Review – Making your vehicle safer by installing a Pioneer ND-BC8 Universal Rear-View Camera

In part three of our multi-part story on upgrading the entertainment system in your vehicle, with a Pioneer 4100 NEX in-dash receiver, we concentrate on one of the most important upgrades you can make – the addition of a back-up camera. Using the recently released and affordable Pioneer ND-BC8 Universal Rear-View Camera we follow the installation and use of the unit. As vans, trucks, and vehicles with increasingly larger blind spots become the norm for consumer use, the stories of tragedies of children being injured or killed in back-up accidents have grown exponentially.

The problem is large and serious enough that it will soon be a requirement for all consumer vehicles to be equipped with a back-up camera starting with phase-in on May 1, 2016 and be at 100% by May 1, 2018. In 2010, the NHTSA reported that each year in the U.S., 210 people die and 15,000 are injured in light-vehicle backup incidents, with about 31% of the deaths among kids under age 5, and 26% adults over 70.

What to do until then? There are a few options. Probably the lowest cost starting point is a system such as the Magellan Wireless Back-up Camera that embeds the camera in a license frame mount. You would need a compatible Magellan GPS model, but it has the advantage of using wireless to allow a 45-foot range, ideal for large RVs, or trucks where running a long cable might be a problem. Their system works well, but the drawback is that the GPS must be mounted, connected, and turned on to work. Given that many people use their GPS units only when they have to, and are hesitant to leave visible in their vehicles, that approach might not be the best solution for some drivers. There are other options, such as a new rearview mirror model that includes a video display coupled with an inexpensive back-up camera. While those all certainly work well, we prefer a built-in system, with a clear bright display similar to the ones installed in many and soon all new vehicles.

Fortunately, upgrades like the Pioneer NEX systems, are designed with backup camera installation in mind. Our previous articles detailed the installation and feature set gained with the upgrade of our stock Honda AM-FM/Cassette/CD player to a dual-DIN form factor Pioneer NEX 4100 system. To be honest, after that upgrade and work, we thought we were finished, but when Mike Fusco, General Manager of The Sound of Tri-State asked why were not adding one of the most important safety features – a back-up camera – we didn't really have a good answer. We mentioned this to Pioneer, and a week later a small box arrived containing the ND-BC8 Universal Rear-View Camera.

As per our recommendation in part two of this series, we don't feel the installation of the camera is an easy DIY job. As I watched The Sound of Tri-State installer Ted Berry remove the back hatch panels, drill holes, mount the camera, and then run wiring from the back of the van to the NEX system in the dash, I really gained appreciation for the amount of detailed work required for a professional installation. As I watched Ted work, one thing was clear, his mantra was clearly quality before speed. His priority was to make things perfect. From the use of cloth tape that leaves no residue should you need to remove it, to adding screws in addition to the double-stick foam adhesive used to mount the camera for extra security, his pride in his workmanship was evident, and (excuse the pun) was hard-wired into his work ethic.

The installation requires tapping into the car’s reverse lights circuit, so that the moment the vehicle is put into reverse, the NEX's screen displays the view from the camera. Once again, having a first-rate installer like Ted Berry made it all seem matter-of-fact. Pioneer makes three cameras, all at different price points. The ND-BC8 replaces the ND-BC6 that is similar to the new model with a few important differences; low-light performance is much improved so it's possible to view what's in back of your vehicle in very dark conditions. Not just the area lit by the back up taillights, but the entire street. It is noisy in low-light conditions, but it holds detail surprisingly well, and you can clearly see details not visible by your naked eye. The other improvements are an improved wide-angle lens, and lower price point less, just $100 vs. $150 for the previous model. All very solid improvements and the reduced price is certainly welcome. Each year brings improvement in imaging science, and imagining what the low-light performance the CMOS sensor in the ND-BC6 is capable of compared to just a few years ago gave us pause – the technology is advancing so quickly. According to Pioneer the Illumination Range is approximately .9 lux to 100,000 lux.

In daylight the picture is crisp, colorful, and clean, and clearly shows you what is in back of your vehicle. The one thing that takes getting used to is the 129-degree view, which is almost a fisheye lens coverage, so wide that like in the wonderful scene from “Jurassic Park,” objects are much closer then they appear! Since the mounting position of our camera was above the license plate so aimed downward, the view included the edge of the bumper, and extended almost side to side, including the street, sky, and both sides of the vehicle. This model is basic, and it lacks the calibrated parking assist of the much more expensive ND-BC20PA model at $400. You can turn on a generic set of yellow parking guides in the NEX preferences, but we found that to be a little distracting. The unit can be used with any brand of in-dash receiver that has backup camera compatibility. Accordingly the NEX can be used with other brands of cameras as well. We are looking forward to a less expensive upgrade that offers parking assist and calibration from Pioneer in the future.

To use, it's simple – just put the vehicle in reverse and the unit springs to life, no need to do anything else. If you have driven a recent vehicle with a factory-installed unit, the experience will be identical. The large beautiful screen of the NEX series makes it clear and sharp, and best of all it just works and feels like a factory install.

There are many rationale to upgrading your vehicles audio system, but one of the most compelling is adding a backup camera, In addition to helping you park in a tight spot, it also just might prevent injury to a loved one. For an older vehicle without a backup camera, adding the Pioneer ND-BC8 is an easy, effective, and vital safety upgrade.

Harris Fogel, with additional reporting by Nancy Burlan, posted 11/27/2015

For more information on the Pioneer ND-BC8 Rear-View Camera visit:

For more information on The Sound of Tri-State visit:

For more information on Magellan GPS visit: