What are Dash Cams?

Dashboard Cameras are devices that attach to the windscreen of a vehicle, and are used to record video footage. This footage can be sent to the police or insurance companies if any incident is to occur, to provide evidence as to who is at fault. With the increasing number of fraudulent insurance scams, drivers are in need of this extra protection to avoid being blamed.

Why You Need A Dash Cam?

Although these cameras are primarily used as protection and insurance, there are plenty of other reasons to get a dash cam.

Protection from insurance fraud - As stated before, the recorded video can be used to combat the increasing number of fraudulent insurance claims. There is still a large amount of people attempting to fake accidents in exchange for compensation, either by purposefully walking into cars, or suddenly hitting the brakes while driving to create a collision. Although the activity is highly illegal, it can be very difficult to prove your case without recorded video. This footage will work as evidence in your defense, keeping you protected from any injustices on the road. Check out the video below to see an example.

Protecting your car while parked - Some cameras will have a feature called Parking Mode. This allows the camera to record while the ignition is off, capturing footage in case your car is damaged. Usually you will need to hard wire the camera for this to be possible, unless your camera's battery can last long enough. Be careful though, having a dash cam on display in a parked car will make your car more attractive to thieves.

Recording interesting and beautiful journeys - Dash Cams are becoming a popular and safe way to record long and interesting car journeys. Whether this is recording scenic mountain roads, or documenting unforgettable road trips, dash cameras can provide top quality footage for you to share with friends.

Capturing random and unique moments - Car cameras are great for picking up very unique and once in a lifetime events. Many unmissable videos have surfaced on sites such as Youtube and Facebook, showing meteor explosions, tornadoes, blizzards and landslides. Dash cams were some of the only cameras to record the Russian meteor explosion in 2013.

Lowering insurance - Several insurance companies offer cheaper insurance deals if the driver agrees to install a dash cam. This is because the recorded footage can help prove your innocence in the event of an accident, avoiding costly and painful court fees.

 

Dash Cams Are For Everyone

Don't be fooled into thinking dashcams are only for the tech savvy youth. A study performed by the RAC found that the majority of dashcam owners fall into the "Over 50" category, likely due to an increased awareness of how dangerous the roads can be. According to the same study, 69% of people who have been involved in a traffic accident believe an in car dash cam would have assisted in solving their case. We strongly urge all drivers to fit a dash cam to their car, to avoid the hassle of an accident. Although you may believe you'll never be involved in a vehicle accident, you can't control the large amount of poor and dangerous drivers out there, and it is always better to be safe than sorry. A small investment now could save you hundreds in the future.

Click here to see which cameras we recommend.

 

How Are Dash Cams Fitted?

Fitting a dash cam is a very easy process, they usually takes less than 5 minutes to set up and begin using. Most dash cams are attached to the windscreen with either a suction cup, or self adhesive mount. When attaching the camera it is vitally important to avoid obstructing the drivers vision. Not only can this be very dangerous, but it is against the law. Dash cam laws will be different depending on where you live, so it is important to check this before attaching adhesive mounts as they are difficult to remove. For the majority of people, fitting the in car camera behind the rear view mirror is the best option. It is also worth noting that some dash cams are designed to slip over the rear view mirror, for easy installation and unobstructed vision.

The power cable should be routed around the windscreen as seen in the image below. This wire then plugs directly into the 12V charger to draw the power. In some cars, this will be active as soon as the wire is plugged in, whereas other cars require the ignition to be switched on. If your car's 12V socket is always on, make sure to unplug the dash cam when not in use to prevent draining the car battery. We always recommend unplugging the dash cam any time you are away from your vehicle, as they can attract unwanted attention.

  • Dash Cam Cable Management
    Tuck the cable above the windscreen over the passenger side.

When the camera receives power, they usually turn on and begin recording automatically (as long as you have a microSD card inserted). The dash cam's inbuilt G-Sensor will detect any impacts, and protect the recorded footage. This footage can then be transferred to a computer to watch back or share. Some dash cams will also allow the video to be played back on the camera screen.

 

Dashboard Camera Main Features

Video Resolution - The number of pixels on display. This is one of the most important things to consider when purchasing a dash cam, as the resolution will determine the overall quality of the video. Full HD, or 1080p (1920x1080) is the standard for HD dash cams, but certain cameras such as the Maisi Dash Cam offer superior quality (2304x1296). In our opinion is is only worth considering cameras above 720p, as anything less may provide unsuitable quality to act as evidence. You should always try to watch sample footage where possible, as some Full HD dash cams can still capture blurry video.

Frames Per Second - Often labeled as FPS or frame rate, this is the amount of images played back per second. The average frame rate is 30fps, but there are some cameras that can offer 60fps. Higher frame rates are responsible for a smooth video, but usually the cameras offering 60fps will limit the resolution to 720p. It is up to you whether you favor higher resolution or frame rate for your videos. Most cameras which offer the 60fps feature will usually allow you to switch between 720p @ 60fps, and 1080p @ 30fps. It is worth testing both settings to see which you prefer.

Viewing Angle - Some cameras will offer a wider viewing angle than others. This allows the camera to record more of each side of the road. Cameras with a wide angle lens will usually pick up the entire width of the road, and see overtaking cars a lot earlier than a standard lens. This feature is very important, as being hit from the side is one of the most common accidents on motorways.

Night Vision / WDR - The majority of cameras will offer some sort of night vision mode, but not all cameras can cope with night driving. For this reason, we recommend watching footage from a camera before you buy. Our reviews include both day and night footage when possible, and are often tested in various light and weather conditions. WDR stands for Wide Dynamic Range, and implies that the camera can handle both bright and dark conditions. As stated before, we always recommend watching example footage before you make your investment, as each camera's night vision function is different.

G-Sensor - All worthwhile cameras have a built in Gravity Sensor, which will detect a sudden change in direction and save the recorded video. This is vital for automatically protecting the footage of your accident. We advise staying well clear of any cameras without a G-Sensor, as you can't rely on pressing a button if an accident is to occur. Most cameras will have different sensitivities for the G-Sensor. It is worth experimenting with your camera, to make sure speed bumps and potholes don't activate the sensor and automatically save footage. 

Loop Recording - The majority of cameras record in loops of video, usually between 1 and 10 minutes long (this option can be changed in the menus for most cameras). When your memory card fills up, the dash cam will begin automatically overwriting the oldest footage in order to save space on the card. If the G-Sensor detects an impact, or the driver manually activates emergency recording mode (usually by pressing a button), the current loop will be saved in it's entirety. It is usually a good idea to record in loops 3 or 5 minutes long, as this allows you to see the events building up the the accident. If you are wanting to record an entire journey, we recommend turning off loop recording mode.

Manual Emergency Lock Button - Similar to a G-Sensor, emergency lock buttons allow the driver to manually protect recorded footage. This is useful for saving incidents where the G-Sensor isn't activated, such as witnessing dangerous driving, people pulling out, or any sort of interesting event.

Date & Time Stamp - Some cameras will stamp the date and time in the bottom corner of your recorded video. This is useful for determining the time of an accident, and provides stronger evidence if needed. For this reason, we always recommend turning this feature on. However, if you are wanting to record an interesting journey, turning off the date and time stamp will give you cleaner looking footage.

SD Cards - MicroSD cards are used to store the recorded footage. Every dash cam will need a microSD card, but they can often require specific ones. For most cameras, a Class 10 microSD card such as the Samsung 32GB Evo will be suitable, but you will need to check before you buy. Each time footage is overwritten, the SD card is slightly damaged. Therefore every microSD card will have a limited life span, although some are built to be more durable (Transcend Ultimate). Some of the best dash cams will need faster microSD cards such as the SanDisk Extreme 32GB Class 10, to record at higher resolutions.

This topic can get very complicated, so we recommend checking out our guide to SD cards if you want to find out more. We recommend avoiding the Sandisk Ultra, as users of this card have claimed it doesn't work well with dashboard cameras.

warning

WARNING: Faulty or counterfeit microSD cards are becoming more common on sites such as Amazon and Ebay. For this reason, we recommend you always purchase from the manufacturer through Amazon, rather than a third party seller. Read our microSD card guide to find out how you can avoid counterfeit products.

 

Dual Cameras -  Most dash cams provide only one camera, but there are certain models that provide two. Usually one camera will be facing forwards, while the other faces into the cabin, or out of the rear window. This feature is particularly useful for taxi and Uber drivers, and may be compulsory for some taxi businesses. As being hit from behind is one of the most common and difficult to prove accidents, rear facing and dual dash cams are becoming more popular. Each dual dash cam will offer different setup possibilities, so check with each individual model before purchasing. Make sure to read the specifications, as lower priced front and rear dash cams will offer lower resolution with the second camera.

Parking Mode/Motion Detection - Most cameras will offer some kind of motion detection feature, to protect you car while parked. When set, the camera will automatically begin recording whenever motion is detected. While this looks good on paper, it is often misleading to many customers. To begin with, many cars will not power the camera while the ignition is off, and the battery life of most dash cams is poor. Therefore, you will need to hard wire the camera if you are parking for a long amount of time. Secondly, having a dash cam on display will make your car more attractive to thieves, so we recommend removing the camera and placing it out of sight if you aren't parking in a secure location.

 

Advanced Features

GPS - Many dashboard cameras have a GPS feature. Unlike Sat Navs, this isn't used for navigation. Instead, the co-ordinates are recorded, allowing the user to view their journey (and accidents) with Google Maps. The GPS feature also allows you to see speed details, making it very useful as evidence. Our favorite GPS dash cam is the MAISI SMART car recorder, as this also records in Super HD, giving you excellent value for money.

Wi-Fi - Some dash cams have the ability to create a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing you to download or stream video files onto a mobile device. While this sounds like a good feature, we've found it to be nothing more than a gimmick, as download speeds are often very slow when compared to a PC transfer. If this feature does interest you, the Transcend DrivePro is a great camera with Wi-Fi capabilities.

LDWS - The Lane Departure Warning System is designed to warn the driver if their vehicle begins to drift out of a lane. This is a great feature to combat the issue of driver fatigue and could be a life saver, especially if you drive for long hours. A great LDWS dash cam is the Transcend DrivePro 220.

Forward Collision Warning - The Forward Collision Warning System can detect when an incident is about to occur, and alert the driver.

Speed Alarm - This feature will warn the driver when they are over the speed limit.

 

Thanks to www.dashcamspecialists.com for providing videos for our website

Make sure to check out some of our top dash cam reviews, to see the best dash cams in the UK.

The Best Dash Cams 2016

Image Model Resolution Angle GPS WIFI Advanced Systems
MAISI SMART dash cam Maisi Smart Dash Cam 1296p 170° Yes No Yes
MAISI Full HD Dash Cam 4 Mega Pixel Car Recorder Maisi Full HD 1296p 150° No No No
Rexing V1 Rexing V1 1080p 170° No No No
Vantrue R2 Car Dash Cam Vantrue R2 1296p 170° No No No
Nextbase 101 Nextbase 101 720p 120° No No No
Nextbase 402G Professional Dash Cam Nextbase 402G 1080p 140° Yes No No
Nextbase 512G Dash Cam Nextbase 512G 1080p 140° Yes No No
Transcend DrivePro 200 Dash Cam Transcend DrivePro 200 1080p 160° No Yes No
Transcend DrivePro 220 Dash Cam Car Recorder Transcend DrivePro 220 1080p 130° Yes Yes Yes
Goluk T1 Dash Cam Goluk T1 1080p 152° No No No