What is a Dashcam?
A dashcam is typically defined as a camera that sits on a vehicle’s dashboard facing out the windshield. The goal is to record continuously and have video evidence if something bad happens (a car accident for example).
Actually any camera or video recording device can be used as Dash Cams, but these usually include the following features: run at 12 volts to direct current, continuous recording and automatically record over the old information.
Many have other features, but those are the main ones of a Dash Cam. The ability to run at 12 volts DC means the device can be connected to the car’s electrical system, its ‘always on’ functionality allows it to start recording when the car is started, and the ability to record over old information means the driver does not have to worry about the device’s space.
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How do dash cams work?
The dash cameras themselves are usually very simple. Once installed, they attach to the car’s electrical circuit (usually) via the cigarette lighter. This design ensures that the recording is done when the car is running and can record video. the camera overwrites the oldest video files once full, starting with the most dated content.
Is it legal?
In the US there is no regulation that prohibits its use, as long as it is not handled while driving. But there are two points to bear in mind: the DGT regulations and the Data Protection Act.
According to the DGT, there is no problem with having a Dash Cam installed on the dashboard as long as it does not obstruct vision and is not driven while driving. The LOPD only allows recording and playing its content for private use and can not be shared on the network as it would be violating the privacy of people who appear in the videos. And its continuous recording implies the use of video surveillance, which is only allowed to Law Enforcement as the BOE says.
According to Legálitas, carrying a camera of this type could not be reported as a traffic violation. And it would, therefore, be up to the judge to decide whether or not to accept the material and whether it is considered surveillance.
Who needs a Dash Cam?
Dashboard mounted cameras have been on the market for a long time, but have only recently become part of the public consciousness. They have become especially famous thanks to the footage we get from Russia, where insurance company fraud and police corruption is commonplace.
Myth: Good drivers don’t need a Dash Cam. If we are responsible drivers we may think that an accident will never be our fault, but it is clear that we have no control over what other cars on the road do, and so it is always a good option to have one more piece of evidence to justify our good faith.
Beyond the ability to capture violations and prove we are innocent, some Dash Cams allow recording while the car is parked to capture what may happen while we are not in the car, both inside and outside.
Dual cameras. Designed to monitor the driving habits of the drivers, everything that happens inside the vehicle. Very useful for taxi drivers, Uber drivers or even for parents worried about their children driving.
Other functions include exact GPS location, day and time to facilitate the location of the vehicle.
Please note: There are hundreds of thousands of car accidents a year, irresponsible drivers and even insurance fraud. For these reasons and more, it’s very convenient to have a Dash Cam in your car.
Selecting a Dash Cam can be a daunting task given the number of options on the market. That’s why here’s a little dash cam buying guide with everything you need to consider before deciding on one.
One of the most important things to consider is the quality of the camera. Better image quality allows for better clarity which can be very useful for capturing details after an accident. These are the features to keep in mind about image quality:
Resolution: how clear we want the recording to be. The first metric to consider whenever we want to buy any camera is image resolution. And generally speaking, the more pixels a camera has, the better it is. This means that the camera can capture more pixels, resulting in clearer images which are very important for a Dash Cam. We recommend purchasing a dashboard camera with at least 1080p resolution.
Field of view (FOV): how big do we want the area we are going to capture on the video to be. There are cameras that have a very narrow field of view while others are specially designed to capture large angles of view to see more at all times. However, a very large angle is not recommended as it can have a negative effect on image quality.
Unfortunately, most manufacturers do not give much detail about the field of view. And besides, there is no standard. Some manufacturers, for example, provide horizontal measurements while others inflate their figures by giving diagonal measurements. In any case, we recommend that you look at the screenshots to see what you are buying. We should pay special attention to the details of the sides and how much detail the image has in general.
Frames per second: 30 frames per second is the best bet. As dash cams record video and do not take pictures, the frames per second are very important to consider as well. Generally, many dash cams offer 30 frames per second (FPS) which is the perfect choice for most users.
Others allow up to 60 frames per second, which results in a much smoother video image. This is important for capturing sports videos, but we don’t think it’s necessary for a dashcam. Because capturing video at 60 frames per second takes up twice as much memory space.
We do not recommend spending more money for this functionality, as we will not notice a very big difference.
Night vision: Night vision can be very useful for some drivers, especially those who have to use it constantly at night. This allows that in situations of low light or totally dark, we can give details in the recording to know that really has happened. This recording will not be as colorful as during the day, but it will allow us to capture car license plates. With driver fatigue, poor road illumination, and intrusive headlights, accidents are more likely to happen at night.
Other features to consider
While the image quality is possibly the most important feature to consider when buying a Dash Cam, it is not the only one to consider. These cameras come with many features that make them easy to use and smart. Here are a few to keep in mind.
Mount: adhesive or suction cup. When installing a dashcam in our car, and there are different ways to mount it. Many of them can be mounted on the dashboard or dashboard of the car, while others can be mounted on the front window or windshield itself. This is an interesting option for those who do not want to fill the dashboard with things along with the mobile phone, GPS, etc.
A suction mount can be used, which is usually very strong. Although some others come with sticker options that are installed directly on the dashboard or front window glass. These can be a little more complex as they are more difficult to remove and move, and can often leave adhesive marks when we decide to remove them.
The only advantage of adhesives is that they do not require as much space, so we recommend this option if we do not have much space to mount the dashcam.
Connectivity: Bluetooth or Wifi? The only notable difference is the speed of connection to our devices. If our Dash Cam can connect to the mobile phone it can allow us to manage the recordings, configure the camera, and much more. This will save us from having to use its small screen or the menus that are not usually so easy to use.
If they have Internet connectivity, these cameras can upload all recordings directly to cloud storage services where they can then be viewed from the computer or mobile. The Bluetooth connection is more than enough for most of us.
PS: location and speed. As well as connectivity, GPS adds extra functionality to store location, speed and direction information that can help resolve a traffic dispute. If we want to know the location of our car and its speed, we should look for a dashboard camera that includes a GPS.
Storage: we recommend an external microSD memory of at least 64GB. Video recordings take up a lot of space and selecting a camera with large storage can be very important. Some cameras include internal memory of about 4GB, but this is not enough to capture long hours of recording. You should look for cameras that allow you to insert microSD cards to store more recordings.
Protecting your recordings: prevent overwriting other videos. We often find that we need recordings when it’s too late. Many Dash Cams record over old files. Luckily, many Dash Cams have anti-eras protection that we may need.
The most common protection against overwriting is the G-force sensor, which can detect movement changes such as bumps and activate the recording protection mode automatically to save the recording from the moment of the accident.
If we have a serious accident, it can also affect the memory card, and we will be very unlucky, but it is usually rare.
Audio recording: although the most important thing is to record video, capturing the audio can be interesting too. This can be useful for capturing conversations when we are standing at a traffic light. Not all Dash Cams can record audio, but it is a feature that is available if we want it. It doesn’t add an extra cost and can be easily disabled if we don’t want it.
Driver’s monitor: another camera to record the inside of the car. Many people only prefer one camera to record what is happening in front of the vehicle, others like taxi drivers and drivers of Uber or Cabify, for example, may prefer two cameras to record the behavior of passengers.
The only disadvantage is that recording two videos at once can increase the size of the files so you can easily saturate the memory card. We recommend getting an SD memory card with more storage. Another cost may be the extra price.
Display: Many of these cameras can be connected directly to your mobile phone for manipulation, but others also include a touch screen for managing and setting your preferences. The bigger the screen the easier it is to see all the details of the recording as well as manipulate the menus of the device. Usually, these are 2 to 3 inch LCD screens.
Battery: many Dashcams use the car adapter for power. So, when we start the car engine, it will automatically start recording on video everything that happens around us until the car is turned off. Some Dash Cams have an internal battery that allows you to record if you need to keep the car running.
For many, this functionality may be unnecessary, but for others, it is very important. It allows you to capture video even when the car is turned off. Unfortunately, many Dash Cams are designed to last only a few minutes.
Auto start and record: Most are designed to record automatically when the car engine is started and turn off when the car keys are removed. This feature is very useful for those of us who are forgetful.
Continuous loop recording: recording on a loop allows us to store video even if we don’t have enough space on the memory card. How does it do this? By overwriting old recordings. Once the memory reaches its limit, it will start replacing old recordings with the new ones, so we will lose all the previous ones. So it’s advisable to buy a larger memory card. This feature is very useful because it allows us to forget about the dashcam once it is installed.
In short, there are many things to consider when choosing a Dash Cam or dashboard camera, and we hope that this guide will clarify many of the doubts and better understand the different options to make the decision to buy easier.
If we are even more confused, below we have a comparison and analysis of the best dash cams in the market.