Back-up cameras are particularly handy on vehicles with high belt lines and poor rear visibility. It’s a simple feature that serves a practical purpose. Unfortunately, Mazda doesn't even offer a back-up camera on the 5, instead relying on ultrasonic sensors that beep annoyingly on higher-trim models. The good news is that back-up cameras are easy to find for very little money on eBay; they're also not difficult to install.
While aftermarket companies offer universal-mount cameras that replace your license plate frame or require drilling, we opted for one that provides a factory look. It’s generic and attaches to a Mazda-specific license plate light mount.
The back-up camera we went with is compatible with virtually any current Mazda vehicle, thanks to the manufacturer sharing parts across most of its model line-up. It employs a small plastic mount that clips onto the license plate lamp. I chose to attach the camera to the right side, though it really doesn't make a difference. But before you even get to that point, you need to take off the interior trunk trim. Mazda makes it easy on the 5, but difficulty will vary.
Normally, you’d run an RCA video cable up to the front of the car. But I decided to get a little lazy and use an Audiovox ACA300 wireless back-up camera transmitter and receiver. I’ve had the ACA300 sitting in a box of miscellaneous car audio equipment since 2008 when I had grand plans for a new-at-the-time Chevy HHR SS. If you don't want to run an RCA cable through your cabin, you can buy one for $25. That's quite a bargain compared to the $70 I paid six years ago.
The camera and wireless transmitter need power, of course. Fortunately, the white reverse lights are located on the tailgate. Again, I used wire taps to get power to them. Because the back-up lights are only on when the car is in reverse, the camera operates the same way and stays off unless it's needed.
I'm a real stickler about random panel rattles. To ensure I wouldn't have any issues with the wires, connectors, or wireless transmitter banging against the inside of the tailgate, I used electrical tape and zip ties for a factory look.
Next, you need a display to output the back-up camera's feed. If you don't want to splurge on a navigation system upgrade, you can install a rear-view mirror replacement or clip-on that includes a display for the camera. I went with a Sony XAV-602BT double DIN head unit upgrade, which will be covered in its own review.
The camera installation job only took about 30 minutes, and that was me being extremely careful with the interior tailgate panels.