Date reviewed: April 2021 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: £217.95 | viofouk.co.uk
The Viofo MT1 is a 1080P motorcycle dash-cam with front and rear cameras that promises to offer potentially valuable video evidence in the event of an accident, as well as documenting every minute of your ride. I’ve been testing it on my 1999 Kawasaki ZX-6R to find out if it’s a great value alternative to the Thinkware M1 that I reviewed last year, or the helmet-mounted alternative in the Techalogic DC1.
I was involved in an unlucky accident in December that saw me rear-ended while riding my Royal Enfield Interceptor 650. I was using the Techalogic helmet dash-cam at the time, and while the driver admitted full responsibility, knowing I had clear footage of the accident really did put my mind at ease. I immediately bought dash-cams for my wife’s car and mine, and intend to keep using them on bikes as much as possible.
While BikeSocial is part of Bennetts insurance, whether you have a dash-cam or not makes no difference to a policy, and nor would we want it to; a dash-cam is purely there to support you if needed, and to capture those moments you want to keep, without having to remember to mount an action camera…
The cameras are very compact
Fitting any dash cam-properly is going to mean stripping your bike apart to some extent. I put the Viofo MT1 on my 1999 Kawasaki ZX-6R, which required removing just the tank and the seat.
All the connections are clearly colour-coded, and there’s plenty of cable to reach from one end of the bike to the other. The 170° field of view cameras are very compact, so you should be able to find plenty of places to tuck them away.
There are two plastic mounts and two metal mounts supplied, so you can best choose what works for your needs. All come with strong adhesive pads already fitted, but there are also a full set of spares for all four mounts, plus the remote and the GPS module; very impressive on what is a relatively budget system.
The metal mounts can be bent to fit where you need
I went for the metal mounts as they can be bent to suit the surface they’re being fixed to – on the front of the ZX-6R I wanted the camera to be really tucked away, and managed to get it under the nose. Do check carefully that nothing can foul on the unit when riding; under full suspension compression, the only way this camera could perhaps be hit would be if the steering was on full lock too; in that situation I’d have other things to worry about anyway.
On the rear, the camera was small enough to tuck under the tail-light, and there was enough of a gap to get the cylindrical connector through.
Once I’d found somewhere to put the main unit – which isn’t overly large – I just had to locate the remote GPS antenna and put the remote control where I could reach it when riding.
Wiring the Viofo in is fairly simple – you can pick up from the battery for the permanent live and the neutral, but you’ll need to find a switched live for the third wire. I soldered into one of the relay connector blocks, and it is easier on a pre-CANbus bike, but most modern machines will have an auxiliary output that you can use. If you’re in any doubt, check with your dealer.
The power wires are terminated in open-ring connectors, but there’s no connector for the switch wire supplied, which to my mind is a good thing as slicing into a wire can create a corrosion point that will give you no end of trouble down the line, but it might make installation that little more tricky for some.
Once plugged in, there’s little you need to do, but download the Viofo app for iOS or Android (I’m using it on a Samsung Galaxy S10) and it takes you through the necessary steps.
Turn on the ignition, press the WiFi button on the remote, then connect to the device and the app will show you a live view of the front and rear cameras, as well as offer a combined library of all the previous automatic and manual recordings. You can also access all the setting from the app, with key points being:
You can also format the MicroSD card from the app, and download any clips you want to keep to the phone.
As with any dash-cam, once it’s connected you can pretty much forget about it as it’ll constantly record all your rides, overwriting the oldest clips as the card fill, unless you want to manually save any clips, which locks them in a separate folder.
It’s worth running a format every so often, but connecting and making any changes only takes a minute.
The remote is easy to mount out of the way
The only indication that a clip is being manually saved is that the red LED on the remote starts flashing, whereas it’s usually steady to indicate normal recording. While it flashes about once every half a second, that’s a long time to be looking to check if it’s flashed (especially to be sure it hasn’t). I’d much prefer the LED change colour when it’s saving a clip as that’s a far more immediate indicator, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road for as long. This is an issue I had with the Thinkware too.
The remote control is fine, but the WiFi and manual record buttons are close together and not that easy to index with a gloved hand, so it’s possible to accidentally press the WiFi connection button.
If you don’t notice and keep pressing the record button, the Viofo can stop recording altogether, and will only restart when you turn the ignition off and on again, or use the app to restart recording, neither of which are practical when you’re riding. When the WiFi starts running, the record button gets unresponsive, so you end up pressing it more and spending longer looking away from the road to see if it’s flashing.
The good news is that after speaking with Viofo UK and the Product Manager in China, it looks likely that a firmware update will be deployed that requires the WiFi button to be pressed and held before it activates, which should solve the problem.
UPDATE DEC 2021: Unfortunately, a year later and there's still no sign of a fix, despite it requiring just a longer press on the WiFi button to activate it, or better still simply giving the option to disable the button altogether, and having WiFi only coming on for a few minutes when the ignition is turned on.
I’ve set the WiFi connection that’s stored on my phone to not ‘auto-reconnect’ as for now, if the button’s accidentally pressed, the WiFi will of course take over the data connection that might be in use for navigation. I noticed this when my TomTom’s traffic data stopped working.
It's good to see that the UK importer is quick to assist with any issues, and that the manufacturer also makes an effort to help with any queries that can’t be solved locally.
As with any dash-cam, the main intention is to have it constantly recording. I have it set to record in one-minute long clips and pressing the button on the remote saves the 50 seconds previous, and the following 19 seconds, to a separate file, locking them so they won’t be over-written.
A 32GB Micro SD card is supplied as standard, so with a one-minute clip from each camera taking up about 121.2MB, expect to get just over two hours of footage.
Be aware that every time you press the manual record button, those clips are locked off and put into a separate folder, which all take up the space for constant loop recording.
Also, despite having the G-sensor on the recommend low setting, it picks up a lot of ‘incidents’, each 1 minute 7 seconds long, locking those clips and putting them into another folder; be aware that this will fill up over time. Personally, I’ve switched off this sensor altogether to avoid wasting space on the card, and it also makes it harder to find the clips you want when they’ve been downloaded to the desktop (though you can just throw all the files in the ‘evt_rec’ folder into the ‘cont_rec’ folder to put them back in order.
Small camera units are easy to tuck out of the way
Video quality is generally good for a dash-cam. If you’re expecting GoPro footage you might be disappointed as a combination of 1080 footage at 30fps and the compression used means it’s not broadcast quality. Colour shifts are visible and there are artefacts that you wouldn’t get with a dedicated quality action camera set up correctly.
But even with closing speeds of over 100mph, in daylight it’s usually possible to pause a clip and clearly read a number plate.
The wider viewing angle of the Viofo when compared to some other cameras means some plates can be smaller in the frame so harder to read, but equally there’s more of the scene captured which could end up being vital. Files also old up fairly well to being enlarged.
As light levels fall, video quality drops with it, which can make it harder to see detail like number plates, though in most real-world incident circumstances they’d most likely be revealed at some point, and the order of events would be obvious. Flare from lights can cause issues with any camera, but the most surprising issue was the cameras appearing to fall out of focus in some low-detail areas of darkness. This is more likely down to the compression as they’re fixed focus lenses, and while it would spoil a holiday movie, it’s less of a concern here as it only seems to affect scenes with no other light sources.
Comparisons to a GoPro do not hold up well with video quality, but also in ease of getting a file that you’d be proud of. While the footage is great, there’s no hypersmooth image stabilisation and the single files don’t piece together seamlessly. Dashcam viewer can automatically export all your clips into one movie, which is great, but there’s a split second missing between each one. Interestingly, this is the same when doing it manually in Premiere Pro, but there the audio drops out just before the switch from one clip to another as well.
Being realistic, the typical use for any dash cam will be to identify who was responsible for an incident, and those people will be known, assuming they stopped at the scene. But even what would perhaps be described as a hit and run would typically see at least one frame that could identify the vehicle.
While the mic is on the remote button, which I have mounted on top of the air intake just under the left bar, it really isn’t very effective. For a typical scenario where the engine is at idle and the rider’s having a ‘discussion’ with a car driver next to them, voices have to be very raised to pick up; it certainly shows just how good the microphones are on a GoPro, though wind noise seemed to cause issues in my test too.
The Viofo MT1 is IP66 rated, which means it’s fully protected from dust ingress and resistant to high pressure water jets. The microSD card slot is covered with a plastic flap, but of course this main unit will be tucked away under the seat so shouldn’t be exposed to the elements, or even an errant jet-wash. I’ve washed the bike thoroughly with no problems.
The fronts of the cameras aren’t replaceable, but they’re extremely scratch-resistant (I tried scraping them with a Stanley knife) and in what I’d consider to be the very unlikely event that a camera does get damaged, a replacement costs a reasonable £59.95.
Accessing your clips on the phone over the WiFi connection is the easiest method as you can view them all in one folder. You can also look at only the ones that were locked, but seeing everything in one place makes it easier to find what you need.
There’s no desktop software supplied with the Viofo MT1 though you can just download the MP4s to your PC or Mac and view them in any software. The files are named by date and time, so ‘2021_0328_174640F.MP4’ was recorded by the front camera at 5:56pm and 40 seconds on the 28th March 2021.
Clips can be viewed on the phone over the WiFi connection and easily downloaded
If you want to see where the clips were recorded on a map, and get information on speed etc you’ll need to buy some software, and I’d thoroughly recommend Dashcam Viewer, which is available for PC or Mac. It’ll only display one clip at a time in the free version, but I bought the ‘Plus’ – which allows you to view up to 1,200 videos at a time – for $35 (about £25 at time of writing).
Because the clips are separated into three folders on the microSD card, and Dashcam Viewer can only look in one at a time, you might want to throw them all in together if you’re not just looking at the locked files.
Compared with the Thinkware dashcam, I am very impressed with the accuracy of the Viofo MT1. The remote GPS antenna module takes up very little space yet really does give superb results when it comes to showing exactly where you were at any point and what speed you were doing. Check out the clip and you’ll even see that it identified the small weave I had to do while navigating some pot-holes I didn’t notice before dropping into them. Outstanding.
The remote GPS antenna is small and easy to tuck away, but makes a big difference
Yes, you can use a GoPro as a dash-cam, but you have to keep in mind that it might not be quite as reliable.
First of all, you need to put your camera into loop recording mode – you can set this to be the default start-up mode on a GoPro, so check your device.
You’ll also need to supply power to the camera, which can stop it being waterproof, plus be wary that it doesn’t overheat and shut down just when you need it. While unlikely to be a problem on modern devices, it’s best to not push the camera too hard, so avoid using 4K.
Finally, don’t forget to turn it on! The beauty of a dedicated dash-cam is that it works automatically all the time, so you never have to think about it. If you want to film your trips, you’ll likely still need a GoPro as well, so more expense and more to stick on your bike, but it is important to understand the limitations of both devices.
The Viofo comes with useful printed installation instructions
While not that common on bikes, according to research carried out by Money Expert, around three million UK car drivers now own a dash-cam, which resulted in 5,000 cases of police action within 20 months.
Almost two thirds of those who completed the survey had used footage as part of an insurance claim, and just under a third said the footage had helped them prove they weren’t at fault.
Earlier research by Aviva indicated that 17% of people who bought dash-cams did so because they’d previously been involved in an accident where they couldn’t prove their innocence.
The global dash-cam market was valued at USD 2.8 billion in 2019, so it’s big business, with 36.1 million units sold in that year alone.
Which? explains that 2015 saw the first UK jail sentence handed out off the back of dash-cam footage, the dangerous driver being arrested after police were shown the clip. In 2017, dash-cams also helped in the cases of a Humberside hit-and-run, a Yorkshire dangerous driver, a West Yorkshire road-rage attack, a Surrey roadside scam and a West Midlands car-jacking.
It's worth being aware of course that your own footage can be used against you, and deleting it could be a serious offence if confronted by the police.
The National Dash-Cam Safety Portal allows owners of cameras to upload footage to the relevant police force, should they witness an incident. This is an official police report, and it’s possible you could be required to attend court if necessary, but it also means that if you witness a driver using a mobile while driving, it can be easily reported.
The brains of the Viofo MT1 are compact and fairly easy to tuck away – just make sure you can access the microSD card port
While the Viofo MT1’s video quality is very good, like many other dash cams the audio quality is lacking. I also found a quirk with the remote control that can be an issue if you don’t take care when pressing it, but that’s likely to be sorted with a firmware update; I’ll update this article at that point.
The GPS performance is very, very good – there’s no problem finding somewhere to tuck the remote antenna, and it really does make a big difference.
You need to manage your expectations of any dash-cam if you’re considering using it to document your rides in place of a GoPro, but the MT1 does exactly what it’s designed to; automatically record decent quality footage throughout every ride, which could be vital in the unlikely and unfortunate event that there’s an accident.
It might not output broadcast-quality video, but the best camera is the one you have with you, so you can also pretty much guarantee you’ll have that clip of your best ride ever, or a meteorite streaking across the sky; those moments that usually happen just before you turn on the GoPro. With all that in mind, the Viofo MT1 represents very good value for money as a front and rear motorcycle dash-cam.
Bennetts Rewards members can save 10% on all car and motorcycle Viofo dashcams at rewards.bennetts.co.uk/rewards/discount-on-viofo-dash-cams