The VIOFO A119 and A119S are the hottest entry level dash cams of 2017 and share a nearly identical shell. There's a slight premium for the A119S which features a Sony sensor, wider aperture lens, and a narrower lens angle. We wanted to see for ourselves how these cameras compared as well as help our customers answer questions relating to these two models, so we mounted them in the BlackboxMyCar Prius C and recorded some sample clips! For our sample clips, we mounted the A119 in the middle and the A119S just a few inches to the right of it. Neither camera has the VIOFO CPL filter installed. Do note that YouTube compression does downgrade the video quality significantly.
We suspect the A119S's wider aperture lens lets in more stray light than the A119 so there is a more pronounced halo effect when driving between street lights. You can see it in the screenshot below. The white balance on the A119S is a bit more natural and representative of the actual colours though. This bridge has white LED street lights and the colour on the A119 makes the road surface appear on the greener side while the A119S has more neutral tones.
As the vehicle comes to the stop light, we can see the difference in lens angles more clearly. Remember that the A119 is mounted further to the left than the A119S yet the standard A119 still offers a significantly wider view of objects to the right. The red lines below indicate what the A119S captures, note that there's an entire car that is invisible to the A119S at this point. The store awning is also barely visible. In terms of dynamic range though, the A119S picks up details better in the dark, the no stopping sign on the left of the frame is much clearer on the A119S.
This next sample screenshot shows a dramatic difference in dynamic range with the A119S. When looking under the pedestrian walkway which has very limited lighting, you can clearly make out the structure with the A119S whereas it appears much darker on the A119. Again the regular A119 has a much warmer colour tone while the A119S has a more neutral and accurate white balance. The wider lens angle on the A119 also produces a more pronounced fisheye effect which is visible when comparing the curvature of the pedestrian walkway. As we focus more on the sides of the frame, you'll notice the A119S does a better job of reading the "Pacific Centre" sign and shows the railing on the left much clearer. The regular A119 is well exposed in the center but the sides are much darker as well.
In terms of lens angle width, it may be a bit of a double edged sword. As noted above the A119 definitely catches more within frame but in the example below, the taxi's decal (BT 174) is more legible on the A119S than on the A119 since there's less distortion.
During the day, the A119 and A119S produce similar video quality. You can still see the slightly greener tone to the A119 but it's less obvious during the day. Not only is the lens wider but the vertical range is also wider on the regular A119. It's not particularly useful to have a wider vertical range since you usually end up seeing more dash and more sky, but for vehicles like commercial trucks or vans with very upright windows, this may be nice to have.
The difference in lens angle might be more obvious in this daytime screenshot. The street sign on the A119S is cut off due to the narrower/shorter viewing angle. This is a particularly wide intersection but on single lane side streets where someone may have run a stop sign, we think the A119's wider view could be useful. Both lenses are very crisp during the day and street signs as well as business signs are easily legible.
If you have any questions about choosing between these two devices, be sure to contact us with some details of your commuting style, familiarity with hardwire installs, vehicle model and any other information that may be relevant, and we can help you make a decision.