So you’ve finally decided to buy that dash camera for your vehicle; that’s a great choice you’ve made, which driver or vehicle owner do not want to have one of these Spy cameras installed on their vehicles? Everyone wants to be safe as far as possible when driving at any given point in time, and with these cameras installed effectively in your car, your safety may not be 100% guaranteed but it does help boost your possibility of escaping an accident and in many cases; prevent your insurance premium from rising due to false claims, with many more fun benefits that go along with its usage.
Features and Hardware To Consider
It is vital to separate what’s important from marketing jazz. There are three types of Dash cameras which are a combination of two of the following categories, namely; Cheap and reliable and secondly, High performance; which is great video quality and Vis-a-vis. Here is what it means; the A118 Dash cam for example cost $80, and has great video and built quality, but the failure rate is much higher. The Transcend drive Pro 200 is reliable and cheap and price is around $90, it has a great long lasting battery and has an outstanding two-year warranty, but unfortunately, the video quality is bad at night compared to most dash cameras. The Blackvue 650 has a great design and features and cost $300; many people think it’s not worth the price and there are few reasons not to argue about that. Keeping these categories in mind, let’s talk about some important features.
Notifications: This is the messages and sounds that let you know that your camera is working and which notifies you if there is any problem. For most professional users, notifications are more important than video quality. Many manufacturers of these dash cams did a poor job not letting drivers know when their cameras have failed so that the audible notifications at times can trick you to make you think the camera is working. They have warning messages that quickly disappear and difficult to see. Better cameras are persistent and have visible written messages; they can also use audible warnings like “please check the SD Card”. Your camera will eventually fail if its electronic feature is exposed to rapidly changing temperatures and humidity; this is why you need an SD card that helps to save your videos automatically as its recording.
Video Quality: Having a camera with higher quality video resolution does increase your protection, it has better chance of capturing important scenes like license plates, a driver s face after a hit and run or assault. Video quality is simply a matter of investing more in your dash cam purchase. For example, the 3K UltraHD Pro Dash Cam has one of the best video qualities we have seen and some other expensive dash cameras fall behind in this spec category. Generally, most dash cams are fairly similar, except for the bit rate which is drastically fascinating.
For video quality, you have to consider and look closely at two factors; first is legibility while moving – some cameras can capture license plate while some other dash cameras are blurry. The other factor is dynamic range, which is how well a camera captures the scene with wide contrasting lights. One benefit of dynamic range is to capture dimly lit pedestrians, which can be missed by poor performing cameras, it is also important in cases of accidents to show the entirety of what happened.
Lithium-ion Batteries Vs Capacitors: Most dash cams can save video after losing power from your vehicle. The spy camera can acquire energy from external battery available. Lithium-ion batteries are used for most dash cams because they are cheap, they store a large charge which can give up to 50 minutes of use, great for recording and capturing accident scenes if you don’t have a Smartphone. Unfortunately, they are prone to failing under hot weather, which can cause it to swell or cause a leakage that damages the camera.
Capacitors, on the other hand, are heat resistant and generally last much longer than Lithium-ion batteries. The downside is the added cost and they last only after shutting down your camera. In general, professional dash cam users do prefer capacitor cameras, but that may limit your options for budgeting on other units and accessories.
Dash Camera Lenses: Lens focuses on light and its critical for sharp images. Better lenses are made of glass and not plastic. The F-number represents the size of the aperture, and a lower number means a wider aperture and more light improves clarity. Inside most dash cameras, there are two components that greatly matters for video quality; first is the image processor and the other is the image sensor. The image sensor collects light and turns it into a digital signal for the processor. Better sensors are clear even in low light situations. The image processor takes the digital information from the sensor and turns it into a video file.
Appearance: Specifically, when dealing with dash cams, much emphasis should be placed on its discreteness. Professional users do much to avoid using large and powerful cameras that can be easily seen. For appearance, we look at three attributes; its size, shape, and color. The smaller match-box size dash cam is difficult to spot, compared to the much larger ones. Most dash cams look like the point and shoot camera. When it comes to color; anything other than black can easily be noticed. Other colors do reflect more heat, which could increase liability over time. So many manufacturers do attach a metallic design, which sparkles and does attract attention.
Before you buy that dash camera, a more discrete color camera option is better, but go with what you enjoy most, some people want something flashy and some want a cooler design.
Installation: There are two general categories; first, a type that attaches to your rare view mirror and more commonly your camera is attached to your windshield, using an adhesive or suction mount. An adhesive mount uses a tape pad to keep the camera in place, they are secure and reduce vibration compared to suction mounts. They are more compact and the only downside is that they are un-reusable; you have to use a new pad if you’re moving into a new vehicle. Suction mounts use a vacuum to hold the camera in place and they are easily reusable, but the downside of it is that they may fall off when the weather changes or when the rubber hardens. For suction mounts, the camera may be prone to vibrations, in some weaker designs, the shakings are quite noticeable, so if there’s an option, it is preferred you make use of a tape mount as a hassle-free solution since you can always buy a second mount.
Looking closer at their freedom of movement, the camera attachment in rare view mirror comes in three different designs, the first strap is chipped into your existing mirror with the camera poking up from the bottom and this completely covers the mirror so you lose any anti-glare functionality.
The above options can be an optional accessory, which leads to two reasons why people use a mirror attachment camera:
- They don’t want anything hanging on the windshield
- They think the design is stealthier.
Dual Dash Cam View: Some people like to install dash cams with a second supporting cam view. Remote cameras are generally mounted on the rear windshield and add contacts to what the front camera captured which gives you additional details in an accident scenario. Due to the complexity of dual dash cam system, video quality is often sacrificed. Therefore, if you prioritize video quality, you may want to install two separate cameras that most times are difficult and hard to maintain.
Another dual camera style has a camera that faces inside the passenger cabin; they often have infrared lights for night vision. This is useful if you are a professional driver that needs to capture any problem that occurs when driving, but if you’re just a common driver, it is often more of a liability than a help.
Dash Camera Set-Up: When you first receive your camera, in most cases you will install it right away and it will work. Many drivers want to customize settings like time and date first. Most best dash cams have an LCD screen and buttons, but people want something intuitive like on-screen descriptions and clear menus. Other cameras like the Blackvue 650 have no LCD screen and needs a Smartphone or computer to change options. If your dash cam doesn’t have a Wi-Fi feature, you may have to pull out the Micro SD card and load a computer program to change settings. Some other dash cameras require you to connect them directly to your computer.
Wi-Fi Feature: With the Wi-Fi function, you can connect your camera directly to your Smartphone through an app so that you can actually stream and download recorded videos. These can be used for reviewing an accident scene; you can preview your video but don’t make it obvious that a dash camera is installed.
GPS Tracking Feature: This is used to log your speed and show position, not to give you instructions on where to go. These can be seen in some app where you can visualize your stealth, speed and more. Many drivers hope that this can be used in cars to prove that they weren’t speeding, and haven’t seen some successful cases yet, but you can be the first.
If you have teenagers, employees that need to lend your vehicle, you can make use of the GPS tracking feature to check if your vehicle was properly used. GPS may not be as useful as everyone thinks, except in a few situations where it may be needed especially in the case of professional driving. If you have a court case regarding this category, you may need to testify that your GPS reading is accurate
G Sensors: This is a popular item in the world of dash cam, which helps to detect forces and movements. Now, many manufacturers sell it as something that enables you to detect an accident and lock the file to prevent it from overwriting. The reality is much different, and first, it’s not a perfect system. In most dash cameras, you can adjust how much forces are required to lock a file. If it is too sensitive, driving over a bump can trigger the G-sensor and if it’s too low, it doesn’t do anything.
Part Recording / Motion Detection: Part recording is a special setting that only records movement or when an alarming noise is detected. It is used to safe space on your memory card as you don’t want to record when nothing is happening. Now, most people use it to catch hidden runs or vandalism in a parking lot. Generally, most dash cameras record for 5 – 10 seconds when the system is triggered; it could be called buffet part recording, and it does not only capture the event but the moments leading to it.
In cheaper cameras, you have to manually manipulate to enable part recording through the menu, it’s not practical and if you forget to disable it, you could lose the footage while driving. The motion detection algorithm is not perfect, better cameras automatically activate part recording using the combination of GPS and the G-sensor to detect if you’ve moved. Keep in mind, part recording can require additional installation, and you’ll need to connect your camera to your vehicle battery, and most often through the fuse box if the socket isn’t constantly powered.
If you ever need to record partly even in mild weather, you need to make use of a heat resistant camera, due to the greenhouse effect; this is why it is recommended you make use of a capacitor camera, which can operate at a higher temperature limit. Most cameras are designed not to work above 60-degree temperature; Some dash cameras can work up to 80 degrees Celsius but you should not be recording close to that degree in temperature.
The Emergency Lock Button Function: When pressed, this helps to lock the current video from overwritten. It helps you to have accident footage or if you need to save an interesting scene for later viewing. It ideally creates a new video file that distinct both in the app and in the file name. it records before and after the button is pressed and not just whatever was currently recording. If you make use of the emergency lock feature quite frequently, you will want to look for a button that’s easy to find even in the dark and located away from important features; you don’t want to accidentally turn-off recording.
Microphone Management: A microphone is included in nearly every dash camera and helps pick up conversations and sounds, which can be used for evidence. In every camera seen, you can disable the microphone from the menu, it has a hardware button to make it easy to turn-off and it is recommended for all users to look up their local laws and other jurisdictions regarding audio recordings.
Video Processing Settings: It may interest you to note that this feature is supposed to help improve video quality, but sometimes can be useless at best. The 60 frames per second are marketing to reduce motion blur by doubling the video frames captured from 30 to 60 frames per second. However, you have to greatly reduce the resolution, which dramatically reduces video quality, and this as well does not help to reduce blurriness at all, rather shutter speed helps to do that. One of the most marketed features is the high dynamic range processing (HDR), it’s a processing algorithm that is used to improve clarity under contrasting light. You have to manually enable this feature in the settings, and just like 60 FPS, it needs more processing power so you lose more video quality as well. HDR does not significantly improve quality, it is best to leave it off.
Conclusion on Important Features For A Dash Camera
Aftermarket dash cameras can be loaded with a host of useful extra part and features, while it's not in the case as in the past, even the most basic dash camera these days’ boast of an auto-recording function. It is now considered a must feature for most users which starts and stops the camera recording with the vehicle ignition. Forgetting to press record is a thing of the past. Loop recording is now a must-have feature that overwrites the oldest footage as the memory card becomes full. However, having loop recording active means important video from an accident can be overwritten if you forget to stop the recording, such occasions can be prevented if your dash cam has an in-built G-centre. If the high G-forces of an accident are detected, the camera will save a couple of minutes before and after the event. A G-centre is also essential to the function of part mode feature and investing more in your dash cam brings extra features which could be vital in accident scenarios.
At the top of the range, some dash cameras further bring convenience and safety features such as lane departure warnings, forward collision warnings and gesture recognition hardware which is available in some models; meaning a quick wave of the hand can make your camera capture a photo.
Considering the resolution in which each dash cam records, the entry level is VGA or 480P, going up from there to 720P high definition than to 1090P for high definition and 2K / 4K for super high definition. Purchasing the highest definition within your budget will ensure that every available data is clearly visible in our footage, but a resolution is not only the consideration around image quality, choosing a camera with a wider range of view will also ensure you capture more of your surroundings.