Dash Cam Features
The number of dash cam features can be overwhelming. This features guide is set up as a poll. It means you can vote for the best features from your previous dash cam purchases, and new features that will influence your future purchases. It’s a way for experienced dash cam users to share their knowledge of what’s important with new dash cam users.
You can vote for as many features as you like! And if there is a feature missing from the list below, let us know and we will add it.
Thanks to everyone for sharing their dash cam knowledge!
Dash cams typically record onto removable memory cards. The most common format used is SD cards. This is great news for consumers as these cards are cheap and readily available. If you can wait a while you can order them online and get them even cheaper. So we recommend buying a dashcam which uses SD cards.
Almost all dashcams record in small blocks and continually overwrite the oldest footage. For a 64GB card recording at 1080p (recording size), it can hold between 8-10 hours of footage. This means you always have the most recent 8-10 hours of footage available.
We recommend buying a dashcam that can use larger cards of 64GB and up. These larger cards take longer to wear out, and as time goes by, become cheaper to replace as well.
Modern dash cams are able to record in various resolution including 720P, 1080P, 1296P, and so on. The most common recording resolution is 1080P.
Many people think that the higher the resolution, the better the recording quality. Actually, dash cam resolution is only one of the factors that affect the video quality. Other factors to consider include the quality of the camera lens, the recording bitrate, and so on. So for this reason, don’t focus too much on the format but instead look at some samples recorded by the camera.
Some dash cams have parked mode. This means when the engine is off, they can start recording in response to a bump or other movement.
In order for this to work, you will need to hardwire your dash cam unit to power. This is because power to normal vehicle power outlets is cut when the ignition is off.
Almost every dash cam has an internal power supply. This is usually a battery, but in some cases is a capacitor. This internal power supply is not intended to be the primary power supply. Rather, it is so the camera can power down when the vehicle power supply is disrupted.
If the internal power supply is a battery, that battery will wear out and need replacing. So before you buy this type of dash cam we recommend you check how easy it is to remove and replace the battery. Also, check how easy it is to find the replacements. Often you can get them online but best to check before you buy the camera.
Capacitors hold a lot less power and hence keep the camera working for a lot shorter period. So why choose a model with a capacitor rather than batteries? The main benefit is that capacitors are much more heat resistant. They are more appropriate for a hot climate.
GPS Overlay and Speed Overlay
Dash cams with overlay functionality track GPS location and speed. They can optionally “burn” this information into the recorded video. It’s a bit like the timestamps in the early days of digital cameras. In some cases it’s good, in that it can prove that you were obeying the speed limit at the time of an incident. But if you weren’t obeying the limit, it can prove that too. So you have to decide if this feature is a good thing for you or not.
Internal Power Supply - Battery vs Capacitor
Almost every dash cam has an internal power supply. Typically it is a battery, but in some models it could be a capacitor. This internal power source is not intended to be the primary power supply. It is so the camera can power down properly if the vehicle power supply is disrupted.
If the internal power supply is a battery, eventually that battery will wear out and need to be replaced. So before you buy this type of dash cam we recommend you check how easy it is to remove and replace the battery. Also we suggest you check how easy it is to find the replacements. Often you can get them online but best to check before you buy the camera.
Capacitors hold a lot less power and hence keep the camera working for a lot shorter period. So why choose a model with a capacitor rather than batteries? The main benefit is that capacitors are much more heat resistant. This makes them more appropriate for a hot climate.
Dash cams are normally thought of as a forward facing camera. This camera being mounted on the windscreen or dashboard. But there are several other configurations available, depending on your requirements.
One option is to buy a set that includes integrated forward and rear facing cameras. The benefit is that both cameras record on a single memory card, and only need a single power supply. However, these dual systems are more complicated to install. There is risk of damaging the video cable that sends the signal from the rear unit to the master unit.
For this reason, many people buy separate front and rear facing cameras.
Dash cams range enormously in price. Cheap ones can are online for as little as $50, but you can pay over $500 for a top end model with all the bells and whistles. It’s tempting to buy a cheaper dash cam, but you may well be disappointed later.
We recommend dash cam buyers make their decision based on need rather than price.
Cloud (Internet) Data Storage
Most dashcams use some form of internal memory, such as SD cards. But there is a trend towards also offering cloud (internet) video storage. This means that the video is continuously uploaded to the internet and stored there. There is normally a subscription fee for this service. The fee covers both the data transfer and cloud data storage.
Benefits of this approach include
1. if the vehicle is stolen, the uploaded footage may assist with recovery.
2. Dashcams at this price point often also include GPS tracking. This further assists with vehicle recovery.
3. Police who impound the vehicle are unable to tamper with the footage 4. Once the footage is in the cloud (internet) you can access it from almost any device.
In most cases the dash cam manufacturer will provide a phone app for easy access from your phone. You can usually also access your footage via a web browser on phone or laptop.
Dashcam footage is typically stored within the unit, so you need to consider how to access it. There is often a small screen on the dashcam for preliminary review. If you need to use the footage for anything more, you will need to export it to another device.
Some high end dash cams also include internet connectivity. This means the footage is continually uploaded to the internet. You can access it via either a phone app or a web browser.
For lower end cameras, there are various connectivity options available. For example, wifi and bluetooth can be used for footage export.
If the dashcam has removeable memory, the simplest option is of course to remove the card. You can then copy the footage to a phone or computer with an SD card port.
Size and Form Factor
There are a multitude of sizes and form factors available in the Australian dash cam market.
Drivers of smaller cars often choose the smaller units. And 4×4 drivers seem to prefer larger, ruggedized units.
It all comes down to the style you like.
A built in accelerometer can detect when your vehicle has been involved in an accident, then copy recent footage to a separate folder than cannot be overwritten.
If this is activated there will typically be some notification to the driver on the dash cam screen, which provides reassurance that this important footage is “locked” and will not be lost.
Some dashcams include sensors that improve the picture quality for driving at night. These dashcams can usually also optimise brightness and contrast. This further improves the quality of the image.
Wide Viewing Angle
Typical viewing angle for lower end dash cams is around 120 degrees. But, some premium products have viewing angles of around 140 degrees. This means that pavements and road signs are also captured on your video.
A polarising filter helps improve video quality. It does this by reducing reflections on the windscreen of air vents and other interior items. It also helps enhance quality by reducing glare and contrast levels. This enables your camera to capture key details such as number plate letters and digits.
Polarising filters are standard for some dashcams, and are optional on others.
Since there is no need for buttons, dash cams with a touch screen can be made smaller and more discreet. The on-screen buttons can be bigger than normal buttons, often taking up quarter or half of the screen. This of course makes the dash cam a lot easier to use.
Touch screen dash cams in some cases also support on-cam editing. This means you can edit footage right there and then instead of exporting it first.
Got time for one more poll? Please share your opinion of dash cam brands here!
BY MATTHEW PEARSON - TECH WRITER, TELEMATICS ADVOCATE AND DASH CAM EXPERT
LAST UPDATED 11 MAY 2021
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