By Andrew Lam on March 7, 2016
The Ausdom A261 almost became our recommendation for a “budget, high-quality video” camera. It’s easy to use, has excellent video quality and is supported by a company who cares about technical support. However, the notifications which let you know that your camera is working or has a problem are done poorly and could leave you without video evidence.The Dome D201 likely has the best video quality on the market. But it’s harder to use compared to Ausdom and has similar problems with notifications. The customer support is non-existent but that’s fairly typical as it’s a budget Chinese camera. You’ll be dependent on your retailer or reading forums for support. We don’t think it’s a bad camera, just a few flaws which prevent us from giving it our full recommendation.
Table of Contents
Both cameras were released in late 2015 and are amongst the new generation of budget cameras which record at resolutions above 1080P.
Made by a Chinese company the Ausdom A261 uses the Ambarella A7 chip which is found in many cameras with excellent video performance. It records in an ultra wide format at 2560×1080 or at 2304×1296 for reduced coverage. To turn on High-Dynamic Range Processing (HDR) you will need to lower the resolution to 1920x1080P.
Shenzhen Dome D201
The Dome D201 is one of the first cameras to use Ambarella’s A12 chip which can theoretically deliver better video quality over the older Ambarella A7 chip. The resolution increases to 2560×1440 and also allows for HDR processing at that size.
|Ausdom A261||Dome D201|
|Date Released||Oct 2015||Oct 2015|
|Max Resolution||2560*1080 or 2304*1296||2560 x 1440P|
|Processor||Ambarella A7LA50||Ambarella A12A55|
|Image Sensor||OV4689 CMOS||OV4689 CMOS|
|Lens||f/2.0 6G||f/1.8 6G|
|LCD||2.0″ LCD 960×240||2.7″ LCD 960×240|
|Diagonal FOV||130° (Probably larger @ 2.5K)||170°|
|Bitrate||20000 KBPS||2.5K HDR – 25000 KBPS|
|Size||5.7 x 6.5 x 3.0cm 2.2 x 2.6 x 1.2 inches||9.8 x 4.9 x 3.5 cm 3.9 x 1.9 x 1.4 inches|
Packaging & Accessories
Both cameras include the standard accessories: Mount, Charger and USB cable. Dome has an optional, external GPS dongle. The accessory quality was the same for both companies. Packaging was a completely different experience:
Ausdom A261Ausdom does a great job. Its plain cardboard construction is an economical choice but it was also nicely designed. You’ll first encounter a cardboard flap for flair and protection before revealing the camera. Inside a custom cardboard cradle securely hold the camera during shipping. There’s an additional cardboard flap for protection and a bit of flair in revealing the camera.
Dome D201I received my package in terrible condition. Everything was thrown into a box with the cardboard camera holder unused and broken. Looking at other reviews only rarely did it come in a similar condition Depending on your country you may receive better packaging if you buy the “Blackview” branded cameras.
Build Quality & Design
Ausdom A261Ausdom uses an interesting combination of a shiny blue front and a matte black plastic back. My personal opinion – I like it. It’s different from other cameras but it doesn’t attract additional attention. Pressing on the edges and tapping the camera it feels and sounds quite solid. The buttons have a nice raised edge and provides good feedback when pressed. The plastic screen surrounding the LCD screen and most of the rear of the camera is well made and fits well with the design.
Dome D201The Dome D201 uses a mix of metal and plastic. The front cover is painted metal which is fairly reflective and more noticeable especially with the chrome accents and the larger lens turret. An additional concern is that the metal can heat up in hotter weather and potentially damage components. On the back a nice sheet of plastic covers the entire surface. Great fit. The buttons were poorly designed. Small, hard to press and there’s not much tactile feedback. The OK button was stuck in place and didn’t move when pressed.
Installation was mostly straightforward on both cameras. Ausdom was easier. There’s one less wire to hide because it doesn’t use an external GPS. The mount made more sense. There’s one obvious direction for installation and it slides in securely. Dome’s mount was problematic. You have to locate a nearly invisible ramp which is used to wedge the mount in place. The problem is the lack of instructions and the mount can be inserted backwards damaging the camera. Boo Dome. The mounts were surprisingly good for their small size as commonly there are problems with suction power. These mounts locked strongly, keeping your camera snugly in place. Installing/Removing the SD cards was easiest with Dome as the slot is located on the bottom of the camera. It won’t be obstructed by other objects such as your rear view mirror. Ausdom has a side slot, a common design but not ideal. It’s also somewhat difficult to remove and actually caused me to lose a card as it violently ejected somewhere in my vehicle.
SetupIs it Easy to Use?
While the menu design was the same in both cameras there were significant differences in organization and navigation with Ausdom coming on top. Both cameras still fell behind the simplicity of better designed cameras such as Garmin’s Dash Cam 20.
Organization & ManualOnce you have learned how to navigate through the menu you’ll notice that both cameras share a similar layout. The descriptions for the various options are easy enough to understand. You shouldn’t have a problem. There are some options such as LDWS (Lane Departure Warning System) which require additional explanation and unfortunately both manuals weren’t very helpful. At least Ausdom made some effort in producing something readable. Dome was downright unusable. Both cameras were missing options to control GPS. It’s permanently enabled. Dome always prints your speed on the video. You also can’t change the speed units to MPH or change the exposure values (EV). Ausdom doesn’t include your speed on the video but includes MPH and EV settings.
We looked at a couple features you’ll frequently interact with such as notifications and the emergency lock. Unfortunately both cameras had significant problems.
Startup Notifications:On Ausdom and Dome you can easily miss that your camera has a problem with recording until you actually need the footage. When something goes wrong you get a nearly invisible warning message which flashes a few times, then disappears. You’ll then return to the recording screen where it’s very difficult to spot the missing recording symbol or blinking LEDs which can be covered by the rear view mirror. One of our review criteria is that your camera should gracefully let you know when there are problems. Neither of these cameras comes close. Too bad for Ausdom as it’s a major oversight in an otherwise great camera. The startup chime is equally dangerous. Both cameras make a sound when it turns on even if it fails to record. You’ll be trained to associate a working camera with the startup noise. The cheapest camera I’ve seen get this (mostly) right is the Garmin 20 we covered in a previous review.
Emergency RecordingMost cameras have an emergency button which when pressed will save the current video from being overwritten. This is pretty useful if you need to document an accident or an interesting scene. On Dome this feature is difficult to use as it requires you to feel for a small button located at a strange angle on the camera. On Ausdom it’s much easier to find but you can accidently turn off recording with a mispressed finger. The emergency button is poorly placed beside the recording button.
MobilityBoth cameras can turn to face the side windshield in case you want to record any interactions. Ausdom’s slim body will encounter few problems whereas Dome’s wider shape may bump up against some windshields.
Battery LifeThe smaller battery in both cameras results in about 15 minutes of recording time when it’s not connected to a power supply. It’s just enough to film following an accident or perhaps a police encounter. If you need a larger battery you can look at the Garmin 20 which records for 80 minutes.
Video Quality & Raw Videos
Overall quality was excellent. Shenzhen Dome’s D201 had better video quality in numerous instances. Still Ausdom’s A261 looked great matching higher end cameras such as DOD Tech’s LS460W Our review cameras are significantly better than the cheaper no-name budget cameras we previously reviewed. We used our budget favourite the A118-C for comparison. We found a large jump in visibility at similar exposure levels. Both cameras match the quality of top cameras such as the DOD LS460W. However at night you’ll still have blurry license plates when vehicles drive by. Still the quality is the top in the field and we await the day where manufacturers optimize for legibility over image quality. Here’s the videos we think supports our views. You can also download the raw videos below. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
During daylight, differences in quality are minimized between cheaper and more expensive cameras. There is still a noticeable improvement in clarity. Look at the signs and license plates, the letters are fuzzier. Details on the outer edges have degraded. See the parked cars on the right hand side. Download Raw Videos: A118 – Ausdom – Dome
In this shot Ausdom’s resolution was set to 1080P to enable HDR. As you can see the quality significantly drops making it about equal to the A118C. Download Raw Videos: A118 – Ausdom – Dome
Both cameras actually have a slight edge in quality when moving at speed and clarity over the top rated DOD Tech’s LS460W. There’s less motion blurring on Dome compared to the LS460W. Download Raw Videos: Ausdom – Dome – LS460W
Night shots seperate the quality of Ausdom and Dome against older cameras. You can see how Dome D201 has the best image quality. Ausdom trails with the A118C showing lots more grain. While moving Dome reduces motion blur but this improvement is only noticeable on smooth roads at comparable speeds. Download Raw Videos: A118C – Ausdom – Dome
Once you start moving it’s impossible to see any of the license plates even when comparing it against a top video pick the DOD LS460W. You would have to be moving at the same speed on a smooth road to see anything. In this video Ausdom is using the alternative 2560x1080P resolution which is the default setting which captures a wider image at the expense of height. I didn’t notice a difference compared its alternate setting at 2304x1296P. Download Raw Videos: Ausdom – DOD LS460W – Dome
Both cameras are sharper when compared against another Amaberalla A7 camera, the Mini 0806. Download Raw Videos: Ausdom – Dome – Mini 0806
Since Ausdom uses the older A7 chip, it can only enable HDR processing at lower resolutions. You’ll have to switch from the preferred 2560x1080P to 1920x1080P. As you can see above this significantly lowers video quality. Download Raw Videos: Ausdom 2560 – Ausdom 1920 HDR
On both players information on speed, position and G-Forces are recorded into the video’s metadata. This can only be seen using a specialized player. Ausdom’s player was fairly basic and did the job. The better option is to use the universal player RegistratorViewer which provdides more options. Dome has a player but it’s difficult to find as their website is poorly designed. Found in the FAQ through a Google docs link you encounter a windows only program. I couldn’t get it to work, it crashed every time. In addition Dome is using a proprietary format. I couldn’t use the RegistratorViewer program mentioned above.
Lane Departure & Forward Collision Warnings
Both of these systems are supposed to help the driver avoid accidents and prevent drifting in lane. Good ideas in theory but useless in reality. When it’s turned on it results in frequent false alarms and annoy more than they help. No one has created a system good enough for mainstream use. These systems are more marketing to advertise a camera than for any practical purposes.
Lithium Ion Batteries & Reliability
Both cameras use lithium-ion batteries which are more sensitive to heat compared to capacitors. While many say you should only purchase capacitors I think it all depends on your location and behaviour. If you frequently park out in the sun without using a reflector and you live in a hot climate then it wouldn’t be advisable to use any of these cameras. Otherwise go ahead and use precautions such as putting away the camera when it’s especially hot. Much of the reliability of the camera is dependent on other factors such as assembly, components and quality control. For both cameras there isn’t enough data to predict long term success. Dome D201 has few reviews while Ausdom has amassed quite a few happy customers and seeing their excellent customer support discussed below would be put more at ease if I were to order from them.
Warranty & Support
Shenzhen Dome is the typical Chinese manufacturer who provides no service to the end user. In fact I was attacked by a representative in the comments below who claimed elsewise. In the end you’ll have to rely on forums and your retailer for technical support Ausdom has demonstrated a significantly better attention to their customers. You can tell how they provide timely responses, dedication to the North American market by building a service depot. You can tell they care throughout the various ways the company interacts with you from product to technical support. On Ausdom you’ll receive a 1-year warranty. For the first thirty days you’ll deal with the retailer who sold you the product. After you’ll have to deal with Ausdom who may require you to ship it back to China.
FirmwareI wanted to talk about the better firmware which is available for the Dome D201. I was told that Russian firmware and an official Dome update exists which fixes these problems. There is no mention of such firmware on Dome’s website (none that is easily found), only through forums such as Dash Cam Talk. We will not be testing such unofficial means of delivering firmware. If it’s not on the company’s website or trusted retailers we will not test it. Most users will not go through pages of posts to determine if it is safe.
I feel confident that cameras that natively record above 1080P will become the new budget standard for 2016. While resolution is not a clear indicator of quality it does suggest the manufacturer has put in better components
Ausdom A261Ausdom gets a lot of things right but doesn’t quite make our “recommended” list. The camera does an extremely poor job in letting users know that their camera has failed which may leave you unprotected. Otherwise the video quality was great, the user interface was mostly easy to use. Packaging was done well. The company was also very responsive to questions.
|The Good||The Bad|
Dome D201The Dome D201 has some of the best video quality on the market but it’s overshadowed by the poor experience in using the camera. If you want amazing video quality and don’t mind the downside the D201 is a good choice.
|The Good||The Bad|