Category Archives: Backup Camera

Our Eclipse Trip (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

We planned out our meals, assuming that there would be days when it would be too hot to want to cook over the fire, but leaving room for a hot meal too.  My wife had shopped just before we left, and had looked for some steaks to take with us.  The store, however, had some ribs that were on sale (50% off!) so those were what came, along with some hamburgers, luncheon meats, hummus, snacking vegetables, cheeses, frozen pizzas, bagels …  The list went on.

The regular canned & dry goods pantry.

Luckily, our fridge is pretty big, and everything we wanted to take that needed to be kept cold fit.  We also had a bunch of canned goods, soups, beans, tomatoes, spam (of course), herring, you name it.  I usually keep a stock of those on the bus, but we added in some more soups and things.

By 11:00 am, we were all packed up, the house was secure (after being locked and alarmed and then me realizing that ALL my directions were sitting on the kitchen table!) and we started off. It was a pretty nice day, and after a quick weekend trip to Sprague Brook Park the weekend before (as a sort of shakedown trip) I’d filled the tank, so we were all set.

Except that the inverter wasn’t working.

Rolling farmland and countryside as seen from a moving bus …

I didn’t think it was a big deal, and we just kept going.  Along through New York on I-90, the speed limit was 65 mph, which is the top end for the bus, so that was fine.  It was a hot day though, and the temperatures kept creeping up over 200, so I feathered things a little to watch that.

I was also watching the output from the backup camera that I had finally installed.  It does a nice job, the static lines on the screen indicating about 1′, 3′, 5′, and 12′ from the rear bumper.  It also has a large field of view as I mounted it just up above and to the side of the rear door. (It was a little odd at first though, as the 140 degree fish-eye picks up the break and signal lights!)  The screen is nice, because if I turn the power to the camera off with a handy dash switch, it goes to sleep until it gets a signal form the camera.

But I had plenty of time to get used to the camera and watching temperature gauge along in New York. The I-90 through Pennsylvania, though, had sections of the 90 that had a 70 mph limit, which meant that I was holding some of the trucks back (especially on some of the steeper hills where we lost speed).  I really felt badly about that, but we continued on into Ohio.

Which also had 70 mph speed limits.

And the hills got steeper, so our average speed dropped some more.

Many people don’t realize that there’s a major watershed divide in Ohio, and as we headed south from Cleveland, we were heading uphill toward that.  Using a really cool website called, I’ve been to find out the grades of the possible routes that we’ve looked at to travel on.  The route from Buffalo to Cincinnati is interesting as we start out in Buffalo at about 600 feet above sea level, and end up at about 485 feet above sea level at Cincinnati, but hit altitudes of almost 1400 feet along the way.

North of the red line goes to the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River, and south of it ends up in the Mississippi.
Altitude and slope of the route between Buffalo on left) and Cincinnati on right).

Just for interest, the first peak on that altitude graph is just east of Erie, PA (1259′), with the next lowest point being just east of the Pennsylvania/Ohio state line (677′), followed by the low point at the I-90 and I-271 interchange (648′).  The next high point was near Woodmere (1193′), but when we got to where 271 crosses the Cuyahoga Valley National Park it was lower (968′), only to rise again when we got to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River/Mississippi River Watershed boundary, just south of Medina, OH at about 1216 feet.  Then it was down again near Burbank (920′), and finally up to the highest point of our trip near Lexington, at 1391 feet, before our next low point just south of Lou Berlinner Park in Columbus (707′).  Another climb after we were out of the city brought us to the next high point at Exit 58 for Bowersville (1078′), then the next low near Mason, OH (762′), the next high point near Landon (871′), then finally the low of the Ridge Road Exit where we got off for the night (588′).

So, just looking at our starting and finishing altitude for our first day, we went down 12 feet, but if you look at even just the major high and low points along that day’s route, our ups and downs total some 5210 feet of altitude change!

And by the time we hit Jeffersonville, we were near a quarter tank of fuel, and decided to stop at a Love’s for fuel.  As per all of the travel stops that I’ve been to, I expected that the diesel pumps to be set for easier access for large vehicles, and away from the gas pumps.  Accordingly, Love’s has a banks of diesel pumps, and all the trucks are lined up right there, so I pull the bus in.  We wait for 10-15 minutes for the trucks ahead to fill, clean their windshields, and finally move ahead, and try to run our cards in the automated pumps.  Not a single one of them is accepted, they’re all declined.

I go through a minor panic, and my wife runs in to find out if there’s something wrong with the card reader.  And she has to wait on line for several minutes to find out that ALL of the pumps in those banks only take corporate cards, not regular credit cards.  If we want to use a regular card, we have to go to the one pump mixed in with the gas pumps that dispenses diesel. Which I was able to do.  And finally we got filled up and were back on the road.

Anyhow, we have friends who live not far from the Ridge Road exit in Cincinnati, so we got to drive down some lovely quiet little streets to get to theirs. We had talked about parking in front of their house on their dead-end street, but there were too many cars, and the exhaust pipe of the bus scraped about half-way up the slope of the entrance to their driveway, so backing in there didn’t work either.  So it was a multi-point turn (made much easier by the back-up camera) to turn around head the bus back out on their small street where we parked in the lot of a small apartment building at the end of the street that was in renovations (and our friends knew the manager who said it was okay).

We were treated to a great meal and a tour of their house (all the cabinets were hand-made by our friend Jeff, and they’ve stripped and refinished all the original woodwork, so it was great).  The rain which had been forecast for our trip had been spotty as we got close to Cincinnati, but really let loose once we stopped.  But at that point, it didn’t really matter, we were tired and ready to sleep.

But …

Without the inverter running (and since I don’t have the LP plumbed for the fridge yet), our fridge was a big cooler.  We had some worries, but there wasn’t much we could do right then, so we just left the doors closed.

The first day of the trip was done, and tomorrow would be a Kentucky day …

(continued in Part 3)




Testing out the Backup Camera(s) (Part II, The Testing)

(Continued from Part I)

So with the cameras and the screen, I was ready to test them out. The screen was easy, as it had its own AC adapter.  I was able to just plug it in and it came right on, gave a nice blue screen indicating that it was set for the VGA input, and after 10-15 seconds of finding no signal, it went to sleep.

I could wake it easily by either selecting a new input (VGA->Cam 1->Cam-2->VGA cycle), or by just hitting the power button, but with no input, it just went back to sleep again.

The screen with a real image!
The screen with a real image!

I have a mini-HDMI->VGA adapter for my tablet, but that didn’t work to give a testable signal, so I had to go hook it up to an old XP box.  The booklet manual said that the optimal resolution was 800×400, but the computer’s resolution wouldn’t go down that low.  At the lowest setting though, it was pretty easy to see.

Tiny little icons at higher resolution on the graphics card.
Tiny little icons at higher resolution on the graphics card.

Putting it back up to some 1100×800 dpi (the computer’s regular output setting), the image was still pretty clear, but the text and icons got really small.  I’ll have to play with the setting once I get the bus’ computer up and running.

But with proof positive that the screen was in good shape, I went to checking out the cameras.  The little, cheap camera just had the red and black wires for power, so rigged a plug using a female four-pin power connector from an old computer fan, and hooking it up to an adapter that was meant to power a hard drive. With the VGA connected to the screen, and a button push to cycle camera 1’s input I got … a black screen.

A little clarification.
A little clarification.

At first I checked all my connections, then realized that if I cycled the input again to camera 2, I got a picture. One Sharpie later, I had that system all worked out, and went about trying to get a nice image I could photograph easily, but found that it wasn’t easy to get what I wanted because the picture was, indeed, mirrored (just like I knew it would be but my hands still wanted to turn it the other way).

The little, cheap camera`s eye view.
The little, cheap camera`s eye view.

One of the other issues that people complained about was the guidance lines.  In looking at the view, I don’t see them being very intrusive.  I can, however, see how they form a great fixed reference point for backing up.  For this picture, the camera was at couch height, and the distance to the far wall is ~21 feet.

I hooked the other camera up to the same power source, and put it in a similar placement (just next to the first camera).

The bigger back-up camera's view.
The bigger back-up camera’s view.

The lines are more pronounced on this camera, but they are more colorful.  The back wall here looks closer, but you can see less of the walls, even though the two cameras were at the same distance.

In recognizing this, the cheaper camera has a much greater field of view, but with much more distortion.  At the time, I just noted it, but in thinking about it since then, it seems that this difference will actually help me with placing the cameras on the bus.

But there was another thing to test with the more expensive camera, and that was the IR LEDs.  For that, it was an easy thing, as the photosensor that turns the LEDs on doesn’t need complete darkness – even a good shadow would do it.  So for that, I just held the camera up off the couch (looking at the couch), and lowered it until the LEDs kicked on.

No IR LEDs on ...
No IR LEDs on …
... and with the IR LEDs on.
… and with the IR LEDs on.

The ‘night vision’ works fine, though the bright ‘light’ of the LEDs washes out the colors.  But really, when I’m backing up at night, I think the color of the object I’m getting too close to is less important than if I can see it clearly.

So my plan is now to mount the small, cheap camera up high on the bus (there’s a bevel right above the back dome window and below the clearance lamps that should put it at a great angle), and use it as a regular rear view mirror, displayed on the screen during normal driving operation.  I’ll get a nice view of what traffic is right behind the bus, and a nice wide angle on the sides.  The other camera looks like it will need to be pretty close to the ground for the LEDs to have a good effect, so I’m going to play around with mounting it under or just above the back bumper.  Since I can change between the two views with just a click of the cycling button on the screen, I should be able to get both a ‘big picture’ and then a more detailed view when backing in somewhere.

I’ll post again for on-the bus placement testing and installation …


Testing out the Backup Camera(s) (Part I, The Parts)

So, with all the cold weather and lack of being able to work on the bus, I pulled out the backup cameras and screen, to test them out.  I had had these for a while, but they were still in the boxes, and I wasn’t sure how and where I’d be installing things.  I ordered all these from Amazon last winter and just never got around to them.


So, here are the parts, all expanded out of their boxes:

NEEWER Waterproof CMOS/CCD Reverse Backup Car Rear View Camera
NEEWER Waterproof CMOS/CCD Reverse Backup Car Rear View Camera

NEEWER Waterproof CMOS/CCD Reverse Backup Car Rear View Camera (Electronics)

List Price: Price Not Listed
New From: 0 Out of Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Here is a relatively cheap back-up camera that had decent reviews, and I thought I’d give it a try, or keep it as a spare if the other camera ended up not working or burning out too soon.  It attaches by way of a hollow, threaded post through which the wiring goes.  It has a small plug/socket set to connect the camera to the DC power/return and the 25′ long RCA cable (which will be a little short for the bus).

The attachment for the cheaper camera.
The attachment for the cheaper camera.

There had been some complaints about it not being really waterproof, but it looks good to me, given that the lens and body are all nicely molded together, and the back (with the post) is screwed into it with four small screws, meaning that the only place for water to get in is at the back, which you should be sealing up anyhow.

The molded body of the cheaper camera.
The molded body of the cheaper camera.

They included a little pieces of what seems to be a 1/16″~2mm foam tape (which somehow escaped my picture) to put on it, but I’ll use a thin bead of butyl rubber when I go to attach it.

Night Vision Parking Car Rear View Wide Angle LED Reversing CMOS Camera

Night Vision Parking Car Rear View Wide Angle LED Reversing CMOS Camera

BW 3.6mm Wide Angle Car Rear View Reversing Backup Camera with Night Vision (Electronics)

List Price: $10.59 USD
New From: $8.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

This was the ‘fancy’ back-up camera that I opted for.  It’s ‘fancy’ because it has the IR LEDS that kick on when it gets dark enough.  I had figured that this would be the main back-up camera for the bus.

IR augmented camera. 7 IR LEDs and one photocell sensor.
IR augmented camera. 7 IR LEDs and one photocell sensor.

It attaches to the vehicle by the side-flanges, and the wires come off the back.  It has separate plugs for a rather standard ‘+ in’ 12 VDC plug (the red one in the picture) and a female RCA jack for the video.  The camera came with 25′ of RCA cable, but I have a run of 50′ that I’ll use instead.

Like the cheaper camera, the body and lens are all together in one nicely molded piece, with a ‘hatch’ that’s screwed down on the top.  Again, I’m figuring on using some butyl rubber sealant around the seam there to try and keep out water, which I expect to be a bigger deal with this camera, since the opening is up and there’s a bigger hatch.

One of the major complaints in the Amazon reviews about both of these cameras is that the image is backward, and you can’t change it, or that it’s been built wrong.  However, these are really back-up cameras, designed to be installed in a particular way so to give an image that’s going to give the driver a familiar view of a rear-view mirror. And they do that just fine, so I think a lot of the issues in those comments is that people didn’t understand what they were buying.

Lilliput Eby701-np/c/t

Lilliput Eby701-np/c/t

The Lilliput screen is a 7″ touchscreen with a VGA input as well as two RCA inputs and a reverse-sensor that automatically changes the input to a camera’s input when the transmission is shifted into reverse. It had some good reviews as being a reliable and visible screen for vehicle use, able to interface with a vehicle-based computer (which I’m planning on installing).  It runs on 12 VDC, but also came with an AC adapter (which made testing a whole lot easier).

Lilliput screen connections.
Lilliput screen connections.

It also turned out to have TWO RCA inputs (Video 2 is the one activated by the reverse sensor), so I’m likely to install both back-up cameras and have them each on separate channels (more on this in Part II). The cables that came were actually in two parts, perhaps in case one didn’t have an on-board computer.  The first connects to the screen and includes the power jack (black), RCA jacks (yellow), reverse sensor (green wire), an audio input (white), and the screw-on secured connector for the other wire which connects to the VGA jack and a USB connector for the touchscreen.

Armed with these bits (and a 12 VDC power source from a USB IDE hard drive connector), I got into actually testing the system.

(Continued in Part II …)






Lilliput Eby701-np/c/t (Electronics)

List Price: $119.00 USD
New From: $119.00 USD In Stock
Used from: $99.00 USD In Stock