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 dash cams 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 dash cams 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, dash cams 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.
Beware of fakes!
Since most of the dash cam 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!
Our top picks
BlackVue DR650S-2CH Dash Cam
Garmin Dash Cam 35
Falcon Zero F360 Dash Cam
While eyewitness dash cams aren’t really new inventions, they are only starting to gain some popularity recently.
With that in mind, we have reviewed some of the best models currently on the market right now so that you will have an easier time shopping for the right one for your vehicle.
1. BlackVue DR650S-2CH Dash Cam
Featuring a motion sensor that automatically activates the camera on detection of a movement and dual HD cameras that record the front and rear of your car, it’s not difficult to realize how sublime this high-performing eyewitness dash cam is.
Apart from being incredibly functional, it is also filled with a lot of mouth-watering features, coupled with the fact that its manufacturer is one of the most trusted brands in the eyewitness dashcam industry.
The dual camera doesn’t only record all the surrounding events, they record everything in high definition, which means you can always count on this device in case of any eventuality.
Furthermore, both front and back cameras are fully adjustable, which allows you to capture any occurrence that involves your car. Not only that, but the cameras also come with coaxial cables which enable them to lessen signal noise.
Moreover, the dash cam comes with a 16GB memory card, which can be further expanded up to 64GB. For maximum versatility, there are three recording modes to choose from – Normal, Event, and Parking.
And the G-sensor technology incorporated in the dash cam means it automatically senses when a collision happens and marks the time and date on the footage, which can be saved for evidence should there be a need.
Additionally, the BlackVue dash cam comes outfitted with GPS and inbuilt Wi-Fi capabilities.
The GPS records the date, time, location, and speed of your vehicle into your footage, and the accompanying application allows you to watch recorded and live videos from your camera on your phone. The app even enables you to adjust your preferences and settings on your dash cam.
When it comes to the design, the camera might not be discreet enough. While it’s small in size and comes in a discreet black, there are some attention-grabbing lights on both cameras.
- Comes with dual camera
- Equipped with GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities
- Fully adjustable cams
- Reduces signal noise
- Inbuilt G-sensor technology
- Not discreet enough
- Quite expensive
2. Garmin Dash Cam 35
Whenever cameras are talked about, it doesn’t really get any bigger than Garmin. Being one of the most trusted companies when it comes to cameras, you can trust them not to disappoint on this as well.
Apart from featuring the quite familiar GPS and Wi-Fi compatibility like the BlackVue, this one packs extra features such as speed camera and led light warnings.
Like the BlackVue model, the GPS compatibility here also means it provides precise details like direction, speed, time, and location if a collision ever happens.
For optimum convenience, the Garmin Dash Cam 35 comes with an inbuilt 2.3-inch LCD color display, which lets you watch video playback.
If that’s not easy enough for you, you can connect the device to your computer for large-screen viewing. Also, you can decide to either record in WVGA, 720p, 1080p resolution, depending on your personal preference.
However, this model lacks a night-vision mode for night driving. In fact, it doesn’t have any image-enhancing feature for severe lighting situations. Consequently, it may be unable to deliver precise details when driving through a tunnel or at nights.
When it comes to storage capacity, this model isn’t imposing. It comes with a 4GB memory card that can be expanded up to 32GB.
However, it has a snapshot feature that enables you to take photos with the device rather than videos. This is usually helpful in situations when you have to snap, like damage to your vehicle.
The camera is also fully adjustable, which allows you to record any direction around your car, depending on your specific needs.
• Safety camera warnings.
• GPS capabilities.
• Crips and clear display.
• Records videos in HD.
• Capable of taking snapshots.
• Lacks a night-vision mode.
• Small storage capacity.
3. WickedHD G1W
With manufacturers churning out affordable dash cams like the WickedHD G1W Dash Cam from time to time, there is literally no excuse for anyone not to have dash camera installed in their vehicle.
Despite being very affordable, the WickedHDD G1W allows you to record your trips in high-definition.
It even comes with a wide capture angle which will enable you to record scenery and cars ahead and oncoming traffic as well. Not only that, but you can also choose to either record in 720p or 1080p resolution.
However, this model is different when it comes to adjustability, in the sense that it is not fully adjustable.
But the unit features a large 2.7-inch color LCD display which allows you to view your moments instantly.
Furthermore, the device comes with an infrared night-vision capability which enables you to record clear videos in low-light conditions or at night.
In addition to that, the dash cam is equipped with G-sensor impact detection and inbuilt motion detection features, which automatically trigger the device for recording when a movement or an impact is detected. Of course, everything recorded by the camera is backed up so you won’t lose any video even if the unit is damaged.
The WickedHD G1W Dash Cam is understandably a simple camera without additional frills. While it lacks fancy features such as Wi-Fi or GPS options, it makes up with impact and motion detection technology.
Its lower price point also means people on a budget will likely find it attractive.
• Affordable price point.
• Impact and motion detection technology.
• Features an LCD display.
• Records in HD.
• Infrared night-vision capability.
• Lacks fancy features.
• Not totally adjustable.
4. Falcon Zero F360 Dash Cam
Whether it’s a casual drive or an accident, the Falcon Zero F360 is equipped with dual cameras to capture vital driving moments. Apart from recording in high-definition, this device is also capable of recording crystal clear videos in low-light conditions and at night.
This device captures photos and videos in 1080p and 720p in high-definition.
It’s wide 180-degree viewing angle also lets you find the ideal angle and get every important moment recorded.
The F360, besides being a dash camera, also doubles as a rear mirror, which is great considering you can easily watch your back and simultaneously keep a tab on what’s happening around your car.
Furthermore, the camera gives you two recording options – loop recording or direct recording on the memory card. With the loop recording, you’ll never run out of storage as it records new videos over old ones automatically.
Although exporting footage is more comfortable with SD cards, so your final choice will boil down to your personal preference. The device comes with a 16GB Class 10 memory card, which can be expanded should there be a need for expansion.
Keep in mind that regardless of the recording option you choose though, you can lock important videos so that they won’t be overrun.
For the purpose of discreetness, the camera comes with a long 10-foot cord, which makes it easy to set up the dash cam where it can be easily discreet.
The HDMI output it features also means you can view your videos on a larger screen.
• Equipped with dual cameras.
• Two recording options.
• Records great videos in low-light conditions.
• Comes with a long cord.
• Doubles as a rear mirror.
• A large LCD display.
• No con to speak of.
5. Magellan RoadMate 6230-LM – Gps with DVR Camera
Apart from serving as a dash cam, the Magellan RoadMate 6239-LM also doubles as a GPS unit, which means it records the road and scenery ahead of you while driving and also offers driving assistance.
It doesn’t stop there – this unit also provides several extra features such as parking assistance, traffic alerts, and the option to utilize a back-up camera. And for easy viewing access, it’s outfitted with a 5-inch color display which shows the time and date.
By and large, this is an excellent dash camera that it is just tricky to fault regardless of your best effort.
Also, there is an 8GB micro SD card included on which everything recorded will be saved.
A downside, however, to this storage type is that you will have to be manually deleting unneeded videos to maintain space or insert a larger SD card in the events that the one included gets full. Most other dash cameras come with a loop recording capability, which records over old and unmarked videos automatically.
Thankfully, this model also comes with the G-shock sensor, which automatically detects a collision and captures it, and subsequently, mark the video on the SD card, and also some time before and after the crash.
Probably the most prominent feature you will find on this camera is the GPS capability. Just input your address, and the GPS will guide you directly to your destination while adding voice prompts to ensure you’re on the right path.
The incorporated SmartDetour technology is also capable of rerouting you automatically to the next best navigation option provided there is an accident or traffic.
• Large LCD display.
• Traffic alerts and parking assistance.
• Doubles as a GPS unit.
• G-shock sensor.
• Doesn’t have a loop recording option.
Other Things to Consider when buying a Dash Cam
The things to consider when buying an eyewitness dashcam are not limited to the features we discussed earlier in the article.
Some of the other things to consider are below:
Another feature you’ll need to check out is the dash cam’s performance in low-light conditions.
Before going on to buy a dash cam, investigate whether the device is outfitted with low-light sensors or not.
Most traffic collisions and accidents occur at night, and for your dash camera to be any use during the investigation, it needs to have great low-light recording capabilities. This feature is a must-have for you if you frequently drive after dark.
Find a dash camera with a wide dynamic range, also known as high dynamic range. A dash cam outfitted with these features are capable of recording and processing videos in low-light conditions and enhance it digitally to improve it.
Models that have the parking mode feature are capable of going into standby when your car is parked. In case you’re wondering how the device knows when your car is parked, it knows when the engine is turned off.
So, when the vehicle is parked, then dash cam will automatically start recording for a while when a vibration is detected, like someone trying to break into the car.
Some models even provide a feature that lets you view your car live and will send alerts to your smartphone.
For this type of dashcams, you also need a constant power supply like Power Magic Pro.
Some dash cams offer voice support to allow you to issue commands conveniently when starting or stopping audio recording, take a snapshot, and more. In fact, some even support Amazon Alexa so you can command your car to create to-do lists, play music, check calendar and also control your smart devices at home.