Installing a Blacksys CF-100 in a 2008 Toyota Sienna minivan

Originally posted November 1, 2014

I purchased a Blacksys CF-100 with 2 cameras and GPS and a battery discharge prevention kit to install into my wife's 2008 Toyota Sienna minivan. The camera/gps was purchased through amazon for $139 with free shipping, and the battery kit was via newegg for $35, also free ship. Both arrived within 2 days via USPS. This dual camera setup is replacing the single-channel A118. Here's a comparison pic.

They're both about the same width and height (A118 may be 1 cm shorter), but the A118 is noticeably thicker. However, because it mounts directly to the glass, I find that the A118 was much easier to install. Also, having all the wires come out the top of the A118 instead of the sides of the CF-100 meant that everything was much more tidy. To keep the wiring on the CF-100 neat, I had to sort of twist the rear camera wiring around and over to the right, where the power and GPS cables came out, so I could bundle the three wires together and feed them up into the headliner. Right now I have the three wires sort of loosely gathered together, coming straight up from the mirror's arm up into the headliner. I may try to find some small flat conduit to cover them and keep them together, to clean up the look a bit, but for now, it's fine.

Aiming the camera: my solution for the lack of screen was to turn on the camera, wait for it to start recording, then hold it up in a few potential mounting locations, then say out loud where it was, and how it was aimed, so that would be recorded in the video. Then I'd turn it off and pop the SD card into my laptop (sitting in the passenger seat) to see what worked. I had to try that about 3 times before I found the right spot. I wanted to mount it with the sticky pad up in the painted black dots on the windshield, but because of the steep angle of this windshield, that actually put the lens of the camera hanging BEHIND the rearview mirror, so that the lens was actually looking into the mirror glass! In the end I found a place that makes the camera hang in front of the mirror, and mounted it so that the blue LEDs and emergency button are just visible below the bottom of the mirror from the driver's position. Photo of completed install is in the next post.

I wanted to run the cable for the rear camera down along the carpet, tucked under the door sill trim so that it wouldn't be anywhere near the 3-row side curtain airbags, but the included USB cable was about 8 feet too short for that, and I didn't want to have to buy an extension cable. In the end I had to take apart a lot more trim to get it into the headliner, away from the curtain airbags. Even running thru the headliner, the cable was just BARELY long enough - i have about 3 inches of slack on each end. Yikes! Thankfully, I was able to run the cable through the OEM cable protection "hose" in the hinge in the back hatch, so that it's still water-tight, and I didn't have to drill any holes. I did this by taping the USB cable to a flat blade screwdriver, disconnecting both ends of the boot/hose from the body and door, then shoving the wire through. The camera is attached to the plastic trim around the back glass, so it goes up and down along with the hatch itself. this keeps it out of the way for loading/unloading cargo, and gives the best view out the back. I tried mounting it to the plastic trim at the back end of the headliner so I didn't have to deal with running it thru that hose, but the door comes down too far, and it blocked the top half of the video - rendering the rear camera almost completely useless.

The adhesive that came on the rear cam is clear 3m but it didn't work for me. It would have been fine if i was attaching it to glass, or if there hadn't been a lip on the plastic mounting bracket. I ended up sanding down the lip on the mounting bracket so i could press the foam tape I used down into the textured plastic trim above the back window. I probably could have also done something with magnets like I've seen others do, but i don't need to remove the rear camera, and opening and closing the back hatch may have messed with the aim of the camera, so I just used foam tape. Here's the rear cam's lip before and after sanding:

The front cam came with a piece of gray 3m adhesive which worked fine but it's highly visible from the outside since I had to mount it below the dotted area of the windshield. Funny part is that the hardwire kit came with a piece of clear 3m adhesive that was just slightly smaller than the gray tape for the front cam. I used the clear tape on the front camera and secured the hardwire kit with zipties like I usually secure wiring inside the dash. Tape never seems to work very long inside the dash for me, even on brand new cars. Zip-ties on the other hand, basically NEVER fall, so I don't have to worry about wiring suddenly falling down into the pedals. And besides - I was already using zip-ties to secure the excess wiring anyway, so what's one more to secure the box itself?

I used a permanent marker to black out the chrome trim on the front lens, as well as the logos and parking mode led. I used the BIC brand one in the picture, because it seems to go on thicker than a Sharpie. Shiny things are just a big invitation to thieves. I disabled the parking mode LED in settings, but it's still white even when it's off. I also used the marker to cover up the rear blue LEDs since they're too bright, especially at night. You can still tell whether they're on, but now they aren't another advertisement to thieves at night (or even during the day). Stock, the blue lights were OK during the day - nowhere near as distracting as the ones in my F70 (partially because the LEDs on the CF-100 don't flash), but at night they're pretty annoying, so I used the marker to blacken them as well. Now they're barely visible during the day, and are tolerable at night. Even if I wasn't concerned about theft, I would have blacked out the blue LEDs on the back. The flash from the camera actually makes the marker stand out. In natural light, it's all just black. The chrome ring is still shiny since it's not textured like the camera body, but it's basically invisible from outside the car unless you know right where to look.

The hardwire/battery protector kit is also obviously made in Korea since there's only Korean writing on it - no English. It came in a plain white box with no manufacturer info, and the small sticker with part number said OjoCam. It had a single piece of paper with well-written English instructions on it, but even without that, the markings on the box were enough for me to guess and set things how I wanted them: cutoff at 12.4v, and don't use a timeout of 24, 36 or 48 hours - just keep running till you hit 12.4v. Well, I got a chance to test it during the install. My test light said the 12v constant wire I'd tapped into was hot, but the green status LED on the hardwire kit would shut off when i turned off the key. I got out my handy dandy fluke meter and found that the battery was actually giving 12.47 volts. I set it to 12.2 instead of 12.4 and hey, now it stays on when i turn off the key.

Bonus material: I've been inside plenty of dashboards over my years installing accessories in different vehicles, ranging from stereos, DVDs, alarms, autodimming mirrors, side signal mirrors, etc etc... and I've never seen a rat's nest of wires like what there is on the driver's side of the 2004-2010 Toyota Sienna. This isn't even the engine/trans computer - that's behind the glovebox, and it actually has LESS wiring than this. This mess all has to do with interior/exterior lighting, climate control (3-zone heat/aircon), power sliding doors, power rear hatch, seats, mirrors, windows, etc - basically all the stuff you don't NEED to be able to drive the vehicle. one of the fuseboxes is located on the bottom of this mess and is accessible through the footwell.

Closeup after blacking out the rear blue LEDs:

Gray adhesive, camera not installed (bracket only) - the white square to the left is the toll road transponder:

Clear adhesive, camera installed and blacked out. Sorry for cloud reflections, but you basically can't see the camera unless you're looking in exactly the right spot. Unfortunately the bracket wasn't perfectly flat so there's a bubble in the adhesive.

Rear camera, as (not) seen from the outside. With the factory privacy (tinted) glass, you can't see the camera very easily, even when there's something bright like the garage door to silhouette the camera.

This is what you can see from the driver's seat during normal operation. You can also see the rear camera via the rearview mirror, at the top of the back window, just above the 2 kids playing in the street. This is before I blackened the blue LEDs. You can also see the wires, but it's not horrible. If my wife doesn't complain, I may just leave it as-is. There's about 1cm of space between the back of the mirror and the camera body, which is just enough to adjust the mirror without hitting the camera.

Mirror pulled aside, showing where it's mounted.

GPS antenna - this thing is tiny! I stuck it up in the black area, right up against the headliner, and it works fine. During my test drive, i had the GPS antenna simply dangling from the rearview by its cord and it still worked fine. Doesn't seem to matter which way is up for this unit, which is a good thing since the cable is only about one foot long (1/3 meter).

Lastly a word on safety. When routing cables in a vehicle with side curtain airbags, you have to be VERY careful. These two pictures show the rear camera's cable being routed over the driver's door into the A-pillar. In the first picture, you can see how the cable is coming out of the rubber weatherstrip/trim, and goes over the airbag (white fabric). This is what would happen if you simply tucked it into the weatherstrip, then into the top edge of the A-pillar trim, then in between the windshield and A-pillar trim. Basically this would bind the airbag and prevent it from deploying properly during a collision - obviously a Very Bad Thing. The second picture shows how I ran the cable BEHIND the airbag, and then in the factory clips near the windshield and factory wiring, so that the cable won't get in the way if the airbag ever goes off. It only took me an extra 5 minutes to unscrew the top of the A-pillar trim and snap the rest of it off, but it will pay off if the side airbags ever need to go off, because the wiring I added won't get in the way of the airbags.



I found some interesting facts about the setup after driving it around this weekend:

1) If you plug in the GPS unit and start driving, it will SAY "2 Channel recordings are getting started" but in actual fact it will NOT record anything until it gets a GPS fix several minutes later. Once it's got a GPS fix, it will start actually saving files. This is a rather odd and not good "feature" of this camera. Edit 5/27/2015: This is fixed with the M1.3 firmware - download the M1.3 (EN) firmware here:

2) When wired up to constant 12v for parking mode, it has voice prompts for that, too: "Parking mode is getting started" and "Parking mode is ending" when you start moving again. First time my wife heard it, she said "why did it say the parking lot is empty? it's not even close to empty!" ;)

3) Speed bumps (not the smooth ones in roads you can hit at 20 mph - the ones in parking lots that hurt at more than 2mph) can trigger the file lock when set at the default middle sensitivity, but only if you don't drive over them straight. There's a store near us where the speed bumps are intentionally set diagonally, so they really make the car rock when you drive over them, and that made the camera beep and record an "emergency" file. Certain steep driveways into other parking lots will set it off too. Guess I'll need to turn down the sensitivity.

4) it's annoying to have to take out the SD card, put it in the computer, then fire up an app just to change a setting like the accelerometer sensitivity.

5) The blacksys app for video playback and settings has some odd quirks.

-- a) It doesn't remember which drive is your SD card slot, so every time you open the app, you have to click the sd card button and confirm the drive letter before you can do anything.

-- b) The "zoom" button doesn't actually zoom in on the video, it works exactly like the stock Windows Magnifier tool - it enlarges the pixels already on your screen. So if your monitor is less than full HD resolution, the zoom button will not actually make it easier to see fine details (such as license plates) in the video. This is pretty crappy IMHO.

-- c) There's no way to resize the rear video window when playing back the video, so you can't tell whether it actually recorded a plate number or other fine detail. I need to install VLC on the laptop and try playing the videos there, as I understand it can handle multiple video streams within a single file.

6) GPS does NOT put the speed info into the text overlay. This is good IMHO. It does have the letters GPS down in the bottom right corner along with the firmware version (M1.2 if i remember right), so I suppose it's possible someone with an eye for detail might notice that and ask for the raw file rather than what i post to the web if it came down to brass tacks. I haven't dug into the files to see how GPS or accelerometer data is embedded. However, if I do end up needing to share accident footage with police or insurance, I would expect that putting it on youtube/vimeo/etc would strip all that when it gets re-encoded, so the hardest part would be extracting the rear camera video.

7) Parking mode - i'm not sure whether it records from the rear camera, but i don't think it does. when reviewing footage in the app, i found one tiny (like 2 seconds) file in the Parking tab, and it only showed the front camera. I really hope that's a fluke, because the second camera and parking mode were the two main reasons I bought this setup. Obviously this will take more testing to confirm. I can confirm that parking mode DOES record from both cameras, and does so quite well, even at night.

8) I like how the accelerometer data has such a high refresh rate. The graphs in the app are pretty neat to watch. You can see a sine wave as you go over a bump and the suspension compresses and rebounds, or watch it spike as you accelerate from a stop, or the spikes/planes it makes depending on how you apply the brakes. That kind of data would be neat to look at in a race car, but having to take out the SD card after every run and put it into an Sd card adapter and a windows laptop would be rather awkward and annoying. I'd have to turn the sensitivity way down (or off, if it has that option) in the race car too, because every track element would trigger the sensor and make a mess of locked files that may not join back together smoothly or easily. But since this isn't in the race car, i'm not real worried about that. :)

9) because the lens is further away from the glass than the A118, it picks up a LOT more dashboard reflections. definitely going to look into making a polarizing filter for it. i wonder if i went to the movie theater and asked, if they'd just give me a set of 3d glasses for free... i haven't been to a 3d showing of a film in years, so i don't have a pair just laying around to hack up.


Here are some screengrabs from the camera during today's drives. These are NOT thumbnails so that you can see full detail. Sorry for the VLC title bars - i didn't feel like cropping them out of my screen grabs, so only did it where necessary (full rez front shot)

First up, a shot from the rear camera in parking mode, in a moderately lit parking lot. A mid-late 2000's Honda Odyssey van was backing out and when i paused it, the van was about 1/2 a car-length away, and you can easily read the license plate. keep in mind our van has privacy glass (tinted windows) in the back, so the camera not only has to deal with that, it has to deal with the fact that it's dark outside, and yet i think it did really well!

Next up, a mid-90s chevy truck with a few inches lift kit and a huge front bumper was behind us at a stop sign. Again, you can easily read his license plate even though the numbers are smaller and the plate is one of the new flat ones where the letters are only printed on rather than stamped in, like the older plate on the van above. Also nice how the headlights don't overpower the camera. His left lights only look odd because his turn signal is on.

Here's the front view taken at the same time as the above picture. Nothing special about it, other than a lack of washing out, and some good detail on the street, median and the fence in the distance. It's basically all I could see with the naked eye.

Last is another from the rear, but during the day. It was a partly cloudy day, and this was taken while parked. It's mostly to show clarity of video, but also just how wide the angle is that it can capture. The curved lines are the defroster/demister lines in the back glass - they show just how much of a fish-eye lens the rear cam has, since the lines are of course pretty straight. And don't forget about the privacy glass/tint (not film - it's a dye mixed into the glass itself) that the camera has to see through. Turns out the tint is not an issue for this rear camera.

Also, notice how some of the rear cam pics only have a VLC title bar, but this last one has the full controls and everything. For some reason, VLC will sometimes switch the feeds and show the main/front video channel in the secondary window. I don't think it's anything to do with the video files; it's a bug of some sort with VLC for Windows. Not real worried about it though.

Original thread on DCT: