are used to mount the camera. (full list below).

As I will be fitting the bullet camera on the windscreen of my car, I’m going to be using the Rotatable Surface Mount where it can be neatly tucked away behind the rear view mirror, just like my previous MiniDVR 3 setup so it doesn’t get in the way of the windscreen.

Both the recorder and the camera have a 1/4″ thread so you can use any suitable mount with 1/4″ thread to secure them to your requirements. The camera itself is waterproof, which means you can mount it outdoors, but make sure you protect the recorder as it’s not water proof however is “rugged and splash proof”.

Now to the recorder… it’s a little bit bigger than MiniDVR 3 but not that big. There are more buttons/control on the new system, compared with the old system (5 buttons on MiniDVR 3 vs 11 buttons/controls on MiniDVR HD) – maybe a little bit too much, but does give you quicker access to specific feature you require, rather than clicking away until you find what you want. So I actually found them a very useful addition.

Upon powering it on, “Mini DVR HD” logo comes up. The first thing I noticed was the white light coming out from the bottom, left corner of the LCD display. I was reassured by Dogcamsport that this is normal as it gives the backlight to the LCD display. So if you’re seeing that, there is nothing to worry about and it is not faulty. :)

EDIT: Feb 2012 – Newer MiniDVR recorders no longer have the white light coming out from the bottom, left corner. So it would appear they have improved in the later version. Great news!

If you do not have the memory card inserted in the recorder, it will give you a warning tones/beeps. You can turn off the beeps/tones in the Menu options if it annoys you that much. The recorder can take up to 64GB SDHC memory card, so if you plan to do lots of recordings, a 64GB card is a must. With this new recorder, a file recovery feature had been added so if for any reason your video files should become corrupt; the MiniDVR HD will try to recover them automatically. No more corrupt video footages!

I’m using 16GB SDHC memory card and it’s big enough to keep about 4 hours worth of recordings at 720p but I plan to upgrade it to 32GB in the future.

The navigation of the menu is far much better than the MiniDVR 3 version, offering me more options.

By default, the settings are (based on Firmware version 1.33/20111109):

Resolution: 1080P 25 fps (other options are: 1080P 30 fps, 720P 25 fps, 720P 30 fps, 720P 50 fps, and 720P 60 fps,
Quality: High (other options are: Medium and Low)
White Balance: Auto (other options are: Sunny, Cloudy, Fluorescent, and Incandescent)
Overwrite/Loop Mode: No
File Size: 30 minutes (other options are: 2 mins, 5 mins, and 15 mins)

For my use on the car, I am going to leave everything as it is apart from the resolution set as 720P as I wanted to capture more areas and enabled the Overwrite/Loop Mode feature. Your taste/requirements may differ from mine so it’s all down to how much details you want to capture around your surrounding area as the capture area between 1080P and 720P are different. You will see what I mean after watching the sample video below.

Captured something but do not have quick access to a computer to save the video footage? No problem, just go into the “Movie” mode, select the file you want to protect, click on Menu button, and select “Yes” to protect the file. That’s it! The file will not be deleted if you have “Overwrite/Loop Mode” enabled. Handy! I always wanted that feature on the old MiniDVR 3 recorder and now it’s available. Obviously, the file will be deleted if you do a full format… so remember to save it before doing that.

As I do most of the driving during the daytime, the day time video footage is perfect and very clean & sharp, however I’ve noticed that the night time footage is a little bit grainy when there is lack of lights. This is based on “Auto” white balance and might be improved if tweaked correctly. I might re-visit this at a later time.

Due to the nature of my requirement of this recorder, I have not tested the HDMI/AV Out feature to playback it on your TV, but I did give it a quick test and it works very well, giving me full HD viewing of the footages that I recorded.

Video Sample – Day & Night footages

What’s included in the box

    MiniDVR HD recorder
    HD Bullet Camera – HQ15m 1080p
    Back Clip
    AC Wall Charger
    Car Charger with USB port
    USB Cable
    1.5M Wired Remote control
    AV Out Cable
    Vented Helmet Mount with 1 adhesive pad
    Carrying Bag
    Magic Mount with 3 adhesive pads
    Rotatable Surface Mount with 1 adhesive pad – can rotate horizontally 360 degree and vertically 90 degree
    Bar Mount with 3 rubber bar. Can rotate horizontally 360 degree

Specifications

Recorder

    Digital Screen – LCD 2.0″ 960 x 240 pixels TFT LCD
    Recording Format – MOV
    Codec – 13 mb/s Bitrate H.264
    Recording Resolution – 1920×1080 (1080P 30/25 fps), 1280×720 (720P 60/50/30/25 fps)
    Photo Resolution – 2592 x 1944
    Battery – 3.7v 1800mAh (approx 3 hours)
    SDHC Support up to 64gb Card, Class 4 recommended (approx 30 mins for 4GB @ full HD)
    AV Output jacks – USB & HDMI ports
    1/4″ thread
    MIC internal and external input
    High speed USB 2.0 connection
    Dimension – 57 x 88 x 22mm

Camera

    Camera degree – 1080P: 110 degree, 720P: 135 degree
    Low light sensitivity – 3 LUX
    Cable length – 1.5M
    Dimensions – 22 x 88mm
    1/4″ thread

Features

    Live view on screen before/during recording
    Auto corrupt file recovery mode
    HDMI 1080p video output
    Car Mode Auto Record function
    H.264 video files for excellent compatibility
    LANC Remote start/stop on/off
    Waterproof bullet camera design
    Camera mounts included

My overall thoughts

Coming from more than one long year of using with the MiniDVR3 system, this is a very massive improvement for me and I am very glad I have upgraded to the new MiniDVR HD system to meet my needs. Someone was asking about a “small, portable recorder with HD camera” and the closest match is the Sony HXR-MC1P. But with the price tag of up to £2,500, it is a very expensive system. That means this MiniDVR HD system is the one with a very reasonable price for very similar requirement as the Sony HXR-MC1P recorder/camera setup so this is a very welcome move. So if you’re looking for something small, portable and in HD format then this is the one you need to get.

Good

    Small
    Portable
    HD version in 720p and 1080p
    Lots of features/options to suit your needs
    Waterproof camera head
    Rugged and splash proof recorder

Bad

    Display screen smaller than MiniDVR 3, but still big enough to see what is happening.
    Night footages a bit grainy

Rating – 4.5 out of 5

Link to purchase – http://www.dogcamsport.co.uk/minidvr-hd-bullet-camera.html

And if you use the Promotional Code of HTDC05, you will get 10% off from the price.