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The VIOFO A119 Evolution - Where did it all begin?

We see the second quarter of 2023 as a blast for the dash cam industry, especially with the launch of the long-awaited dash cams highlighting superior video resolution through the Sony STARVIS 2 image technology, such as the VIOFO A139 Pro and the new Thinkware U3000.

Both these dash cams record 4K UHD via 8MP image sensor for its front camera, but the community has been vocal about their interest in having a Sony STARVIS 2 on the budget friendly side. Wait no more, as the all-new VIOFO A119 Mini 2 is coming soon here at BlackboxMyCar – lots of new features, but still having that beyond-reach price tag.

But before we dive into this new model, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see where the OG A119 began – going back to the year 2016. In this article, we will talk about the evolution of the VIOFO A119 dash cam – from image sensors, video quality, convenience features, and more that led to VIOFO’s highly anticipated dash cam of 2023.

A little background on VIOFO

Quality and affordability – these are the two things that made us (and their customers) love VIOFO. We’ve been partners with this brand for years, and BlackboxMyCar is lucky to be part of their unstoppable innovation.

VIOFO began manufacturing dash cams in 2011, being one of the world’s first to build dash cams with supercapacitors instead of lithium ion batteries through the VIOFO G1W-C. Helpful to fight the overheating of early dash cams, especially overseas where they were developed.

We can also remember way back when dash cams were fairly large, with large suction mounts that make the supposedly discreet recording device noticeable. VIOFO also considered this issue, along with dash cam legalities, and introduced compact wedge-designed dash cams like the A119 dash cam.


Installing a Dash Cam in a Truck with Canopy

If you’re installing a one-channel dash cam in your pickup truck, then there’s no problem at all. You can simply mount the front camera on your windshield, and it’s up to you whether you want to install it via a 12V car cigarette charger (with no parking mode), or hardwiring. Alternatively, you can also use a dash cam battery pack like the PowerCell 8 to extend your parking mode.

While the road ahead is important, we also think that having a rear camera is a must, especially if you need to transport valuable items in your pickup truck on a regular basis. In case a thief breaks in at the back, or something hits or breaks anything from your rear, you will have everything recorded in a wide angle perspective.

VIOFO A119 (July 2016)

First, let’s talk about the OG of the A119 family, the VIOFO A119. Launched in July 2016, this model is the successor of the VIOFO A118C2 dash cam. During that time, having a dash cam that can record 2560 x 1440P @ 30 frames per second is already considered as an advantage, and we’re happy to have witnessed this in the A119.

This dash cam is equipped with a Novatek NT96660 processor, plus an Omnivision OV4689 image sensor – yes, the first A119 doesn’t have a Sony STARVIS sensor. And like the A118C2, the A119 is a wedge-shaped 160-degree camera that has a 2-inch LCD screen for playback and settings configuration. Overall, the VIOFO A119 remains easy to hide, and the recordings are fairly decent. However, we can’t help but notice that the quality in low light conditions hasn’t really held up to modern standards.

Unlike other dash cam brands like BlackVue and Thinkware, we think that VIOFO prefers to have screens on their dash cams – pretty obvious even with more recent cameras like the A129 and A229. Quite helpful for more old-school users. In terms of SD card storage, its maximum capacity was only up to 64GB. 

Basic Installation: Rear Camera on the Windshield

If your truck canopy has a rear window, you can go for the basic installation. The front dash cam can be mounted anywhere on the front windshield, even for windshields that are flat as the lens of almost all our dash cams can be adjusted vertically. If you want an interior camera, it also poses no issues as the secondary camera can be mounted on the front windshield and just pointed towards the cabin.

Now for the rear camera, since your truck has a window, you can simply mount it on the rear windshield. With some truck models, the center rear windshield slides down or to the side. For those windshields, you’ll need to put the rear camera on one of the sides instead, ideally not the side that the center windshield slides to.

While this method is unlikely to provide much visibility of your bumper, it is definitely ideal for watching over any gear in your truck itself, and is much simpler than any options beyond this.

VIOFO A119S (December 2016)

And just a few months after the release of the A119 – five months to be exact – VIOFO announced that they upgraded the first generation of the A119, with the VIOFO A119S. In terms of hardware, nothing obvious has changed. The upgrade lies within, with VIOFO choosing to improve what the A119 fans have been ranting about: poor low light recording. 

While it only records full HD, the A119S’s field of view also narrowed down to 135-degrees, so fewer lanes were covered. However, from an OmniVision sensor, the VIOFO A119S got upgraded with a 2MP Sony Starvis IMX291 sensor.

New Sony STARVIS sensor – that’s probably what the S stands for. For us, the A119S was a worthwhile upgrade especially for those who drive mostly at night time.

Moreover, there’s a new feature which VIOFO incorporated in the A119S – probably the most important feature for security, parking mode. It’s one of the first dash cams to have parking mode – it was very new, and definitely didn’t have a number of the capabilities that we’ve come to enjoy today like buffered recording. Back in the day, parking mode was actually supplied through a 2-wire hardwire connection for this camera, instead of the 3-wire connection nowadays. This 2-wire connection was only to a constant power source in your vehicle, and a ground of course. Z

So, how did the camera know how to go in and out of parking mode? You actually had to do so manually, on the settings of the camera, every time you left the vehicle! The only parking mode option at the time was motion detection. Beyond that, we appreciate the voltage cut-off box in this 2-wire connection, cutting off power to the camera once your vehicle battery reaches 11.8V, though you weren’t able to fine-tune it and set different cutoffs. Still, built-in voltage cut-off was a big deal back then! And was a way better option then having to add a multi-safer for other brands, if any of you remember those.

For Canopies without Rear Windows: Bolting the Rear Camera Externally

If you would like a camera that is mounted to your weather-proof canopy, our recommendation is to bolt the rear camera mounting bracket at the canopy exterior to get a wider view. Here, external wiring is also recommended. Based on our previous installations, it’s cleaner to run the cables underneath the vehicle, than up and overtop the vehicle.

Installation for the dash cam and hardwiring follow the same general instructions - find the fusebox of the vehicle (typically under the dashboard on the driver’s side) or just utilize the vehicle’s 12V socket, then run wires through the headlining/panels to the front dash cam. The front and rear connecting cable will also be run through headlining/panels and can be run along the cargo until it reaches the rear camera in the back.

The rear camera will need to be bolted down into the vehicle, typically on top of the rear cargo area, using included bolts and plates. This allows for a very secure and discreet installation. Even if it’s attached externally, you don’t have to worry about weather as most rear truck cameras are waterproof, along with waterproof cabling.

We recommend wiring this external, bolted camera, as standard interior cameras are not weather resistant, and long-term use in an open canopy could prove detrimental to the unit.

VIOFO A119 V2 (April 2017)

Just four months after the release of the A119S equipped with a Sony STARVIS sensor, VIOFO released a new version of the A119 – which is called the A119 V2. Here, we noticed that the VIOFO A119 V2 now boasts a GPS mount with a different design, plus the electrical connectors that connect the camera to the mount are now positioned differently.

But the most notable upgrade for us is the video resolution. From the A119S’ full HD recording, the A119 V2 can now record 2K QHD at 30 frames per second. We also find its option to choose a 1080p and 60 fps recording mode useful, if you need footage with lesser motion blurs. However, it’s still not as good in low light conditions compared to the A119S, as it sports a 5MP OmniVision OV4689 sensor.

Beyond that, the A119 V2 features faster connectivity due to the new GPS mount. We have heard about issues with the prior GPS mount that caused certain cameras to shut off randomly, and we’re glad that it’s finally solved with the A119 V2.

VIOFO A119 Pro (March 2018)

And in March 2018, VIOFO released a new 2K QHD dash cam that does not carry an OmniVision nor a Sony STARVIS sensor – the VIOFO A119 Pro.

While all the dash cams we mentioned use the same processor, the image sensor differs. This time, VIOFO engineered the A119 Pro with a new image sensor – Aptina AR0521. Based on our comparison, this new sensor produces better video quality during day time, but the low-light condition is worse.

And the field of view of the A119 Pro also got narrower, covering only 130 degrees – quite a big step back from the A119’s 160 degrees. Still, it records in 2K QHD @ 30 FPS, sports a 7G lens with an F1.8 aperture. Convenience wise? It also has a GPS logger, and a parking mode feature. Aside from the new image sensor, the A119 Pro also had its parking mode feature upgraded, now including a buffered recording option. This means the camera can lock longer videos in the event of an accident, covering 15 seconds before, during, and after the event is triggered.

VIOFO A119 V3 (May 2019)

Fast forward to May 2019, VIOFO released a groundbreaking generation of the A119, the A119 V3. We say groundbreaking, as this exact model has been one of our best-budget friendly dash cams for years. Beyond affordability, the A119 V3 provided superior quality among the rest of the A119 models. In fact, it’s still available on our website.

Previous models were equipped with 2MP Sony STARVIS, 5MP OmniVision, and Aptina sensors – which can now be commonly found on secondary dash cams), the VIOFO A119 V3 is equipped with a 5MP Sony STARVIS IMX 335 image sensor.

Because of this, the VIOFO A119 V3 delivers vibrant colours in 2K QHD – not just at 30 frames per second, but also at 60 fps. We also appreciate that VIOFO also added an HDR feature on the A119 V3. It really restores real life image quality, highly recommended in capturing evidence like license plates in a variety of lighting situations.

And even if its field of view is not as wide as the A119 Pro’s 160 degrees, the VIOFO A119 V3’s 140° viewing angle works best with its rotatable lens – offering wide shooting coverage with minimal edge-to-edge distortion.

Like the A119 Pro, we also love the GPS and Buffered Parking Recording features of the A119 V3. Plus the first to have a larger storage capacity for up to 256GB – yes, the ones we mentioned earlier can only carry up to 64 and 128GB, so it’s a welcome improvement that time!

VIOFO A119 Mini (April 2022)

The Viofo A119 Mini, which was produced in mid-2022, is a smaller version of the company's very successful A119 V3. It's not quite an update, considering the A119 v3 is still available; rather, it's a smaller, modernized version of the V3.

Looking at the A119 Mini, this dash cam is a smaller version of the very successful A119 V3. For the resolution, it also captures 2K QHD, same image sensor. This also comes with an HDR feature. Built in GPS logger, same parking mode feature. However, the VIOFO A119 Mini already boasts a 5Ghz connection, the first in the A119 series to support wifi.

What we also love about the Mini is the Voice notifications feature. While the older V3, will just beep to grab your attention, the Voice notification feature of the A119 Mini which is included in the new WM1 and A139 Pro keeps you informed without checking the dash cam screen. For us, voice notifications do provide a lot more information regarding what the camera is doing safely – so we love the A119 Mini for that!

VIOFO A119 Mini 2 (May 2023)

And this year, VIOFO has announced the launch of its flagship dash cam model, the VIOFO A119 Mini 2.

Although it still captures 2K QHD video like the previous A119 models, we think that the A119 Mini 2 is an obvious standout with the all new Sony STARVIS 2 IMX 675 sensor.

Apart from better low light conditions and image clarity, the A119 Mini 2 boasts up to 2.5x the dynamic range of conventional models as well as greater sensitivity in night vision. And while the other A119 dash cams only capture 2K QHD @ 30 fps, we absolutely love how the A119 Mini 2 can record 2K up to 60 frames per second. So for those of us who often drive on highways, the VIOFO A119 Mini 2 ensures to capture clearer and sharper images, even when you’re in motion. Take note, this works in all types of lighting conditions – thanks to Sony STARVIS 2!

We also do appreciate that A119 Mini 2 is also equipped with VIOFO’s modern dash cam essentials like parking mode, dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth. However, one major improvement on the A119 Mini 2 which we find really cool is Voice Controls.

This means we no longer have to settle with just hearing Voice Notifications similar to the A119 Mini – you get to speak to the A119 Mini 2 itself! Now, the A119 Mini 2 has smart voice-controls that can respond to specific commands such as "video start/stop", "take photo" or "turn Wi-Fi on/off". It can also 'speak' to deliver vocal notifications via its own virtual assistant.

And for the parking mode features, the A119 Mini 2 boasts the modern VIOFO dash cam modes – Buffered Recording, Time Lapse, and Low Bitrate recording. On top of these, the A119 Mini 2 now supports SD cards up to 512GB – just like the 4K flagship VIOFO dash cam, the A139 Pro. Clearly, it’s a fully functional dash cam. Best of all, budget friendly – with a price tag of only $119.99 USD.

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