Teardown: SportDV Camera

TL;DR: Just buy big brand or open source cameras

I ride a road bike in Germany, Cologne.

And you probably know that 1% of drivers out there who are crazy and trying to work out their personal problems in traffic. Recently, someone opened his car-door intentionally when I was riding by. In the aftermath, the guy explained to me

Du Penner kannst mir gar nichts, ich habe zwei Zeugen. Verpiss dich!

which roughly translates to

Please refrain from legal action because my family members will testify for me and I will counter-sue“.

He has a point. So I invested in a portable gun-style dashboard camera for my bike. But there are some problems:

  • no documentation, whatsoever
  • proprietary USB port / cable
  • the camera crashes if it charges for too long. You have to wait until it is reset by deep discharge
  • the “1080p” is purely in the software. This means upscaled and grainy 720p or 480p videos. In addition, the processor is too slow to write the data away, so you occasionally have jerks and jitter
  • the front screen is pressed against the camera lens, resulting in a blurred center area
  • the second video usually doesn’t record

I found this camera under different names. For example

  • SportDV Camera
  • Mini F9 Camera
  • 1080p Sport DVR Camera

The best source of information is the dealextreme forum

Here I found some configuration file which you have to save as “SportDV.txt” on the sdcard. But further research showed, that it doesn’t work with my camera?

SPORTS DV
UPDATE:Y
        FORMAT
EV:6
CTST:100
SAT:150
AWB:0
SHARPNESS:0
AudioVol:0
QUALITY:0
LIGHTFREQ:1
AE:0
RTCDisplay:0
year:2018
month:7
date:11
hour:09
minute:20
second:0
-------------------------------
Exposure(EV)
    0 ~ 12, def:6
Contrast(CTST)
    1 ~ 200, def:100
Saturation(SAT)
    1 ~ 200, def:100
White Balance(AWB)
    0 ~ 3, def:0, 0(auto), 1(Daylight), 2(Cloudy), 3(Fluorescent)
Sharpness
    1 ~ 200, def:100
AudioVol
    0 ~ 2, def:1, 0:Max  1:Mid  2:Min
QUALITY
    0 ~ 2, def:0, 0:High  1:Middle  2:Low
LIGHTFREQ
    0 ~ 1, def:0, 0:60Hz  1:50Hz
AUTO EXPOSURE(AE)
    0 ~ 2, def:0, 0:Average  1:Center  2:Spot
RTCDisplay
    0 ~ 1, def:1, 0:Off  1:On
year
    2012 - 2038, def:2013
month
    01 - 12, def:1
date
    01 - 31, def:1
hour
    00 - 23, def:0
minute
    01 - 59, def:0
second
    01 - 59, def:0 

 

The big problem is that several Chinese manufacturers have realized that you can earn money with this product. Maybe there was a decent version at the beginning that earned good reviews.

But this has changed into some kind of technological degeneration. In search for profit, the manufacturers put everything they had at hand in the same aluminium housing and hoped for the best. Nobody will sue in China for $30.

Here are some screenshots. I don’t want to post videos because you have to pixelate license plates, faces (and sometimes houses) in Germany. 

30 km/h street
Bridge at day
Same bridge at night
bike path at night

Here’s my teardown to find out what kind of camera it really is. Don’t be disappointed, that didn’t lead to anything useful.

After removing the case this shows up. The real name is “MC42!”. Interesting: The used a separate PCB for 2 push-buttons and 2 LEDs. I think the reason is that it follows the round aluminium tube better.
This is under the interface-PCB. The usual chicken fodder, nothing interesting here.
Side view. The Lens and camera is to the right. The focal point is fixed with glue (good!). I like the li-ion battery.
Main PCB. The microphone was installed at the wrong side of the camera, that’s why the quality was so bad / non-existent.

The main processor which does everything, including USB, is installed below the white foam pad. I wanted a datasheet, but I couldn’t read the part number. A good excuse to test my USB microscope!

Example shot with the microscope. I’m happy with the resolution and quality. Part numbers are easily readable
But I had real problems with the main processor. The font is very faint.
Different angles help
I can read it now

The final result is “DA9222A2 – 1653” for the part number.

Conclusion

I couldn’t find a datasheet. So this is a fail.

I will just buy a new camera. And the next one will have a known chipset and open source firmware. If this is not possible just a known good brand camera.

UPDATE:

I got it working again. It was a faulty sdcard. I bought a Sandisk Extreme U3 64GB sdcard in 2015 and used it to extend storage for the HTC Desire Smartphone. It was in use for less than a year. This card appeared normal for the first few 100MB but crashes afterwards. And yes, SanDisk says it’s genuine.

I’ve used my previous article to check the whole sdcard

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