What Is a Dash Cam?
A dashboard camera or dashcam, also known as a car digital video recorder (car DVR), driving recorder, or event data recorder (EDR), it’s an onboard camera that continuously records the view through a vehicle’s front windscreen and sometimes rear or other windows. Some dashcams include a camera to record the car’s interior in 360 degrees inside the camera. Usually, it’s in a ball form and can automatically send pictures and video by using 4G.
EDRs (event data recorder) and some dashcams also record acceleration/deceleration g-force, speed, steering angle, GPS data and voltage of the power source (vehicle’s electrical net), etc.
A wide-angle 130°, 170° degree or more front camera may be attached to the interior windscreen, to the rear-view mirror, or to the top of the dashboard, by suction cup or adhesive tape mount. A rear camera is usually hooked in the back window or registration plate, with an RCA video output to the display monitor/screen.
The resolution will decide the overall quality of the video. Full HD or 1080p (1920×1080) is standard for dash HD cam. Dash cam may have 1080p, 1296p, 1440p, or higher definition for a front camera and 720p for a back camera, including f/1.8 aperture and night vision mode.
Dashcams can use as crime evidence. It also can provide video evidence in the event of a road accident. When parked, dash cams can capture video and picture evidence if the 360° parking monitor detects vandalism and send it to the owner, usually employing 4G.
Many dash cams are set up to automatically record once you start the car and overwrite video once the internal storage or memory card or hard drive is full. In the event of a collision, a dash cam with a G-Sensor will detect that action and automatically save the recording so you can view it later and use it as evidence if necessary.
If you want to take a snapshot of your route, then still camera built-in is best. Though it’s usually low resolution, it does not even give a smartphone image quality. A camera’s field of view is essential, as a wider-angle lens will capture a more detailed video or snap.
While some dash cams double as actual GPS navigation devices, others simply use GPS so that you can pinpoint where a video took place, which is important in the case of accidents or other incidents. It’s also helpful when you capture a sunset, storm, or other exciting activity and want to know exactly where it happened.
Most dash cams have built-in screens so you can review video right on the device (hopefully not while driving), while others have no screen at all and must be paired with a smartphone app. While a dash cam can act as a safety device, one with a large 5-inch screen will take up more space on your windshield and, if not positioned carefully, can be a distraction.
Be sure to install it outside of your line of sight, perhaps closer to the passenger side. Smaller cams without screens can be installed right under the rear-view mirror and thus out of your sight.
Dash Cams Types
Dashcams, also referred to as dashboard cameras, truck DVRs, connected cameras, or event data recorders (EDR), are in-vehicle cameras that continuously record the view through a vehicle’s front windscreen. Some dashcams include a secondary camera or cameras to record the vehicle’s interior or driver.
Some cabin cams have a screen, also known as a (rear view mirror dash cam) that can be attached to a rear-view mirror that usually uses a debris ring or strap or replaces the rear view mirror itself directly. Others attach to the windshield, dash, or other suitable interior surfaces.
Many dashcams include rechargeable batteries not needed when connected to car battery wire or capacitors.
Most dashcam offers on the market are standalone units (Individual units). This configuration is by far the most convenient to set up and is usually the most affordable option. As the name suggests, these dash cams work independently of the vehicle’s existing operating systems. You, in general, need to run only a few wires to be operational, if any at all.
Depending on the model you select, these generally feature the lens, a mini SD memory card port, and possibly an LCD display. Also, size can vary greatly depending on the model you select. Therefore, you want to be diligent in selecting to ensure you pick a dash cam that works discreetly in your vehicle and functions according to your needs.
Multi Lens Dash Cams
More lenses mean better documentation of an event. While a forward-facing dash camera is usually enough for most people, being able to record from the back can make all the difference in the world if another driver hits your rear bumper. That is why many dash cams will have the ability to place lenses on the front and back of the car.
A multi-lens dash camera records the cabin, which can help prove that you weren’t distracted while driving during the incident and can also be an excellent security measure for rideshare drivers. The only possible drawback is that adding more lenses will drive the selling price.
Integrated Dash Cams
Integrated dash cams are less common than standalone units, but they may exist and may be worth considering. These units have been integrated into the car’s existing operating systems, such as touch screen navigation system, allowing them to offer the cleanest fit and finish. Usually, you may notice a small lens and housing that fixes to the windshield.
As you might expect that the installation isn’t as simple and easy as a standalone unit. Not often, you will need to separate the dash apart and carefully wire everything up. That also means that moving it from one vehicle to another vehicle may be out of the question, as it can be more trouble than it’s worth.
Do you need a dash cam?
A dash cam can be helpful on the rare occasion you’re involved in a crash or similar incident. But they aren’t always practical or worth the investment depending on your driving record.
- Dash cams constantly film while you’re driving so that they can capture accidents or similar incidents you may be involved in.
- This footage can prove that you are not guilty if you want to make an insurance claim or provide evidence in a police investigation.
- The most common type of accident in Australia is the rear part of another car. If you are the driver of the rear-ending car or other vehicles, you’re usually considered to be at fault unless you can not prove otherwise. If you are innocent, then a good dash cam can help prove it.
- It can also help you identify cars that may be trying to escape from an event in which you were involved.
- Dash cams records driving data during an incident such as speed, impact points and location (using GPS). This could be valuable information in an investigation or an insurance claim.
- Dash cams are also easy to record road trips (though a GoPro can be the best option).
- Many drivers are never involved in accidents so they won’t get too much use from a dash cam.
- A dash cam can only record video of its scenes (that is, in front of the car, unless you have a back camera installed behind you as well).
- Many dash cams don’t give a clear picture of another car’s number plate unless that car is very close, directly in front and in bright daylight without glare (and some models still fight).
What to look for in a dash cam?
We will step you through what to think about when shopping for a dash cam, from video capabilities, recording options, power connections, and so on.
- Dual-channel support: This is what you will need if you want to run both front and rear cam or interior cameras (cabin-view). Interior cameras are generally located on the dash cam, but the rear cameras are separate and require additional wairing.
- A decently wide field of view: You will see cameras with a 90-degree field of view, but if you go for 120 to 140 degrees, you’ll capture more of what is around you. Some cameras offer 160- to 180-degree lenses. Keep in mind that the wider the field of view, the more fish-eye distortion and the more processing involved to compensate.
- Day and night video recording (night standard is a big variant).
- Infrared lighting is important: If you want to ensure good captures of nocturnal events inside your car cabin.
- High Dynamic Range (HDR) is unnecessary but it produces more detailed video because of better contrast. It also usually indicates richer color.
- Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) is much like above, except it generally refers only to color and not contrast.
- Do you need 4K UHD?: It is easy to fall victim to the sportsmanship of a higher-res image. In our tests, the gain in detail from 4K video (2160p) can vary, but the storage investment is consistently heavy: four times the storage of 1080p, or around 1GB for every three minutes of video. For most purposes,1080p is the more frugal everyday choice. Does not avoid 4K UHD—which is a feature in our best overall picks—but read the reviews first so you know whether the cost is justified.
- Continuous loop recording to minimize storage requirements. Video is recorded, then immediately overwritten at a specified interval unless saved. Video is saved (protected from overwriting) automatically when an incident is detected. Most dash cams will overwrite older recordings when they run out of space.
- Cloud storage is available with a few dash cams. Uploading to the cloud in real-time is a nice hedge against damage and theft—assuming the thief isn’t smart enough to kill the dash cam immediately. It’s also handy for those managing fleets of vehicles, as incident videos are safely stashed online.
- Self-powered recording when power fails, so you can be sure to capture all of an incident. This requires a battery or large super-capacitor (see below in(“Power connections”). The camera should have a setting that allows you to specify how long the camera runs off 12-volt before shutting down.
- Incident recording is triggered by impact (G) sensors or when in parking mode (see below) by motion detection.
- MicroSD card storage. Pricier dash cams bundle a storage card. Some come with larger cards, and some budget models come without. There are often bundles available with the card. Some cameras opt for hard-wired internal storage, like the Miofive 4K.
Before buying, most people do not consider that dash cams connect to a power source in your car via a physical cable. That cable can sometimes be tucked out of the way, but more likely than not you will have a loose cable hanging somewhere. You can sometimes fix this with a longer or shorter cable (or a professional installation). Keep that in mind as you consider your power options:
- Auxiliary 12-volt Power (adequate): Most vendors have stuck with powering their dash cams via the auxiliary 12-volt power socket (also known as the cigarette lighter) and USB cables. It can lead to an unsightly cable run, and the power disappears when you turn off the car, but it’s universal and easy.
- Hard-wired 12-volt power (better): Most vendors offer kits that connect the dash cam directly to a constant 12-volt source in your wiring harness behind the dash. This provides always-on power, but it isn’t particularly easy to install.
- OBD-II 12-volt power (better): Outliers like the Owl and PureCam use the OBD-II connector for constant 12-volt power. OBD-II-to-USB power cables are now available separately (as an alternative to hard-wiring kits that draw constant 12-volt power from the wiring harness). I recommend one with a USB Type-A port, which will accommodate any dash cam. Most of those with captive cables I’ve seen are mini-USB. The only downside is a long cable run, as the OBD-II port is usually under the dash next to the driver’s left knee.
- Rearview 12-volt power (better): Another option that features a super-short cable run is powering your dash cam using your auto-dimming rearview mirror. You can find adapters for this at Dongar Technologies. If your car qualifies, this is by far your best option.
- Battery (or super-capacitor) power: Many dash cams come with super-capacitors, which allow the dash cam to operate for a brief period after losing regular control—such as during a collision. They don’t record for very long, though, and sometimes not at all. A battery gives you a better chance of recording an entire incident, even when 12-volt power is lost. If run time is sufficient, it also allows you to record the car turned off for a while.
Other handy features
- Phone connectivity is not essential but can make offloading video and configuring the dash cam easier. We’ve noticed recently (12/15/2020) that phone apps are starting to require later versions of Android. If you’re rocking anything older than 8, keep that in mind.
- GPS: This feature could be the tipping point if you use your captured video to resolve a dispute. Water-marking the video is common, but GPS info is also beneficial for mapping your travels when embedded into the video. GPS will also automatically set the time in better cameras.
- Parking monitoring: This can mean two things. They are running the dash cam continuously in low frame-rate mode to save card space and battery or running in standby mode and awakening when motion or g-forces are detected. We’ve reviewed cameras with a large battery to monitor the car with the 12-volt turned off for several days, but most cameras require a constant 12-volt source.
How to Test Dash Cam?
Now a day, there are a huge number of dash cams on the market today, and some of them are really very cheap. But the good quality dash cams go further, with better quality, better connectivity, more driver assistance or more safety features.
We have reviewed every dash cam on our list. Its means that we have installed them and tested them for real-world driving.
You will see our verdicts in the entries above, but here is a run-down of what to look for:
• Angle of view: Dash cams usually have wide-angle lenses. The wider the field of view, the more likely it is to take in what is happening in junctions and side streets, but objects up ahead will be smaller.
• Resolution: 4K capture is excellent, and high resolution means clearer, sharper images with more detail, but it also means files are bigger and you need more storage.
• Battery-powered dash cams: Some dash cam have batteries and can easily be installed without wires, but the batteries will not last long – typically around 30 minutes. Though the cables may look messy, some dash cams can plug into a USB socket or 12V supply and keep running indefinitely.
• Professional installation: The other alternative is to install your dash cam professionally with hidden wiring. It will cost more, and you can not move the camera from one vehicle to another, but it looks better.
• Protection while parked: A wired-in dash cam can run while your car is parked and record suspicious activity, attempted theft or parking bumps.
• Rear and Front dash cams: Sometimes, the hazard is from behind, so a rear-facing dash cam can be handy. We have a separate buying guide to the best rear and Front dash cams
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. Some front-facing dash cams come with an optional rear camera upgrade.
• Interior cameras: Some drivers, particularly those who make a living carrying passengers, will want a dash cam that records the car’s interior. Our best Uber dash cam
The guide recommends the best options for this.
• High Dynamic Range: This HDR sounds like a feature for a high-end digital camera, but HDR capture can be an advantage in bright, high-contrast lighting.
• Night vision: We do not just drive in the daytime. A dash cam with night vision can also offer protection and security at night.
• Wi-Fi: Some best dash cam with a Wi-Fi connection can communicate with a smartphone app to control settings or check videos.
• Cloud Subscription: An optional extra with some dash cams. This could be useful for fleet owners keeping track of several vehicles or for people who want to see what is happening (or what happened) remotely.
• Driver-assist safety aids: Some dash cams can sound warnings if you cross lane markings or warn you that a vehicle near has stopped in traffic.
• Voice control: You have to keep your hands on the wheel while driving, so voice control is a safety feature, not just a techno advantage.
• GPS and emergency services: It is the last item on our list, perhaps the most important. If you are involved in an accident, you can not call anyone for help, and some of the best dash cam can detect a collision and automatically notify the emergency services. And also send your exact location to the emergency services through GPS.
How to install a dash cam?
You can install a dash cam by connecting it to a 12V power supply (such as the cigarette lighter in older cars) or hardwiring the unit into the vehicle itself. While you can attach most models with a bit of DIY (with instructions often coming in the box). You can also ask for your camera installation if you purchase from car shop retailers such as Supercheap Auto.
If you decide to play handyman, align the cord with the roof lining and behind the trim panel for a neater installation to avoid being left with a lot of wire hanging from the camera. An additional cord can usually be purchased if you need it for a tidy interior.
When choosing where to install your dash cam, you need to consider the standard recommendation behind the rear-view mirror. You will also want to select spots that the windscreen wipers can reach, or you may not be able to properly see an event during wet weather.
Dash cam manufacturers have also entered into the rear backup cam business. Many new model dash cam has dual cameras that can be used side-by-side to get a large field of view or as simultaneous forward- and backward-facing cam.
A rear-facing cam is not necessary for everyone, though it is convenient when backing out of a driveway or parking spot. However, many new cars have this feature built-in, as well as GPS navigation and other safety features. You can also get standalone options in addition to a dash cam.
Dash cam battery
You may also need to perches a dash cam battery, especially if the dash cam you are viewing at records while your vehicle is parked. As most of all dash cam are connected to the car battery, it may drain the battery, potentially leaving you stranded. As a result, a dash cam battery may be a worthwhile investment, with most brands offering charging stations or additional batteries to deal with this.
Tips and Tricks
As with something you have done for decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks to select the right product and/or use it. That is the case with us and dash cams. To help you bridge the information gap, here is a selection of what we have learned along the way.
- Dash Not Glass: Suction cups can have trouble sticking when things heat up. Heat and weight may yank it free from the windshield while you drive. Mounting it to the dash puts the force of gravity in your favor.
- Front and Rear: Don’t just mount a dash cam on the front end—accidents happen out back, too. Setting up a dash cam on both ends is the best way to protect yourself.
- Mount Within Legal Limits: Dash cams aren’t illegal, but some areas have restrictions on where you can mount a dash cam, so you should know the local guidelines.
- Verify Your Settings. Like any camera, dash cams have a number of settings to enhance clarity. Take the time to make sure the settings are dialed in to match the position of your unit to ensure a good view and image quality.
Which dash cam brand should I use?
Now a day, there are lots of Car Dash Came with many brands and models available and no shortage of specs and features in each dash cam. Getting out of first gear can be challenging. If it is your first time intering into the market. 59% of survey respondents said they purchased their dash cam for safety.
It is important to buy one that gives you additional peace of mind, even when you have parked it. One-third (33%) of respondents said they had previously researched and compared various brands and models. And 18% of all respondents wished they had bought a good car dash camera.
When you buy a car camera, you have to think about the peace of mind and feeling safe behind the wheel. So looking into all your options and then choosing a model that can help should you get into an accident is a sure-fire way. You won’t be left spinning your wheels.
Are there any alternatives to dash cams?
If you do not have any interest in impact detection, GPS tagging, or speed, consider attaching an action cam instead (like a GoPro).
Some deliver much better video quality and have a range of accessories and mounts. Depending on the mount, you can place the camera in and around the vehicle. They can be a particularly good option if you simply want to shoot some home movies while rolling down the highway.
How is the dash cam powered?
The power source depends on the model you use. Some are hardwired to the vehicle, others tap into 12-volt ports, and even those run on battery power. Each type has a unique list of pros and cons and which is best ultimately comes down to user preference.
Is it a dash cam record all the time?
A Best Dash cam typically begins recording once you turn your vehicle on with some room except for battery-powered models. There may be manual settings you can use as needed, but this feature usually works well for most motorists.
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