What are dashboard cameras?
Dashboard cameras are small yet very powerful video recording devices that are specially designed to be fitted on the dashboard of your car to record everything from the drivers perspective – that’s how the name “dashboard camera” came about. These cameras are a little different from regular cameras, though, so it is better to have one of these than try to mount a regular video camera.
Owning a dashboard camera is a smart investment that will potentially save you a lot of money in the future, especially if you are trying to save on auto insurance costs. These are just some of the situations where a dashcam may come in handy:
- In case of an accident where no witnesses were present, dashcam footage can be crucial to proving that it wasn’t your fault.
- The same thing goes for insurance fraud – sometimes, people back into your car on a signal or in a parking space and try to pin it on you that you rear-ended them. If you have a dashcam running, you can show that your car was stationary and the other car backed into you.
- If you have a dual-lens dashcam, you can also record what’s going on inside your car – which is very useful if a lot of people drive your car(such as a company car) or if you have a fleet of cars. It’s also a good way to make sure your children are driving safely!
- Dashcams can help deter police and authority brutality. If you were mistreated during a traffic stop, your dashcam probably got it all on tape.
- And on a less ominous note, how many times have you sped past something really cool on the road only to wish you had a camera handy to take a picture or video of it?
How do they work?
Dashboard cameras(also known as dash cams) work pretty much like any other video camera – except they are designed to loop the video recording. This means that once the memory in your camera is used up, it will start recording over the previous data. This is because memory is limited and most of the driving footage you capture isn’t of much use.
Another thing that makes dashboard cameras different from regular cameras is that if the car is jerked(like in a collision or accident), the camera stops recording so your collision footage is kept safe and not written over.
Your dashcam can be powered in one of two ways – it can either be plugged into the cigarette adapter in your car(12V), where it will start running as soon as you start your car, or you can also hardwire it directly into your car’s battery(which is actually a lot easier than it sounds). The advantage of hardwiring is having your power adapter free for other things like charging your phone, and some forms of hardwiring can catch people messing with your car while it’s off.
What is the video quality like?
Video quality will depend on what camera you go for. As of now, there is a wide variety of models available – from those that record in VGA resolution(640×480) and black and white, to 720p HD and even 1080p full HD. The good thing is that 720p and full HD cameras are pretty common and compact now, so you don’t really have to break the bank to get decent video quality.
How much do they go for?
Depending on how the video quality is, and how many bells and whistles the manufacturers have fit into the camera, you can expect to spend anywhere between $100-$500. If you are just looking for something very basic, you can get the job done(without sacrificing any video quality) for $100. As you add features(such as GPS, dual-cameras, and network capabilities), you can expect the price to rise.
At Eyewitness Dashcams, we carry a pretty well-rounded selection, so you can find the exact model you need depending on what features you are looking for and what you don’t mind not having.
How big are they?
Pretty compact, actually. Most good dashcams are no bigger than your average compact camera. They’ve got to be this big, because you’ll be mounting it on your windshield and you can’t have anything so big that it gets in your field of vision.
Some dashcams are really, really sleek, and can even be fitted on the back of your rear-view mirror, which conceals the camera nicely from inside the car, and even makes it hard to discern from the outside.
Why not just use a regular camera or phone?
Theoretically, you could just use a regular camera(like a GoPro) or a phone. With a regular camera, you’d have two issues: you’d need some way to power the camera continuously, and you’d also run out of recording space very fast, at which point you’d have to delete all the existing videos to make space to record again.
You’d have the same problem with your phone. Powering it is easy by using a car adapter, but you’d still have the issue of space. There’s also the added problem of not being able to use your phone while you are recording.
Real life examples of dashcams proving handy
This video is of someone who was nicked by another driver who then claimed the original guy was going too fast. Luckily the dashcam proved the claim false!
This video is of a lady who was rear-ended and then bumped into a car in front of her. The dashcam footage proved that it wasn’t her fault.
This footage shows a 3 car collision caused by one driver that ran a red light.
So who makes dashcams?
Dashcams are very, very popular in countries like Russia(you’ve probably seen a crazy dashcam video from Russia somewhere, right?), Korea, and other Asian countries. As a result, most dashcams are manufactured in Korea, Taiwan, and China.
There are over 50 companies which make dashcams in those three countries, but as you can guess, all the manuals and documentation would be in Chinese or Korean, and support and service would be very, very hard.
Of the Asian companies, BlackVue(a Korean company) is the most popular, and has some of the best offerings on the market with an extensive network in the USA and a good warranty structure and support.
Recently, though, dashcams have begun to gain popularity in North America, and some North American manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon, too. If you are looking for a big-name dashcam, HP happens to make a couple of models, as does Garmin, and there are some smaller startups which make them too.
At Eyewitness Dashcams, we source everything from North America, so we can provide you the best products and the best service should you run into any issues with your cameras.
We carry products by HP, BlackVue, Papago, and Rear View Safety – all reputable brands with solid offerings.
Beware of fakes!
Since most of the dashcam manufacturers are in Asia, and the market there is not quite as regulated as it is here in the United States, there are a LOT of knockoffs and fakes – so many, in fact, that it’s not even funny. If you try and buy directly from Asia(like off eBay or Alibaba), you’re really running the risk of getting a sub-par item, and no way whatsoever to return it.
Having a two lens setup
If you’d like to record both your view outside the car as well as whatever’s going on inside your car, you can opt for a two channel setup such as this one made by Blackvue. The advantage of having a two car setup is very profound when multiple people are driving your car, and you want to keep tabs on them.
Certain two channel setups also let you record the front and back of the car.
Screen or no screen?
There are certain models of dashboard cameras where there is no screen, but unless you are really constrained by budget, you don’t want to go for those. No screen means very hard to get in the menu and configure! If you can, spend the extra few dollars and get one with a screen. Playback may not be the most important issue, but configuration certainly is!
So there you have it – dashcams in a nutshell. At the end of the day, your biggest consideration should be your budget and resolution/picture quality. Anything after that is icing on the cake.