Dashboard Cameras and Buying a Dash Cam for your Drive
What are the most important aspects to consider when choosing a dashboard camera?
In our opinion, the video quality is the most important. The end-user needs a clear image/recording in the unfortunate event of a car accident.
Blurry images/recordings may result in the loss of critically important information/evidence.
This having been said, video quality isn’t the only aspect of importance. When selecting a suitable dashcam, the following should also be considered:
- Product quality,
- Desktop playback software,
- Product features,
Should there be a difference in the dashcam used for fleets/ commercial usage as compared to the individual vehicle owner?
The main difference between fleet/commercial use and personal use is that the fleet/commercial use of a dashcam requires a vehicle management system which is usually in the form of highly specialized software that is used by fleet managers. The average user doesn’t need this function.
Would the dashboard camera, once purchased, require any additional expenses in terms of software upgrades etc.?
The software upgrades are usually free of charge provided that the dashcam is of reasonable quality. Many cheaper dash camera providers do not provide their customers with frequent software updates. Most of the providers of good quality dash cameras will put the upgrade files on their official website where the customer can easily access it. The upgrade process should also be made simple enough to enable the average user to perform the upgrade him or herself without having any special technical knowledge.
How easy would it be to access any recorder, to download and to share such recordings with my insurer or on social media?
Accessing and sharing the recordings are usually a very process and involves the following steps:
- Remove the SD card from a dashcam,
- View and select the required recording using the dash camera’s playback software,
- Copy the movie file/recording to your computer, any other storage device or upload it to a cloud drive.
- Share the download link with the insurer or post it on social media.
Many of the high-end dash cameras also have a built-in Wi-Fi feature. If the dash camera is equipped with Wi-Fi, the user can download the recording/image using the Wi-Fi feature using an Android or IOS application and share it on any platform (such as YouTube, WhatsApp, Line, Facebook, etc.)
Where would you recommend as the best placement on the windscreen for the dashboard camera recorder?
It is recommended that the user mounts the dash camera behind the rearview mirror on the passenger side. It is also advisable that the dash camera is mounted within the windshield wiping area as it improves recording quality when it rains.
Would high temperatures impact on the functionality? What are the most important steps to secure quality recording and playback?
- The specifications are different for each brand. Our range of dash cameras is tested using a high-temperature lab to ensure that our product functions normally at high temperature. Our dash cameras can be stored at temperatures between -4 Degrees Celsius? - 176 Degrees Celsius (-20 Degrees Celcius - 80 Degrees Celsius), and the operating temperature range is between 14 - 140 Degrees Celsius.
- Dash cameras using a super-capacitor and not a battery is recommended if you live in a location with high temperatures. Supercapacitors are more reliable and offer longer lifespans. Compared to batteries, supercapacitors will not expand and swell to ruin the device which is particularly important if you live in an especially hot location. The benefits outweigh those of traditional battery-powered devices and improve the durability and reliability of the dash camera.
The user should do the following to secure quality recordings:
- Reduce the amount of sky in the picture. By adjusting the camera towards the road, the automatic exposure compensation will be focused on the road and not the light from the sky.
- Position the camera in the centre of the dash. If you place the camera behind the rearview mirror, you will avoid all distractions from the road.
- Remove any objects that will interfere with the recording such as the protective lens cover. A clear vision will allow you to make clear recordings.
- It is also recommended to view the video/recording using the desktop software player that was designed for the dash camera. It will more convenient and displays better quality images as it is designed to enhance the quality of recording made with the dash camera.
How long should a dashboard camera be able to record and is any action required from the part of the owner to clean/ clear any recordings?
Dash cameras will typically store recordings and captured images on a removable memory card (most users will use a memory card with a storage capacity between 16-32GB). The storage capacity is generally affected by the size of the memory card and the recording resolution. To illustrate the differences, we provide the following information as a reference:
Resolution: 1080P 30fps
- 8GB Micro SD = 60 mins (60 x 1-minute recordings)
- 16GB Micro SD = 120 mins (120 x 1-minute recordings)
- 32GB Micro SD = 240 mins (240 x 1-minute recordings)
- 64GB Micro SD = 480 mins (480 x 1-minute recordings)
- 128GB Micro SD = 960 mins (960 x 1-minute recordings)
Resolution: 4K 30fps
- 8GB Micro SD = 18 mins (1-minute x 18 recordings)
- 16GB Micro SD = 36 mins (1-minute x 36 recordings)
- 32GB Micro SD = 72 mins (1-minute x 72 recordings)
- 64GB Micro SD = 144 mins (1-minute x 144 recordings)
- 128GB Micro SD = 290 mins (1-minute x 290 recordings)
- 256GB Micro SD = 580 mins (1-minute x 580 recordings)
Since memory cards have limited storage capacity, a good quality dash camera should include a loop recording function. This means that the dash camera will overwrite the oldest recordings continuously when the SD card is full. This way the dash camera constantly records (without having to format the memory card to clear storage) and without the user losing the most recent footage. Although the dash camera overwrites older recordings automatically, it is still advisable that the user formats the memory card every 2-3 weeks to ensure that the memory card is fully utilized.
Most good quality dash cameras will also lock a recording in the event of an impact. Locked files will not be automatically overwritten which reduces storage space on the memory card.
What, if any, road safety features may the dashboard camera recorder be able to offer?
- Depending on the brand of the camera, it may have ADAS (Advanced driver-assistance systems) features such as lane departure and following distance warnings. Most of these features are not very reliable as accuracy is easily affected by the position and viewing angle of the dash camera. If, for example, the viewing angle of the dash camera is changed by accidentally hitting it, the ADAS features will not be accurate anymore. The most important feature of a dash camera remains the quality of its recording.
- Dual lens dash cameras also offer the functionality of recording 2 angles simultaneously. The lenses are easily adjustable and can be angled in any direction the user would like to record. This is especially useful when a driver has been pulled over or in the event of criminal activity such as smash and grabs or hijackings.
- Some dash cameras offer parking monitoring. If the vehicle has been parked, the dash camera will start recording as soon as it detects and impact (e.g. breaking of a window or another car that reversed into your car) against the vehicle.
- If the dash camera is equipped with GPS it may have speed camera warnings (depending on the software of the manufacturer) that provide the driver with a warning that he/she is exceeding the legal speed limit of the road he/she is driving on. This function also assists the driver by reminding him of the speed limit of a particular road where there is no indication of the legal speed limit.
What are the most significant features of a dashboard camera that the ordinary road user might not be aware of?
- Many customers are misled about the video quality since most brands claim to have a video resolution of 1080P. However, there are vast differences between the quality of images depending on whether it is a good or bad dash camera. Recording may be at 1080P on a bad quality dash camera, but the quality of the image will be worse compared to that of a good brand camera. The difference in quality becomes more obvious in recordings made in poor light conditions (such as night time driving).
- Dash cameras also have built-in microphones which record audio (such as conversations) in the cockpit. This function can be manually enabled or disabled.
- Most dash cameras can also be used to take photos of anything within its viewing angle.
- The viewing angle can vary significantly (usually anything between 120-160 degrees). The wider the viewing angle, the more footage is captured. Some dash cameras have a limited feature of selecting the viewing angle using the software, but the maximum viewing angle is limited by the hardware of the camera.
What would the price range be from the most ordinary to the high-end dashboard camera recorder?
- A basic dash camera with very limited features will probably be in the price range of about R1,500, mid-level camera between R2,500-4,000 and a high-end camera around R5,000. Dash cameras have become a lot more affordable as technology develops. No matter which price range suits the driver’s budget - even an entry-level camera will offer him/her additional protection that wasn’t there before.
Any aspects not covered by the above questions which you believe should be important to the potential purchaser of a dashboard camera recorder?
It is very important to make users understand why they need a dashcam. Below follows 7 of the most notable reasons why you should install a dashcam in your vehicle:
- Road Safety: Improving your driving skills is critical to ensuring your safety on the road. You can review your daily driving footage using playback software to become a better driver. You can review how you drove last week and what mistakes you made while driving. A dash cam will help you see ways to correct many driving mistakes, for example, switching lanes abruptly or braking too hard, etc.
- Protect Your Teenager’s Driving: Teenage drivers have some of the highest car insurance rates because of their tendency to crash and lack of experience behind the wheel. Anything you can do to keep your teenage driver from getting a ticket or getting in an accident is well worth the effort.
- Evidence of a Car Accident: If you are unfortunately involved in a car accident, the dashcam will have captured everything. In the case of a car accident, the general public and police often jump to the conclusion that the driver is at fault. With a dashcam installed in your vehicle, you can defend yourself and prove that it was not your fault and if there is a court trial, you can send the videotape as evidence.
- Fraud Prevention: Some drivers deliberately cause an accident and then blame the other driver to extort money. In addition to that, these scammers also fake injuries to collect a huge amount of insurance money from their insurance companies. You can prevent scammers from illegally extorting money from you by carefully installing the dashcam in your car and recording all the events.
- Road Trip: If you are fond of road trips and often go with your friends and family on occasional trips, a dash cam can be a great investment for you. With a dashcam, you can turn your road trip into a memorable journey that you can easily watch over and over again.
- Parking Accidents: Parking can be a nightmare, particularly for novice drivers who tend to accidentally scratch other vehicles while they are trying to park theirs. Some latest dash cams offer ‘parking mode’ feature which turns the car camera into a surveillance camera whenever your car is parked up. If a driver damages your car and then drives away, you will have the proof in the form of video evidence of him/her doing this.
- Unexpected Events: With a dashcam, you will be able to capture things that you least expect to. Although, you may not capture something as astounding as meteors raining down like Russian drivers captured with their dash cams a few years back, you may catch a rockslide that damages your vehicle, a deer dashing out in the road damaging your vehicle, or a tree from your neighbor’s house that falls on your vehicle during a storm.