Friday, December 15, 2017

Dash Cam Reviews

Here at dashcam-reviews.co.uk we try to bring you the best information on the current dashboard market, picking something that suits your needs can be difficult and that’s why we put together this mega dash cam 101 buyers guide.On this page you’ll find out everything you need to know about dash cams and everything you should be looking out for when deciding what is right for you and what fits your needs.

A Dashboard Camera, or a dash cam, is an on board camera that records continuously from the inside of your vehicle during driving. They are generally positioned behind your rear view mirror with the help of a suction cup mount that sticks to your wind shield. They provide a frontal overview that is the same as the driver sees it. Of course, the driver can look in other directions, while these cams are stationary, but they do come in pairs or with some other options for recording multiple angles and covering more of the road.

They are generally divided into three groups:

While these three groups are the most common ways of differentiating car cameras, there are numerous other differences every manufacturer puts into their product.

For instance, there are some cameras that come in pairs and offer you the frontal and rear coverage, so you get the main cam for front and the rear cam that is a bit smaller and has weaker specifications.

But, there are some cases where both front and rear cams are attached to the same body.

The rear cam can also only be a different name for the cabin (taxi) cam. There really isn’t any reason why you wouldn’t use it either way. But, the fact remains that once you position the cams, they stay that way.

Let’s delve a little deeper in these and other various differences between different cameras.

Things to consider when judging a camera

Some people prefer to purchase two cameras separately and then utilize them as front and rear dash cam. For this to work one of those two cams has to have a cigarette socket power adapter that has two USB ports on it, because normally there is only one cigarette socket, or you’ll need to hard wire the cams to your car’s electricity. This is not a hard task, but it does require some knowledge about the cars electrical system, so it is not recommended for you to do it on your own unless you have the necessary knowledge.

Cables

The power cable can and should be hidden efficiently. In case you are using your cigarette socket and your cam is behind your rear view mirror, there are a few ways to do that. Most of the cameras come with a few adhesive cable clips, to help you stick the power cable in the desired places. The best way to go about that is to run your cable around your wind shield, sticking it with the clips, and then on the side of your dashboard, sticking it in that little canal most cars have.

You then simply go over the leg room, making sure it sticks closely to the dashboard, until you reach the socket.Powering up the rear camera can be a bit tricky if you also want your cable to remain fairly unnoticeable. In most cases, the rear camera gets its power and is plugged into the front camera, and the most popular method is to use cable clips to stick the coaxial power cable to the roof of your car’s interior, and just run it straight from cam to cam.

This of course is best if your front and rear cams are both in the middle upper position of your wind shields. There is also another method, where you run your cable behind your car’s Sun vizier, starting from the front cam, then through the stability knobs that hang above your doors and all the way to the back. This way you will need less cable clips, though the cable will be more noticeable. The most important thing for hiding your cable is of course the positions of your cameras.Most of the cameras also come with a micro USB cable, to connect the unit with your computer.

Mounting brackets

The mounting method of cameras also varies from model to model, though most of them use a suction cup. The suction cup mounting bracket sticks firmly to a glass surface (your wind shield by default) and doesn’t leave much of a mark after its removed.

The sticker mounts easily stick to your wind shield, and other surfaces, but it is highly recommended you wipe the glass thoroughly and then dry completely, before the installation. Also, it leaves marks if its ever removed. Whatever the sticking method, the thing that may be more important is the mobility of the camera when mounted on the bracket. Most brackets have one swivel ball joint, and sometimes it can be crude and hard to move. Some cameras have two joints in their mounts, so this provides a much better and easier positioning method. Some cameras are shaped like a cylinder and act like their own positioning joint. These certainly are the things you need to consider carefully when assessing a cam.

Camera design

All of this brings us to the camera design, probably the most important and noticeable difference between cameras.

You might think that the design is not that important compared to the camera hardware or features, but design actually heavily affects every aspect of the device.

Most of the cheap dash cams are designed to look like classic photo cameras, just slightly smaller in general. The front side usually holds a big lens, while the rear is reserved for the display screen. The ports and buttons can be spread all over the cam.

Some more expensive and high end dash cams have a very different way of looking at the design options. There are some cams that don’t have a display screen. The general idea is that the car camera is not a toy and shouldn’t distract the driver in any way. These cameras all have respectable software programs and are set up via your computer or smart phone, and all of it is done at home, rarely during driving.

The smart phone method can be done on board, but these manufacturers are strongly against that and, we often feel they have a point. Even without the screen and most of the buttons, these cameras can have a button or two for some emergency options like locking the current recording or turning the camera on/off.

However, having a screen has its benefits as well, like being able to check the viewing angle on the spot, picture quality, all of the options, and much more. It is highly recommended that you stop your car by the side of the road whenever setting something up, even if it’s a quick task.

Both sides pose very convincing arguments, so we suppose it is a matter of personal choice.

Some cameras are designed like rear view mirrors. They look the same and also have the reflective surface. They mount on your rear view mirror and serve as a kind of a modified version of your actual mirror. You still have the mirror, though sometimes a bit darker, and the camera display appears in the centre of the mirrored side.Some cameras have a futuristic military design, some are flashy, while some look like sniper scopes. The ones that look like scopes, are cylindrically shaped usually have the lens placed on the cylindrical side of the body, not the top or bottom, so they are not pointed like riffle scopes but instead point to the sides, the cylindrical side faces the desired direction and this allows much vertical mobility. These cylinder cams however can have an issue with the horizontal movement, depending on the method of mounting, but they usually rely solely on their view angle width.

Display screen

We get asked if you should chose a dash cam with a screen but that choice is up to you and what you need in a dash cam. If your choice is yes then the next question is the size of the screen. The size of the display is heavily influenced by the size of the unit, there are many variations. The average size of the display screen is 2 inches. Having a smaller screen could be a problem, while having a bigger is certainly useful although that generally means your dash cam will be a little more expensive. 3 inches is usually pretty big and means you cam is probably better than average.

Buttons

While this may not seem like a big deal the button quality is actually quite often an issue, especially with the cheap cameras.

There are several problems you may run into. First of all, the positioning of the buttons is important. Some models have their buttons on the bottom side of the unit, but the screen is on the back side and you are looking at it while you’re supposed to press the buttons on the bottom side. Sometimes there are indicators, so you know what to do, but more often there are none and you can’t help but peek at the bottom side all the time until you memorize the functions perfectly.

One more problem is button quality and durability. This seems to be one of the main problems all manufacturers have. You rarely see a dash cam with good quality buttons that are well positioned. Most of the time they are plastic, crude, have a toy like feel, and are hard to press which means they will probably go down faster than the rest of the camera. There are, of course, models with good quality buttons, so keep an eye out for those.

One more thing to remember is that most of the cameras require you to use both your thumbs to successfully operate the menu. In other words – you will need both hands, so driving and setting it up is out of the question.

Ports

Various manufacturers have various ideas and solutions for ports. The main difference seems to be the GPS port that is sometimes on the unit and other times on the mounting bracket. You should also check if the power adapter has one or two USB ports before purchasing a camera. Having two ports in the power adapter means more options, like powering or charging another independent gadget (another cam or a smart phone).

The SD memory card port is often the same on all cameras, but some models come with an additional SD memory card reader, so you can plug it directly into your computer. This is not considered as a primary feature, but can be useful.

Processors

Having a good high end chip set is very important, and as far as the pricing goes, this is one of the main factors contributing to it. You may often see a camera that seems expensive to you and doesn’t seem to have many features, that is probably because it utilizes a high end chip set that is important for video processing. The most common brands of processors are Novatek or Ambarella, and they are both high tech (depending on the series).

Lens

Almost all cameras have a 6G lens, which means it is a 6 glass lens. This is important for the sharpness of the video you are recording, the amount of details you can capture clearly, the distance of the visible details, and also the viewing angle.

Viewing Angle

One of the main features is the viewing angle, it varies a lot, from model to model, and most of the time ranges anywhere from 120° to 170° (for a single camera lens).

The angle also benefits a lot from where and how you position your camera, but usually, if centred correctly in the top middle part of the wind shield, a 120° lens will capture both sides of the road to the very edge of your car’s bonnet. Having two cameras naturally increases your viewing angle coverage. With two 120° cameras you cover 240° of your cars environment.

Battery

These devices do not have a long lasting battery life. They are supposed to have a constant power source, so the battery alone cannot last more than 10-20 minutes of recording, depending on the model and the power consumption. There are a few cameras that are advertised to have low power consumption, but this applies to the amount of power drained from your car’s battery, not its own battery. Some dash cams that can take photos could be brought with you and last maybe a decent amount of time, providing you only take photos and not check the options of record videos.

This way you may water down those 10-20 minutes to give you an evening or photo taking. There are also alternative power sources that can be used in these occasions.

Resolution

The video recording quality is amongst the most important features. Most of the cameras today provide you with HD 1080p quality, while rear view cameras often have 720p.

There are of course super HD cams with 1296p, but you’ll have to pay a bit extra for those. You should first decide on what you’ll need the camera for. If it’s only for your car and its standard use, than 1080p is pretty much all you need. 720p is also good, but could be a bit unreliable for details that are further away from your cam. For those farther details, colours, and you want a camera that has WDR or HDR (wide dynamic range or high dynamic range).

Something else to keep in mind is the frame rate of the recording. Mostly it is 30 fps (frames per second), and that is enough for a 1080p resolution, but a frontal camera with 720p needs to have 60 fps.Most cameras actually give you the options between various different frame rates (30, 45,60) and the resolutions to match.If your camera can take photos, which is not the case with all of them, then you’ll need to check the photo quality as well. Anything above 5 mega pixels is decent, and 12 – 13 is great.

Most of the time video formats are MOV or MP4 and picture formats are JPEG.

Loop recording

As far as the memory card usage goes, car cameras use a loop recording method, which basically divides all your recordings into loops, the length of which you can set yourself. You can usually choose between 1, 2, 3, 5, or 10 minutes. Once the camera’s memory is full, the system then continues recording and overwrites the oldest loop, provided it is not protected which is another dash cam feature.

This feature also makes reviewing your recordings much easier.

G-sensor

Gravity sensor is something almost all car cameras need to have. It is a system feature that detects any shifts in gravity from your car. More accurately, it detects impacts, sudden changes in your cars positioning, sudden stopping of moving, etc…

Once these conditions are detected, the G-sensor feature then locks the current loop recording and prevents it from being overwritten by the system. It will remain saved until you extract it and delete it manually.

Motion Censor

This is one of the most interesting features. Although not all cameras have it, it is highly recommended you get one that does have it. The motion sensor detects motions near your car, even when your car is parked, and then starts recording providing the camera has power, of course.

This feature brings a lot of versatility to your dash cam. By having motion detection, you can use your camera as a home security cam also, if need be. All you need to do is make sure it has power constantly. The sensitivity level is also adjustable, and at the highest setting the cam can pick up the leaves moving in the bushes outside your house for instance.One drawback is that once it detects motion and starts recording, it will only record in the direction it is facing and the angle it is covering, but it may also record sound which can be useful.

Emergency lock button

This button can be found on some cams and essentially does the same thing the G-sensor and the motion sensor, only it lets you choose the moment manually. This feature is not that important, but can be a plus.

GPS

Global positioning system is a great feature since it lets you have your exact position and speed embedded into your recordings. It also opens the doors for some other features, like the ADAS (advanced driving assistance system).

ADAS

Advanced driving assistance system is not that commonly seen. This system basically has a few uses. It can, using GPS, warn you if you are departing your lane, by notifying you with a beeping sound. This is called lane departure warning system, or the LDWS.

Another feature included in ADAS is the forward collision warning system, or the FCWS. What it does is that it detects and calculates the speeds or your car and the car in front of you, and if a collision is eminent, you’ll also get a beeping warning.It can also calculate your driving fatigue by suggesting time to rest based on the time and distance travelled.

The reasons people have different opinions on this is that many consider these functions to be too much help and that they may even distract the driver. One can start depending on them and loose his natural sense for driving. Others however feel every help is welcomed.

Common options

Any dash cam basically has similar sets of the usual options. You can set your camera to automatically power on when you turn your car on, and power off when you turn your car off. You can tweak the picture quality, language for options, etc…

Popular Dash Cams

The benefits of owning a car dash cam

Having a car dashboard camera is obviously beneficial. You can have a recording of any incident or event. The drawback of course is that it can also record your mistakes.

You will probably come to wonder about the legality of these devices and their recordings. Well, they differ from country to country.

Car cameras firstly gained popularity in Russia, where they are completely legal and admissible as evidence in any court. They have since become more and more popular in the whole of Asia, Europe (particularly UK and France), United States and Australia. They are banned in Austria and in Germany you can only use them but not post their recordings online. This is considered a violation of privacy, and in Germany you can only use the footage in court if the case in hand is a very important one.In Luxembourg, it is legal to own a car cam, but it is illegal to record videos or photos of a public place, that includes the streets and the roads. In Australia, you can use them in any way you like, but only not in a way that may be deemed inappropriate by the court of law.

In the US, public events are protected by the First Amendment right. Recordings of private happenings, incidents and street violations are all dealt with on a state level, and the law differs from state to state.

We highly recommend that you check with your states law and constitution, before using a dashboard camera.

In Russia, these cameras became popular as the means to fight police corruption. They are also used, all over the World, as a protection from people who stage incidents as ways to claim insurance or sue other people for damage sustained. These cases are more common than you might think.

Dash cameras can also be a great source of fun. You can record your family’s road trip, the songs you sing in the car, the talks and laughs, the countryside you drive through. Etc… If the camera can take photos, you can even use it that way.

These recordings are also quite often parts of internet sensations, like the ‘Fails’ or ‘Wins’ compilations.You probably remember the recording of a meteor falling down over Siberia in 2013, and you probably wondered if the video was fake or real.

Well, it was real and it was recorded by a few car cameras by accident. So, there are even cases when people by chance came into possession of a quite valuable video recording.Here is the video if you haven’t seen it.

Pricing

The prices also vary quite a bit. This kind of a device serves a very important purpose and is not to be taken lightly. You are probably best to avoid buying the cheapest cameras, and not to go under £50. Of course, high end technology, quality, durability, and rich features all factor in the cost, and the better they are, the more expensive the cam will be. In our experience, a very high end quality camera can be found starting from £100, even though they can even go over £500.

It is best to also not get carried away too much and to make an informed decision that is just right for you and your needs, so keep all this in mind and check as many models as you can before you make a selection.

Types of cameras

When all these features, capabilities, prices, and options are compared to one another, it all comes down to four types of cameras, and they are:

Cheap Dash Cameras

These cameras are a budget and they usually have similar limited features. They mostly have a 1080p resolution maximum with 30 fps, have a classical camera design, are made out of plastic, and have unknown cheapest quality. They also often do not possess motion detection, and even rarely have any of the ADAS features.These cameras however do have the basics, and that’s the G-sensor function, loop recording, auto power on/off, and date/time stamp.

Dash Cam NameWeightOur RatingPriceReviews
SmarTure T200A340 Grams9.5Check PricesRead Review
Conbrov T90249 Grams9.0Check PricesRead Review
ELEPHAS ET-650558 Grams8.0Check PricesRead Review
UVIA C10SN/A8.0Check PricesRead Review
Accfly NT96220272 Grams7.0Check PricesRead Review

Mid-Range Dash Cameras

Cameras in this class often go up to super HD 1296p resolution capability, or if they have 1080p it’s compensated with 60 frames per second. They may have some intricate design solutions, high mobility, angle coverage, and mounting capabilities. In short, everything is a bit better, and the features like motion detection are almost mandatory. They can also have high tech hardware, but the fact remains they are mid range cams and do not utilize all of these pros. They usually have some and lack in others.

Dash Cam NameWeightOur RatingPriceReviews
SmarTure B200 1296P381 Grams9.5Check PricesRead Review
APEMAN Super HD 1296P281 Grams9.5Check PricesRead Review
Conbrov T36458 Grams9.0Check PricesRead Review
Toguard Super HD 1296P358 Grams7.0Check PricesRead Review
LYNEC DC15454 Grams6.5Check PricesRead Review

High End Cameras

Now, these cameras excel in all capabilities, starting with the material they are built from, button quality, accessibility, superior design, positioning solutions, high tech hardware.They also mostly have super HD 1296p resolution, but not necessarily.The interesting thing is that they do not necessarily have all the features a car camera can have. They quite often have even less than their counter parts from the cheap or mid-range class.The reason for this is that high end cameras are more professional and serve a more selected purpose. They are often designed to not require any tampering and do everything by themselves, providing zero distractions for the driver. Of course, there are those that utilize all the features a camera can have.For instance, there are even cases where a camera can be controlled by your smart phone, via the Wi-Fi signal. It can also be connected to an online database, where your recorded data is streamed and stored simultaneously, thus securing it.

Front and rear cameras

Dash Cam NameWeightOur RatingPricingReviews
Stoga M9s780 Grams9.5Check PricesRead Review
Blackvue DR650GW-2CH621 Grams9.0Check PricesRead Review
Falcon Zero F-360 HD703 Grams8.0Check PricesRead Review
Nextbase Duo 499 Grams8.0Check PricesRead Review
ELEPHAS Novatek 96655581 Grams7.5Check PricesRead Review

Dash Cams have become a necessity and the primary way to protect yourself and your interests on the road, so invest in your security and drive safely.

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Popular Dash Cams