Dash Cam Buyers Guide

Dash Cam Buyers Guide

We know the questions that first time Dash Cam buyers ask, so our Dash Cam Buyers Guide provides a filtered summary of the main features that are vital when purchasing a Dash Cam, and will highlight features that are not necessarily must haves (depending on your needs). We want our customers to be well informed before deciding on which Dash Cam to purchase. There are hundreds of Dash Cams on the market, some great, some good and some really poor performers. There are also many technical terms that make you scratch your head, so let’s go into more detail on the important features you should consider before buying a Dash Cam:

1. Dual or single channel Dash Cams

Basically, do you want to record footage from both ends of the car or just the front?

In dual Dash Cam systems, the front and rear cameras record in sync and are connected via a cable that can be fed around the interior trim and door frames. Single-channel Dash Cams are easier to install yourself whereas dual Dash Cams require much more time, know-how and effort due to the additional connection cord. Both dual and single channel systems are powered through the vehicles 12V/24V accessory socket (cigarette lighter socket) via an included power cord. The Dash Cams in both systems automatically power up and start recording when the car turns on and automatically power down and stop recording when the car turns off (unless you want to use Parking Surveillance Mode which requires hardwiring to the car battery, we’ll discuss this later). All footage is recorded and saved onto a Micro SD card.

2. Recording resolution

Insist on a minimum of 1080P Full HD, anything lower and you are compromising clarity and ability to recognise number plates easily. Higher resolution is especially important when trying to recognise a number plate. Poor quality, cheap Dash Cams show pixelated or blurry number plates (even at 1080P). What good is a Dash Cam if you can’t read number plates! However, the 1080P resolution is quickly becoming superseded by 1296P Extreme HD and 1440P ULTRA HD which record much sharper/clearer images. Vicovation’s Dash Cam range offer each of these higher resolutions.

On dual Dash Cam systems, the rear cameras generally record at only 720P HD which can make identification of number plates difficult, especially at night. Opt for a rear camera with 1080P resolution. High quality and crisp footage is not just reliant on the recording resolution. Large lens apertures, high ISO values, sensor type and HDR Technology all assist to compliment the recording resolution. Both Vicovation and DOD Dash Cams incorporate these features to compliment the recording resolution.

The DOD RC500S-2CH dual channel we stock records in 1080P FULL HD in both the front and rear cameras.

3. Screen or no screen?

This comes down to personal choice. Some buyers like the mental reassurance that a screen offers. Visually seeing the footage on the camera screen in real time can be assuring to some users, knowing that the Dash Cam is on and recording correctly. Screen savers can be turned on if the screen becomes a distraction while driving. Integrated screens can also make it easier and quicker to change settings and review footage. Dash Cams without screens are mainly controlled via WiFi through the manufacturer’s app which is downloaded onto your smartphone or tablet. The WiFi feature requires more tech savvy skills and is more complex to operate as footage and settings need to be viewed, changed and downloaded from the smartphone app. A live feed from within your car can be viewed on your smartphone via the Dash cam app. Dash Cams without a screen generally have good flashing LED indicators to let you know it is recording.

Whether you choose a screen or not, video footage can be viewed on any computer monitor by inserting the Micro SD card with a SD card adaptor.

4. Size, Shape and Colour

The smaller the Dash Cam the less distracting it will be on the windscreen. Most good Dash Cams are the size of a credit card if not smaller. Blackvue Dash Cams have a very stealthy and unobtrusive cylindrical form. You want the Dash Cam to fit behind your rear view mirror as much as possible.  A matt black finish is the most popular choice as it blends in with the windscreen. Opt for Dash Cams without shiny accents as these can reflect light and cause distraction to the driver or obstruction in the video footage. Generally suction mounts are longer and more bulky than adhesive mounts. 

5. Night time recording quality

This is an important feature to consider as low light conditions can hide number plate detail and the surrounding environment. Country drivers should especially consider this features as country roads are not lit up as well as city roads. Both Vicovation and DOD Dash Cams have superior night time video quality. These cameras utilise HDR/WDR (high/wide dynamic range) technology.

With HDR technology, strong glare from streetlights and car headlights is reduced while low light areas are lit up. This technology enhances details normally washed out by strong light or hidden in low light.  Another feature to be mindful of in relation to night time quality is the Dash Cam’s ISO sensitivity. Dash Cams with high ISO values are excellent for low light conditions as they capture more light in dimly lit areas. Some DOD Dash Cams have ISO values as high as 12800. The Dash Cam lens aperture size is also important to consider. The larger the lens aperture (smaller f/ value), the more light it will pick up, therefore enhancing the clarity of the footage. DOD have some of the largest lens apertures on the Dash Cam market at f/1.6.

IR (infra-red lights) are generally marketing gimmicks and do not usually enhance night time recording details. IR lights usually cause glare and reflection off the windscreen hampering the footage. IR lights do come in handy however on in-cabin recording Dash Cams like the BlackVue DR650S-2CH IR or the Transcend DrivePro 520. These Dash Cams are targeted towards the passenger transport and fleet industry that allow additional in-cabin recording of passengers and drivers. The integrated IR lights on the in-cabin facing camera assists in brightening up dim cabin conditions.

6. Angle of View

The wider the recording angle of view means more road lanes and more of your surroundings will be captured in the footage. This helps to capture driver behaviour earlier in the incident and will show more of the lead up to the incident (for example a driver cutting in front of your car will come into view earlier on the footage). Vicovation Dash Cams boast a 160° Angle of View which is impressive. The recorded footage from adjacent road lanes or the footpath is covered in much more depth. The narrower the angle of view, the less coverage you have on the road. A Dash Cam with 160 degree Angle of View can cover up to 5 road lanes in the footage.

7. Temperature resistance

This feature is not considered as much as others and is commonly disregarded by buyers. We feel it is important especially in our Australian climate. All Dash Cams should specify an operational temperature range. Generally all mid to high range Dash Cams will have an inbuilt temperature prevention cut off to protect itself in a hot car. The higher the temperature resistance generally means a higher quality build and a longer lasting Dash Cam. Dash Cams are generally left in a car permanently, especially if you choose to utilize the parking mode/motion detection feature. A Dash Cam that has a high temperature resistance will operate for longer in parking mode as the car internal temperature warms up. They will also power up faster when a hot, parked car is switched on. Dash Cams with a low temperature resistance will cut off earlier in parking mode and will take longer to startup. You have to wait longer until the camera cools down enough before it starts up. Lower temperature resistant Dash Cams can also be prone to freezing, restarting or malfunctioning in warmer weather. Vicovation and DOD Dash Cams are top performers in this area both having high temperature resistant build qualities. We like Dash Cams to have a minimum 65°C operational temperature resistance.

When comparing temperature resistance, be careful as some manufacturers and sellers specify the storage temperature resistance which is always higher than the operational temperature. You want to know the operational temperature resistance as this is what is important in a hot car. The higher the operational temperature resistance, the longer it will stay recording in a hot car.

Our Vicovation and DOD Dash Cams are the most popular choice for use in vehicles on Australian mines. The mining companies we supply choose these brands because of their reliability under some of the harshest and most demanding conditions on the mines.

8. Supercapacitor vs Battery

Dash Cams are not designed to run off internal batteries like a smartphone does. Dash Cams run for hours on end while driving. Dash Cam batteries are only designed to last a short period of time to safely save the last file when power to the camera cuts off. Cheap Dash Cams use cheap batteries that are prone to swell and leak in hot cars, thereby damaging the camera. Also, over time, the amount of power they hold decreases and eventually die, causing power failures, freezing, not saving settings or the correct date and time. A cheap Dash Cam with a cheap battery may only last 8-15 months.

Supercapacitors are used in higher end Dash Cams. They can withstand the heat and have basically have an unlimited lifetime. We highly recommend Dash Cams that run off supercapacitors over batteries. Having said this, some DOD cameras are equipped with high quality batteries as well as supercapacitors that can power the unit independently from the power cord for up to 1-2 hours (on selected models).

9. Loop Recording

This feature is pretty much standard across all Dash Cams. Dash Cams record footage in short video files which can be customised on most cameras (generally 1, 3 & 5 minute video files). Once the SD card memory fills up, rather than automatically deleting everything, the Dash Cam writes over the oldest files one at a time. Therefore you always have the most recent footage on the SD card. This is a great feature because it gives the driver time to backup any files before being looped over. If you are not involved in an incident on any particular day, then just keep the Dash Cam looping over. If you are involved in an incident, then you should either download the files off the camera, or lock that particular file in the menu which makes it un-writable.

10. SOS/Emergency Record Button

This is a handy feature which allows you to lock a file and prevent it from being overwritten by loop recording. We like the SOS/Emergency button to be easily accessible on the camera. Vicovation have thought this through and coloured the SOS button orange for quick identification and use. If you are involved in an incident or see something occur on the road but will continue driving for some time before being able to download the file, this feature comes in handy. Vicovation, DOD and Transcend Dash Cams all have easy to find and use one-touch SOS/Emergency buttons.

11. Maximum Storage Capacity

Dash Cam brands support different Micro SD card capacities. A high capacity SD card will record for longer before looping the footage over. The capacity of the SD card you require depends on the recording time you require.  For general driving (say 2-4 hours per day) a 32 GB Micro SD card should be sufficient. Should you be in an incident at the start of the day, you will have time to download the file when you get home in the evening (it would be better to lock the incident file after it occurs as a fail safe).

Please note that the higher resolution you are recording at, the less recording time you get out of an SD card. Therefore we recommend larger SD cards for higher resolution Dash Cams and those drivers who spend a lot of time on the road. Always check the maximum Micro SD card capacity of the Dash Cam before you purchase to ensure it is suitable for your needs.

12. Audio Recording

This is a handy feature that records audio with the video. It comes in handy if you have an altercation with another driver. People generally back off if they know they are being recorded.

An easy to access mute button is handy should you want to turn audio off and not record your singing voice!

13. Startup time

You want a Dash Cam that has a quick startup time when you turn your car on. Cheaper Dash Cams can take up to 30 seconds to start up which doesn’t help when you have already driven for 30 seconds. 

14. Audible Warnings

This is a must have feature on Dash Cams that do not have a screen. If something is not functioning, like the camera is not recording, you want to be alerted promptly via audio alerts as there are no visual warnings. Dash Cams with screens will generally show visual warnings while higher quality cameras will have both audible and visual warnings.

Lukas and BlackVue Dash Cams have excellent audible warnings. Vicovation Dash Cams have both audible and visual warnings.

15. Parking Mode with Motion Detection and Impact Detection

This is a very popular and useful feature but requires some additional equipment & installation. Most higher end Dash Cams have the Parking Surveillance Mode function. Essentially when your car is turned off, the Dash Cam stays awake. When motion is detected from either a moving car or pedestrian, the Dash Cam starts recording that motion for a set amount of time. The same happens if an impact is detected through the inbuilt G-sensor. We all know what car parks are like!

This feature provides evidence of any hit and run activity or vandalism while you are away from your car. The footage can be used to prove to your insurance company that any damage caused while parked was not your fault. Any deliberate or malicious damage to your car while you are away from it can be reported to the police with the footage used to assist them in the investigation.

Any files recorded in parking mode will be locked (not on all Dash Cams) so will not be overwritten by loop recording, ensuring you have the files on hand. Be mindful that these locked files, if not removed from the SD card can fill up your memory and prevent footage from being recorded when driving. This is where larger SD cards are handy.

An essential tool that must be used to utilise parking mode is the installation of a Hardwire Kit. Hardwire Kits are Battery Discharge Prevention Devices. The Dash Cam requires a constant supply of power to record while the engine is off (when parked). A hardwire kit is connected between the car battery (via the fusebox) and your Dash Cam. When the engine is off, the hardwire kit draws power from the car battery to the Dash Cam. Hardwire kits will have, as a minimum, a low voltage prevention cut off. This means that when the hardwire kit detects the car battery is getting too low, it will switch power off to the camera to avoid draining the battery & jump starting. Cheap hardwire kits can fail and you will have to jump start your battery. Quality hardwire kits are more sensitive and reliable and will have other prevention monitors like temperature, surge and a timer off function. The Power Plus Hardwire Kit is our recommendation for any Dash Cam that has parking mode because of its quality build, protection features and reliability. We always recommend using a qualified auto electrician to install your hard-wired Dash Cam system.

ENSURE PARKING MODE FEATURE IS AUTOMATICALLY ACTIVATED & DEACTIVATED. Some Dash Cams feature parking mode, HOWEVER it is must be manually switched on & off. This can be very annoying for the user as they must remember to switch it on every time they park the car. It is even more important to remember to turn it off when they start driving otherwise motion detection will permanently be activated (due to the car moving) and fill up the SD card with locked files. Again to avoid this hassle, ensure the Dash Cam has AUTO parking mode. A Dash Cam with auto parking mode senses when you have parked and when you start driving again and will automatically and seamlessly switch between parking mode recording and normal driving mode.

If hardwiring the Dash Cam to your car battery is not favourable, DIY battery pack kits can be purchased. They simply plug into your accessory socket, charge up as you drive, and provide constant power to your camera when the car is switched off. We recommend the tried and tested Cellink-B Battery Pack.

DO NOT strip the power cord that comes with the Dash Cam for direct hardwiring. Dash Cams take 5V power so feeding 12V/24V direct will fry the Dash Cam. Always use the included power cord and a hardwire kit or Cellink-B Battery Pack.

16. Rotatable Mounting Bracket

Having a rotatable mounting bracket means that you can turn the Dash Cam to face either the driver or passenger windows. This comes in handy if you wish record a conversation if somebody approaches your car.

If you wish to use your Dash Cam in multiple cars then opt for a suction mount as they make transferring fuss free. Adhesive mounts can be pulled off the windscreen however you will need to reapply the adhesive tapes whenever you transfer the Dash Cam. A second adhesive mount can always be purchased for an additional car to make transferring the Dash Cam easier.

17. Custom Text

This is a handy feature that allows the user to imprint custom text onto the footage. The text could be the license plate number of the car the Dash Cam is in, the car model, the driver’s name, or even the road trip you are going on. This feature allows easy identification of either which car the footage was recorded in, who was driving or where you were driving. Fleet users find the custom text feature valuable as they deal with multiple cars so identification of the footage is much easier.

18. Micro SD Cards

Micro SD cards can cause alot of confusion amongst buyers. All Dash Cams require use of a Micro SD Card. Some Dash Cams come with one included and some don’t. All the recorded footage is saved onto the SD card. Micro SD Cards come in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB sizes generally for Dash Cams. Ensure your Micro SD card has a minimum Speed Rating of Class 10 so it can keep up with the constant recording. SanDisk branded cards are not recommended for use in Dash Cams due to compatibility issues and other problems eg. freezing, restarting etc. SanDisk branded cards are known to cause both functional and physical damage to Dash Cams. Manufacturer warranties can be void if any SanDisk SD Micro card is used.

We supply genuine, high quality Samsung EVO Micro SD cards in all memory capacities.

Micro SD cards do require regular monthly formatting (instructions here). This ensures the card and Dash Cam are working together correctly. Formatting can easily be done via the Dash Cam menu and only takes 5 – 10 seconds. Alternatively the Micro SD Cards can be formatted on the computer via the computer formatting tool. You should also format your Micro SD card before first use. Note that formatting deletes all files from the card so back up any files up you may need. Ensure that you check the Dash Cam maximum SD card capacity. You don’t want to be putting a 128GB card in a Dash Cam that supports a maximum 64GB card, it won’t work.

Don’t swap your Micro SD card between multiple devices, keep one Micro SD card dedicated to your Dash Cam.

**DO NOT purchase a Micro SD Card off eBay as many fake, rebranded and/or refurbished cards are floating around and sold as “new/genuine”. Using a bad/fake Micro SD card can cause functional (freezing, restarting, not recording)  AND physical damage to your Dash Cam. We have seen Dash Cams and SD cards quickly heat up & melt infront of our eyes when dodgy Micro SD cards were used. Always purchase your Micro SD card from a trusted supplier like us or a trusted, reputable Australian retailer.

Note – SD cards are considered consumable products and do have a limited life span. Because of the constant recording and re-writing, they do degrade over time and their reliability lowers, eventually failing. The SD card longevity depends on how much you drive and the quality of your card.

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That summarises the main features we feel every first time Dash Cam buyer should be made aware of and opt for.

We feel the following features below are not essential in a Dash Cam (however this comes down to personal preference). We believe a Dash Cam should record crisp footage, be extremely reliable and easy to use. Anything else is secondary.

1. GPS function

It must be stressed that the GPS function on any Dash Cam is not a navigation system. A Dash Cam GPS imprints the cars coordinates and speed into the footage. Google Maps overlay can be viewed alongside the footage when using the manufacturer viewing software (great if you forget where the footage was taken). GPS function is generally used on fleet cars or for recreational purposes. Note that the speed imprint can be used against you if you were speeding before the incident. GPS modules can be inbuilt in the Dash Cam or run off the camera with a separate cord and module. Higher quality Dash Cams will have a GPS speed of 10Hz (updates GPS data 10 times per second) which means speed and location is pinned more accurately.

2. G-Sensor

The inbuilt G-sensor is an impact sensor. If the car is impacted while driving or in parking mode, the G-sensor picks up the impact and automatically locks the footage before and after the impact. This feature can cause some trouble during normal driving mode as bumps in the road or speed humps may set it off thereby locking numerous, non-incident, files and filling up the SD card with locked files. In addition if you are involved in an incident it is more than likely you will lock the file yourself after the accident. Users generally set the G-sensor sensitivity to low or off to reduce this from happening.

G-sensor is far more handy during parking mode when the car is stationary.

3. IR (infra-red lights) lights

Dash cams with inbuilt IR lights are generally marketed as improving night vision footage. This is generally incorrect as the IR lights hamper the footage by reflecting glare from the windscreen into the Dash Cam lens. For excellent night performance, always opt for a camera with HDR technology, a high ISO value and large lens aperture (like Vicovation or DOD Dash Cams). IR lights however are great for in-cabin recording models to brighten up dark car/truck cabins.

 4. Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS)

These are newer features on Dash Cams that can warn the driver about several safety concerns like lane departure warning and forward collision warnings. These features rely on the use of the Dash Cam’s GPS. Some drivers find these warnings handy, while othersfind them annoying and mostly inaccurate. They are prone to many annoying false alarms.

5. CPL Filter

Circular Polarising Light filter can reduce glare reflecting on the windscreen. Glare can obscure parts of the recorded footage. CPL filters but can be very effective but can darken the video footage. CPL filters are generally an optional extra.

We hope this Dash Cam guide helps first time buyers to identify which features they want from a Dash Cam and to ensure they get everything they want from the unit.

Here is quick run down of the main features and positive attributes of the Dash Cams we supply (and some disadvantages):

Blackvue

Great aesthetic

Popular dual Dash Cam

Feature packed with WiFi, in-built GPS and Over The Cloud streaming

Large storage capacity, supports up to 128GB Micro SD card

Offer Truck Cam and In-cabin Dash Cam Options

No screen, so everything controlled through the BlackVue app via WiFi

Custom Text

Narrow angle of view

Rear facing camera only records in 720P HD

Lower temperature resistant builds

Can’t rotate front camera to face side windows

Adhesive mounted only , no suction mount option

Lukas

Rear cameras record in 1080P FULL HD

High temperature resistance

Great audible notifications

Don’t require a hardwire kit on dual models for parking mode. Low voltage protection inbuilt in dual cameras.

Transcend

Simple and easy to use. Fuss free set & forget Dash Cams.

Quality SD cards included with Dash Cams 

Offer the DrivePro 520 dual camera system with in-cabin recording. Both lens on the one unit = compact.

One touch Hazard/SOS Record Button

Reliable Dash Cams with 2 year warranty

Vicovation

Superior clarity with wide range of recording resolutions up to 1440P (dependant on model)

Quality build and very reliable

High temperature resistant Dash Cams

Widest Angle of View at 160 degrees

Excellent low light/night time clarity with HDR technology

Large storage capacity, supports up to 128GB Micro SD card

360° mount rotation to record side windows

One touch Hazard/SOS Record Button

Custom Text

OPIA 2 has time lapse parking mode option – saves memory by taking snap shots and merging them into video

No inbuilt GPS on most models (optional accessory)

DOD

Superior low light/night time clarity, WDR technology, High ISO sensitivities & large lens apertures

Ultra Fast 10HZ GPS Processors

Innovative manufacturer, offer Hummer Motorbike Cam

Custom Text

360° mount rotation to record side windows

Easy to operate and use

One touch Hazard/SOS Record Button

Very Reliable Dash Cams

Wide angle of view

Popular Choice Australia winning Dash Cam brand

MINI

Budget, entry level units

In-built GPS

Narrow recording angle

Lower temperature resistant builds, not recommended to be hardwired

Menu and settings can be difficult to operate

We categorise our Dash Cams as good, better and best:

Good

Mini

Better

Lukas

Blackvue

Transcend

DOD

Best

Vicovation

DOD

If you have any further enquiries or would like more assistance please do not hesitate to contact us on (03) 9338 8772 or info@dashcamsaustralia.com.au. We are more than happy to answer any questions or assist you with a Dash Cam recommendation.

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