When shopping for a dash camera, there is a bewildering number of features available at very different price points and it can be hard to find what you need from a camera. Here is a no nonsense guide to what the features are, what benefits they give you and if you really need them on your new dash cam
Resolution: e.g 720p, 1080p, xxxxp
This refers to the resolution at which a picture is captured. The number is the number of horizontal pictures that makes up the image and the p stands for “progressive scan”, which is how the video is displayed. In the case of P, it’s one full picture at a time and not line by line etc. The higher the number, the sharper the image and the more details is captured. A standard is 1080p, which is commonly referred to as “HD” or High Definition. This has a total of 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall, or 1920×1080. For 720p, it’s 1280×720. Unfortunately, a high resolution doesn’t guarantee a good quality camera so be careful to read reviews to double check the video quality.
Generally, the higher the number the better here and aim for a minimum of 1080p
Memory or Storage: e.g. 16GB, 32GB xxGB
This is the volume of data you can store on the dash cam before the footage starts to overwrite old footage with new footage. The higher the number, the more footage can be stored. Footage takes up different amounts of space depending on the detail being capture, meaning 720p footage will take up less space than 1080p footage.
A large number isn’t essential here as you very rarely need to keep hours and hours of footage, just enough time to prove whatever it is you have captured. 16GB should be fine for most people.
There is no specific metric or feature that governs this but having a camera fail on you is a disaster if it fails when you need it most. If you are going to buy a dash cam, it’s best to make a decent initial investment. Too cheap a dash cam and you may find it fails after only a few days and you may not know until it’s too late. We recommend a minimum of at least $50 for the G1W or better.
Most dash cameras come with an LCD screen that allows you to both configure the device and setup the viewing angle precisely. Too large a screen and it will make the footprint of the camera too big and too small a screen will make it difficult to operate. Also it’s nice to have a touch screen too for easy configuration.
We recommend a screen between 2″-3″ so that it’s big enough to use easily but not too big as to inflate the size of the camera.
Because a dash camera sits on your windscreen, it can face some pretty high temperatures in the glaring sun during the day and some pretty cold nights left outside. A number of cameras have replaced traditional batteries for capacitors which offer a better heat tolerance both hot and cold. If you live in a somewhat extreme environment when it comes to temperatures, it’s worth investing in a dash cam that can handle the heat/cold.
We recommend checking the max and minimum expected temperatures of where you drive and let that dictate your requirement.
An integrated G=Sensor or Accelerometer primarily allows the camera to detect impacts an automatically “lock” the footage, stopping it being recorded over. Whilst most cameras come with a button that allows this kind of thing, in the heat of the moment, it can be easy to forget to click this. Most mid ranged cameras and above come with this features and some, with advanced accelerometers, allow you to track the G Force exerted on your car.
We definitely recommend this feature as a must have to make sure if the worst happens, the footage is kept, even if you forget.
GPS is a more and more common feature found on mid ranged and high end cameras. This allows you to geographically tag your footage with co-ordinates so you can track your journey back through either a dedicated application or commonly on google maps. This will provide feedback of your route and often the speeds and times of your journey.
GPS is not an essential feature (unless your insurance company needs it to lower your premium) but as it can be found on good, well priced cameras such as the Falcon Zero F170, it’s well recommended
There is a new trend in most electronics now a days to integrate everything with a smartphone and dash cams are no exception. Most Wi-Fi enabled devices allow you to connect wirelessly to your camera and perform simple tasks such as viewing the footage, transferring the footage, backing it up, locking it etc. Mostly a gimmick at this stage, but handy to backup your footage in the event of having to hand your SD card to the police as evidence.
Far from an essential feature but nice to have if your camera has this equipped.
A good mount can make or break a camera. Having a poor quality mount that allows the camera to sway with the motion of the car is useless. Other bad examples are mounts that are so large as to force the camera to extrude from below your rear view mirror due to size or adhesive mounts that are not sticky enough to stay on long term or made with low quality adhesive as to either damage or leave marks on the roof/glass. Suction mounts are handy for removing the camera from your car if you drive multiple vehicles too. A swivel mount is extremely useful to capture in car activity such as a traffic stop or even an interaction of any kind at the drivers window.
It’s essential to get a good quality mount with a swivel feature, allowing it to turn to capture footage in the car.
WDR is a common feature in mid to high end cameras for the ability to work in low light situations. By dynamically adjusting the lens exposure, it allows the camera to attain high quality images in both the day and night. Unfortunately, this system is not strictly defined and the “Wide” for Wide Dynamic Range can be interpreted differently, meaning that WDR on one camera can be significantly better or worse than that on another camera. That’s why it’s best to check our night time quality score to make sure the camera you are looking at performs at night. The other options are LED lights, which more often hinder the quality due to glare and reflection and true infrared imaging, which is very rare and only available on extremely expensive commercial cameras.
WDR is an essential feature but not all WDR is created equal. Be sure to check out the night time video footage of a camera to ensure it’s quality.
Motion Detection/Parking Mode
This is another great feature that’s mostly found on mid-high end cameras and adds an extra layer of protection. With parking mode and a G-Sensor, the camera can start recording when a collision is recorded, perfect for protection when your car is parked and someone hits you and drives off. A more advanced form of this is with a motion detector that records when something is detected, moving within it’s range.
This is a great feature but mostly reserved for more expensive devices. If you are going mid-high end, make sure you get this.
Most dash cams capture on a single channel, meaning they have a single camera and record it. Some of the all in one systems, that combine a dash cam and a vehicle reversing camera in one package have a multi channel ability where they can record both channels at the same time. This is a handy feature but meant for those that want more than just a dash cam.
Great for those that want an AIO system, not required for a normal dash cam.
The viewing angle is how much of the road in front of you a camera is recording at once. Some of the best cameras can record up to 170 degrees which is nearly the full front half of your car (considering half a circle is 180 degrees). This this can be a benefit for safety, it can distort the viewing angle somewhat and make it appear to fisheye.
If you are looking for great footage to show your friends, a straight 90 degree angle may be best for that. If it’s for car security, the wider the better generally.
And there we have it, the most common features found on modern dash cameras. If we have missed anything you think we should include or something isn’t explained as clearly as you’d like it, we’d love to hear from you, please contact us with any questions or suggestions.