There is no doubt that dash cameras are becoming more popular around the world including a near obsession developed in Russia. They’ve been around for a long time in police cruisers to capture evidence during traffic stops. What is a dash cam and why would you want one?
A dashcam (also dashboard camera, dash camera, dash cam and in-car camera) is attached on or near the dashboard, on the rearview mirror, or to the windshield at the front of a vehicle. Their typical use is for insurance purposes in commercial trucking and as evidence in court since besides being just a camera, they have a built-in digital video recorder (DVR).
Some models can also record information about the vehicle such as its speed, GPS location, and a running time code. Many also record sound along with the video.
A dash camera’s DVR typically records directly to a memory card and automatically loops and records newer footage over older footage when card capacity is reached. Some models have motion sensors that only record while the vehicle is moving and others record continuously while the vehicle is on.
Most dash cameras have a small, built-in video display screen used for previewing the video display, configuring the menu, or reviewing video footage after it is captured.
Dash cameras are not the same as backup cameras which do not record video and are usually installed to only display video when the vehicle is backing up. Some dash cameras do have two cameras which can be directed towards both the back and the front of the vehicle.
Should you buy one? Right now, the only real advantage of having one is to resolve disputes in a traffic accident and to prevent fraud perpetrated against you. Any footage you record is admissible in court and could make the difference between winning and losing in the absence of reliable witnesses.
On the other hand, that goes both ways and a court made aware of the existence of your dash cam could subpoena its footage for use against you in court.
In the future, insurance companies may offer discounts to drivers with dash cameras to try and curb their multi-billion dollar auto insurance fraud liabilities, but that does not appear to be available yet in the short term.
So you’ve decided to get a dash cam, but how do you decide which one is best for you? Here is an explanation of some features to look for in a dash camera.
Dash Cameras Features
Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
Each dash cam is basically made up of a camera, DVR, and display screen. The DVR records the digital video at a specific frame rate and resolution that are sometimes adjustable.
Frame rate is the number of individual frames per second that the DVR records. The higher the frame rate, the better the picture, but higher frame rates also use twice the digital storage.
Resolution is actually specified for the display that you will be using to view the video. Many dash cam DVRs record at an HD resolution of 720p or 1080p.
DVR recording quality is often specified as a combination of resolution and frame rate. For instance, a DVR may have a specification to record in Full HD 1080p at 30 frames per second (FPS). The same DVR may be selectable to choose HD 720p at 60 FPS.
Which is better? It depends on what you’re looking for. Faster frame rates capture more information while higher resolutions allow you to show more detail on larger screens. Which you need will depend on the light level, speed of the scene your recording, and how much detail you need to capture.
Also remember that most dash cameras record in a continuous loop that records new video footage over old footage as digital recording space runs out. That means if you record high resolution and high frame rates, the length of the loop will be shortened giving you fewer minutes of historical footage.
DVR Video Storage Capacity
Most dash cams come with very little internal storage capacity and it’s common for users to buy an optional Secure Digital (SD) card to improve storage capacity. SD cards are a standard format for non-volatile storage in portable devices of all types and are available in 8 GB, 16 GB, 24 GB, 32 GB (the SD card limit of most dash cams), and 64 GB capacities or larger. The larger the SD card capacity, the more expensive the card topping out at around $30 (as of this writing) for 32 GB.
Pay attention to the SD card specification and be sure to get the right size. microSD format (also known as TF format) cards are the most popular.
Dash Cameras Video Compression
Video compression is important because it determines how much space video takes up on your SD card. The better the compression, the more video that can be recorded. The most common video compression format currently used is the H.264/MPEG 4 Advanced Video Coding (AVC). H.264 and MPEG 4 are interchangeable.
Viewing angle is specified in degrees and represents the angle of the area in front of the camera that will be visible in the recording. It does not usually correspond with what can be viewed on the built-in display since the viewing angle is usually wider. A wide viewing angle satisfactory for most dash cams is 120-degrees, but viewing angles up to 160-degrees are available.
Some dash cams come with GPS loggers which record at least the current location of the camera at regular intervals and may also record the vehicle’s path and speed.
A gravity sensor also known as a G-Sensor can record changes in acceleration along the path of the vehicle. A 3D G-Sensor can record right and left change during acceleration, fore and aft changed during acceleration, and up and down changes during acceleration. Both flag current video footage to be saved when the sensor detects the forces associated with an impact. This prevents that footage from being overwritten by newer footage during the continuous loop.
Some dash cameras come with a feature known as SOS. That feature is usually implemented with a push-button on the unit to save a specified piece of video several seconds before and after the button push. The G-Sensor can be configured to automatically activate the SOS function based on the crash g forces detected by the G-Sensor.
Most dash cameras come with very small built-in video screens used to review video footage after recording. Since they are so small, it’s more difficult to do any detailed review of footage using them. So, screen size is not really that much of a factor since you will most likely be transferring the video to an SD-compatible digital video player when you need to. Larger screens do make it easier to configure menus on the screen and preview the scene you’re recording.
Most dash cams come with a 12V or combination 12V/24V power adapter that plugs directly into a power port in your vehicle. Once know as cigarette lighters, some modern power ports are available even when the vehicle is not turned on. This is important because if you plug into a power port that does not turn off when you’re away from your vehicle; your dash cam could drain your battery.
Since most dash cams are manufactured in Taiwan and China and many are sold in Russia, as you would expect, menus are configurable for different languages. Check to make sure English is one of them if that is your language of choice.
Be prepared, these cameras are not mainstream in the U.S. and so are almost exclusively made in Taiwan and China by different, nearly anonymous manufacturers. Don’t be surprised to find cameras that look identical under different brand names. They are probably the same camera.
Fortunately, we’ve already done the research for you and found 7 top dashboard camera models that deserve your consideration. Take a look and see if one of these dash cameras is the perfect one for you!
#7 – V2000GS Car Dashboard Camera
Released in 2012, the V2000GS Car Dashboard Camera is a more advanced version of the original V1000GS. It is a very popular dash cam with a Full HD [email protected], 1.5-inch Color LCD screen, G-Sensor, and a built-in GPS. Here are some of its main features.
Dash Cameras Features
- Full HD [email protected] DVR with H.264 video compression using an Ambarella chip records .MOV files
- Continuous loop recording
- 5 MP CMOS sensor
- 1.5-inch color LCD screen is large enough to make menu controls easier to configure
- 120 degree wide viewing angle captures everything in your path including both sides of the road
- Time record is maintained
- GPS logger records path, position, and speed at regular intervals
- G-Sensor for collision data protection
- Auto-record starts recording when the vehicle is turned on
- Built-in microphone
- Supports up to 32/64 GB microSD card
- Comes with a 360-degree swivel bracket, and AV & USB cable, and a 12/24V DC vehicle adapter
- Camera lens: F=2.8, f=3.3 Focus: 60 cm ~ infinity
- Menu languages include English/Chinese/Korean/Japanese/Russian
- FCC, CE, and Rohs certified
- Dimensions are 113 x 24 x 30 mm (4.45 x 0.94 x 1.18 inches)
- 1 – AV/HDMI out
- 1 – USB 2.0
Optional HDMI cable available.
- Subtle installation doesn’t stick out
- Good quality video
- E-Prance provides great support
- None noted
#6 – Incredisonic Falcon F-360 HD Rear View Mirror Car Dash Cam
The Incredisonic Falcon F-360 is a very flexible dual-camera system capable of recording many different angles using two separate rotatable cameras. You can even face both cameras forward for a super wide-screen view. It easily mounts to any size existing rear-view mirror for that built-in look and quick setup. With night-vision, a large display screen and a high-resolution, wide-angle lens, the Falcon F-360 is hard to beat for features. Take a look at its main features.
- Easily installs over any size existing rear-view mirror
- Dual-camera system records any view from the car including front, side, and rear windows.
- Both cameras rotate 180 degrees and provide a 120-degree wide viewing angle
- The Falcon F-360 possesses a high-resolution, wide-angle lens
- Both cameras have night-vision for interior recording at night
- Large built-in 3.5-inch LCD screen is larger than most for better previewing, post-recording review, and easy menu configuration
- Built-in microphone and speaker records and plays back all sounds while driving or can be muted
- Continuous loop recording
- Auto-start function begins recording as soon as you start your vehicle
- Uses up to 32GB high-capacity SD cards for video storage
- The manufacturer provides a 1-year limited warranty on this model.
- 1 – TV/HDMI HD out
- Easy install over existing rear view mirror. It just clips on.
- Long power cord is easy to hide
- Two cameras gives you much more capability
- Increases size of rear view mirror
- No GPS capability
- Sound quality can seem muffled
- Complicated menus
- Rear view is less reflective than original mirror
#5 – ABEO HDVR-180 HD CAR DVR Rear View Mirror
You may not have heard of ABEO Technology, but they make one of the newest and most popular HD dash cams, the ABEO HDVR-180 Rear View Mirror Camera. ABEO Technology is a Taiwanese company that has become a leader in automotive electronic devices including dash cameras. The ABEO HDRV-180 is a Full HD camera and DVR that is designed to be mounted to your existing rear-view mirror, one of only two examples in our top 7 list. The beauty of a design like the ABEO HDRV-180 is its simplicity of installation and its subtle integration into the interior of your vehicle. When installed, you get both a larger, wide-angle rear-view mirror and an HD camera system in one. Check out its many features.
- Crystal clear, full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels @ 30 fps records in JPEG format or 1280 x 720 pixels @ 60 fps
- Large wide-angle 300 mm area rear-view mirror measures a compact 11.1 x 3 x 0.74 inches (315 x 85 x 21 mm) and weighs only 320g (11.3 oz.)
- High-quality 5 MP CMOS sensor
- DVR uses standard H.264 compression for longer video recording
- The ABEO HDVR-180 supports up to 32 GB of SD/SDHC storage cards
- Auto-record starts recording when the vehicle is started
- Camera provides a wide 120-degree viewing angle which can display from one side of the road to the other.
- The ABEO HDRV-180 uses loop recording technology to overwrite old unwanted footage with new video footage when desired
- A built-in 2.4-inch (480 x 234 mm2) color, anti-glare LCD monitor allows you to easily configure menus, preview video, and perform basic post-recording review.
- A built-in (3.7V, 300mAh) rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides backup power for a short time when the vehicle power is turned off.
- A built-in camera module allows you take photos in addition to recording video
- No-gap technology leaves no gaps between file clips
- Built-in G Sensor locks files automatically when it senses collision forces so that the file cannot be overwritten
- Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese
- Runs off vehicle 12V power
- Language: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese
- Very easy setup and installation
- High-quality video recording
- Pricier them some
- Complicated button setup
#4 – Samoon 3H2F/GS6000 A7 Dash Cam
Another name that might not be familiar to you, Shenzhen Samoon Technology Co., Ltd is a leading designer and manufacturer in high-end car DVRs and Sport DVRs. Their Samoon 3H2F (also called GS6000 A7) Dash Cam is one of the most capable systems available. With Super HD capability and the new technology Ambarella A7 chip, this cam pushes the limits of technology to provide you with the features, quality, and functionality you demand. We have listed its main features below.
- Super HD 2304 x 1296 pixels @ 30 FPS provides crisp, clear video under a variety of conditions. Additional available image resolutions include 2304 x 1296 pixels @ 30 FPS, 1920 x 1080 pixels @ 30 FPS, 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 FPS, and 1280 x 720 pixels @ 60 FPS.
- Newest, high-performance Ambarella A7 DVR chip provides clear, quality video in .MOV format.
- Continuous-loop recording mode
- Video compression is standard H.264/MPEG-4 for longer recording times
- Fully capable 3.0 MP CMOS chip
- Lens is fixed focus with 120-degree viewing angle
- Medium-size 2.7-inch 16:9 format TFT screen makes on-screen configuration easier and enhances video preview and post-recording review.
- 4 fixed focus lens with aperture 2.0 and focus of 3.4 mm
- GPS logger records location at periodic intervals
- Camera includes LED night vision
- Configurable motion detection mode starts camera only when the sensor detects that the vehicle is moving.
- Supports microSD cards up to 32 GB
- With its car plate stamp feature you can configure the system to display you vehicle’s license plate number in a corner of the screen for further vehicle identification
- G-sensor saves footage file based on crash-level forces to prevent accidental overwriting
- Available language configuration includes English, Russian, Korean, Japanese, and Chin
- 12/24V vehicle power adapter
- Bracket mount and USB cable included
- 1 – HDMI out
- 1 – USB
- 1 – MicroSD Card slot
- Very good quality images
- Compact size easily hides behind rear view mirror
- Handles up to 64 GB class 10 or better microSD cards
- Must contact company for English Manual
- Not able to see license plate numbers
- Default info display takes up too much space on monitor
- Included video software plays back footage upside down
#3 – Vacron VVA-CBE05A All In One 1080p HD Dash Cam
Manufactured by Fuho Technology Co., LTD. In Taiwan, the Vacron VVA-CBE05A All-In-One 1080p HD Dash Cam is a quality offering in this competitive segment. With full HD video, 5 MP CMOS sensor, 3-inch high-resolution TFT display, and a 120 degree wide angle lens this camera compares favorably with similar cameras on the market. Take a look at all of its features.
- Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels @ 30 FPS DVR
- Standard H.264 System-On-Chip (SOC) compression technology
- 5 MP CMOS sensor also captures Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels @ 30 FPS video and still images up to 8 MP. HD 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 FPS mode also available.
- High-resolution 3-inch, 4:3 TFT flip-down display makes menu configuration, previewing, and post-recording viewing easier and more convenient
- 105-degree wide-angle lens
- Supports up to 32 GB SD card (Class 10 or better recommended)
- Adjustable 3D G-Sensor automatically records path of vehicle when activated by forces from any direction associated with a crash and protects files from accidental write-over by continuous loop recording
- Built-in GPS with clock auto-set
- Dual high-sensitivity microphone records interior audio
- Records Time and Date auto-calibrated by GPS. If GPS is unavailable, the built-in clock is used.
- Auto-recording begins recording when the vehicle is started
- F1.6 aperture provides better night vision
- Standard windshield suction cup mount included
- Optional 360 degree rotation suction mount is available Here >>> ASIN: B00CNE1MWG
- Software-based Lane Drift or Lane-Departure Warning System (LDWS) – NOTE: DO NOT RELY ON LDWS TO PREVENT AN ACCIDENT!
- Speed warning function uses GPS positional data to warn the driver when they exceed a configurable speed
- Vehicle power adapter included
- Remote control included
- Player software included
- Very clear picture
- Great sound quality
- Easy to install
- Speed monitoring is handy
#2 – Shadow-Tec GT550W By TioTech Car DVR Recorder
Founded in 2009, Shenzhen Xijiesi Technology Co., Ltd is one of the leaders in car black box and dash cam digital video recorder (DVR) technology and is located in Huaqiang north, Futian district, Shenzhen, China. They produce a popular, very capable dash camera known as the Shadow-Tec GT550W by TioTech. It is a Full HD, wide dynamic range, ultra wide-angle viewing capability dash cam system with 60 FPS capability and the unique TioTech A8 image processing chip. Take a look at its main features.
- Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels @ 30 FPS. Other modes available include 1280 x 720P [email protected] FPS and 1280 x 720 [email protected] FPS, 848 x 480 [email protected] FPS, and 640 x 480 [email protected] FPS. DVR records .JPG format files.
- Camera has 6G, 6-layer sharp glass lens for better performance under all light conditions
- TioTech A8 processing chip (not much information available on this chip)
- Standard MPEG-4/H.264 video compression
- 2.7-inch TFT 16:9 widescreen display provides for menu navigation, preview, and post-recording review
- Ultra wide-angle 140 degrees viewing angle captures the whole side-to-side path in front of the vehicle
- Configurable continuous loop recording
- Advanced wide dynamic range (WDR) does better in high contrast dark and light video recording situations
- Night vision enhancement with LED night vision
- F1.6 large aperture lens provides very good low-light performance
- Configurable car plate stamp functionality places your vehicle’s license plate number on the video for additional vehicle proof
- G-Sensor records path of vehicle when accident-related g forces are detected and automatically saves video from overwrite by continuous loop recording
- Video date/time stamp recorded during operation
- Configurable voice mute on recording function
- Auto-start function starts video recording when vehicle is started
- 1 GB of internal memory included, but additional SD memory card is recommended. Unit supports up to 32 GB microSDHC/MMC card.
- 12/24-Volt vehicle power adapter, HDMI cable, and holder/mounting bracket included
- Dimensions are 11.5 x 4.8 x 3.5 cm (4.5 x 1.9 x 1.3 inches)
- Languages include English, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, and Chin
- 1 – HDMI out
- 1 – A/V composite out
- 1 – USB 2.0
- 1 – SD card slot
- Excellent video quality
- Lightweight and compact
- Easy to setup and use
- Great value
- Poor instruction manual
#1 – Vicovation Vico-TF2+ Premium 1080p Full HD Dash Camera
The VICOvation name is a combination of their core values and innovation. Their core values include Vision, Integration, Creativity, and Observation (VICO). Vicovation also makes one of the top Full HD dash cameras in the industry, the Vicovation Vico-TF2+ Premium HD Dash Camera. With Full HD video, wide dynamic range, first class durability and heat resistance, a 160-degree super wide-angle view, and a new generation 3 MP CMOS image sensor, it’s hard to beat the features on this premium camera system.
- Full HD 1920 x 1080 [email protected] FPS video and audio recording
- Wide dynamic range (WDR) and 3D Noise Reduction technology reduce noise in low light improving this unit’s night vision
- The Vico-TF2+ uses standard H.264 image compression technology to capture every moment in a seamless record with the same image quality as Blu-ray.
- A large 2.4-inch LCD monitor makes menu configuration easier, allows for better video preview, and post-recording review.
- Designed to be extremely durable and heat resistant (76-degrees C)
- Vico Scheduling enables you to set two completely different sets of image parameters for day and night driving environments and the Vico-TF2+ will automatically change to the appropriate settings between day and night.
- Exclusive Vico Tag technology embeds your name into the video recording allowing you to share video while saving its true origin.
- Press the red Emergency SOS button on the unit to automatically save 30 seconds of video before and after the button press. The saved file will be preserved from being overwritten by continuous loop recording cycle.
- 3D G-Sensor automatically detects accident-level collisions and triggers the Emergency SOS function automatically
- DVR has auto-record which starts recording when you start the vehicle and records date/time stamp
- Adjustable 160-degree super wide-angle viewing shows you the whole road in front of you from side to side or can be switched to standard view 140-degree view.
- Upside-down mounting is possible using the inverse video recording option
- A quick-mounting bracket makes installation and removal a snap.
Note: There is a new firmware upgrade for the Vico-TF2+ as of 11/11/2013.
- Improved day and night image quality
- Wide dynamic range becomes the default setting
- Improved color saturation and contrast
- WDR and Fico-Schedule features are temporarily disabled in this update
- New Image Quality feature has been added to improve image quality to as high as 13 mb/s
- Excellent picture clarity
- Easy setup menus
- Large 160-degree viewing angle
- Very good night vision
- Larger than some
- No GPS
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As always, thanks for reading! I sincerely hope this article helps you choose one of the many dash cameras available!