What dash camera fits your needs? There are three types of dash cameras which are a combination of two of the following qualities- cheap, reliable, and high performance- which are great video quality, features, and ease of use. Keeping these top categories in mind, move on with the three most important features.
First up is notifications. These are the messages and sounds that let you know when your camera is working and when there are problems. There are some people who consider notifications as more important than video quality. Many manufacturers do a poor job letting drivers know when their camera has failed. Their audible notifications can trick you into thinking your camera is working. They have warning messages that quickly disappear and are difficult to see.
Better cameras have persistent and highly visible written messages. They can also use audible warnings. Your camera will eventually fail as it’s an electronic item that is exposed to rapidly changing temperatures and humidity. Your SD card which saves your videos eventually wears out, some, sooner than others. When the inevitable happens, you want to find out before you get into an accident.
Next is the video quality which is the sharpness and clarity of the recorded video. Getting a camera with higher video quality improves your protection. You have a better chance to capture details like license’s plates or a driver’s face after a hit and run or an assault.
Video quality isn’t a simple matter of spending more. Starting with day quality, most cameras do a good job. Generally, cameras are fairly similar except where the bit rate has been drastically lowered. At night, the difference in quality is more noticeable. Better hardware is more expensive and harder to implement.
You can look closely at two factors. One is legibility while moving. Better cameras can capture license plates where other cameras are blurry. The other factor is dynamic range, which is how well a camera captures a scene with widely contrasting light. One benefit is to capture dimly lit pedestrians which could be missed by poor performing cameras. If there’s an accident, it’s important to show the entirety of what happened.
Lithium Ion Batteries & Capacitors
They provide energy to save videos after your camera loses power from your vehicle. Lithium ion batteries are used in the majority of budget cameras because they are cheaper. They store a larger charge, which can typically give you 15 minutes of use great for recording police encounters or accident scenes if you don’t have a smartphone. Unfortunately, they are prone to failing under how weather and can swell or leak, damaging the camera.
Capacitors, on the other hand, are far more heat resistant and generally last several times longer than lithium ion batteries. The downside is the added cost and they last only long enough to shut down your camera- think seconds, not minutes.
In general, many prefer capacitor cameras but that may limit your options for budget units. So, those are the major three features you look at when reviewing a camera. But, there’s many other important features such as video hardware, which turns lights into video files.
Lens & Video Hardware
Beginning with the lens which focuses light and is critical for a sharp image. Better lenses are made of glass, not plastic. The size of the aperture is represented with an f-number. A lower number means a wider aperture. It allows in more light and improves clearness. Inside the camera, there are two components that greatly matter for video quality. One is the image processor and the other is the image sensor.
The light collected by the image sensor is turned into a digital for the processor. Enhanced sensors are clear under low light situations. A video file is made when the image processor takes the digital information form the sensor.
Next, look at the overall appearance, specifically its discreteness. Most of the users are concerned that a large and colorful camera could attract thieves. There are three attributes to look at- size, shape and color. A smaller camera is harder to see. Next is its shape, if it looks like a point and shoot camera, it will be more tempting to steal compared to a slightly larger camera.
Lastly, color. Anything than black is noticeable. Lighter colors do reflect more heat which could increase reliability over time. Some manufacturers will add metallic accents which sparkle and attract attention. A more discreet camera is actually better but go with what you enjoy. There are some people who want something flashier or they want a cooler design. You can also put away your camera in worse parts of town.
There are two general categories. One type attaches to your rear view mirror. More commonly, your camera is attached to your windshield using an adhesive or suction mount. Adhesive mounts use a tape pad to keep your camera in place. They are secured and have reduced vibration compared to suction mounts. Also, they are more compact.
The downside is that they aren’t reusable. You’ll have to use a new pad if you’re moving to another vehicle. Suction mounts use vacuum to lock your camera in place, and are easily reusable. The downside is that they may fall off when the weather changes or the rubber hardens. Vibration is also increased. On some weaker designs, the shaking is quite noticeable. If there’s an option, it’s recommended that you use a tape mount. It’s a hassle-free solution. You can always but a second mount.
Looking closer at their freedom of movement, some mounts can turn and film the side windows. It’s useful if you need to film a police interaction or if something interesting happens on the side of the road. The cameras that attach to your rear view mirror come in three distinct styles. The first one straps or clips onto your existing rear view mirror, with the camera poking out from the bottom. It will completely cover your mirror, so you lose any anti-glare functionality. There’s also another style where the mount holds the top and bottom of your rear view mirror and hangs out on the back. The last style clamps onto your mirror arm and the dash camera hangs below it. You can only see it as an optional accessory.
There are two reasons why someone would use a mirror attachment camera. One is that they don’t want anything hanging on their windshield. A second reason is they think the design is stealthier. Moving forward, some models have a second camera. It can be an internal camera or a remote unit connected using a coaxial or USB cable.
Remote cameras are generally mounted on your rear windshield and adds context to what the front camera captures. If someone was aggressively tailgating or swerving before causing an accident, you’ll have additional evidence that their actions affected your driving. Due to the complexities of a dual camera system, video quality is often sacrificed, if you prioritize video quality, you may want to go with installing two separate cameras, but that can be more difficult to install and maintain.
Dual Camera Systems
The other dual camera style has a camera which faces inside your passenger cabin. They will often have infrared lights for night vision. It’s useful if you’re a professional driver to capture any problems that may come up. If you’re a regular driver, it’s often more a liability than help.
Do your homework and pick up something reliable. Not only will you have greater peace of mind but you might just capture the next viral video on your next daily commute.