Dash Cam Review: Carcam GS5000

I'm going to start our dash cam reviews with the highest-end one we purchased for two reasons: first, because you as my readers deserve the absolute best, and second, the damn piece of shit broke almost immediately and I want to just go ahead and get this out of the way. Sorry for the spoiler.

Before I get into the gory details, let me just go over some of the criteria of why we picked the dash cams we did. We wanted to get cameras in a range of prices from dirt cheap to about $200 or so. We picked $200 as an upper limit because, frankly, most of us don't want to spend that much on a dash cam. Sure, there are some who do, and if you do, there's a number of other great options I'm sure people will recommend on Kinja. Perhaps we'll cover those later. But to start, we just wanted a 0-$50 one, a $50-$100 one, and a $100-$200 one. The GS5000 is a popular choice for that upper range.

On paper or pixels, the Carcam GS5000 seems like a good choice. It's an HD camera, capturing video up to the HD maximum of 1920x1080, it has a built-in mic for audio capture, HDMI video output, and it has GPS receiver to record position/speed information, and even what they call a "G-Sensor" which I think means it has an accelerometer. If the sensor detects a dramatic change (think car into a cement barrier or an 18-wheeler), it'll lock the current file to keep it safe from being overwritten. That's good thinking.

Dash Cam Review: Carcam GS5000

So, on paper this thing appears to be pretty good. Well, not all paper, since the all-known-languages Rosetta stone of an owner's guide does list "Hommization operation interface" as a feature. Why aren't more of our gadgets Hommized? Get on the ball, Apple.

So what's the problem? The camera has a solid set of features, the design is reasonably attractive and not too bulky, and it sells for a reasonable $110-$150. It should be terrific!

The problem lies in the data storage, which is pretty key unless you want to run the HDMI output into a composite adapter and plug that into a VCR you keep in the footwell. The issues start with the choice of media: TF cards, also called Micro SD.

Dash Cam Review: Carcam GS5000

There's nothing inherently wrong with this choice, and some of this may be personal preference. Most of the cameras I tested use much more common, larger CF cards. I had to buy and/or find TF cards for this camera, and it only takes specific ones of those, Class C4 or C6. TF cards are about the size of a baby's pinkie nail, and I really feel are best suited to being photographed next to gigantic stacks of old floppy disks and reel-to-reel computer tape, along with a caption describing how much the tiny card stores and how far we've come since the grim old days of colossal data storage you couldn't comfortably swallow. Beyond that, I almost find them too small, physically.

Add the small size to spring-loaded sockets that are capable of launching the tiny cards with enough force to lose them across a room, and you have a recipe for frustration. And that's when they're well-designed and working. This camera failed me on both those counts.

First, from a design/build quality perspective, look at that TF card socket there. Notice there's a metal wall dividing the slot into two areas? One is the actual socket, with the contacts, and the other is just empty plastic case around the poorly-fit metal socket. Either will happily take the TF card, but only one will do anything with it.

Dash Cam Review: Carcam GS5000

Actually, let me correct myself: only one will do anything with it for a brief period of time. See, once I managed to actually get the TF card in the proper slot, all seemed good. I got a working record indicator and everything, and I proceeded to record a delightful drive down the windy, wonderful Tuna Canyon Road in Malibu, in a loud, fun, Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio. I glanced at the camera's screen several times to confirm the red dot and counting time code, and all looked good.

When I eagerly went to check my video after the drive, I found the camera telling me "NO CARD." Which was strange, since it had a card right inside it. For example, when I walk around with a hoagie shoved in my mouth, I'd never dream of carrying around a sign that says "NO HOAGIE" because that would be lying. And that's exactly what this camera did to me.

Dash Cam Review: Carcam GS5000

The card reading/writing component just quit on the camera. On the first day of real use. That's why I have no actual video to show you— removing the card from the camera and plugging into a card reader on my computers (I tried PC and Mac) resulted in the card not being recognized. I tried several other TF cards, and I found that the slot had now become an effective way to make TF cards unreadable on my computer, which I suppose can be a handy tool if I want to get rid of sensitive information or my very embarrassing private erotic McLaughlin Group fan fiction collection.

So, the thing's pretty useless now, and I'm not even sure if I can/how to return it. And, as I said before, it's a shame because, aside from my personal gripes about the media type used, this camera has all the basic dash cam features you'd want. But, based on my experience, I'd suggest avoiding this one. I may have just gotten a fluke one, but even so I'm not confident of the quality control and based on how the card slot was mounted, I think caution is justified.

My working theory is that the card slot unit was poorly soldered/mounted to the camera's main board, and the misalignment with the case's card slot and my missing the actual slot initially caused more stress on the imperfect solder joints, causing one or more to fail. That's also why I think it worked before the drive and failed during, when the camera was actually being tossed around with the motion of the car.

These cameras show up under a variety of names, and in a variety of colors and case types, but they all seem to be about the same size, and of a rectilinear format. My suggestion is to avoid them, and stick with full-sized CF card cameras, which I believe has a more forgiving and robust architecture.

Dash Cam Review: Carcam GS5000

There's more reviews to come, with actual video from functioning cameras, so that'll be a nice change of pace.

Carcam GS5000 verdict: Don't buy, unless you need a machine to ruin TF cards.