What is a Dashboard Camera (dashcam or dash cam)?
A dashboard camera for cars is nothing more than a video camera mounted in a vehicle. Most dashboard cameras for cars record audio and video continuously. These cameras are sometimes called Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). Most of the dashboard cameras are actually mounted on the windshield (not on the dash). Most of the cameras are facing in one direction (front, rear or sideways), but some dual lens cameras (front and back) are gaining popularity as well.
The dashboard cameras, have become very popular over the past few years because of their numerous benefits. The purpose of the dashboard camera is to continuously record everything that takes place in front of your car or both on the road and inside the car, and it can be used for a variety of purposes.
These dashboard cameras are widely used all around the world by regular drivers, taxi and bus drivers, police officers, motorcyclists and so on. An important function of these affordable and feature-rich cameras is the fact that they can be easily paired with different on-board technologies, such as recorders and GPS devices.
These cameras come in multiple configurations, from a single lens to multiple lenses allowing for simultaneous front and rear or all around recording. While 1080p-capable cams are now becoming standard, VGA versions can be had very cheap. Of course, while dashboard cameras are seen most often in cars, these cameras aren’t just reserved for car and truck drivers. It’s become commonplace to see a cam attached to the helmet of two-wheeled vehicle riders too. Purpose-built cameras are slowly beginning to occupy the space that was once reserved for pricey sports/action gear. Cyclists and motorcyclists have been long complaining about how dangerous some car drivers are and are now taking advantage of the chance to prove it.
There are two (2) features that differentiate a dashboard camera from a traditional video camera:
Auto start and stop.
A typical dashboard camera starts recording when it receives power and stops recording when power is turned off. This is typically done by plugging in the Dashboard Camera into the cigarette lighter power adapter, but it could be hard wired as well.
Continuous loop recording / cycle function.
A dashboard camera has the ability to delete the oldest files and continues recording over them when the memory card is full.
If the camera, you are considering, does not have these 2 functions, it is not a dashboard camera.
Why do you need a dashboard camera?
There are many reasons why a dashboard camera is a great idea. Here are just a few:
Evidence in case of an accident
If an accident happens, a dashboard camera will provide real proof of what happened. No need to worry about the other party changing their story when police arrive.
Evidence of Insurance Fraud
There are some dishonest people who may stage an accident and blame you. They may try to extort money from you for fake injuries and/or try to collect payments from your insurance company.
Some dashboard cameras offer a parking mode that records while your car is parked. If someone hits your car and drives off, you will have evidence of the hit and run. In this case, your dashboard camera has to be hardwired in order to work.
Vehicle abuse and misuse
Do you ever worry about other people driving your car? When leaving your keys with a valet or mechanic, you will know exactly how your vehicle was treated. If your kids drive the car, you can track how safe they are driving. Dashboard cameras with built-in GPS will even provide the route and speed.
Report Bad Drivers
With more cars hitting the road, it seems that the number of bad drivers keeps increasing. Video evidence from a dashboard camera can be used to report drunk drivers, distracted drivers, dangerous drivers and road rage incidents. Many jurisdictions have programs in place to report bad drivers. The dashboard camera video provides real proof of what happened.
Who makes Dashboard Cameras?
Most dashboard cameras for cars are manufactured in 3 countries: China, Korea and Taiwan. The Korean cameras are usually higher end and have more features, but the Chinese cameras are more affordable with fewer features. The Taiwanese cameras typically are higher end as well, but their cameras are not very compact and discreet.
What To Look For in a Dashboard Camera?
This is typically the main criteria for selecting a dashboard camera. It is important to get a dashboard camera that shoots in high definition (720p or 1080p). You can get a decent HD dashboard camera for $60.
Having a discreet camera is important. A small size is ideal, it can be mounted behind the rear view mirror. Another important factor is color. Black is the best color for a dashboard camera, it blends in with the rear view mirror.
Look for cameras that can withstand high temperatures, especially if you will be using the dashboard camera in parking mode.
Processor and lens
The processor is the CPU of the camera. While the processor is important, the quality of the CMOS sensor and lens are key as well.
Power wire length (11 ft or more)
This will allow you to install the wire around the windshield rather than hanging straight down. If the seller does not list the length, ask before purchasing.
No built-in LED lights
Some dashboard cameras come equipped with LED lights. Manufacturers claim the LED lights improve night recording quality. Unfortunately, these LED lights do not improve night recording quality because they are not powerful enough. They may cause additional glare from the windshield. If you have LED lights on your dashboard camera, you are better off keeping the lights off.
You have a wide array of dashboard cameras to choose from, from the low-end ones that only cost 20-30 dollars to high-end, state of the art cameras that come with a color display, time and date stamps and two or more lenses.
The choice is entirely yours, depending on your budget, needs and preferences!
The bottom line, a dashboard camera is a great investment, especially since it is very affordable and has a very simple design that typically consists of a microphone and a fixed-lens digital camera. These simple dashboard cameras can be installed on the dashboard or the windshield of your car within minutes, thanks to their suction cup mounting.
In the next few weeks I will post recommendations for the best dashboard cameras on the market based on my own research and experience.
Stay tuned …